If you’re thinking about earning an MSN, you already know the benefits such a degree can provide. In addition to helping you pursue advanced roles, these programs also offer a variety of concentrations that allow you to specialize your focus in areas such as primary and acute care, nurse midwifery, and adult-gerontology nursing. Earning an advanced degree like an MSN can help you gain traction with hiring managers in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and physicians’ offices alike – and qualify you to earn higher salaries with more leadership opportunities.
As with any other advanced degree, admissions requirements for an MSN will vary from program to program. To know what will be expected of you, it’s best to start researching various admissions requirements from prospective schools early. If you know what to expect, you can narrow your school list and start focusing on putting forth a solid application. From general to specific admissions requirements, find out what you’ll need each step of the way.
General Admissions Requirements
Before you even start the admissions process, it’s important that you know how it all works. With some MSN options, you may need apply directly to the school via a general admissions process before completing a specialized application with the nursing department. Other institutions use a decentralized approach, meaning prospective students apply directly to the department in which they would be studying.
Making sure you understand how different schools go about this process is important, as it will impact how and where you send your applications. If you only need to apply to the nursing department, you may submit more documentation but only to one source. With the centralized method, you must first gain general admission before applying to the MSN.
For programs requiring general admission first, you’ll typically need to submit some or all of the different types of materials outlined in this section.
Graduate School Admissions
Admissions requirements for graduate schools vary. In general, you are expected to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and to complete certain prerequisite classes, which may include math, English, and natural and social sciences. To get into some schools, you may also need a standout score on a graduate school standardized test, like the GRE or GMAT.
Funding Your Tuition
When you applied to colleges for your undergraduate degree, you probably applied for financial aid, too. The same is true for graduate schools; when you apply you should also apply for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This allows your school to evaluate what types of financial aid you qualify for, including loans and grants.
Financial aid may be awarded based on merit, need, or a combination of both. Remember, when you take out loans you are required to pay them back; however scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid. Some scholarships are based on need, others are based on academic performance, and others are a combo. Grants are solely based on need.
Besides the funding you may receive directly through your school, you can boost the amount of financial aid you receive by applying for help through other sources. For example, your state may offer grants to those who qualify financially, and you also may be able to get scholarships from nursing professional associations and healthcare facilities or companies. To qualify, you may need a certain grade point average, participation in community services, or a specific work history.
Program Admissions Requirements
Although the admissions requirements for an MSN program can be similar to the requirements for the college or university, you may encounter some differences. Continue reading to learn more about nursing program admissions requirements.
Program Admissions Interview
An admissions interview gives the nursing department an opportunity to get to know you better—and gives you the chance to learn about the program to make an informed decision. Interviews may be conducted in person, online, or via phone.
During the interview, you may be asked questions about why you want to pursue a master’s degree or a specific nursing specialty, what your experiences have been in the profession, and the characteristics that make you a strong candidate for the program. Also, you may have to describe your strengths and weaknesses as a nurse and explain how you handled challenging situations on the job.
You’ll find lots of admissions interview practice questions online. Review these and formulate your answers. Practice answering questions aloud and get feedback from a friend or colleague. If you’d rather not practice with someone else, take a video of yourself answering questions and review it to determine areas in which you can improve. Also, be sure to bring questions of your own to get the information you need to make your decision. This will help you make an informed choice while showing the nursing school that you’re engaged and interested.
What About Direct Entry MSN Programs?
If you earned a non-nursing undergraduate degree and you’d like to make a career change to nursing, a direct entry MSN program will help you reach your goals without starting from scratch in another undergraduate program. These degrees, which can take two to three years to complete, provide an intensive look at nursing theory and practice.
To be admitted, applicants are required to earn a 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate studies and complete prerequisites. These may include anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, and statistics. When you apply, you’ll also be asked to submit letters of recommendation, a resume, and a statement of purpose.
International Student Admissions
International students who want to enroll in an MSN program need to meet the same requirements as students in the United States. However, there are additional steps they must take as well. For example, to prove English proficiency, international students should submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Duolingo English Test (DET). The required scores vary, but generally you’ll be expected to earn at least 100 on the TOEFL, 7.0 on the IELTS, or 125 on the DET. These tests may be administered on the Internet or taken in person at a testing center. After completing the exam, have your score sent directly to the schools you’re applying to.
International students should have the coursework they took in their undergraduate programs evaluated to determine if classes are equivalent to program requirements, particularly if their native language is not English. These evaluations are performed by agencies like World Education Services, Inc.; Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc.; or the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools. The goal is to verify your grades and assess the content of each course to ensure you’re ready for a graduate program.
Other Things to Think About
The application process for a nursing master’s degree can be complicated, so it’s important to get a picture of the steps from beginning to end. The following are additional considerations you should think about as you research schools and begin submitting applications.
This page provides helpful tips for those earning a nursing license for the first time.
This article from the University of Cincinnati discusses information about master’s degree specializations, support for students, and certification examinations.
This site provides information on the return on investment nurses get from earning a master’s degree, including the job opportunities and how much graduates earn.
Duquesne University provides information to help nursing graduate students with work/school balance.
This page on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s website explains master’s level education in detail, including the different types of master’s degrees available for nurses and the career options graduates can pursue.
This video from R.J. Byrnes and Doug Hettich, academic program coordinators for admissions and recruitment at The Ohio State University College of Nursing, provides information on the application processes for different graduate nursing programs.
Students who need tips for juggling their graduate schoolwork with personal responsibilities will find useful information in this article from Bradley University.
Marquette University Nursing addresses the questions MSN applicants should ask when they apply to a nursing school.
This page outlines the skills that you gain when you earn a master’s degree in nursing and the jobs you can choose.
This resource includes the types of questions applicants can expect when they participate in an admissions interview for a family nurse practitioner MSN program. The interview questions can be applied to interviews for other types of nursing master’s degrees, too.