There are several ways you can earn a Master’s nursing degree. Some programs are designed for RNs and BSNs, while others offer training and education to non-nurses. After you complete a Master’s nursing program, you are eligible for certification in an advanced practice specialty, such as family nurse practitioner or mental health nurse practitioner. Because each certification requires specific eligibility requirements, check the specialty of choice before deciding on a nursing program. The ANCC specifies eligibility requirements for each certification and most include:

  • Proof of RN licensure
  • A Master’s, post-Master’s, or doctorate nursing degree
  • Specialty course work completion
  • Specified hours of direct and supervised clinical practice

Types of Master Programs

There are several ways you can earn a Master nursing degree. describes five main types of Master programs. However, there are many graduate programs that offer dual degrees, like MSN/MBA and MSN/MHA.


Also called the ADN-to-MSN, this program is designed for registered nurses who want to earn the Master degree immediately after earning the Bachelor’s degree. RN-to-MSN nursing programs provide classes aimed at meeting the specific needs of working nurses. With this program, the nurse can obtain advanced placement credit for BSN course, eliminating the cross-over between the BSN and MSN courses.

Direct Entry MSN for BSN

For BSN nurses, direct entry into a MSN program gives students credit for completing undergraduate nursing requirements. These programs typically take two years to complete. Classes and clinical work prepares the nurse for advanced nursing practice.

Direct Entry MSN for Non-Nurses

Students who hold a Bachelor’s degree in another field can enter into the direct entry MSN program for non-nurses. These nursing programs give you credit for having undergraduate requirements, and they generally take three years to complete. The first year of this degree option includes entry-level nursing classes, and the final two years are focused on Master’s studies, preparing you for advanced practice in a chosen specialty and preparation for the NCLEX-RN test.

Post-Master’s Certificate

A post-Master’s certificate is a credential that shows a commitment to excellence in a specialty area. These nursing programs are designed for nurses who have a MSN and desire professional certification. These credentials allow you to advance your career and obtain higher-level job opportunities.

Post-Certificate Master’s

Because some advanced practice nurses were not required to hold a Master’s degree, post-certificate Master’s nursing programs allow them to earn credit for past experience and education in specific areas. Many states and employers require a MSN for certain nursing positions, so nursing schools developed these programs to certify nurses through an accelerated route. Specific certificate Master’s programs apply for:

  • Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs)
  • Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNPs)


ANA (2013):
ANCC (2013):
Nurse.Org (2013):

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