Make a Career Change to Nursing with a Second Degree MSN

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A nursing career after earning a second-degree MSN is in high demand, with flexibility, the opportunity for specialization, and career diversity. This blog explores some of the main reasons for making a career change to nursing with help from Marquette.

If you’re thinking about going back to school to pursue a career in nursing, you can improve your educational and future career prospects by learning more about Marquette University’s Second Degree Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing program for non-nurses. Created to help people considering nursing as a second degree or nursing as a second career, this second-degree MSN program leverages your existing bachelor’s degree. Students can choose between five- or eight-semester program options to enter the field more quickly than through a traditional MSN pathway.

Whether you’re just out of college or have spent years working in another field, it’s never too late to become a nurse. So, what sets nursing apart as a career path? Why pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree instead of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) on your path toward becoming a registered nurse? In this post, we will answer these questions, offer advice, and explore how Marquette can best equip you for a successful career change to nursing.

Why Choose Nursing as a Second Career?

Nursing can be an ideal second professional path if you are considering changing careers. Filled with diverse roles and opportunities for advancement, this growing industry is in high demand as nurses fulfill patient needs as valued members of cross-disciplinary healthcare teams.

A role in nursing is associated with the ability to think critically and perform challenging nursing skills in high-pressure situations, as well as a commitment to patient advocacy and social justice. Nursing has consistently ranked as the most trusted profession in the U.S. for decades.

nurdsing student practicing on manikin with stethoscope

Nursing is also a growing profession, with 177,420 new nurses projected to enter the field by 2032 in response to the ever-present need for quality care. Advanced practice nurses, including nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, are expected to grow by 123,600 over the same period, a 38% growth rate. A second-degree MSN from Marquette University creates a foundation from which you will have the knowledge and skills to enter several specializations and in-demand roles after graduation.

Pursuing nursing as a second degree can be the perfect opportunity to complete your education in a new field and enter a new career on an accelerated timeline. For Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program, students who want to follow their calling into nursing must first meet all admissions requirements, including:

  • Hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Complete prerequisite courses

Some of a nursing career’s most prominent benefits include flexibility, advancement opportunities, high demand, and career diversity. No other profession allows you to make such a sizeable firsthand impact on so many lives. The combination of these benefits can make the career change to nursing a life-changing and highly worthwhile opportunity.


A career in nursing offers you the flexibility to live and work where you want. You can move from city to city or state to state since master’s-prepared nurses are in demand and can access opportunities nearly everywhere as more hospitals are reaching to achieve Magnet status.

Through the Magnet program, hospitals aim to hire more highly educated nurses to achieve associated positive outcomes like lowering patient mortality rates, increasing the overall quality of care, and raising nurse job satisfaction. With this goal in mind, healthcare employers are seeking qualified nurses nationwide.

Advancement Opportunities

Marquette nursing student putting on gloves

A nursing career offers many opportunities for advancement. This opportunity is magnified with a master’s in nursing, like the one you can earn from Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program.

With an MSN degree, you can continue in a post-master’s certificate program (or other educational opportunity) to pursue advanced specialty nursing roles such as:

  • Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (Adult or Pediatric)
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (Adult or Pediatric)
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Health Systems Leadership
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Ph.D. in Nursing – Nurse Scientist

Students can also gain familiarity with some of these roles throughout the program. We offer faculty panels, clinicals, shadowing opportunities and more to give students the best possible understanding of their professional options after graduation. With so many potential specializations accessible through the foundation of an MSN degree, students can pursue whichever aspect of the profession seems to be the best choice for them.

dark blue scrubs nurse with folder

See more about what career advancement with an MSN looks like.

High Demand

Nursing is a rapidly expanding field due to factors including an aging population, an aging workforce, the rise of chronic conditions, and the expanding role of nurses in patient care. Because of this, nurses are needed now more than ever, with more than 200,000 new nurses per year needed to replace nurses who have retired or left the workforce.

As a master’s-prepared nurse, the current and projected nursing demand can work to the benefit of your career ambitions. Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program makes this possible, making a career change to nursing more accessible than ever.

Career Diversity

Unlike many other careers, nursing makes it possible to work in a setting that is well-suited for you. You can work traditional roles in hospitals, other clinical settings, or outside hospitals.

