General nursing degrees provide a broad overview of the nursing and medical professions for students not currently pursuing a specific aspect of the industry. Although an associates or bachelor’s degree in general nursing will qualify students for entry into the nursing industry, having a master’s degree will open up more advanced jobs in the market and enabling them to expand their careers. The traditional and online general nursing master’s degrees involve extensive research and clinical practice to prepare students for advanced topics related to their profession, earning them experience before they are even graduated.

Why a Masters Degree?

Having a master’s degree in general nursing provides students with much greater knowledge base than associate or bachelor’s degrees and opens up numerous job options not available to undergraduates. For example, physician assistants must have a master’s degree and an adequate number of years of experience to be eligible for the position. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the jobs for physician assistants are expected to increase 30% between 2010 and 2020, which is much faster than average for other professions.

Getting Into a Masters Degree Program

Admission to masters programs are determined primarily on the basis of academic achievement, work experience, and test scores. For general nursing master’s degrees, such as the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), there are several requirements that are fairly universal, though may vary by institution:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Acceptable scores on the GRE
  • Adequate clinical experience
  • Acceptable minimum GPA on BSN

Inside a General Nursing Masters Degree Program

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs typically last two years unless completed online, in which case the program may take as little as one year to complete. Online MSN programs combine web-based learning with clinical practice to give students a flexible but high-quality education. The programs are design to expound on principles and lessons taught in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees, but studying the concepts at a deeper level.

MSN programs usually offer the option to specialize in a specific area of nursing, such as adult gerontology, family nurse practitioner, or nurse midwifery. These specializations will include courses focused on that particular aspect of nursing care, effectively preparing students for that career direction. Although the majority of online MSN program course work is completed through distance learning platforms, clinical practice is still included as part of the course requirements. Students will practice under supervision in a clinic affiliated with the school providing the online degree. This allows students to gain valuable experience in their field, putting knowledge into practice.

What’s Next for General Nursing Masters Holders?

In addition to the physician assistant career option, graduates of a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree can potentially get started on several other career opportunities. With a master’s degree, students can pursue careers as occupational therapists or teachers, two professions expected to see significant growth over the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) quotes the expected job growth for occupational therapists at 33%, which is much faster than average. With additional experience, MSN graduates are likely to see greater potential for promotion and advancement within their careers as well.

For nurse professionals seeking to maximize their potential in education, an MSN lays the ideal foundation for higher levels of academic study. Doctoral programs are very similar to master’s programs, involving substantial research and numerous hours of clinical practice. With a doctorate in general nursing, graduates can fully develop their career and practice the highest level of nursing in the field.