Accelerated MSN Programs

As the healthcare industry’s demands grow exponentially each year, so do the number of job and education opportunities for eager learners. One result of this desire to expand the labor pool is accelerated tracks. These are in-depth, intensive programs that cover approximately the same curriculum as traditional degree studies, but that can be carried out and offer graduates suitable jobs in far less time. The main focus of these certifications is to ensure that experienced, dedicated professionals from non-related fields receive access to healthcare education and, consequently, to the nursing workforce. If you are among them, keep on reading to find out when and how you can complete an accelerated MSN program and what you can do with it long-term.

Who is this program for?

This certification is intended mainly for prospective students with a Bachelor’s Degree in a non-nursing discipline. It provides you with extensive training, clinical experience, and fulfilling job prospects, without negating any of the benefits of earning a traditional Master’s Degree. But it is also a smart choices for anyone looking to further their education and who wants to study the same amount of information in half the time. It gives you more hours to practice, develop and improve as a nurse in your workplace, allows you the same job opportunities, and might be more budget-friendly, depending on the school you select. However, you should not consider joining this program if you are not a fast learner, remarkably skilled at managing stress and well-versed in various studying techniques that can help you handle the workload.

To advance in your chosen area, you must specialize in it and enhance both your education and firsthand experience in the field. To do this, you will invariably require a Master’s Degree. If you are already working and cannot enlist in a traditional program, or you don’t have the option to be unemployed for the following three to five years, an Accelerated MSN track is the most reliable and lucrative alternative. Many of these programs, whether direct entry or on-campus, take as little as 12 months to complete.

What are the requirements for this program?

The applicant criteria for most accelerated MSN programs include an undergraduate GPA of over 3.0, a baccalaureate or higher degree in a field other than nursing, and the completion of specific prerequisites. Your admission papers should contain your current résumé, two letters of recommendation (some require a professional as well two academic ones), official copies of your transcripts, a completed application (either online or on-paper), your official GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) scores and a personal statement. The latter is an outline of your future nursing career (trajectory, possible job positions, overall career path over the next 5 years), as well as your motivation for choosing this particular direction. Certain schools might ask for an interview, in which you will meet the Program Director of your selected track and be asked why you are a good candidate for the school. Any experience in the healthcare field (even from volunteer work) will be highly-regarded.

When it comes to prerequisite courses, all must be completed with a minimum grade of C. However; this depends on the university as certain higher education institutions will ask for grade B or above. The requirements typically involve up to 20 credits from an officially authorized college or faculty. The courses are social sciences, math, statistics, lifespan development and physical sciences. The latter includes microbiology with lab, general chemistry, human anatomy, and physiology, as well as nutrition.

What will I learn during an Accelerated MSN program?

Postgraduate programs are painstakingly practical, highly-specialized and involve much more complex learning material than what you studied to get your Bachelor’s Degree. These necessary qualifications become even more of a challenge if you are pursuing the accelerated alternative. You will need to be self-motivated, exhaust different preparation techniques and learn independent reading. These are all invaluable skills that will further your career and equip you with the necessary tools to become an outstanding, successful healthcare worker.

By the end of your program, you will master all of the nursing practices, procedures and theoretical concepts of your chosen specialty, as well as gather extensive experience with patients and staff members during your clinical work. These formative years alongside well-trained professionals and mentors will help you become a specialist in your field, drastically increase your earning potential and open up new career paths to achieve your dream job. As an extension to your core curriculum, you will be offered internship opportunities and meaningful research projects that will consolidate your knowledge and strengthen your overall understanding of nursing.

There is a wide range of specialties from which to choose for your Master’s Degree – from family health and pediatric primary care to nurse anesthesia and psychiatric care or mental health. Your curriculum will vary according to what you decide on. Here are some of the common course outlines for most specialties:

  • Foundations of Nursing Practice
  • Clinical Practicum
  • Health Assessment
  • Acute and Chronic Care
  • Clinical Integration
  • Pathophysiology
  • Population Health
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Maternity and Reproductive Health
  • Research and Evidence-Based Practice
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Nursing in Complex Care Situations
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Pharmacology for Nurses
  • Concepts, Issues & Trends of Nursing
  • Leadership & Policy
  • Optimal Wellness

How long will the program take?

An accelerated MSN program will not only save you a lot of expenses, but also a lot of time. One of the reasons why these certifications are so popular is that they can be earned in as little as 15 months. However, most tracks will require 24 months or 2 years to complete (even if an online option). Keep in mind that you will be studying a curriculum similar to that of a full-blown Master’s Degree program, so these two years will be fairly grueling and demanding.

Will there be clinical hours?

