Should I Get My Master’s in Nursing? What It’s Like to Get an MSN Degree

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Have you ever wondered “Should I get my master’s in nursing?” If so, then you’re probably familiar with the positive career outlook within the nursing field. Nursing is a prominent, trusted profession, and there is a nationwide need for both registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses. With so much demand, nursing is an excellent field in both short-term and long-term career prospects. Earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can provide even more options and flexibility for your future career, opening up your horizons and highlighting just how broad the nursing profession can be.

At Marquette University’s Second Degree Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing program for non-nurses, offered at both our main Milwaukee campus and at our program learning site in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, students who meet admissions requirements can earn their MSN degree in 19 to 21 months. With plenty of opportunities for advancement, graduates will be able to enter a widened range of specializations, practice areas and career fields.

In this post, we will explore the different nursing degree types, share the benefits of a master’s degree in nursing, and explore what students will have to do in order to earn an MSN degree from Marquette.

Nursing Degree Types

First, let’s lay the groundwork of different nursing degrees: what they entail, how long they can take to earn and what they mean for future career prospects. Regardless of which degree you earn, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed registered nurse.

ADN and Diploma

The most accessible degree options are an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a nursing diploma. ADN degrees are most often offered through two-year programs, and nursing diplomas are accessible through approved nursing programs. Although these educational options can qualify a student to take the NCLEX exam and become a practicing nurse, employers increasingly require higher degrees from new nurse hires or candidates. Although they may be accessible, these degrees are not necessarily the best option for your long-term nursing ambitions.


Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees are rapidly becoming the standard degree for entry-level nursing practice. The majority of BSN programs are full four-year degree programs, although accelerated BSN programs can often be completed within 16 months. BSN degrees provide an excellent baseline standard of nursing education, and they can qualify students to earn a more advanced nursing degree or additional nursing certifications.


Beyond diplomas, ADN and BSN degrees, prospective applicants can also choose to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and enter the field with increased opportunities for advancement or specialization.

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What Sets MSN Degrees Apart

Although earning one is a challenging endeavor, an MSN degree holds an advantage over other degrees in terms of career flexibility and prospects. MSNs are second degree programs, which means that applicants must hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree prior to enrollment. Traditional MSN programs can often take two to three years, but some direct entry options, like Marquette’s, have a curriculum that can help you earn a degree within 19 to 21 months. Let’s explore a few of the most prominent benefits of this degree, which might answer the question “Why should I get my master’s in nursing?”

Access to Advanced Practice or Specialist Nursing

Although the effects of the nursing shortfall mean that there will always be a demand for registered nurses, changes in the healthcare industry also mean that advanced practice and specialist nurses are taking on more prominent roles in patient care delivery. Compare, for instance, figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects a growth rate of 6% by 2031 for RNs, versus a growth rate of 40% by 2031 for advanced practice roles like nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners.

Additionally, the higher median pay and additional opportunities for advancement for advanced practice and specialist nurses are attractive prospects. A BSN or MSN degree will allow you to pursue post-degree certification across an array of specialty areas, but an MSN will ensure that you can meet requirements for more certificates or advanced nursing options. All Marquette DE-MSN graduates who pass the NCLEX-RN exam can enter the workforce as an RN. Then, with further education, certifications and training, they can expand into other nursing roles. An MSN is an excellent foundation for pursuing these options.

Ability to Enter Healthcare Leadership Positions

Apart from entering into advanced practice nursing more easily, an MSN degree can help open up leadership positions and ensure that your career path remains as flexible as possible. Magnet hospitals are often cited as being among the most desirable nursing destinations because their certification requirements make it necessary for employers to uphold a high standard for education level when hiring nurses and nurse leaders.

Magnet organizations are tied with improved patient outcomes and increased employee satisfaction, and as part of their requirements, all chief nursing officers must hold a master’s degree at the time of submitting their application. Similarly, all nurse managers and nurse leaders must hold a baccalaureate or graduate degree, so having earned an MSN degree can help you stand apart as a candidate.

Earning Your MSN Degree

Now you know some of the benefits of a master’s degree in nursing. If you are interested in earning an MSN, Marquette University could be the best option for your education. Our nursing curriculum is a rigorous combination didactic and in-person skills labs, simulations and clinical courses.

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Didactic Coursework

The didactic nursing theory coursework offered as a part of Marquette’s DE-MSN curriculum is one of the many distinguishing factors what help us deliver a 19- to 21-month experience to students. Students enrolled at our main Milwaukee campus will participate in lectures and complete their coursework in the classroom, and those enrolled at our Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin site will complete this portion of the curriculum via asynchronous online coursework.

Through a dynamic e-learning platform, Pleasant Prairie students can complete quizzes and assignments (while meeting course deadlines), interact with instructors and engage with fellow cohort members. Varying nursing coursework has been crafted to suit different learning styles, ensuring that all students will be able to absorb vital nursing theory knowledge regardless of the format.

Onsite Skills Lab and Clinical Simulation

Regardless of whether you are enrolled at Marquette’s main Milwaukee campus or our Pleasant Prairie location, you’ll attend in-person onsite skills labs and clinical simulations. Set in mock clinical environments equipped with modern, high-tech medical equipment, this is a safe environment for students to learn and practice nursing skills. These include completing physical assessments, monitoring vital signs, inserting IVs and more. During clinical simulation, you and your fellow students will apply the knowledge and techniques you’ve learned to simulated care scenarios, such as a patient undergoing cardiac arrest.

Clinical Courses

As one of the most important elements in the Marquette MSN curriculum, your clinical courses will allow you to put everything you’ve learned into practice at top healthcare facilities in the Milwaukee metropolitan area, southern Wisconsin, and northern Illinois. You’ll learn from Marquette’s excellent practicing clinicians who specialize in a broad array of practice areas.

Clinical courses help students experience what working in a professional nursing environment is like, and working with real patients provides a deeper understanding of the day-to-day realities of the nursing profession. Students experience firsthand what it is like to work as a member of a healthcare team and can apply their skills and knowledge while working within specific hospital protocols.

Become a Master’s-Holding Nurse with Marquette

Now that you have gained more insight into the benefits of a master’s in nursing and what you can do with an MSN degree, we hope you will decide that Marquette University’s DE-MSN program is the right choice to further your education and career. Contact us today to begin a conversation with an admissions adviser, and take the next step toward a new and rewarding journey in nursing today.