What are the Different Types of Master’s in Nursing Degrees?

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Updated August 4, 2020

If you are exploring the possibility of advanced practice nursing, you need to explore the different types of Master's in Nursing degrees. Advanced practice nurses are in high demand in many areas of nursing, and in order to become an APN, a nurse needs to have a master's degree at minimum. There are multiple types of master degree programs to choose from, so how you proceed may well depend on what area of specialty you're interested in or the programs available in the school of your choice.

The Many Different Types of Degrees

There are literally hundreds of master degree programs accredited by either the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, some of the more common degree programs you'll find are the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a plain MS or MA degree (Master of Science or Master of Arts) with a nursing major. There are also accelerated master degree programs for students with non-nursing degrees, and programs that allow practicing RNs who don't yet hold a bachelor's degree to complete a bachelor and master's degree together at a quicker pace. Finally, there is the possibility for someone seeking an MSN or other nursing master degree to combine that degree with another master degree in a compatible field, like Public Health or Administration.

Advanced Practice Nurses

Which degree you choose may depend on what kind of advanced practice you hope to undertake. Nurse administrators, nurse educators, nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and clinical nurse specialists are all examples of advanced practice nurses (APNs) who hold graduate degrees. Within those designations, there are also many areas of specialty to explore. For instance, a clinical nurse specialist might work in a variety of areas from pediatrics to oncology to cardiac or neurological nursing, while a nurse practitioner may specialize in community health, geriatric health or any number of other areas.

Classes and Practice in Master Degrees

Although specialty areas vary, there are certain elements that are generally true of most nursing masters programs. If you can work at the degree full-time, you can generally finish your course work in 18 months to two years, though many students continue to work while studying so programs may take longer. Challenging coursework, particularly seminars and discussion groups, are another prominent feature of different types of master degree in nursing. Clinical work is also almost always required so you can gain the practice you need. In addition to your RN, other admission requirements will likely include either GRE or MAT scores and reference letters. Depending on what area of specialization you've decided on, some nursing schools may require that you've completed certain prerequisite courses.

Related Resource: Ph.D in Education

More hospitals are coming to appreciate and rely on effective advanced practice nurses, so exploring an advanced degree can be a solid way to further your nursing career. The master's degree is considered the baseline of most these career paths. If you have a good sense of your particular skills and of the area in which you hope to specialize, then you will be ready to explore the different types of master degree in nursing.

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