Advantages And Drawbacks Of Getting An MSN
Whether you're a nursing professional, a Registered Nurse, or a nursing student you might be looking ahead to the day when you want to take your career to the next level. To obtain most advanced nursing positions, one of the biggest requirements is that you must complete a master of science in a nursing degree program (MSN).
Of course, like any graduate level program of study, pursuing an MSN is a big investment of money, time, and effort, so you want to be sure that you know what you're getting into before you move forward.
Start by exploring what an MSN is all about, and then consider some of the pros and cons of an MSN so you can decide if the benefits are worth it for you and if it's something you can handle right now or want to rethink in a couple of years.
How To Get Your MSN
MSN programs are similar to other master's level programs in that they usually take about two years to complete (if you're taking a full course load, that is).
What makes nursing programs unique is that there are a couple of different routes toward earning a master's degree.
The most traditional way is to go for your master's after already completing a bachelor's degree program in nursing (BSN). However, many working RNs may not have their bachelor's degree in nursing since you can become licensed after earning an associate degree.
For those people, there are programs called RN-to-MSN, which helps nurses who do not have bachelor's or have them in other fields, to pursue a master's without having to earn a bachelor's first. These programs usually take a bit longer and might be more intensive since there is more material to cover.
All MSN programs cover both general nursing topics like anatomy and pharmacology, along with coursework in a variety of nursing specializations, depending on which track you choose to pursue.
You will also have to complete a certain number of clinical rotation hours.
When choosing an MSN program as a means to earn an advanced nursing certification, make sure that it will satisfy the requirements so you can sit for the corresponding licensing exams.
Advantages Of Getting Your MSN
Now that you have an idea of what an MSN program entails, here are some of the biggest reasons why people choose to complete them.
An MSN can open up new career doors
Besides the fact that some nursing specializations require a master's degree, certain positions at prestigious hospitals and healthcare organizations may give preference to candidates who have their MSN as well.
If you have any intentions of focusing on one type of nursing, like nursing informatics or nurse practitioner or taking on a managerial role in a hospital, completing an MSN is probably in your best interest.
You have the potential to earn a higher salary with an advanced degree
As mentioned above, some advanced nursing practices do require an MSN, but they also have significantly higher salaries than what an RN typically earns. For example, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists earned a median salary of $153,780 as of May 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly double that of an average RN's salary.
There are many program options
From part-time programs to accelerated ones, and even online MSN degrees, there are more choices than ever for earning an advanced nursing degree. Students can basically go at their own pace, and customize their course schedules thanks to schools catering more to adult students, and technology that allows for distance learning. This is especially helpful for people who would like to continue working while they go to school.
You'll gain a deeper knowledge of a specific area of nursing
Some advanced nursing practices may require learning an advanced skill set than what typical RNs are exposed to, whether it's working exclusively with cardiac patients, in a neonatal unit, or as a forensic nurse. MSN programs often allow students to choose a specialty track so they go more in-depth with their studies, and become experts in their field.
Drawbacks Of Getting Your MSN
If MSN programs were simple and free, everyone would get one. But like any other educational pursuit, there are some potential obstacles to consider.
MSN programs are expensive
There's no avoiding the fact that advanced degrees are a big investment, costing in the tens of thousands of dollars. Even though they have the potential to pay for themselves in a few years, coming up with the money to pay tuition or borrowing funds is sometimes a deterrent.
Advanced degrees in nursing are tough
Master’s programs are challenging – there's no doubt about that. But even more so for nurses who are continuing to work and juggle family responsibilities as they take classes. It can certainly be done, as thousands of students prove each year, but it's not an endeavor to be taken lightly.
Coursework and clinical hours are time consuming
Even if you decide to take your time or go the online MSN route, you should still be prepared to dedicate a significant number of hours per week to your studies and/or clinical requirements. Doing so will likely require some shuffling around of responsibilities, and a strong support network at home and work.
Getting your MSN is certainly an option for nurses who want to change the trajectory of their careers, earn more, or specialize. But by no means do you have to feel pressure to get one right away.
Many older nurses wait until they are in a good place financially or have more time to dedicate to a program of study before they head back to the classroom. If you're considering an MSN, it is a big decision, so think through the pros and cons to decide if it's a good professional move for you.