How to Get into Nursing School MSN Programs
4 Steps to a Master’s in Nursing School Program
- Decide on a Nursing Specialty
The first step in applying to a Master’s in Nursing school program is selecting a nursing specialty to pursue. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, there are four types of advanced practice registered nurse: certified nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified registered nurse anesthetist, and certified nurse-midwife. Within these four types, APRNs can specialize further. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) , for example, offers four different certifications for nurse practitioners—adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, family, and psychiatric-mental health—and one for nurse specialists—adult-gerontology clinical.
To determine the nursing specialty you want to pursue, consider:
Where you want to work: This can include environments such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, or people’s homes.
What type of practice interests you: For instance, maybe there is a particular part of the body, an aspect of physical or mental health, or specific disease that you want to focus on.
Who you want to work with: Maybe you want to work with a certain age group, such as infants, versus all ages.
Your overall professional goals: If you are committed to furthering your education to advance your nursing career, determine the hours you’re willing to work, the work-life balance you require, and so on.
Once you know the qualities you want from a nursing job, you can select a specialty that aligns with them accordingly.
- Attend MSN Degree Program Information Sessions
The second step in applying to a Master’s in Nursing school program is attending MSN degree program information sessions. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, advanced practice registered nurse education programs must be accredited by an organization recognized by the US Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is one such accreditor and it maintains a list of accredited programs, including MSNs. Many of these MSN programs offer information sessions, where prospective students can learn more about the school, faculty, courses, and other relevant details.
Information sessions will help you compare MSN degree programs so that you can understand how you’ll benefit from the particular curriculum, professors, and hands-on learning opportunities. The sessions allow you to talk with admissions counselors, ask questions, and even tour facilities. It helps to participate in an information session at each school you’re considering—that way you can be confident in your ultimate decision of which MSN degree program to attend.
- Complete MSN Prerequisites
The third step in applying to a Master’s in Nursing school program is completing MSN prerequisites. While specific requirements will differ from one MSN degree program to the next, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing identifies three general types of programs with their own prerequisites:
Entry-Level Master’s: Bachelor’s or other graduate degree in a field other than nursing;
Registered Nurse (RN) to Master’s: Associate’s degree in nursing or a related field and RN’s license;
Bachelor’s to Master’s: Bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related field.
In addition to those Master’s in Nursing prerequisites, MSN degree programs may also have additional requirements regarding coursework, GPA, and test scores (see next section). Before you apply to an MSN program, make sure that you both understand and meet these qualifications.
- Study for the Master of Nursing School Entrance Exams
The fourth step in applying to a Master’s in Nursing school program is studying for the Master of Nursing school entrance exams. Like other MSN prerequisites, the specific requirements regarding tests will differ from one MSN degree program to the next. That said, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes that some applicants may be required to pass the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Examination (NCLEX). Two versions of the NCLEX are available—one for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN), the other for practical nurses (NCLEX-PN)—both of which test entry-level nursing competency. To study for the NCLEX, test-takers can turn to the NCLEX Practice Exam offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Besides the NCLEX, Master of Nursing schools may require other entrance exams, such as the Test of Essential Academic Skills. Check with the MSN degree programs you’re applying to for more information.