4 Considerations for Getting Your Master’s Degree in Nursing

Nursing – like many other professions – contains within it numerous roles and possible types of employment. Becoming a nurse requires only an associate’s degree, and for many, this will be sufficient to find a job. Whether or not you should further your education will really depend on your individual situation; here are some things to chew on when contemplating this path.

Career Goals

While advanced education can open the doors to new opportunities and greater pay, it is not necessarily something that anyone in a particular field should or must do. When deciding if an advanced degree in nursing is for you, it is important to think about your career goals. What do you hope to accomplish as a nurse? Are you happy providing general care or do you want to enter a special field or take on a greater role in shaping healthcare policies? Many people who pursue advanced nursing degrees are hoping to take on leadership roles or enter very specific fields—if this is not something that you have a desire to do, you may be just fine with your associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Most people are still able to find nursing jobs without advanced education


Getting a master’s in nursing can offer many benefits. Most of the top-paying nursing positions require an MSN. Anticipated physician shortages are leading to potential policy reforms that could expand the practice scope of nurses with advanced training and experience as well as their salaries. An MSN opens a lot of doors, and besides working directly with patients, you can get involved with research, healthcare administration and teaching among other areas.

Types of Programs

There are several different programs for getting your masters in nursing, and the particular one you choose will depend on your current professional and educational background. The entry level master’s degree is designed for people who have received bachelor or master’s degrees in other disciplines. They take about two to three years to complete and by the end of the first year, you typically have completed the bachelor’s level content and RN licensure. If you are already a practicing nurse with an associate’s degree, the RN to master’s program is what you would be completing—it can take two to three years with course requirements depending on the institution and classes you have completed in the past. Lastly, if you already have your bachelor’s degree in nursing and want to get your master’s degree, the BN to MSN (though some schools may have a different name for the degree) can usually be completed in 18 to 24 months and allows students to focus on a core area of nursing practice.

Choosing a School

When it comes to choosing a school, the first step is making sure the program is accredited by one of two major organizations that oversee nursing schools: The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC). If you are interested in pursuing a master’s in nursing because you have an interest in entering a specific field of nursing, it is also a good idea to visit the sites of related organizations that can provide valuable information about that field and how to pick the right program. Examples include the American College of Nurse Midwives, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, or the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.