Graduate study in nursing prepares students in a variety of specializations, helping nurses move into leadership roles at health-care facilities or into positions on university faculties. The Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) degree allows students to focus on one area of interest, which can be classified in one of four categories—the age of treated patients, the work setting or kind of care provided, diseases or medical conditions, and organs or organ systems.

In general, students take around 40 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree to obtain the master’s, depending on the program. An M.S.N. curriculum usually requires students to complete a series of nursing classes, clinical work, and research. The content of the program of study centers on a student’s area of interest. In many programs, the student must write and defend a thesis or complete a final project. The full-time student can complete the M.S.N. in eighteen to twenty-four months.

To apply, RNs who have a B.S.N. from an accredited institution need a satisfactory GPA and GRE scores, a current RN license, and clinical experience. Specific application requirements vary depending on the school.

A graduate with the M.S.N. can work as a nurse practitioner, a nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist (CNS), a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), or a nurse psychotherapist, among others. Some M.S.N. graduates act as specialists in such areas as management, community health, and geriatrics. With the master’s degree, students are also well prepared for further study at the doctoral level.