Frequently Asked Questions About MSN Programs

Careful research and planning are important when applying to a Master’s in Nursing program. Students must consider their finances, job and other personal obligations, as well as career prospects after graduation. School is an investment so make it count on all levels: professionally, personally, and financially. This comprehensive guide will provide information and answers to prospective students’ most frequently asked questions.

Application Process

  • How do I apply to an MSN program?
    The application process is very similar to that of other graduate-degree programs. Students submit many of the same materials like an application and fee, personal statement, GRE scores (not all schools require the GRE), letters of recommendation, valid RN license, and current resume. MSN programs also have their own admissions criteria and some may require additional information to supplement the application form. These requirements may include previous nursing experience in a specific area of study and course prerequisites in the health sciences.
  • Do I have to be a registered nurse to apply to an MSN program?
    Yes. All students who wish to apply to an MSN program are required to have a current RN license, regardless of specialty area. Make sure your license is current prior to submitting your application.
  • Are there prerequisites for MSN programs? If so, what are they?
    Students are required to have a BSN degree from an accredited college or university. Some schools accept an Associate Degree in Nursing with a BS/BA in another field of study. MSN programs expect students to possess a solid academic foundation in the health sciences and extensive clinical preparation. Carefully review all prerequisites listed on the school’s website.
  • Do I need to take the GRE exam?
    Not all MSN programs require students to submit GRE scores. Some schools waive the GRE if a student maintained a GPA of 3.0 on 4.0 scale. If you must take the GRE, be sure to register well in advance so your results reach the schools by the appropriate deadline.
  • Are financial aid or scholarships available for MSN students?
    Financial aid, scholarships, and grants are available for MSN students. All applicants may apply for financial aid by filling out a FASFA form. Scholarships and grants are available for every type of nursing degree and are based on need and merit. Not all scholarships and grants are listed on a school’s website. Students should search online for additional financial resources. Note: To avoid scholarships scams please visit the links below to confirm which websites are legitimate. Applying for scholarships can be confusing and it is important to know the warning signs of a potential scam.

Program Requirements and Degree Programs

  • How long does it take to complete an MSN program?
    Most online MSN programs take two to three years to complete as a full-time student. Online programs offer more flexibility in terms of your schedule, but students must still fulfill all clinical components on-campus. A part-time MSN program is another option for those who must continue working or have other conflicting obligations.
  • If I’m interested in two specialty tracks but not sure which one I want to pursue, do I have to decide right away?
    Yes and no. At this point in your nursing career you’ve likely discovered what specialty area your passionate about. Because MSN programs are designed to prepare RNs to be leaders in a specific area, knowing what direction to go with your career will make graduate school all the more rewarding. However, if you’re still unsure, some schools will allow students to take one or two general nursing courses before declaring an area of specialty.
  • Can I continue to work while I pursue my MSN degree?
    Yes. Online programs afford students the opportunity to plan many of the courses around their work and home routines. With careful scheduling and planning, students may continue working while pursing their MSN degree.
  • Can I transfer credits from other schools into an MSN program?
    Depending on the school, students are allowed to transfer academic credits for graduate work completed at another accredited institution. However, some programs have a maximum number of credits students can transfer. Each school has a unique credit transfer policy so talk to each admissions representative for clarification.

Career and Salary Prospect with an MSN Degree

  • What can I do with an MSN degree?
    An MSN degree opens doors to many exciting and fulfilling careers in healthcare. Students typically choose one of the following paths:

    • Nurse Practitioner
    • Certified Nurse Anesthetist
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist
    • Certified Nurse Mid-Wife
    • Clinical Nurse Leader
    • Nurse Administrator
    • Nurse Educator
    • Nurse Manager

The graph below illustrates just one of the many education and career tracks for nursing students. If you’re interested in clinical research and possibly pursuing a doctorate degree, this career ladder shows just how far a student can go with an advanced nursing degree.



These questions are just the starting point for graduate school information. Future MSN students have a lot to consider before sending in their applications and committing to a program. Whether you’ve just begun your research or already have an established plan in place, check out our list of accredited nursing schools to find the best courses, programs, and schools to match your needs.

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