As for accelerated tracks, yes. Even if you have enrolled in distance learning, you are still required to carry out a certain number of clinical hours, as well as work with real patients, colleagues, and mentors. Given the fast-paced nature of your studies, you will need to be consistently prepared for hands-on practice and do some autodidactic learning sessions to be fully psyched-up for what will be asked of you. You typically need to finish over 1,000 clinical hours for any accelerated MSN program. This might not sound very challenging, but remember that clinical rotations are the most exhausting and time-consuming part of earning your Master’s Degree. This is particularly accurate if you are pursuing a specialty in advanced nursing practice.

What if you’re not eligible for your MSN specialization?

If your academic background has no tangency whatsoever with healthcare or you are coming from a history of non-related jobs with no nursing experience, choosing your desired specialty may be a daunting or even impossible task. If you have never worked as an RN, but want to specialize in advanced practice and become a Nurse Anesthetist, for example, you might not be eligible for the MSN track you are after. You would need at least 12 months working as a critical care nurse to be able to join the program. So how do you go about making these specializations available to you?

There are a few options: you can try looking for an online program from an accredited school that will allow you to enroll with your current work history or you can opt for a direct entry program and ask if you can first carry out the BSN part of the curriculum. Provided the university is willing, you can then earn qualifications and become eligible for the specialization you want. Some schools require you to finish Bachelor’s level courses before your admission to the program.

What about a traditional Master’s Degree?

A conventional Master’s Degree program is a worthwhile career choice, but it also differs significantly in requirements, time and course format from an accelerated track. For example, classes typically take place on campus in the afternoon or morning for a traditional program. But accelerated studies can involve weekend courses, as well as late evenings spent in the classroom. Although they are commonly completed on campus, there have been increasingly more online and distance learning options available. For these, you are only required to be present in certain hospitals or healthcare facilities to finish your clinical practice.

An accelerated MSN track is the fastest, most direct route to nursing pre-licensure. When you complete the program, you will be prepared and qualified for the specialized position of your choice and able to start practicing up to 3 years earlier than you would following a traditional track. These are all crucial advantages to consider when deciding what you want to do next on your career path. Nonetheless, accelerated studies present a very real downside – the inability to keep up with the program. The stringent, busy and rapid nature of the coursework means that you might easily fall behind, struggle and even fail many of your exams. You need full commitment, proficiency and a remarkable ability to withstand stress and fight procrastination if you want to finalize your studies and earn your certification. Other than this, an accelerated MSN program has undeniable benefits that will build up your career in the long run.

Can you join an online accelerated MSN program?

Yes, there are countless online alternatives for earning this certification. It is important to recognize that pursuing an accelerated program online, although offering more flexibility, may also prove to be considerably more challenging, as you will have to be an expert of independent study and self-motivation. Here are some excellent universities that offer online options for various MSN specializations:

  • University of Rochester
  • John Hopkins University School of Nursing
  • Simmons School of Nursing and Health
  • Sacred Heart University
  • University of San Francisco
  • University of Michigan
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Augusta University
  • MGH Institute of Health Professions
  • Carlow University
  • University of Texas at Arlington
  • Kennesaw State University
  • Western Governors University
  • University of South Alabama
  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • University of South Carolina

How much does the program cost?

Tuition is typically around $1,000 per credit hour, which translates to $60,000 per year (for full-time students). Depending on the school you’ve chosen and the length of the program, some prices for accelerated MSN tracks are upward of $90,000 in total. You will be required to have health insurance (around $6,000) and pay for additional academic expenses (lab equipment, books, white shoes, stethoscopes, learning material). Remember that financial aid is available – grants, scholarships, student loans and work-study to name a few.

What about accreditation?

Any program you choose should be accredited by one of these four organizations: The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), The Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN), The American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation (ACNM) or The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). You will also need your NCLEX exam in order to practice.

How much will you earn after completing an accelerated MSN program?

An MSN (whether acquired through a traditional program or accelerated track) will ensure that you receive an increased income, well over the median earnings of a regular nurse. In fact, top salaries reach $100,000 per year and can go over that figure with the right specialization. Your chances of landing a high-end job are increased by owning a Bachelor’s Degree. Here are some of the job positions you can apply for with this certification:

  • Research Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Nurse Consultant
  • Nurse Educator
  • Oncology Nurse
  • Cardiology Nurse
  • Nurse Administrator
  • Orthopedics Nurse
  • Neonatal Nurse
  • Pediatric Nurse
  • Advanced Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Research Coordinator
  • Clinical Nurse Educator
  • Acute Care Nurse
  • Primary Care Nurse
  • Gerontology Nurse
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • Certified Nurse-Midwife
  • Psychiatric Nurse
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist