Choosing between an online RN to BSN and online RN to MSN degree?
Which masters in nursing program is right for you?
As the nursing field continues to grow, so do the opportunities to advance your education. Today’s health care facilities often prefer that nurses have a more advanced, specialty-focused education–BSN or MSN degree–rather than just an RN degree.
Employers look for nurses who can deliver higher quality care across a variety of acute-care, primary-care and community health settings, and to provide additional needed services including case management, health promotion and disease prevention. Nurses gain this type of knowledge by pursuing advanced degrees.
But once you decide to pursue a masters program, you must then decide whether you will go the RN to BSN route or the RN to MSN route.
Going Beyond the RN
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), American Nurses Association (ANA) and other leading nursing organizations all recognize the BSN degree as a minimal educational requirement for professional nurse practice–especially for nurses who wish to move up in their careers and provider high-level care. Over RN, the BSN is the preferred degree.
RN to BSN Overview
Today’s RNs are seeking BSNs in increasing numbers, BSN curriculum prepares nurses for broader roles. An RN to BSN program acts as a bridge for diploma and ADN-prepared nurses wishing to enhance clinical reasoning and analytical skills to help advance their careers.
Building upon initial nursing preparation, RN to BSN programs enhance professional development, prepare you for a broader scope of practice and provide more in-depth understanding of cultural, political, economic and social issues affecting patients and influencing care delivery.
RN to BSN programs typically take 1 to 2 years to complete, depending on factors such as school requirements and previous academic experience. Of the 633 RN to BSN programs currently available, 400 are offered at least partially online.
RN to MSN Overview
In comparison to BSN programs, RN to MSN programs typically take about 3 years to complete. Like BSN programs, MSN programs are often offered online or in blended format–combination of classroom and online.
RN to MSN programs begin by covering baccalaureate-level content that isn’t typically covered in diploma and ADN programs. So you will start out learning this upper-level content before moving on to graduate study.
Benefits of RN to MSN
Both RN to BSN and RN to MSN programs help to further your knowledge and provide you with a solid foundation to catapult your nursing career to new heights. But how do you know which degree is right for you?
The RN to MSN is the more comprehensive choice that will most likely open up more doors for you. Though the program typically takes a year longer to complete, you will gain advanced knowledge beyond what you get from a BSN program.
- Skills learned – MSN programs are research based, with the goal of promoting techniques to improve health care, and they teach concepts of nursing science and their applications as well as health care management. The programs give students the chance to develop knowledge, leadership skills and interpersonal skills to help them improve health care the health care system.
- Variety of specialized courses – Graduate nursing programs teach everything from statistics, research management and health policy to nutrition, family planning and mental health. As you get further into the MSN program, you will be given the chance to concentrate your study in a specific clinical area.
- Working while you learn – Many RN to MSN programs are offered partially or completely online to encourage you to continue gaining work experience while you study. This also gives you the chance to start practicing what you learn right away.
- Clinical specialties – Depending on which career track you’re pursuing, there are a number of areas of focus surrounding clinical nurse specialists. During your MSN program studies, you can pursue everything from acute care, child care, adult care and geriatric care, to occupational health, community health, emergency care and primary care.
- Preparing you for certification – MSN programs offer an increased amount of clinical practice to better prepare you for the job market and certification. With certification, you can become a nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, certified clinical nurse specialist or certified nurse anesthetist.
- Varied career options – Beyond clinical specialty jobs, MSN degrees also prepare you for careers in nursing administration and nursing education. Upon graduating from an MSN program, you can expect to oversee auxiliary-care providers such as nurse aides or other unlicensed employees. You might also work in a team structure and be expected to manage, motivate or steer a particular group.
The RN to MSN program is a bridge program designed to provide sophisticated concepts in an accelerated curriculum. Though it takes a little bit longer to complete than an RN to BSN program, you will graduate with a more well-rounded perspective and knowledge base that will increase your opportunities as a professional nurse.
Whether you choose to enroll in an RN to BSN or RN to MSN program, you should do what best suits you. Because the MSN program covers an intense introduction of baccalaureate coursework, similar to what is taught in BSN programs, but also prepares you for certification exams and specialty focuses, you will find that a wider range of career opportunities as an MSN degree holder than you would a BSN degree holder.