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Masters in Nursing

Completing a masters in nursing prepares experienced nurses for careers in nurse education, nurse management, and administration. An advanced practice degree also makes nurses more marketable in their chosen specialties. The requirements for a masters in nursing depend on the type of education a nurse has already completed. If a nurse has not completed a bachelors degree in nursing, an RN to MSN program is the appropriate choice. If a nurse already has a bachelors degree in nursing, then enrollment in a MSN program is suitable. Completing the preliminary requirements before applying to a nursing program improves a nurses chances of acceptance.

University Degree Offerings

  • Maryville University Master of Science in Nursing

    The Maryville University Master of Science in Nursing program provides students the opportunity to develop an advanced level of clinical competence for practice that provides consumers with primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare. Our faculty guide students through the progression of a research base for systematic review, testing, and evaluation of nursing care actions, effects, and outcomes.

  • Norwich University Master of Science in Nursing

    The Norwich University Master of Science in Nursing program prepares nurses through the delivery of evidence-based care through a variety of specialties and subspecialties. Through our ground-breaking application of complex adaptive systems theory to the field of nursing, you will gain the knowledge and skills needed for an advanced nursing role as a nurse educator or nurse administrator.

  • Ohio University Master of Science in Nursing

    The Ohio University Master of Science in Nursing program recognizes that there is a growing awareness that nurses need more advanced skills to handle complex and specialized tasks. Today, many executive and leadership positions in nursing require applicants to have an earned Master of Science in Nursing. Our faculty provides personal attention and encourages interaction to help foster a meaningful educational experience.

  • University of Cincinnati Master of Science in Nursing

    The University of Cincinnati’s Master of Science in Nursing program was designed for nurses who are ready to accept more responsibility, enhance their skills, and further their nursing careers. Our students will learn to diagnose and treat illnesses, gain the ability to earn certification and prescriptive privileges, and become a nurse leader.

  • University of San Francisco Master of Science in Nursing

    The University of San Francisco Master of Science in Nursing program is facilitated by professors who hold doctoral degrees, and who are highly experienced and respected in the nursing field. These experts will help students bridge the gap between classroom theory and real-world application. With an aging nursing workforce and retirements looming once the economy picks up, demand for nurses with formal nursing administration training will continue to increase.

Credit Requirements

The number of credit hours for a masters of nursing depends on the school and the chosen area of specialization. Most programs require a minimum of 36 credits, with some schools requiring the completion of 45 credits. Students enrolled in nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse practitioner programs usually have to complete more rigorous coursework. Nurses pursuing their masters degrees also have to complete clinical practicum requirements. The number of clinical hours required depends on state licensing requirements, but the minimum usually ranges from 400 to 600 hours.

RN to MSN vs. BS to MSN

RN to MSN programs combine a bachelors degree program with a masters of nursing, which means they usually take longer to complete. However, many schools grant course substitutions or double credits for completed coursework, so it does not take as long to complete this type of program as it would to complete each degree separately. If a student enters a RN to MSN program with a nursing diploma instead of an associates degree in nursing, he or she may also have to complete general education requirements in the fields of science, mathematics, history, literature, and the arts. Specific course requirements vary based on prior coursework and each individual institution.

A registered nurse who holds a bachelors degree in a field other than nursing does not have to complete general education requirements. Nurses in this type of program may have to complete specific undergraduate nursing requirements, but they do not have to complete liberal arts coursework. For this type of student, the core course requirements of the BSN and RSN programs are combined into one bridge program. This reduces the number of credit hours required to complete a masters in nursing.


MSN programs typically include several core courses that all students must complete. Once these courses have been completed, students take courses in their desired areas of specialization. Core courses cover the role of the advanced nurse, nursing theory and research, health care policy, nursing practice, and information management. The coursework required for upper-level students depends on their chosen specializations. Nurse practitioner students, for example, may complete coursework in differential diagnosis, pharmacology, pathophysiology, primary care, womens health, mental health, pediatrics, and family nursing. Nurses specializing in education may need to complete courses in clinical decision making, responsibilities of nurse educators, educational concepts, educational technology, and principles of evaluation. The specific course requirements vary from one institution to the next.

Clinical Experience Requirements

MSN students must meet several basic requirements before beginning their clinical rotations. Due to the nature of the work, nursing students need to provide proof of several immunizations. These immunizations include the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella), TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria, and polio), and hepatitis B. Students must also receive a tuberculosis skin test within one year of starting a clinical practicum. If the skin test is positive, the student must provide a chest X-ray that shows no evidence of active tuberculosis. Students should also have malpractice insurance and a current RN license. Each institution may require students to complete compliance training before starting clinical work.

The clinical experience requirement allows MSN students to apply classroom theory to real-world nursing situations. MSN students may work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, student health centers, or private physician offices. Students specializing in health care policy or research may complete their clinical experiences at government agencies or research facilities. Nurse practitioner students use the clinical experience to develop skills in providing primary health care to patients in a variety of settings. The student nurse practitioner may educate patients about their health, teach patients how to prevent disease, and diagnose chronic and acute illnesses. Clinical experience supervisors typically provide written reports about the performance of students enrolled in MSN programs.

Nurses who want to enhance their knowledge of nursing theory or prepare themselves for advancement should consider completing a masters degree program. Those without a previous bachelors degree should plan to enroll in general education courses before completing nursing coursework. Those who have already completed a bachelors degree may start taking nursing coursework immediately. Upon completion of this degree, nurses may qualify for higher salaries or for administrative positions in the health care field.