How to Get Your MSN Degree – The Ultimate Guide For Nurses

Mari Estefani Carvajal

Mari Estefani Carvajal

Content Writer At Gradehacker

Where can I study to earn an MSN degree?

If you are a registered nurse and are looking to grow in your career and earn a better salary, you can earn your MSN degree at these online colleges:

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If you have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and are thinking about obtaining your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to get an advanced nursing position, then this is the ultimate guide you have been waiting for.

Having an MSN degree will open many doors and job opportunities for you. From salary increases to job promotions and mostly more nursing expertise!

That’s why here at Gradehacker, the most trusted resource for non-traditional students, we gathered the essential information you need and built this list to make it easier to prepare and pursue your career goals!

What Are The Requirements For an MSN Degree?

First, you need to know that the application process for obtaining an MSN degree is competitive.

The requirements for this advanced nursing degree can vary depending on the school and the program options, but we highly recommend you ensure you meet all the requirements and even exceed them to stand out.

Requirements Without Nursing Knowledge or Degree

According to, if you have never studied nursing, these are the admission requirements:

Also, you will need to have taken specific required courses:

Requirements With a Nursing Degree

On the other hand, if you completed your RN or BSN degree program, you will have to follow the next additional requirements:

You won’t need to take any nursing courses prior, so the admissions process will be completed after you have all the degree requirements.

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Types of MSN Programs

According to, there are four types of MSN graduate programs. The one you choose will vary depending on if you already have a nursing degree and what degree you have. 

But also, it will depend on your goal and whether you want to work in a clinical or non-clinical setting.

So, these are the four programs:

The Direct Entry or Entry-Level MSN Program

It is designed for applicants with Bachelor’s degrees in a non-nursing field. 

It takes three years to complete and offers an accelerated program to acquire clinical experience in the first year, followed by two years of Master’s education.

RN-to-MSN Program

This program is for nurses with an Associate’s degree (ADN). 

It takes from two-to-three years to complete, and they incorporate baccalaureate-level education during the first year followed by two years of Master’s level education.

BSN-to-MSN Program

This is for nursing students with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. 

It takes about two years to complete.

Dual MSN Program

This program in nursing is for applicants who want to improve their graduate nursing education with another graduate degree like business administration or public health. 

The time to completion can vary depending on the school.

What do You Learn in an MSN Curriculum?

Every MSN curriculum is different depending on the school and type of program. However, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in  The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing highlights the essential content and competencies needed to be an MSN:

They explain that there are nine essential aspects:

Also, you can choose which MSN specialty you want to acquire with clinical practice experience:

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What Are The Best Online Colleges to Earn Your Master of Science in Nursing?

But where can you study to get your MSN degree?

There are many reputable institutions where you can pursue your Master of Science in Nursing degree. The options available will depend on many factors, such as location, program specializations, and personal preferences.

However, we recommend five of the best colleges with great accredited programs!

Grand Canyon University offers a great Master of Science in Nursing program dedicated to RNs who want to improve their career. It’s an online nursing degree program.

The Higher Learning Commission accredits GCU, and the program has online courses that offer flexibility and convenience for working professionals and students with busy schedules.

You can contact them through their website for more information about the tuition cost,  application deadline, or any prerequisite course!

Purdue Global has an online MSN program designed to help non-traditional students balance their busy lives with work and school.

Their distance learning program is specialized for working adults, and you will learn from experienced professors and real-world experience since they offer evidence-based practice, leadership skills, and independent practice opportunities.

The base tuition for 3.5 years is $37.800. However, you can calculate the cost with  Purdue’s calculator, depending on the program you want to take!

And if you are really interested in Purdue’s MSN program, you can check out our review.

Capella University has an RN-to-MSN online program that you can quickly fit into your schedule. They offer a wide range of specializations to improve your nursing skills:

  • Care Coordination
  • Nursing Education
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Nursing Leadership and Administration

Also, they offer flex, online nursing classes, where you can earn your MSN in only 14 months and under $15,000 for the entire program.

