What Are the Different Types of MSN Degree Programs?

Lainie Petersen

Different types of MSN degree programs include programs that focus on particular clinical nursing specialties as well as those that prepare nurses for administrative or executive careers. Programs may also vary by delivery method, with some schools offering traditional, classroom-based education while other programs may offer a significant amount of coursework online. Graduates of MSN degree programs can enter careers in advance practice nursing, administration, and teaching. They may also be able to develop their own consulting practices, working with legal and healthcare professionals.

MSN degrees offer areas of specialization such as administration or health records management.
MSN degrees offer areas of specialization such as administration or health records management.

A master of science in nursing (MSN) degree is a postgraduate degree for registered nurses. The type of MSN degree programs that a registered nurse may consider enrolling in will depend on his or her career ambitions. MSN degrees are often designed to meet specific criteria for different types of nursing occupations. In many places, an MSN is a requirement for nurses who wish to serve as nursing instructors, enter an administrative or executive career, or become an advance practice nurse, such as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse midwife.

Nurses who plan to enter into a specialized area of nursing practice will typically want to consider MSN degree programs that offer coursework and clinical experience in a nursing specialization. These nurses should check to make sure that the programs that they consider are accredited or recognized by an appropriate professional or certifying body for the area of nursing in which they wish to work. Typically, a nurse will need to complete the degree as well as a separate licensing process through the nursing commission in his or her jurisdiction.

Some nurses are interested in a career that involves them in administration or management. There are some MSN degree programs that train nurses in management and executive leadership, with a heavy emphasis on healthcare business and administration competencies. Another type of program is an MSN with a specialization in medical informatics, which trains nurses in the management of hospital records and database management.

In many areas, it is possible for a nurse to complete an MSN degree through an online program. These degree programs vary in structure, but usually allow a student to complete much, if not all, of his or her coursework online. The hands-on portion of study, however, must be completed in a supervised healthcare setting, typically a hospital. Schools that offer MSN online degree programs typically partner with hospitals to provide practical training to online students.

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