If you’re a nurse seeking career advancement, a master’s degree in nursing can offer specialized skills and training. Earning a master’s in nursing can lead to better pay and more favorable work hours. It also broadens your career opportunities, including administrative roles, becoming a practitioner or specialist, or even an educator.
Opting for an online master’s program allows flexibility without disrupting your job, letting you learn at your own pace, and it fits easily into your schedule, too. This approach enables you to gain specialized knowledge relevant to advanced nursing practice.
Choosing an online MSN program may seem overwhelming, so consider these factors when making your selection:
1. Type of Program
When picking a program, start by understanding its format. Online courses typically come in two types: fully online and hybrid. A fully online program allows you to access your coursework entirely online, providing flexibility for self-paced learning. A hybrid program combines online and on-campus classes, enabling in-person interaction with instructors if desired.
Many nurses opt for an MSN to advance in areas like clinical practice, leadership, administration, or education. If you’re already a registered nurse, an RN to MSN online program from Northeastern State University allows you to earn your degree while keeping your work schedule intact, eliminating the need to adjust it for in-person classes. This program is especially beneficial for RNs with family and work commitments or who face travel constraints to reach a campus.
When seeking education, it’s vital to pick an accredited program. Accreditation guarantees a credible and high-quality education that meets rigorous academic standards. Opting for an accredited program, as opposed to a non-accredited one, is crucial for job prospects, admission to further education, credit transfer, eligibility for financial aid, and qualification for licensing or certification exams.
3. Find out What Courses Are Available
When going back to school, it’s important to choose a subject you’re interested in. Make sure to browse the programs available and see what their curriculum entails. This will also help you research different topics and subjects you might be interested in and want to pursue.
You have options like clinical, policy, leadership, nursing education, and health/population-focused courses. To pick the right specialization, consider your strengths, career goals, and what subject excites you the most.
4. Consider Flexibility
Working in the medical field demands a high level of commitment due to the often irregular and demanding work hours. Healthcare professionals, including nurses, often find themselves working during all hours of the day and night to ensure patient care is continuous.
In this context, selecting a higher education program that aligns with your work schedule is crucial. Online programs offer the advantage of flexibility, allowing you to balance your studies with your professional commitments. This approach can be especially beneficial for healthcare professionals who need to continue working while pursuing advanced degrees to advance their careers. It not only eases the transition from work to education but also ensures that you can apply what you learn in your current job. Furthermore, fully online programs can be especially valuable for those who may have family obligations or geographical constraints that make attending traditional in-person classes difficult.
5. Length of the Program and Requirements
Find out the length of the program and how much time you will need to dedicate to complete it. Online MSN programs can take two to four years to complete, depending on whether you’re attending full-time or part-time. Find out if the classes have specific times or if you can take them at your own pace. Search for clinical experience time requirements and see if the hours fit your schedule.
6. Faculty Qualifications
Before making your program choice, it’s prudent to get acquainted with the faculty and instructors. Look for a faculty with a strong teaching background and instructors who are genuinely passionate about education. Factors such as easy access to faculty members, smaller class sizes, and transparent communication channels with instructors throughout the program are critical. These elements play a significant role in shaping your learning experience and ensuring you receive the necessary support.
7. The Prerequisites Required Are
Every program has some requirements for admission. They can vary from program to program. Their prerequisites could include:
- Having an associate degree in nursing
- Meeting a minimum GPA, SAT, or ACT score requirement.
- A current RN license.
- A Bachelor’s degree in a field not related to nursing
They may also potentially require:
- Letters of recommendation
- An essay describing personal and professional goals and aspirations
- Work experience
This research will help you determine what program will best fit your educational and professional background and achievements.
8. Tuition Costs of the Program
Finding out the cost of education is also a very important step in choosing a program. In general, the cost of private programs is higher than that of public programs. Find out the types of payment plans they offer. This will help in determining if you can afford the program or have to pursue other options like financial aid or scholarships. You could also try for employer aid; an employer might offer tuition reimbursement for continuing education.
9. Career Opportunities
When pursuing higher education, it’s always best to look into the career opportunities and the advancement they offer. With an MSN degree, you can choose a clinical or nonclinical career path. Clinical paths could include practitioners, specialists, certified midwives, etc. A nonclinical career could include roles in research, data analysis, management, administration, education, or public policy.
Statically speaking, an MSN will lead to opportunities and better pay. As with any career, training and advanced credentials will broaden employment opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an overall 38 percent growth from 2022 to 2032 in the employment of nurse anesthetists, midwives, and specialists.
Opting for online nursing education is a fantastic decision for career advancement. Pursuing a master’s degree in nursing offers the opportunity to broaden your perspective and enhance your practice. It opens doors to specialization in your preferred nursing field. The convenience of an online program allows you to seamlessly blend your work schedule with your educational pursuits, making it a practical choice for earning your degree while continuing your professional commitments.