If you’re a nurse looking to advance your career, you might be considering online RN-to-MSN programs.

The RN-to-MSN path can help prepare you for a more specialized position or to move into a leadership role. It’s a good route if you don’t hold a BSN, but have work experience and know that your goals include a master’s degree.

Here are four important factors to consider when choosing an online RN-to-MSN program.


1. Outcome

From administrator to educator to a specialty practice, earning an MSN has the potential to open many career opportunities. While a BSN prepares nurses for practice as a generalist, an MSN prepares you as a specialist. Nurses who want to focus their careers on administration, informatics, care coordination, or education, may need an MSN to enter or advance in those specialty areas.

Advancing to many leadership positions requires an MSN. “Without a master’s, nurses will find some difficulty moving into administrative leadership positions,” says Constance Hall, EdD, MSN, RN, faculty chair at Capella’s School of Nursing. “They wouldn’t be able to compete successfully or would eventually hit a ceiling without an MSN.”

The MSN is also needed in most cases for nurses interested in teaching. “Our programmatic accreditor, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, requires a minimum of a MSN to teach,” Hall notes. “And the MSN is commonly required for admission to doctoral programs in nursing, which is the preferred academic credential in nursing education.”


2. Cost

Whether you work while going to school or choose to attend full-time, the dollars you put into your education are an investment.

Many RN-to-MSN students complete their programs using a variety of financing options, such as loans, scholarships, and grants.

Other ways to save include:

  • Transfer credits
  • Employer and association member discounts
  • Employer-offered tuition reimbursement
  • Military discounts

Many schools have financial aid counselors who can help assess your current budget. You may want to choose a college or university that offers this type of assistance.


3. Time

The cost of an RN-to-MSN program is not simply the money you put toward your tuition or books. Choosing a program means factoring in other costs such as time away from your family, your job, and the overall time it takes to complete your degree.

Fitting coursework around even the most flexible work schedules can be a challenge. Be sure to look for a program that can accommodate your work schedule and fit with your current lifestyle. “Capella’s online RN-to-MSN program gives nurses more flexibility than many campus-based programs,” says Hall. “All of our courses are asynchronous, so nurses can choose the best times for them to devote to course work.”


4. Faculty

It’s important to find an RN-to-MSN program with faculty who are highly credentialed and have strong relevant practice experience. Look for programs with doctoral-prepared faculty who have experience in the area of their teaching focus.


Learn more about Capella’s RN-to-MSN program.


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