A typical MSN curriculum takes around two years to complete and includes around 36 to 54 credit hours of study. While there are different types of master’s degrees in nursing, there are also different MSN subjects or specialties that may affect your course work and Master’s in nursing requirements to graduate. To point you in the right direction, we’ve outlined the basic classes you may need below. You can search for specific requirements using the quick search or featured schools listed below, or search by school and state using the left menu.
Nursing Master’s Courses
Nursing master’s courses can vary based on the program you choose to enter, but most programs cover the same basics. If you’re already an RN or have earned your BSN, you’ve probably completed the core science and nursing basic courses such as:
- Basic Nutrition
- Human Anatomy
- Human Development
- Nursing Science
However, an MSN program covers additional topics for your specialization. (See Master’s in Nursing Info and Overview page for more information.) Curriculum can vary by school, program, and the specialty you select, so you may want to contact the school’s you’re interested in for more information on specific program requirements.
Explore the following list of general MSN courses you may take, along with descriptions of each:
- Health Care Policy and Management – An introductory course designed to explore basic concepts and ideas surrounding health and illness in society, the healthcare system as a whole, and their relationship. You may learn about the evolution of health policy in the US as well as current challenges.
- Health and Illness Across the Human Experience – This course explores the theory behind assessing and intervening with at-risk patients as well as medical management processes for select chronic illnesses, nursing management techniques, and the experience of wellness and illness over the course of life.
- Advanced Pharmacology – An overview of pharmacologic science, this course explores the role of the nurse in pharmacology as well as the clinical application of treatment. Safe administration practices are also covered concerning drugs and drug therapies.
- Advanced Care of Children and Families – This advanced practice course is designed to explore the challenging and complex issues that surround children, their families, and healthcare. In this course, you may use critical thinking, ethical practice, and data-driven evidence to make hard decisions that affect patient outcomes.
- Resource Management in Healthcare – In order to meet the healthcare organization’s goals, resource management strategies must be developed, used an implemented. Here, you may examine both the human and financial assets available in different types of organizations.
While several schools offer general Master of Science in Nursing degrees, the majority of schools require you to select a specialization as well. This is often one of the most complex decisions for students, as you have so many options to choose from, and the area you choose directly effects the courses you may need to graduate. The eight most popular specializations include:
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
You may also take courses based on your specialization. The curriculum for an Advanced Practice Nursing area of study, for example, teaches students the theoretical knowledge required to become administrators, practitioners or specialists. This may include courses like:
- Research Design
- Nursing Administration Theory
- Essentials of Accounting
- Operations Planning and Control for Nurse Administrators
Your subspecialty may also affect your requirements. If you choose Oncology or Gerontology, for example, you may need additional courses focused in these areas.
Master’s Degree in Nursing Requirements
Aside from course work, the majority of MSN programs require you to complete your education with a project or thesis. Some may even wrap up with a practicum.
Master’s degree in nursing requirements vary based on the school, specialty, and program you choose. Each school will vary in terms of residency, clinical hours, and lab work required of you, and may place requirements on the amount of time (semesters) it takes you to complete the program.
Upon graduation, you may also be required to take the National Council Licensure Examination test or NCLEX-RN. This is a standardized exam that each state board of nursing uses to determine whether or not a candidate is ready to practice nursing after you apply for a nursing license. If you’re already a practicing nurse, you may have already completed this step.
Unlike a regular MSN program, which is only available to students with a BSN or RN, direct entry programs are created for those without prior nursing degrees who wish to join the field. If you have a non-nursing Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, you can earn your RN and move along to graduate nursing courses in a fast-paced course of study with a direct entry program. This program ordinarily takes three years to complete and the curriculum is broken down as follows:
- First year – Entry-level nursing coursework needed to become a licensed RN
- Remaining two years – Advanced master’s training and coursework
Careers in nursing may also be on the rise. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN, 2017), as baby boomers begin to retire, there’s a high demand for nurses with master’s or doctoral degrees. This is why fast-paced options like direct entry programs are popular. If you choose a direct entry MSN program, for example, you may study courses such as:
- Healthcare policy
- Nursing informatics
- Nursing concepts and applications
- Advanced research methods
- Healthcare policy
- Health assessment and lab
- Leadership and nursing practice
But you may also need to take these prerequisites, depending on your educational background:
- Human anatomy
- Psychology or sociology
Head to our direct entry MSN program page for more information.
If you already have a BSN or RN, you may choose to work in the field while you work toward a Master’s degree in nursing online. Accelerated online programs may be completed in 18 months if you’re interested in attending right away, but you may want to compare your options first.