EDUCATION
August 12, 2021

What is an MSN/MBA Dual Degree Program and is it Worth It?

Many nurses interested in advancing their careers on the business side of healthcare think that their only options are to get a Master’s in Healthcare Administration (MHA) or a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).

But nurses have an additional option that other aspiring graduate students don’t have! Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN)/ Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) dual degree graduate programs are available exclusively for nursing professionals who want the best of both worlds.

This article will discuss what an MSN/MBA program is, who the degree is suitable for, career possibilities upon graduation, program details, and anything else you need to know!

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What is an MSN/MBA Dual Degree Program? 

A Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) / Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) dual degree program is an intensive master’s program designed for nurses who want a well-rounded education in advanced nursing practice alongside an essential business education. 

Specifically, these programs offer advanced nursing education and administrative skills for high-level executive positions within the healthcare field. 

In this program, you earn two degrees:

  • A Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN)
    • This portion advances your clinical nursing skills, teaches nursing administration, and provides a holistic view of business issues in today’s healthcare environment.
  • A Master’s of Business Administration (MBA)
    • This portion provides advanced, specialized business knowledge and training to ensure that you have essential leadership skills and administrative savvy.

If you want to wow the hiring managers and have your A-game ready when applying for healthcare business jobs after graduation, this degree might be worth your consideration. You will be looked up to by your peers, outshine your interview competition, and land your dream high-level administrative career.

Who Should Get an MSN/MBA Degree?

The dual MSN/MBA is an excellent graduate program option for nurses with a bachelor’s degree who want the administrative, organizational, and financial skills needed to succeed in higher-level business management positions. 

This degree is perfect for those who want to thrive in the business of healthcare, no matter where they decide to work upon graduation.  

Nurses who don’t have a bachelor’s degree would not be eligible to obtain an MSN/MBA degree. Instead, they will first need to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) and have a few years of working experience before applying to a graduate program. 

An MSN/MBA dual program would also be suitable for those who:

  • Have clinical experience but less business experience
  • Need a change from working at the bedside
  • Love healthcare but desire to work more behind the scenes
  • Don’t want to work in a direct patient care role anymore
  • Want more money and to work for a salary with bonuses, instead of an hourly wage
  • Have leadership skills and desire high-level management positions
  • A desire to influence the values and culture of an organization
  • A desire to improve healthcare processes from the top down.

Careers for MSN/MBA Graduates 

Nurses who graduate from an MSN/MBA dual degree program have many new career opportunities ahead of them. Here are a few potential options:

Medical or Health Service Manager

Medical or health service managers oversee various management functions within a hospital or other healthcare setting. 

They often manage budgets, organize staffing needs, and handle essential business relations within their organization.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical or health service managers earn a median income of $104,280 annually or $50.13 per hour

Director of Care Management

Director of care management positions involves developing and implementing a patient care management program for an organization, such as a hospital. Their goal is to improve patient experiences within the facility, improve their community’s overall health, and reduce the organization’s healthcare costs.

Director of Compliance

A director of compliance position requires the implementation of practices and policies to ensure that a healthcare facility complies with necessary accreditation requirements.  In addition, this position oversees that their institution complies with Joint Commission and HIPPA standards.

Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers work in medical institutions and hospitals overseeing and performing roles such as:

  • Recruiting and hiring
  • Onboarding new hires
  • Reviewing benefits and compensation with medical staff
  • Managing employee claims

Long-term Care Coordinator

Long-term care coordinators help patients access the healthcare services they need through interdisciplinary coordination with other providers.  They help patients who need long-term care by developing a care plan, assessing individual needs, and coordinating care. 

Chief Nursing Officer

A Chief Nursing Officer CNO is the highest level nurse within an organization.  They are senior advisors on best nursing practices, implementing evidence-based nursing programs, establishing compensation for staff, conducting performance assessments for lower-ranking healthcare managers in the organization, and representing nursing staff at business meetings. 

According to Salary.com, CNOs earn a median annual salary of $238,000, with the highest earners making up to $312,087.

Graduates of MSN/MBA programs work in a variety of healthcare locations:

  • Hospitals and medical centers
  • Home health companies
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Nursing homes
  • Mental health institutions
  • Health insurance organizations
  • Healthcare policy organizations
  • Healthcare businesses such as medical device or pharmaceutical companies

MSN/MBA Program Overview

Some of the most common objectives of MSN/MBA programs are to educate students on:

  • Healthcare policy and its relation to nursing, nursing theory, and business theory
  • Creating new strategies to improve access to healthcare for diverse populations
  • Ethical, political, and legal issues in health policy
  • Practice and research evidence-based nursing practice research.

