How and Why to Get a Masters in Nursing Degree

Nursing represents the largest professional field for healthcare providers in the United States. Because of this, there is a huge number of available master’s degrees in nursing, as well as a host of different degree paths to choose from. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 59% of all registered nurses are currently employed in hospitals, but there is such a wide range of different specialties in nursing that your specific path could differ dramatically from that of another person.

What Is a Master in Nursing Degree?

In simple terms, a Master of Science in Nursing degree is a graduate-level degree that’s sought out by nurses who hope to enter into advanced practice. People who opt for such a degree should usually have an undergraduate degree in a related area. Those who have an undergraduate degree can choose to apply for a master’s degree program. Master’s degree paths in nursing provide advanced qualifications and training options for nurses.

Some programs will make up part of an advanced registration and qualification pathway for people who are interested in work in nursing, counseling, and midwifery. Other programs are designed to provide a continuing education for professional development. For instance, if you are a registered practitioner in the world of healthcare, a graduate degree could allow you to build upon existing skills and move into new specialties. Popular areas for development include neonatal care, pediatric nursing, occupational health, and mental health nursing.

You can earn your master’s degree in nursing either online or in a university, and your path towards your masters will depend on your current background. Many of the nurses who enter an MSN program will have already earned their RN status. However, there are some people who enter into MSN programs with a bachelor’s degree in an area besides nursing.

Different Ways to Get Your Masters in Nursing Degree

There are a number of options available. Because there has been such a large increase in demand for nurses over the years, the scope of nursing degrees has been adjusted accordingly. Now, there’s a greater need for aspiring nurses in scenarios that are much more versatile than they were before. As such, some programs for MSN degrees are now known as bridge programs, and can often be offered in an accelerated format. This can be done by transferring units from continuous and previous education into a master’s degree, which therefore shortens the length of time necessary to complete a program.

These options for obtaining an MSN include:

  • RN to MSN Programs

These programs are designed for nurses who already have their registered nurse certification and would like to become more adept in their knowledge and skills. The amount of time required to complete these programs is dependent on the number of credits the student is able to transfer but they usually take around four years to complete. Only RNs with a BSN are eligible to take part in these programs.

  • BSN to MSN Programs

These are fundamental and basic programs that are available to any nurse that wants to complete his or her MSN in an accelerated format. It’s possible for these programs to be completed within two years if sufficient credits are transferred. However, those who have a BSN in a field not related to nursing will often take longer.

  • ADN to MSN Programs

It’s possible for those who have an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) to directly move forward into earning an MSN.

  • ASN to MSN Programs

As with the program from ADN to MSN, those who have an associate of science in nursing (ASN) degree will also have to study towards their BSN to begin with, which can take around two years to complete, before they are able to start studying towards their MSN, which takes a further two years on average.

Specializations in the Masters in Nursing Degree

Importantly, it’s worth noting that deciding to get your MSN degree is only the first step in a journey towards furthering your nursing education. Choosing a specialty for your degree is often the most difficult part that most students face, as there are a such a wide range of different options to choose from. Indeed, there are many schools that offer a general master of nursing degree, but most will require you to choose a specialization, including some of the most popular like:

  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Gerontology
  • Midwifery
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner
  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Orthopedics
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioner
  • Clinical specialist

Advantages of a Master’s Degree in Nursing

There are many benefits in having an MSN degree. For example, it can open up new career doors. Besides the fact that certain specializations in the world of nursing will require a master’s degree, certain positions within prestigious places will require an MSN.

If you intend to focus on a specific type of nursing, such as becoming a nurse practitioner, or engaging in nursing informatics, or taking on a managerial position in a hospital, then you will need a master’s degree in nursing. What’s more, you can earn a much higher salary with this level of education compared to having a BSN. Many individuals with an MSN will find that they can earn a far higher salary than what an RN would typically earn. For instance, according to the BLS, a certified registered nurse with a master’s degree in anesthesia can earn a media salary of around $153,780, which is around double what a standard RN can earn.


Achieving a master’s degree in nursing is something that will depend exclusively on your aims as a nurse in your chosen field. Although not all individuals in this industry will want to continue their education, many advanced nursing practices can sometimes require learning an advanced set of skills and knowledge that are beyond what a typical registered nurse has. Sometimes this could mean working exclusively with cardiac patients in a neonatal unit, or as a forensic nurse. MSN programs will also allow students to choose specialty tracks so that they can go more in-depth with their studies, and become experts in that particular field.


  • How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters in Nursing? (n.d.) Retrieved from
  • Earning Your Master’s in Nursing Can Expand Your Career Options. (n.d.) Retrieved from