To request more information about the nursing program, you can visit their website, where you will find everything you need.

Walden University has an online MSN program that the CCNE accredits. They offer indirect and direct patient care specialization, depending on what suits you best.

They have a course-based program, but you can choose their flexible, competency-based format designed to work around your busy schedule.

You will refine your advanced skills with their educational settings and classroom tools, including iHuman patient simulation software, strength-finding tools, and realistic case studies.

Also, if you are an employee or member of an eligible partner organization, you can take advantage of tuition savings.

Visit their website for more information about the program options, transfer credits, and application fee, or check out our review of Walden’s MSN program.

WGU offers an MSN Nursing Leadership and Management program to help you thrive in managerial challenges in nurse leadership and beyond.

You will learn to be an effective transformational leader in healthcare, how to become a critical thinker, impact patient care, and improve health systems in your community.

WGU’s online program for nurses is CCNE-accredited

You will learn to be a leader and develop life-saving techniques to set essential standards. It also includes evidence-based practice demonstrating advanced nursing experience and curriculum development.

The program lasts two years, but you can choose a flexible schedule. 

The tuition cost is $4,795 per six-month period.

WGU college graduates are known for excellence since the institution offers a wide range of MSN programs, like nurse educators, nursing informatics, and more. 

You can learn more about their different programs on WGU’s website.

In case you are worried about your previous college grades, you can check out our blog and find the best MSN programs with low GPA requirements.

Career Options And Academic Outlook as an MSN

According to the BLS, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners with an MSN degree have an annual salary of $125.000, and the job outlook is 38%, much faster than the average.

However, the salary varies depending on your specialization:

Also, the salary can vary depending on the type of institution you are working for:

The career outlook for all nurses is strong, but the demand for Registered Nurses with MSN degrees is projected to increase by 38% from 2022 to 2032. 

With an MSN specialty and clinical expertise, you will have no limits by obtaining a better professional role in healthcare systems and providing more than primary care to patients.

On the other hand, with this advanced degree, you can work in various healthcare specialties like pediatrics, oncology, surgery, anesthesia, psychiatry, radiology, and more!

Why Should You Pursue an MSN Degree?

Pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing offers numerous advantages for nurses who wish to advance their careers and take leadership roles in healthcare.

Here are some key advantages of pursuing an MSN degree:

1. Better salary:

According to the BLS, nurses with an MSN degree gain $45.000 more annually than nurses with a bachelor’s degree. 

The median salary for MSNs is $125,000, and for BSNs, it is $81,000.

2. More career choices and specializations:

Nurses with a Master of Science in Nursing have many career paths available, including clinical and non-clinical settings and specialized fields based on their interests.

Opportunities include clinical nurse leaders, advanced practice registered nurses (Nurse Practitioners or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists), advanced roles, nurse administrators, educators, or informaticists.

3. Advanced career opportunities:

According to, by obtaining an MSN academic degree, nurses demonstrate their commitment to their profession and increase their chances of career advancement.

An increasing number of hospitals are actively looking for nurses with MSN degrees to fill nurse manager and nurse leader positions to meet the requirements for Magnet Hospital status.

4. Better delivery care:

Numerous surveys conducted by respected institutions have consistently found that nurses with a Master of Science degree significantly impact patient outcomes, resulting in lower mortality rates in healthcare facilities.

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Unlock Your Potential With an MSN Degree

We hope this guide helps you organize and give you all the information you need.

Pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing offers numerous benefits and opportunities for the nursing profession and those who want to advance their level of education.

If this is the path you want to take and want to graduate in half the time, we highly recommend you check out our Degree Accelerator subscription.

Take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade your nursing career to the next level!

Mari Estefani Carvajal

Mari Estefani Carvajal

Mari Estefani Carvajal is a journalist passionate about writing, cinema, podcast, and multimedia production. She is a Content Writer at Gradehacker and helps non-traditional students life’s by creating creative content. You can find her on LinkedIn.