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An Online Master’s Degree for Working Nurses

Posted Mar 27 2012 12:00am

For many nurses who work long hours and start out at the low end of the totem pole, it’s a dream to work for some of the magnet status hospitals alongside top doctors and physicians. Nursing students often don’t realize that there are easier ways than slugging it out for years in a hospital. You can gain more experience and training with a master’s degree. While nurses are expected to be registered as a minimum requirement, those who excel beyond these simple requirements will advance farther than others and gain better positions at the top medical facilities.

But how do RNs have the time to go back to school to get such an advanced degree? Colleges have options to make things incredibly more flexible for nurses with busy schedules. Online master’s programs for nurses allow them to work independently and also in collaboration with physicians, providing primary care services. There are actually four types of nurses who require a master’s degree, including clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, midwives and nurse practitioners. Of course, if you don’t already have a bachelor’s degree, then you also have to upgrade your RN degree first.

Going From RN to BSN

There are so many programs available to upgrade your RN associate’s degree to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. There may be an accelerated program through a local school or even an online college. You can work and still take courses to get the degree, and most programs are only 12 to 15 months long. BSN degrees will help you get into better positions and work at top hospitals, but you still won’t be able to work in administration or primary care as readily as you would with a master’s degree. The BSN degree is the first step to advancing your nursing career.

Taking Graduate Courses Online

It’s not going to be as hard to work and study online, but there are still commitments that you have to make. You need 8 to 10 hours a week of free time to study and submit assignments. While you do get more personalized attention, you also have to put in the work and continue to gain clinical experience while studying at the graduate level. Many of these programs will focus more on a specialty that will help you once you move into a field, so it’s best if you already know what kind of primary care you want to pursue.

  • Clinical nurse specialists provide direct patient care and consultations in a variety of specialties, such as geriatrics, psychiatric and mental health. 
  • Nurse anesthetists deliver anesthesia and related care before and after surgical, diagnostic, obstetrical and therapeutic procedures. Pain management and emergency services are also a part of the position. 
  • Mid-wives have multiple responsibilities that relate specifically to primary care for women, including gynecological exams, family planning advice, prenatal care, labor assistance and delivery, and neonatal care. 
  • Nurse practitioners are both specialty and primary care providers, working as healthcare specialists for individuals and families in primary or specialty areas.

 

What are the Job Prospects?

With an MSN, the growth is exponential. Because students with MSN degrees have more experience and training, they qualify for the top positions, both as nurses and administrators. There are also faster employment projections for those who are qualified, and may include perks such as signing bonuses, better work schedules and more hands-on training. In addition, you will earn higher salaries with your advanced degree.

 

What Else Can I Do with a Master’s?

Nursing actually isn’t the only thing that you can do with an MSN. Even if you enjoy the thrill of working in a hospital, nothing compares to teaching others and becoming a mentor. MSN graduates often go on to become counselors and teachers, helping new and experienced nurses receive more training. There is a shortage of nursing teachers as well. Earning a master’s online can significantly increase your chances of becoming a nurse educator and providing others with the tools to make a difference.

An online master’s degree in nursing can certainly tip the odds in your favor. Whether you are sick of working at the entry level or simply want to become a primary care nurse, more training and qualifications can lead to a brighter career. Online schools have created these programs with the nurse in mind and offer several ways to complete a degree in less time than you think. You can find a program that suits your specialty and get started today.

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