Are all online msn programs the same?

Building a Bridge Towards Your Future in Nursing

With technological innovation and aging populations comes the demand for nurses. And with the demand on the rise comes increased competition in the field. Growth of the profession has resulted in growth of educational opportunities. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there are more than 500 nursing school nationwide offering a menu of more than 2,000 graduate nursing programs. And many of these are online masters in nursing (MSN) degree programs.

As with any type of educational programs, all online MSN programs differ. Deciding which type of program to pursue can be overwhelming but when you begin to understand what some of the differences are between different schools and courses, you will be better prepared to choose the program that best suits you.

The main purpose of any type of online MSN program is to work with nurses’ busy schedules. Taking online courses enables you to continue working while you attend school and also gives you the chance to apply principles to your everyday profession as you learn them. Beyond this overall common goal, each type of online MSN program offered has its own set of specific objectives.

Length of Programs
Online MSN program length varies depending on which type of degree you’re pursuing. Programs typically take between 2 and 3 years, depending on school requirements and the pace at which you complete the coursework.

BSN to MSN programs move at a more rapid pace than the RN to MSN courses since the BSN is a more comprehensive program than the RN.

These online nursing degree programs provide a foundation for baccalaureate level content at the front-end of the program. First students master upper level basic nursing content and then move on to graduate study. In the past 15 years, the number of RN to MSN programs has more than doubled, growing from 70 programs in 1994 to 173 programs today.

Programs Allowing Both RN and BSN to MSN
Some online nursing programs allow entrants from both RN and BSN backgrounds. This is to accommodate more students. In the event you are admitted with just an ADN, you will typically complete bridge work to get you up to the BSN level.

Program Specialties
Today’s nurses face many choices regarding continued education and areas of specialty. To choose the most appropriate specialty, you must decide which areas of nurses you are most interested in.

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) – This type of nurse provides primary, preventive and specialty care in a variety of roles in acute and ambulatory care settings. This career path encompasses four recognized roles: Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs).
  • All of these roles require nurses to completed an accredited graduate program, pass a national certification exam and obtain a license prior to practice. These programs focus on advanced clinical knowledge and also typically require knowledge beyond the master’s degree–a doctoral degree.
  • Nurse Researchers – This type of nurse focuses on investigative means to improve health care services and patient outcomes. A master’s degree is typically required and doctoral preparation is expected for principal investigators and other senior roles in research.
  • Nurse Educators – Combining passion for teaching and clinical experience, nurse educators prepare new nurses and advance the development of practicing clinicians. Master’s degree preparation enables these educators to serve as instructors in the practice setting, clinical preceptors, staff development educators and faculty members in associate degree and allied nursing programs.
  • Clinical Nurse Leaders – This type of nurse oversees patient care coordination, assesses risks, develops quality improvement strategies, facilitates team communication and implements evidence-based solutions. Nurses following this path complete masters programs that prepare them to sit for the CNL certification exam.
  • Nurse Administrators – Serving a variety of managerial and leadership capacities, nurse administrators facilitate and delivery quality patient care while coordinating workflow and managing nursing care. Depending on the subspecialty you purse, there are many different certification programs for graduates of nursing administration programs.
  • Public Health Nurses – Working collaboratively with community leaders, government officials, teachers, parents and other providers related to community and population health, this type of nurse focuses on preserving the health and well-being of the public. Master’s- and doctorally-prepared public health nurses typically manage clinics in various state and community settings.

To aid in your decision-making process you may want to explore the accreditation of a learning institution. There are a number of regional and national accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. These are considered reliable authorities that ensure higher-education institutions provide acceptable quality education or training.

One of these institutions focused of health care is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Online MSN programs are accredited by the CCNE are held to certain standards that ensure quality and integrity. CCNE encourages continuing self-assessment by nursing programs and supports continued growth and improvement to professional education.

Choose What Works
Ultimately, you want to choose the online MSN program that works for you. You can refer to these guidelines to help you understand common differences you may notice and evaluate what is important to you in seeking an online masters nursing degree program.





call to action