Should you choose to work in a non-traditional nursing role, you can pursue nursing positions in practice settings, including:

  • Schools
  • Clinics
  • Cruise Ships
  • Nursing Homes
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Insurance Nursing
  • Pharmaceutical Sales
  • Care Coordination

This diversity lets you create the career of your dreams with a much-reduced risk of burnout for those who prefer something other than fast-paced clinical environments like hospitals.

miling portrait of nursing student holding clipboard

Second Degree Nursing Program

Students admitted into Marquette’s second-degree nursing program will leverage their previous bachelor’s degree toward earning an MSN degree in five semesters (or eight semesters for those who choose our extended program option). The curriculum is based on nursing theory coursework, in-person skills and simulation labs and clinical rotations at top area healthcare facilities located near your chosen program site location. Nursing didactic coursework is predominantly offered in person through our main Milwaukee campus and is delivered through a dynamic hybrid online platform at our Pleasant Prairie program site.

Because of the time commitment required, we urge students to find alternatives to working while enrolled in the program. Students should relocate within commuting distance of our main campus in Milwaukee or our program site in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, as they work toward their MSN degree. With a top-quality nursing education from skilled clinicians and professors, you will graduate prepared to take on a career change to nursing with an MSN degree.

Earning Your MSN vs a BSN: Advice for Your Nursing Education

There are many great reasons to seek an MSN degree, such as more career opportunities, chances for advancement, and potentially improved patient outcomes, to name a few. However, it’s not for everyone. To help you decide whether an MSN or BSN degree is right for you, here are a few questions to consider:

  • Can you see yourself in a leadership or management role?
  • Would you ever consider teaching?
  • How long do you want to be in school?
  • What is your current education level?
  • Do you already have a (non-nursing) bachelor’s degree?
  • Do you plan to work while studying nursing?

As you can imagine, this program requires drive, determination, and hard work. But the rewards are great for those who are up for the challenge. In five or eight semesters you’ll graduate from this second-degree nursing program prepared to sit for the NCLEX-RN and ready for a fulfilling career in nursing.

Below, we’ll share some aspects of differentiating MSN programs from BSN programs and advise you on navigating this choice.

An MSN Degree Opens New Opportunities

nursing students studying together

Perhaps the most apparent difference between pursuing an MSN degree and a BSN degree is the knowledge and experience you’ll gain when you graduate. While you will still graduate as an entry-level nurse, a master’s in nursing means more opportunities than a BSN-holding registered nurse of similar experience. An MSN also provides more career opportunities down the road. In many cases, a master’s degree is required for nursing leadership and management positions.

An MSN also puts you an advanced degree away from several in-demand nursing careers, like nurse practitioner, clinical specialist nurse, nurse midwife, and even nurse educator. When deciding between a BSN and an MSN, you should consider the trajectory you are looking to take with nursing as a second career. If advancement is your priority, an MSN may better serve you.

Find out more about what it takes to earn an MSN degree.

two nursing students at table studying

Our Direct Entry MSN program is unique because you don’t need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to enter the program, making it perfect for career changers of all ages. Instead, Marquette lets you leverage your existing non-nursing degree to pursue an MSN at an accelerated pace.

In five or eight semesters, you’ll learn everything from the basics of nursing to advanced concepts, participate in hands-on skills labs and on-campus simulation labs several times a week and complete clinical practice hours at top healthcare facilities in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. In this program, you’ll begin on-campus clinical simulations as soon as your first semester and start gaining real-life experience in clinicals from your second semester onward.

You Can Earn an MSN Degree in Less Than 21 Months

You might be surprised to learn that with hard work and only a few more months of school, you can bypass earning a BSN degree in favor of an MSN degree — if you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and satisfy additional eligibility requirements.

With our Direct Entry MSN program, offered through our main Milwaukee campus and in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, you can graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing in five or eight semesters. Within two years, you can graduate with a significant career advantage — a master’s degree from an accredited university with an excellent reputation.

portrait of nursing student smiling

Unlock Your Nursing Potential with Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN Program

Both nursing as a second degree and nursing as a second career are closer than you think with our second-degree MSN program for non-nurses. Reach out to an admissions adviser today and learn more about how to begin working toward an MSN degree.