To advance their careers, make more money, or simply learn more about a particular field, RNs can pursue graduate studies. The Master of Science in Nursing(M.S.N.) degree gives nurses further specialization in a specific field. Specializations are divided into four general categories—the work setting or kind of care provided, diseases or medical conditions, organs or organ systems, and the age of treated patients.

For the RN who earned an associate degree or a diploma in nursing, some institutions offer an accelerated RN-to-M.S.N. program. To pursue graduate study, a student must first have a bachelor’s degree. Typically, RNs complete nursing classes, research, and clinical work for both a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) and an M.S.N. simultaneously. This type of program shortens the time it would normally take to earn each degree separately. RNs usually receive some credit for their previous academic and work experience, which is applied toward the bachelor’s degree. Most programs ensure that there is no overlap with B.S.N. and M.S.N. course material. The degree awarded upon successful completion of all requirements is normally just the M.S.N., not the B.S.N. as well.

Because of the demanding pace, most RN-to-M.S.N. programs are highly selective. Some may be available part-time to accommodate working nurses. In general, applicants should have a diploma or associate degree in nursing, a current RN license, clinical experience, and satisfactory GRE scores.

Highly skilled RNs with a master’s degree can become advanced practice nurses (APNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Types of APNs are certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), certified nurse midwife (CNM), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), and nurse practitioner (NP).