master’s in nursing specialties

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

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Many nursing master’s programs require applicants to have their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), though there are RN to MSN programs that allow RNs to earn an advanced degree without having to earn a BSN first. RN to MSN program applicants must have RN certification and a minimum of two years of clinical experience.

There are also entry-level MSN programs available. These types of programs are for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than nursing. Depending on a program’s admission requirements, applicants may need to complete prerequisite courses covering topics such as microbiology, chemistry, human anatomy and physiology.

Generally, schools will also ask MSN applicants for letters of recommendation, a resume, a statement of purpose, and high school or GRE transcripts. Each master’s in nursing program you apply to will outline any additional requirements expected of applicants.

Curriculum and Coursework

The coursework in nursing masters programs varies by specialty but is generally meant to prepare nurses for more advanced roles in administration, teaching, research, leadership, and direct patient care The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) outlines roles after earning your master’s in nursing.

Regardless of specialty, masters-level nursing coursework will teach subject-specific and general skills such as critical thinking and decision-making as an advanced practice nurse, criteria and justification for prescribing different medications, and conducting a head-to-toe physical examination.

Within each program, coursework can be divided into three main categories: fundamental courses, research courses, and clinical courses.

Fundamental courses may include:

  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Physical assessment
  • Microbiology and biology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Statistics

Clinical courses will teach you how to think and act like an advanced practice nurse. You will learn about:

  • Prescribing medications, and the synthesis of various medications
  • Patient communication skills
  • Diagnosing acute and chronic illnesses
  • Developing plans and follow-ups for patients
  • Using available resources to provide the best patient care

Research courses may teach you to do the following:

  • Create a quality improvement proposal
  • Critically analyze existing medical literature
  • Design your own research project with institutional review board approval


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