Should You Get Your MSN Degree Online?

Registered nurse holding slim laptop on way to checking into her online NP course.

Getting a MSN degree, (Master’s in Nursing), can be a great way to further your nursing career. Today, more than ever, an MSN degree has become more accessible. The education itself is still as challenging as ever, but the logistics of obtaining this higher level of education, while keeping a full-time job, has become much more feasible with online master’s in nursing programs.

Why Get Your MSN, Online or Otherwise?

Some people thrive in the nursing field and are able to continue in it throughout their life, while some may want to continue, but would like to improve their skills and education within a specialized area. Others may burn out. They may love many aspects of patient care, and not want to leave it completely, but may need a bit of a change in their daily functions – for example, taking on a more administrative role.

Then there are those who may find they really enjoy certain aspects of nursing, such as educating others, and want to dive into the area further. Some may even find bedside nursing is just not their thing, but love the challenges of the medical field and don’t want to leave it completely. Yet others may have planned their career path long ago and saw getting their Master’s in Nursing as another stepping stone on the road to reaching their ultimate career goal.

All of these are reasons why nurses decide to pursue an MSN degree.

Prerequisites

The prerequisites for online MSN degree programs vary. All will require that you have a valid RN license. Most will require that you have a BSN from and accredited school of nursing, although there are many MSN programs which have bridge programs for those RN’s who have a hospital diploma or associates degree. These bridge programs usually include extra classes in research and statistics that are usually missing from non-BSN programs of study. Some online MSN programs require a certain amount of working time as a RN prior to applying, but a few will take students without on the job nursing experience provided they have passed the NCLEX and received their RN license.

Specializations

The specializations available with an online MSN degree vary widely. Specializations include Nursing Education for those who want to teach, Midwifery, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner,Gerontology, Adult Nurse Practitioner, Nursing and Health Information Management, Nursing Administration, and Nursing Research, to name a few. Some schools specialize in only certain areas, so it pays to check around.

Pros and Cons of Online MSN Degree Programs

Having the option to get an advanced degree through an online learning platform is ideal for many nurses, but it may not be for everyone. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Obtaining a MSN degree can help further your career and increase your income significantly.
  • The ability to maintain a full-time job while taking classes
  • The cost of transportation is significantly decreased due to not having to leave home for a majority of the classes
  • The ability to study and learn on your own schedule which is important to many nurses who may work non-traditional schedules such as night shift
  • Again, scheduling is a plus if you have young children at home, you can study and learn around their schedule and not have to find childcare while you attend classes for most of the educational requirements.
  • It can lead to more actual learning and study time as you are not having to take the time to commute to classes, wait for teacher’s who may be late to class, etc.
  • Less exposure to germs. Yes, nurses always do and should think about this. Nurses are exposed to germs all day long at work. Do you really want to then spend your off hours with others who have been exposed to germs all day long also? Taking online classes helps minimize this greater risk of getting sick from being in stuffy classroom full of RNs who just ended their shift, (unless you have school age children at home, then all bets are off as you are probably just going to catch it from them).
  • You can learn in your pajamas!

Cons

  • If you are not a self-starter or self-motivated you may have a hard time getting things done as you rule your schedule much more than in a traditional learning environment.
  • If you are completely happy with your job and career and the money is sufficient, you may not be motivated enough to continue along on the pursuit of an advanced MSN degree.
  • If you need a lot of recognition and attention from authority figures, you may do better within a traditional classroom setting.
  • If you need a lot of hand holding to learn well, and online program will probably not be appropriate for you as is requires a lot of independence and self-direction.
  • If you want everything mapped out for you, an online MSN degree program may not be for you, as you will most likely be responsible for finding an institution or doctor with which to do the clinical component of your degree.
  • If you are more of a visual or auditory learner. Most visual learners just need illustrations and pictures to help reinforce auditory and written forms of learning, but some may need to see the body language of the instructor and hear the inflections in their tone of voice to learn well. If the online program you choose is all written and you are an auditory leaner, you may not do so well. There are many types of programs and classes available, so investigation is needed to make sure you find a program that is compatible with your learning style.

Other Considerations

Many things need to be taken into consideration when evaluating MSN degree programs that are administered online. Some of these are cost, how many, if any, classes such as clinicals will need to be attended in person and will you be responsible for making these happen, availability of instructors for questions and problems, length of time of program, accreditation, and recognition of the program’s quality by potential employers. If you have any concerns, always inquire about details like these so you know what to expect.

Conclusion

In previous years, moving from an RN to MSN degree was a lengthy and excruciating ordeal. Quite a few nurses would be forced to halt their educational ambitions because of the demands faced at home and in the workplace. With the flexibility and variety of online Master’s in Nursing programs available today, there is no reason why any RN cannot further their education and career without the fear of totally disrupting his of her current lifestyle.

If you find bedside nursing has lost it’s excitement for you or you want to expand your skills, opportunities, and income, there is an online MSN program that is right for you. Nursing is a rewarding and expansive career, and the opportunities are almost endless with an advanced degree.