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Academic Pathways and Timeframe of Pursuing an MSN Specialisation

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Nursing schools offer various nursing programmes at the bachelor, master’s, and doctorate levels. Each programme has its prerequisites, time length, job outlook, and more. You can take a gap year after your bachelor’s degree to explore and decide your interests before pursuing a master’s degree in nursing.

A typical postgrad degree in a nursing programme can take almost two years to complete. However, not all students can afford to enroll in a full-time study program. Therefore, part-time study options are also available. A part-time master’s degree can take around 2–5 years to complete.   

A Master of Science in Nursing can prepare nurses for leadership roles and also motivate them to bring a positive change in the healthcare system. The nurses with a BSN degree often pursue an MSN degree to advance their careers and become a part of the administration. They understand the roles of both the bedside nurse and the nurse who organizes and runs a smooth department.

MSN degree is a sought-after master’s degree option among nursing students looking to advance their careers. There is also a high demand for nurse administrators in the healthcare industry. An MSN allows you to work in leadership roles and promises a stable workplace, good job growth, and skill-building opportunities.

In this article, we will discuss what is a nursing administration MSN degree? And how long does it take to complete this degree?

What is an MSN degree?

A Master of Science in Nursing or MSN is a professional degree designed for career advancement. This program offers theoretical classes and practical training to increase the knowledge and polish the skills of the students. Most master’s degrees take 1–2 years to complete but, an MSN degree can take up to three years to complete. This timeline depends on three things;

  • Your previous qualifications and work experience
  • Your preferred field of specialisation
  • Your mode of study (full-time or part-time) 

Timeframes of various pathways that can lead to an MSN degree

Students from a variety of educational backgrounds can apply for an MSN programme. Each pathway to an MSN has different prerequisites, and the time length can also vary. Here are some common ways to an MSN degree.

  • BSN to MSN. This pathway can take almost 2–3 years of study in an MSN program. After four years of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, you can complete an MSN programme in 1–2 years. It is the most direct way to graduate with an MSN. Work experience after BSN is also not required for enrollment.
  • Regular bachelor to MSN. Students with bachelor’s degrees in subjects other than nursing pursue this pathway. It is similar to the BSN to MSN pathway as it also takes 1–2 years to complete the MSN degree program through this pathway. However, students can have gaps in their fundamental nursing knowledge. To cover those gaps, they may have to take some extra classes.
  • RN to MSN. Registered nurses with work experience and without a BSN often choose this pathway. An RN can take around three years to complete an MSN degree programme. It can take a year to cover the basic introductory BSN courses before starting the MSN coursework.
  • Accelerated MSN. The accelerated direct entry MSN programme is specifically for students with non-nursing backgrounds. This programme lasts almost three years as it quickly covers up both BSN and MSN program courses that may include pharmacology, health assessment studies, and physiology. Admission to this programme requires a competitive GPA, recommendation letter, and high GRE test scores. It can also require a personal statement outlining the reason or interest of the student for choosing the field of nursing as their career. Online accelerated MSN programmes are also available.

Timeframe of an MSN programme based on the mode of study

Students enrolled in an MSN degree can choose either a full-time or part-time study mode depending on their unique situations. The duration of your degree can differ depending upon the mode of study you choose. Several schools offer both options as well as online study options.

  • Full-time. Full-time MSN students take fewer semesters to complete the degree. It can take around 15–24 months. Hence, it is the shortest way to graduate with an MSN degree. However, students can be expected to take 2–3 classes per semester. Therefore, this mode of study requires a significant time commitment from students every week.
  • Part-time. A part-time MSN can take around 24–48 months. Part-time students are allowed to take fewer courses every semester. Students with other full-time jobs or other life-related obligations choose this mode of study to advance their education while working full-time. Schools also recommend it to students with full-time jobs so they can have enough time to focus on their coursework and clinical practice every semester.

MSN degree Specialisations

Students can complete their MSN degree in their preferred specialisation. Even though the core curriculum for all specialisations is similar, they focus on developing different skills and open different career pathways. After graduating with any specialisation, students qualify to sit for a national certification exam for that specific specialisation.

Some of these specialisations are:

  • Family nurse practitioner (FNP)
  • Certified nurse midwife (CNM)
  • Certified registered nurse anaesthetist (CRNA)
  • Women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP)
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP)
  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
  • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP)

Some MSN concentrations are designed for nurturing leadership qualities in students planning to become leaders in the nursing industry. So, students planning to improve patient care from a managerial level instead of working in direct clinical settings can pursue one of the following MSN specializations;

  • Clinical nurse leader
  • Public health nursing
  • Nursing education
  • Nursing informatics
  • Nursing administration

The bottom line

An MSN program prepares the future leaders of the nursing community. It is an effective program with brilliant job prospects. The duration of an MSN degree can vary based on the pathway you may follow to get enrolled in an MSN degree plan. It means your previous educational background and work experience can play a role in determining how long your degree programme will last. Moreover, your chosen mode of study that can be either full-time or part-time, can also determine the length of your MSN degree. This degree has the same core coursework but offers a variety of specialisations that can train and prepare students for specific patient-focused or management-focused roles. 

All in all, the duration of an MSN degree can vary from individual to individual based on their unique circumstances. Hopefully, this article has covered all possible information that can help you make an informed decision about which MSN pathway is appropriate for you and how long it can take for you to complete it.

Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health and wellness.

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