Nursing schools across the country have gone to some lengths to make advanced practice nursing an option for just about any RN who has successfully completed the licensing exam and is currently working.  It is no longer necessary to have a bachelor’s degree in order to apply for most masters in nursing degree programs; most are open to RNs who completed an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or earned a diploma in a nurse training program.

Most advanced practice nursing tracks have clinical hours as part of the curriculum.  But because RN to MSN students are working, licensed nurses the ability to find an appropriate opportunity to meet those academic requirements may be right there in their current place of work.  If not, most medical centers are much less reticent about bringing in established RNs for clinical hours in a new field of endeavor then they are in managing true student nurses.  The ability to find convenient clinical opportunities locally is one of the reasons that the online RN to MSN degree option has taken off.

Nursing schools take a variety of approaches to moving an ADN graduate or a nurse with a diploma through the MSN program.  Some bypass the bachelor’s degree altogether, incorporating the necessary upper division nursing studies from the baccalaureate curriculum into the master’s program.  Those schools will often delineate the two areas of study however, requiring enrolled nurses to complete the nursing component of the bachelor’s degree before moving on to graduate level courses.  Others offer the RN-to-BSN-to-MSN degree package, insisting that their MSN students all have bachelor’s degrees of some sort.

There are many accredited online RN to MSN degree programs that offer the areas of concentration which are not characterized by substantial and detailed medical study.  Online options for the nurse practitioner track, the clinical nurse specialist track and the nurse midwife track are not as numerous.  But often that has more to do with school policy than it does with feasibility.   Many nursing schools at traditional universities are easing into the online education sector, option for the less medically intense RN to MSN career choices as initial online offerings.

For RNs who wish to enroll in an online clinical nurse specialist program or study to be a nurse practitioner through distance learning there are still excellent schools available, just fewer of them.  Those schools that make the effort to put a MSN in nurse practitioner online generally will offer the more common areas of focus: adult, acute care, pediatrics, family practitioner and women’s health.  Clinical nurse specialties online are usually similar career tracks, although the options for acute care and critical care may have a little more variety.

There are also online RN to MSN bridge degrees available for practicing nurses who hold a bachelor’s in an unrelated field.  In this instance nurses are once again asked to complete the relevant nursing related courses in the bachelor’s degree curriculum along with the required master’s degree classroom work.  Both the bridge degree program and the RN to MSN degrees for nurses with no prior bachelor’s degree are compressed into programs of three years or in some cases, less.

Author's Bio: 

Bob Hartzell writes on education topics for several websites. He is a regular contributor to blogs dedicated to higher education and personal finance as it relates to affordable learning options. He also writes on the fluctuating job market and the changing educational requirements for careers in the new economy.