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Elevate Your Nursing Career with RN to MSN Programs

Elevate Your Nursing Career with RN to MSN Programs


Advanced education in the critical field of nursing provides essential theory and skills, both for nursing administration and advanced clinical practice. In particular, the RN to MSN program is a graduate-level step toward specialty practice, academia or leadership roles. 

This article discusses the benefits of an online accelerated RN to MSN degree and its impact on your career. 

Benefits of pursuing an MSN Degree

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) has several benefits, including expanded knowledge, higher income potential and enhanced career activities. 

Expanded knowledge and skills

An MSN degree builds on your existing nursing skills and knowledge of patient care. Depending on your focus, you’ll learn to conduct research and interpret results, evaluate healthcare practices from a policy and operational lens, and innovate health services delivery and policy initiatives. 

Enhanced career opportunities

Advanced education leads to access to high-demand executive, education, or advanced practice roles that aren’t available to those with undergraduate degrees or only registered nurse licenses.1 RNs with an MSN may hold positions as clinical nurse leaders, research assistants and nurse managers or directors. 

Increased earning potential

Salaries vary depending on your chosen career paths, but an MSN degree generally increases your income potential. For example, a registered nurse with a BSN earns an average of $90,901 annually, while a nurse with an MSN degree earns an average of $116,386.2,3 Top earners claim an average of $168,000 annually.3 

Specializations and pathways in RN to MSN Programs

An RN to MSN program paves the way from generalized practice to a focused career. Most nursing programs have a few specialization options, such as executive or leadership tracks, nursing specialties and academia. 

Nursing leadership and management tracks

The nursing leadership and management track prepares you for executive roles in complex healthcare systems. This pathway focuses on patient and people oversight, financial and operational governance, and policy or change enforcement. 

Education and research-focused options

The nursing education track prepares you to teach your peers as a clinical nurse educator, textbook developer and more. You could also become a member of faculty in a nursing education program. Dig into nursing theory, develop assessment and evaluation strategies, curriculum design and implementation skills, and advanced pathophysiology and pharmacology expertise. 

Community or public health nursing

Many MSN programs now offer some sort of public health specialization option. This MSN track prepares nurses for careers working within communities of different types and sizes to improve health broadly. Depending on the MSN program, public health specializations may emphasize cultural competency, setting up and managing large public health programs, or working on public policy.

Advanced practice nursing specialties

Certain nursing specialties or licenses, such as clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner, require additional certifications on top of a graduate degree. These advanced practice pathways develop expert skills in specific clinical areas, including:4

  • Psychiatric care
  • Gerontology
  • Hospice and palliative care
  • Medical and surgical care
  • Maternal-child nursing

Advantages of accelerating your nursing education

As a registered nurse, you already know how nursing can be a rewarding career. Yet you may decide you want something different, whether that's moving out of patient care and into administration or pursuing another type of nursing practice altogether. Education is one way to accelerate your career, and it has unique advantages.

An RN to MSN degree is shorter than other traditional education pathways. You can enter the program with a bachelor’s in any field as long as you have an active RN license–you don't need a BSN degree in this type of program. You'll cover BSN degree courses within your accelerated RN to MSN program.

Your prior experience as an RN facilitates the transition into leadership or specialized practice. Additionally, higher education grants you access to management roles and responsibilities. 

Choosing between an on-campus or online master's degree program

Today, many nursing education degree programs offer online options. While some people may feel more comfortable in a traditional on-campus MSN degree program, you should really consider online options for maximum flexibility and access to expert nurse educators who may be located in a different city or state. Additionally, you can get any clinical practice experiences you need within your own community, sometimes even at your existing place of work. As long as you choose a legitimate, accredited online nursing program, you can expect a robust education that will prepare you for professional nursing practice.

Application and admission process for an MSN program

Each RN to MSN program has admission requirements and an application process. The details vary by the program, but are generally open to RNs who have an associate's degree and active license.1 For entry to OCU online programs and RN to MSN online program, you must:

  • Hold a BSN or a bachelor’s degree in any field from a recognized institution 
  • Have an active and unencumbered RN license
  • Complete prerequisite courses

Prerequisites vary based on your previous study and your desired specialization.
Additionally, you may need to include other materials, such as:

  • An essay or personal statement of your interest
  • Resume or CV
  • Official transcripts from other institutions
  • References from faculty, employers, or coworkers confirming your nursing skill and dedication

Balancing work and study as an RN to MSN student

Many students work while earning a new nursing degree. Working while studying can help offset the costs of collegiate nursing education itself, but also provides an opportunity to actively apply new concepts as you learn them.5 However, the nursing education experience can be overwhelming.

Time management, stress reduction and self-care are critical. Organize your coursework according to suggested study guides, and plan blocks of study time around your work schedule. Take regular breaks, and maintain health habits with daily exercise, a nutritious diet and plenty of sleep.6

How to finance your MSN program

With strategic planning and creative integration of scholarships, grants and employer programs, you'll receive support for your learning and peace of mind. 

Scholarships, grants and funding opportunities

The first place to check is your university. Most institutions have robust scholarships and grant opportunities for students based on merit, need or talent. You also should immediately apply for financial aid after you turn in your accelerated RN to MSN application.

Additionally, other health organizations offer scholarships to further nursing science and encourage development in the nursing profession. For example, the American Cancer Society and the March of Dimes charities offer scholarships for graduate nursing programs.7

Employer tuition reimbursement programs

Many workplaces offer training or tuition benefits as part of retention incentives, especially for dedicated and experienced staff. These programs encourage best practices in the workplace and staff development and help manage staffing issues and costs.8

Employers can offer up to $5,250 tax-free annually for tuition, textbooks, equipment and supplies.9 Some employers may provide additional reimbursements up to set limits, though these are taxable. The benefits policy usually includes a requirement to stay for a set time. 

Realizing the value of advanced nursing education

Advanced nursing education not only improves your earning potential and personal satisfaction, but it also impacts patient care. A longitudinal study of MSN students over five years found that nurses were more competent and equipped to provide evidence-based care after graduating.10 Additionally, they had more confidence and perceived themselves as better nurses with enhanced skills, demonstrating the importance of education and development in the nursing profession.10

Advance your career with OCU's online RN to MSN

Oklahoma City University's online Master of Science in Nursing program can help you accelerate your nursing career and develop essential clinical, policy, management and research skills. Through the RN to MSN online, you'll learn to generate better evidence-based and patient-centered care and initiatives through advanced theory and practice. Talk to an admissions outreach advisor today to learn more about earning your MSN degree online.

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