The master of science in nursing (MSN) is a postgraduate academic degree offered to registered nurses in the United States. In other countries, a master's degree in nursing may go by other names. For example, in the United Kingdom, a comparable master's degree for nurses is known as the master of nursing science (MNursSci). Designed to help advance the knowledge and careers of registered nurses, it is generally a requirement for nurses who wish to get into teaching, administration, or advance practice.
Many university-based nursing schools offer the master of science in nursing degree, and online programs are not uncommon. Entrance requirements for the MSN degree vary, but usually require either a bachelor's degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in another area combined with a nursing diploma or associate's degree in nursing. Some schools offer accelerated programs in which a student can earn his or her bachelor's degree in nursing while also preparing for a master of science in nursing specialty program.
Registered nurses who wish to become advance practice nurses typically must earn a master of science in nursing. Advance practice nurses specialize in various areas and types of health care and include nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse anesthetists. In addition to earning their MSN, advance practice nurses must also be licensed in the state in which they wish to practice. Depending on their specialty, advance practice nurses may diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication, and order tests.
Nurses who do not care to go into advance practice may choose to earn a master of science in nursing so that they can develop an administrative career. These nurses may take on administrative positions in a hospital or other health care setting, or may work in the area of public health. Other MSN-prepared nurses may take consulting jobs in either the private or public sector. The master of science in nursing is typically a requirement for a nurse who wishes to teach nursing or supervise nursing students.
After completing a master of science in nursing, a nurse may wish to further his or her education. In the United States, nurses can choose between two types of doctoral-level degrees. The PhD in nursing is geared toward nurses who wish to pursue academic research and teaching, while the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) is a practice-oriented degree for those advance practice nurses who want to continue their education and develop their professional skills.