MSN/MBA Curriculum

Curriculums can vary between programs. However, all programs will include variations of the following courses:

MSN portion curriculum:

  • Nursing theory
  • Nursing research
  • Nursing organization and policy
  • Advanced nursing leadership
  • Nursing informatics and technology
  • Advanced nursing research and theory
  • On-site preceptorship or internship

MBA portion curriculum:

  • Accounting
  • Advanced quantitative methods
  • Service production management
  • Advanced economics
  • Advanced finance
  • Ethical and legal issues in business
  • Human resources
  • Digital marketing and strategies
  • Corporate policy and strategies

Many universities allow students to choose a focus of study, determining what courses they complete. Some of the tracks you might choose from include health management, health administration, organizational development, and human resources. 

MSN/MBA Program Requirements

If you apply and do not have an undergraduate business degree, you will likely have to complete prerequisites before acceptance into a program, including:

  • Accounting fundamentals
  • Quantitative essentials
  • Finance
  • Economics

Other program requirements can vary; however, most require that you have the following:

  • A 3.0 or higher GPA
  • A bachelor of science in nursing
  • Unencumbered nursing license
  • At least two years working in a clinical nursing role
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE), or Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) scores
  • 2-3 letters of recommendation
  • An admissions essay
  • Resume
  • 3-5 references

MSN/MBA Program Cost

The cost to obtain an MSN/MBA dual degree depends on the program (public schools tend to be less expensive than private), the state in which you live (in-state residency is usually less costly), and whether the program is online or in-person.  

Accreditation is also a consideration when considering tuition costs. Nursing school programs must be accredited by:

  • The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or
  • The Commission on Nursing Education (CCNE). 

Nationally accredited programs tend to be more expensive. However, it shows that your program meets the highest educational standards, and the university you graduate from must be accredited for you to apply for licensure. 

Like most graduate programs, MSN/MBA programs usually charge per credit hour. Credit requirements vary slightly per school; however, most programs require completing 60-75 credits and 150-350 clinical hours to graduate.

Less expensive schools offer credits for as low as $550 per credit, and more costly programs can charge up to $1000 or more per credit. Therefore, MSN/MBA tuition costs can range from $45,000 to $75,000 or more, depending on the university you choose. 

Keep in mind that some universities also allow you to transfer some credits for classes you may have completed if you took them while completing another program.  

MSN/MBA Program Length

MSN/MBA dual programs generally take around three years to complete if attending full-time. They tend to be about a year longer than single-degree programs due to the fact that they require significantly more coursework and knowledge. However, part-time options are available and can take four or more years to complete, depending on how fast you complete your coursework. 

Many programs offer flexible scheduling, and online or hybrid class schedules to make it easier to stay on track and complete your courses. 

Can You Earn an MSN/MBA Online?

It is possible to earn an MSN/MBA degree online. Many students who work or have other obligations during their programs prefer online programs due to their flexibility. It is possible to schedule your coursework in a way that works within your schedule. Students can work in-between work and family obligations, in the evenings, or on weekends.  

These are a few additional benefits of earning an MSN/MBA online:

  • Your program may be less expensive.
  • You can set your own pace.
  • There is no commute.
  • You will learn new technical software such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Dropbox, and your university programs for submitting classwork.
  • You have just as much, or more, access to your professors through technology.

Many students who were skeptical about the effectiveness of online education before the pandemic found that the benefits greatly outweighed the negative aspects of remote learning. As a result, more students are leaning toward online or hybrid graduate programs.  

How Difficult is an MSN/MBA program?

MSN/MBA dual programs are incredibly time-consuming and will require grit to complete, especially since they are dual degree programs. Many students spend at least 20-40 hours a week on their coursework. The amount of time you will need to commit depends on how quickly you want to complete your degree and if you attend part-time or full-time.  

It is possible to continue working while you attend graduate school. However, many students choose to work part-time so that they can complete the coursework more quickly. It depends on what works best for your schedule and family circumstances.

Is an MSN/MBA Worth It?

Nurses who obtain an MSN/MBA degree are more desirable to employers. They are often sought after to fill high-level administrative and leadership positions. By achieving both an advanced nursing degree and a graduate degree in business, you position yourself as a strong candidate for upward mobility in the healthcare business field. 

Also, by highlighting both your clinical knowledge and business expertise, this degree will provide you the upper hand during interviews, especially when competing with candidates who don’t have your education.

As you climb the ladder in your career, you will also earn a higher salary to match. Although an MSN/MBA degree is challenging, time-consuming, and expensive, those who graduate say that it was one of the best decisions they ever made. It allowed them to move away from the bedside and into nursing leadership roles to change the healthcare environment for the better.

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