A master’s degree in nursing is a type of advanced practice degree that opens the doors to multiple types of nursing careers. Depending on your area of interest, a master’s degree in nursing may offer you the chance to practice with certain groups of people or to perform nursing functions that are above and beyond the role of a registered nurse.
A master’s degree in nursing typically requires 18 to 36 months to complete. Nursing programs that offer master’s degrees often accept students who already are registered nurses, although some direct-entry programs are available for students who have an undergraduate degree in a field other than nursing. Additionally, not all potential students must have bachelor’s degrees in nursing, as some programs have accelerated tracks for nurses with associate’s degrees to advance to the graduate level.
When you decide to pursue a master’s degree in nursing, you may need to choose an area of specialty in which to work. Most programs offer certain specialty degrees and you can apply according to your area of interest.
Nurse practitioners are master’s-prepared nurses who have completed advanced study to perform many of the same tasks as physicians. They often work within certain areas, such as pediatrics or critical care, and provide medical treatments and prescriptions for patients. Clinical nurse specialists are nurses who have master’s degrees and who study, or perform research about, better practice methods within nursing. They then teach other nurses in order to continuously maintain updated standards of care. Other types of master’s degrees within nursing include nursing administration and nurse educators.
Some master’s degrees require additional certification beyond the degree, typically in the form of clinical practice hours and testing. Examples of this type of degree are certified registered nurse anesthetists or certified nurse midwives. These nurses often perform critical functions that require extensive practice and must show certification to support their skills.
Achieving a master’s degree in nursing holds many benefits for those who want to advance within their careers. A master’s degree can teach you many more nursing concepts than you learned while achieving an undergraduate degree. You will have a larger scope of practice in which to work, once you have graduated and become certified. Many master’s-prepared nurses enjoy higher salaries as well. This type of advanced degree further promotes the practice of nursing and opens the doors for many job opportunities.