BSN vs. MSN Degrees: Which Is Right for You?

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If you’re considering a transition into a career in nursing, you know the difference nurses make. It’s why you feel called to become one.

You probably also know that nurses are in high demand, can earn a good salary and have a lot of room for career growth — all factors that make now a great time to pursue your nursing degree.

If you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you have a lot of options for earning a nursing degree, and in a condensed time frame. However, before making any decisions, you need to decide whether a BSN vs. MSN degree is right for you and your career goals.

MSN vs BSN: Two Main Differences

  1. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree will afford you the opportunity to work as a registered nurse. It is considered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to be the minimum education required for professional nursing practice. Keep in mind that while there are many associate degree-level RNs still in the workforce, a lot of hospitals are moving toward hiring only those nurses with a BSN or higher.
  2. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree also allows you to work as a registered nurse. A master’s degree allows you to work as an educator as well, and is required for many nurse manager positions. Additionally, your master’s degree puts you on a direct path to career advancement through certification in a number of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) specialties.

When it comes to choosing between earning a BSN degree and an MSN degree, the truth is you can have a successful, fulfilling nursing career regardless of which degree path you choose. Ultimately, what’s right for you comes down to what you want out of your career.

Accelerated BSN vs. MSN Programs

Both Accelerated BSN (ABSN) and Direct Entry MSN programs allow you to use your previous education to earn a degree in less time than a traditional program would take. While Direct Entry programs require a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, the requirements for ABSN programs vary, with some requiring a certain number of credits and others a previous degree. Here are four reasons to choose a Direct Entry MSN program if you already have a non-nursing degree.

1. A Master’s in Nursing Positions You for Future Career Advancement

Perhaps the #1 reason for choosing to earn your MSN degree over a BSN degree is what you can do with a master’s in the long term. Though you’ll start your career as an entry-level nurse, thanks to the additional knowledge and training you receive as an MSN student, additional experience can bring opportunities that may not exist for BSN-educated nurses. Not to mention, a master’s in nursing puts you one step closer to obtaining certification in a variety of APRN specialties. Below, we’ll discuss a handful of the opportunities typically requiring an MSN degree.

2. With an MSN Degree Comes Deeper Understanding

We mentioned that with an MSN degree from a direct entry program, you’ll still start out as an entry-level nurse. But that doesn’t mean a hiring manager won’t choose a candidate with an MSN degree over a BSN-educated candidate with the same level of experience. The reason is simple: MSN programs better prepare students to become RNs by offering a more rigorous curriculum — often covering advanced topics BSN programs only touch on.

two nurses checking a patient

Clinical rotations are another great example of how MSN and BSN programs differ. Typically, most ABSN programs include around 700 hours of clinical time. Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program features more than 1,000 hours of clinical experience at a variety of healthcare facilities, so you get a wealth of experience in diverse settings.

3. You Can Earn Your MSN in About the Same Time It Takes to Earn a BSN

If you’re worried about the time it would take to earn a master’s degree in nursing, there’s good news. If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and meet the program requirements, you can earn your nursing degree in 19–21 months through Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. That’s just a few months longer than a traditional Accelerated BSN program. Furthermore …

4. Starting Your Nursing Career with an MSN Could Save You in the Long Run

Before you’ve worked as a nurse, it can be hard to know if you’ll want to later pursue nursing management or become an APRN. The good thing about entering the field with your MSN is that, should you decide to advance your career, you’ll already have a key piece of the puzzle in place. And with many Accelerated BSN programs costing about the same as our Direct Entry MSN program, it makes sense to take the MSN route — especially when you consider that a BSN-prepared nurse who ultimately wants a position requiring an MSN degree will have to pay for both a BSN education and an MSN education separately.

Three Key Areas You Can Work in with a MSN Degree

As we’ve mentioned, the biggest difference between BSN vs. MSN degrees is what you can do with them. Here are three areas of nursing where a master’s degree in nursing is essential.

1. Education (Nurse Educator)

If you are looking to blend clinical expertise and teaching, the nurse educator role could offer a rewarding career for you. In high demand due to the nursing shortage, nurse educators can teach in a variety of settings, including hospitals, universities, community colleges and technical schools.

2. Healthcare Business Management

For nurses drawn to leadership, the combination of nursing experience and an MSN degree can mean a number of opportunities in management.

Nursing Administration

Nurse administrators utilize both their clinical and business skills to provide the best patient care. If you have strong leadership skills and know how to effectively delegate, the nursing administration role could be for you.

Nurse Manager

Nurse managers are accountable for supervising a nursing unit in a hospital or clinic. While they may jump in to screen patients or check vitals on busy days, nurse managers are constructing work schedules, coordinating meetings and acting on decisions.

3. Clinical Care

For those nurses who want to advance their careers, becoming certified as an APRN is often the goal. In fact, many students in our Marquette Direct Entry MSN have expressed a desire to pursue advanced practice certification, which requires a master’s in nursing. Here are four common APRN roles that are in high demand today.

Nurse Practitioner

One of the most popular APRN professions is that of nurse practitioner. Demand for NPs is growing, especially in rural areas often underserved by physicians. NPs can specialize in a variety of acute care and primary care practice areas. Acute care NPs deal primarily with patients who are experiencing acute illnesses and other health conditions, while primary care NPs deal with patients requiring routine care or who have non-emergency chronic conditions. Because of the wide variety of care NPs provide, educational and certification requirements vary by practice.

nursing student standing over patient

Some examples of acute care and primary care NPs include:

While an NP’s scope of practice varies from state to state, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and other groups continue to lobby for standardized practice authority across all states.

Nurse Anesthetist

From open-heart surgery to pain management, you can find nurse anesthetists in every setting where anesthesia is delivered. In addition to putting patients under sedation, nurse anesthetists are also responsible for monitoring vital signs and ensuring patients recover from anesthesia.

Certified Nurse Midwife

Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) can play a significant role in the provision of care to women before, during and after pregnancy. Responsibilities of a CNM may include providing emotional support during labor, conducting prenatal exams, educating patients on a variety of factors related to pregnancy and even delivering babies.

Where Will an MSN Degree Take You?

If you’ve been called to switch careers to nursing, an MSN degree could open the door to a world of opportunities. Give us a call today to find out if Marquette University’s second-degree Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie aligns with your career goals.