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Compare online master of science in nursing (MSN) degree programs

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Why earn a master's degree in nursing online?

Prepare for certification

Our rigorous online curricula meet the same standards as on-campus programs so you can pursue board certification or credentialing.

Advanced nursing expertise

Take what you learn in live, online classes and then apply it in a variety of settings.

Diverse clinical environments

Learn to tackle today’s nursing challenges in your clinical placements.

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Master's in Nursing

Why become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN)?

Nurses are the foundation of the American healthcare system. Through a lens of compassion, nurses work diligently to provide exceptional care, identify and treat patient needs, collaborate with teams of physicians, and more.

By earning an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), you will propel your nursing career forward as a well-rounded advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Discover immersive specializations, explore new technologies, and learn in-demand management skills to lead your teams to success. Online MSN programs feature interdisciplinary curricula that blend innovative online learning with in-person clinical practicums. Take the next step in your career and stand on the cutting edge of medicine.

Admission requirements for a master’s degree in nursing

Admissions requirements and prerequisites for an online MSN vary based on university and program. In general, most programs require:

  • A bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited program and college transcripts

  • A minimum GPA score

  • Standardized test scores, such as the GRE

  • A current, unrestricted U.S. registered nurse (RN) license

  • Personal essays or a statement of purpose

  • A resume or CV

  • Letters of recommendation

  • An interview (typically video) with an admission professional

Some master's programs no longer require GRE scores to apply. However, they may require prerequisite courses such as chemistry, anatomy, biology, microbiology, and others. You should complete these courses before you submit your online MSN applications. Many programs also require registered nursing (RN) experience to apply.

MSN curriculum

Prepare for your career as an advanced nursing professional and choose the best online MSN program for you. An online MSN program might take anywhere from 21 months to 33 months to complete. Timelines vary on your desired schedule — full time, part time, accelerated, or extended — and which specialization you pursue.

Some online MSN programs require applicants to choose their specialization upon enrollment; others allow you to decide further into your academic journey. Regardless, you should consider your desired specialization before you apply. There is a chance your prospective program will not offer it.

In addition to online coursework, programs often require students to complete a certain number of in-person clinical hours to gain hands-on experience. The specific amount of hours may vary depending on the program type and the certifying board. Coursework varies across each program and specialization. However, online MSN curriculums generally include:

Foundational course examples

  • Biostatistics and Informatics

  • Epidemiology

  • Evidence-Based Practice

  • Health Assessment

  • Health Care Management

  • Health Care Policy

  • Pathophysiology

  • Pharmacology

Clinical practicums

  • Conduct extensive physical examinations.

  • Advance your prescription medication knowledge.

  • Improve your communication skills.

  • Diagnose acute and chronic illnesses.

  • Develop patient-care plans.

  • Understand the synthesis of various medications.

Master’s in nursing: jobs and specializations

Certified nursing careers are diverse and offer an array of opportunities. You will find online MSN graduates working in fast-paced environments, including hospitals, outpatient care centers, physician offices, educational facilities, and more.

Potential areas of specialization and job titles include:

  • Nurse practitioner (NP): Leverage a comprehensive medical perspective to treat and diagnose a range of health conditions.

  • Family nurse practitioner (FNP): Provide family-oriented care to people of diverse ages and backgrounds.

  • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (A-GNP): Deliver age-appropriate care to adults in every stage of life, from early adulthood to seniors.

  • Psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP): Observe, diagnose, and treat patients who suffer with mental illness. Provide intensive therapy and prescribe psychiatric medications.

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA): Administer precise anesthesia dosages and identify potential anesthetic risks or complications.

  • Certified nurse midwife (CNM): Provide extensive gynecological care, from preconception to pregnancy to early infancy.

  • Pain management nurse: Assess patients’ chronic or acute pain and develop treatment plans with physicians and other healthcare professionals.

  • Critical care nurse: Treat and monitor critically ill or injured patients while also meeting their basic needs.

  • Research nurse: Ensure patients meet protocol goals and collect blood samples, check lab work, administer vaccines, and more.

  • Nurse educator: Develop lesson plans and teach nursing courses to faculty in nursing schools or to fellow nurses working in healthcare facilities and hospitals.

  • Neonatal nurse (NNP): Monitor the health of patients throughout their pregnancies. Check newborn infants’ vital signs and develop effective care plans.

What are the highest nurse salaries?

Advance in your nursing career and increase your earning potential. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is projected to grow 45% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the national average.Footnote 1 In 2021, the overall median annual salary for the same group was $123,780.

Median pay for key nursing careers (2021)Footnote 2
  • Nurse practitioner (NP): $120,680

  • Certified register nurse anesthetist (CRNA): $195,610

  • Certified nurse midwife (CNM): $112,830

Median pay by nursing settings (2021)Footnote 3
  • Hospitals; state, local, and private: $128,190

  • Outpatient care centers: $128,190

  • Offices of physicians: $121,280

  • Offices of other health practitioners: $104,790

  • Educational services; state, local, and private: $102,680

How to become a nurse online

Product Comparison — Paths to Degrees image

Find the best online MSN program for your nursing career

Discover an online MSN program that checks every box. You might consider these factors when you’re exploring which online MSN program is best for you:

  • School prestige:

    Explore top-ranked universities and CCNE- or ACEN-accredited programs that will challenge you and develop you into a world-class professional.

  • Length of study:

    Choose an online nursing program with a length of study that best suits your busy schedule: full time, part time, accelerated, or extended.

  • Clinical placements:

    Engage in in-person clinical placements that immerse you in the multidisciplinary world of advanced practice registered nursing.

  • Graduation rates:

    Review graduation rates to better understand the quality of an online master’s program.

  • Career outcomes:

    Learn what to expect from the job market and discover alumni’s post-graduation employment rates.

Frequently asked questions

Prerequisite courses for online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree programs will vary, but they usually include anatomy, physiology, human growth and development, nutrition, microbiology, pathology, statistics, abnormal psychology, and others. Remember to review your prospective program’s admissions requirements to ensure you’re ready to apply.

While online MSN programs allow you to complete the bulk of your coursework online, you will have to complete hours of in-person clinical practicums in order to graduate. These practicums will give the specialized experience that cannot be replaced by online learning. That said, an online MSN program offers flexibility and convenience.

For entry-level nursing positions, an MSN degree may not be necessary. However, if you would like to secure an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) position and increase your annual salary, a master’s degree will be required. These job opportunities require leadership, management skills, and enhanced medical expertise.

Nursing school is not for everyone. It is a rigorous, challenging experience, but it should be. Universities designed these programs to equip the next generation of healthcare experts with the preparation they need to meet healthcare obstacles with compassion and readiness. Despite fatigue associated with nursing school, it gives you an opportunity to advance your career in one of the most rewarding fields available.

Higher pay is one big reason why someone might pursue an MSN over a BSN. The average BSN nurse makes less than an MSN nurse, depending on specialty.² The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicates that nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists often earn over six figures annually.

Tuition varies depending on university, length of study, number of required program credits, and whether you qualify for in-state or out-of-state tuition. Check with the programs you are interested in for details on program costs. Many programs offer financial aid and other tuition assistance options.

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