Distance education programs, especially those delivered online, have grown in number and popularity. Given this trend, many schools have begun offering advanced degrees online, including the Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.). For busy RNs who work while pursuing a degree, enrolling in an online M.S.N. program can be convenient. Students can complete their course work at their own pace but within a specified time frame.
In general, an online M.S.N. curriculum requires students to choose a specialization and complete a series of nursing courses, clinical work, research, and a thesis or final project. Most programs do not require students to live on campus, although a short visit, such as for an orientation, may be necessary. Most online classes are structured much like a traditional class, with lectures, discussions, and assignments. Students can download lecture notes and assignments, submit their homework via e-mail, and chat with other students. An instructor might schedule a mandatory online chat so that all students can engage in a discussion simultaneously. The clinical portion is made in conjunction with a facility in proximity to the student’s home. No accredited M.S.N. program lets students complete clinical work online.
Nurses with a B.S.N. from an accredited institution need a satisfactory GPA, a current RN license, clinical experience, and GRE scores to enter most online M.S.N. programs; specific requirements vary by school. The majority of M.S.N. students have a B.S.N., but some accelerated programs are available to RNs with a diploma or an associate degree in nursing.
An M.S.N. graduate can work as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS), a nurse midwife, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), a nurse practitioner, a nurse psychotherapist, or in other roles. Some M.S.N. graduates serve on university faculties; others act as specialists in areas that include management, community health, and geriatrics. The master’s degree also prepares students for further study at the doctoral level.