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Nursing is a rewarding but intense profession with long hours and a very specific skill set. Many nurses find that in order to increase their responsibilities, earn more money or decrease the physical demands of their profession they need a Master’s Degree. A MSN can help a nurse become a Nurse Practitioner, Physician’s assistant, Professor, Nurse Anesthetist, Midwife or Manager. The best way for most busy working professionals to balance quality, cost and return is to earn a MSN online.

Not all MSN degrees are created equally. The first priority is to make sure sure that the school is accredited by the CCNE or ACEN. There are plenty of diploma mills out there willing to sell you an education so you need to make sure that your nursing education will translate into valuable earning potential when you are finished by attending a reputable program. Next you need to determine which programs offer clinical hours and rotations in your geographical area. MSN degrees have a hands-on component of some sort. Schools handle them in different ways but you need to make sure that it works for you in your current location. Some schools allow you to intern at your present place of employment. Others offer programs in administration that don’t require any clinical hours at all. Once you have narrowed it down to schools that fulfill your needs, then you need to price shop. Students are consumers and school is not cheap. You don’t want to rack up loans unnecessarily, so shop around and think about the total cost of your online MSN program. State schools tend to be less expensive than private schools but not always thanks to time spent in school.

One of the most import factors to consider when choosing an online MSN program is how long it will take to earn your degree. Time spent in school equates to lost wages, time away from family, additional stress and extra work. An advanced degree is worth the sacrifice but time is important. The average MSN student spends two years in school if they have a BSN. Some registered nurses have a two year degree and will require additional classes. Some nurses with a BSN have specific experience and may be able to earn credit for those skills by taking a test and skip a class or two. To finish in two years you must be able to carry a full course load, however. Many working professionals must take an abbreviated course load in order to keep up and therefore take three to four years to complete their studies. Many programs are actually set up to accommodate the half-time student since most nurses chose to continue working while completing their MSN. This is where private online universities, that might cost a little more per credit hour, might actually come out ahead in the end cost wise. They may not have the same brand recognition as a large public school but many online programs offer fast track classes that run on abbreviated schedules with shortened class times and year round offerings that allow students to finish faster. Finishing faster can save you money over time and accelerate your career. Time really is money during your peak earning years and the faster you can step into your new career the better!