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Online Master’s Degree in Nursing

Nurses provide care to patients in hospitals, doctor’s offices, schools, home health care services, nursing care facilities, and more. The entry-level requirement to practice as a nurse ranges from a diploma to a bachelor’s degree, while a master degree in nursing or higher is needed for more advanced or specialty practice in an area like family, neonatal, geriatrics, or pediatric care. Others may pursue a master’s degree in nursing for a job in administration or education, while others use it as a stepping stone toward a doctor of nursing practice, the terminal nursing degree.

Because those undergoing a master’s degree in nursing are typically already working in the field,
online masters degree in nursing programs tend to be very flexible, with online, evening, or weekend classes; you can fit your masters degree around your work schedule. The degree can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months to take depending on the school, how many classes you have to take, and whether it’s full time or part time. There are also accelerated RN-MSN programs for those nurses with a diploma or associate degree looking to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in a shorter period of time than it would take to do both separately.

Classes for an Online Masters Degree in Nursing

Online masters degrees in nursing cover a mix of theories and concepts of nursing science, along with healthcare management. General topics such as statistics, health policy, health care ethics, nutrition, family planning, mental health, and research management may be taught. Students also will take classes geared toward their particular specialty, such as midwifery, pediatrics, adult health, child care, community health, or emergency care, or career path, such as education or administration. You’ll find that at this level, nursing programs are very specific based on your career goals. Some typical classes you might take during a master’s in nursing include:

  • Advanced Theoretical Perspectives
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Nursing Research Methods
  • Role of the Advanced Practice Nurse

In addition to classes, a masters degree online is likely to require research or clinical experience. For instance, you might need to take a capstone ó a course that integrates research, practice, and theory, before graduation. Or, you may need a certain number of clinical hours under your belt before graduating if you’re on a more clinical track.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Masters Degree in Nursing

There are many different paths you can take with a master’s degree in nursing, depending on your interests. For those interested in continuing clinical work, you can work as an advanced practice registered nurse, providing primary and specialty care. There are four types of nurses in this field ó clinical nurse specialists, who provide direct patient care; nurse practitioners, who blend nursing and primary care services; nurse anesthetists, who can provide anesthesia and related care before and after procedures; and nurse midwives, who provide prenatal, care and assist in the labor and delivery of newborns. Or, you may work as a nurse administrator in a hospital, or a nurse educator in a school or hospital nursing program. And still, your master’s may be a stepping stone toward a doctor of nursing. This terminal degree will be required of all those who want to practice as an advanced practice registered nurse by 2015, so for nurses looking to become a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or clinical nurse specialist, a master’s degree in nursing likely would not be enough.

With a master’s in nursing, you may find work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, schools, or home-care settings. Employment of nurses is also expected to grow, too, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 26% increase in the hiring of nurses through 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is anticipated due to several reasons: the health care demands of the aging baby boomer population; an increased emphasis on preventative care; and technological advancements that will allow a great number of health problems to be treated. There will be an especially high demand for advanced practice registered nurses, the BLS notes, in medically underserved areas, such as rural areas or inner cities.

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