The nursing field is growing at an accelerated rate. For registered nurses (RN) who are interested in taking their career and salary to the next level, obtaining a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) can help open many doors in the industry. There are many schools that offer RN to MSN bridge programs in either an online, hybrid, or traditional format. These programs allow Registered Nurses with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to continue their education and earn their MSN in less time than it would take to complete the degrees independently.
For students new to the healthcare field, enrolling in one of the many properly accredited LVN programs available can offer exposure to nursing education.
For vocational and practical nurses, there are many highly respected LVN to RN programs available, which can be a stepping-off point for nurses interested in pursuing a career in advanced practice nursing.
If you are already in an RN to BSN program and your school offers an RN to MSN degree, chances are that you can begin the application process before you have completed your bachelor’s degree. However, if your school does not offer a master’s bridge program, then you will most likely need to apply once you have finished your undergraduate studies.
Whether you are applying to an RN to MSN bridge program within your current school or as a transfer to another institution, there is some common criteria that you will need to meet. While the admissions process may vary depending on the program, these are typically the standards required of prospective students:
- Meet all of the admissions’ requirements for an RN to BSN program. This includes passing the NCLEX-RN, providing transcripts, and having a valid RN license.
- Pass the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) with a satisfactory score (the “satisfactory” standard varies with each institution).Maintain at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale during your baccalaureate studies.
- Provide 2-3 letters of recommendation.Write a personal essay (word count and guidelines vary).Have at least one year of professional work experience, and provide a current resume or curriculum vitae as proof.
An RN to MSN bridge program is much more rigorous than a traditional MSN program. The standards are higher to ensure that your professional experience will suit the program’s accelerated nature. Full-time students should be able to complete an RN to MSN degree program in about one year. If you are a part-time student, and/or decide to pursue a specialized area of nursing, it may take you a total of 2-3 years to graduate.
Degree Coursework and Training
Pursuing an MSN degree can be tough, and extremely exciting. As long as you have completed a sufficient amount of credit hours in chemistry, biology, microbiology, and anatomy and physiology, you can dive right into courses on advanced registered nursing practice (APRN). In a general (non-specialized) MSN program, you can expect to take classes in the following areas:
- Healthcare Perspectives
- Nursing Research and Theory Development
- Health Assessment
- Design in Coordination of Care
Once you have completed these and other general APRN classes, it is highly recommended that you pursue a specialized APRN field and fulfill your required practicum hours in that same area. At least one practicum, internship, and/or residency may be required for you to complete before you can earn your MSN.
In most cases, internships and residencies are paid. Work completed during a practicum is typically only for class credit and to gain experience, and is usually not paid. A practicum is not designed to cut into your actual work hours because it is essentially a class with hands-on experience.
My Degree and What It’s Good For
With an MSN, you are able to expand your scope of practice and provide advanced patient care. Your involvement with patients may vary depending on if you decide to pursue a single or generalized area of nursing. You can cater your master’s degree plan to fit the area of medicine that most interests you by taking additional courses and/or earning specialized certifications. There are literally dozens of different types of nurses where having your Master’s can pay off. Some fields of study to consider while pursuing your MSN are:
- Women’s Health
- Nurse Executive
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Registered Nurse Anesthetist
- Nurse Researcher
- Health Policies
- Pain Management
An advanced degree prepares you for management roles and to act as an integral part of the patients’ care plans. Some states even allow nurses at this level to prescribe medication. With the continued expansion of the nursing industry, more educators are also needed to develop future nurses in the field. Acquiring your master’s degree can give you the option to teach nursing in colleges and universities.
My Earning Potential
APRNs command better career opportunities, and increase their salary potential by a substantial amount. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for RNs was $69,790 in 2018, and this number only represents nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree or lower.
Earning your master’s degree dramatically improves your overall possible wages and makes you standout more in this competitive job market. To get an idea of the type of salary increase that a MSN can provide, here are three of the top APRN careers listed with their average salaries as of 2018:
- Nurse Midwives – $97,700
- Nurse Practitioners – $97,990
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists – $158,900
The nursing field is expanding due to better medical practices and scientific and technological advancements. These enhancements are allowing people to live longer than ever previously possible. People living longer means more people seeking healthcare, and it is that increased traffic that creates the demand for more nurses and nursing degree programs. It is a self-sustaining cycle, making this an excellent time to become an APRN.
Online bridge programs are making it easier than ever to go back to school and advance your degree. With the flexibility of these programs and the accelerated time-frame, you are able to complete your degree on your own time without having to sacrifice your career while you are in school.