Skip to main content

What is an MSN in the Medical Field

Team of doctors and businesswoman having a meeting in medical office

Nurses are an incredibly important part of the healthcare community. They use their advanced knowledge of patient care to comfort and treat patients according to the directives of a physician or nursing leader. Registered nurses (RNs) looking to further their education may wonder “What is an MSN?” or “What are the benefits of earning a Master of Science in Nursing degree?” Pursuing an MSN degree online can benefit nurses in a variety of ways, allowing them to gain more knowledge of their industry and take on advanced roles in the field.

MSN Degree Requirements and Benefits

The global population is continually growing, and nurses and physicians are continuing to retire. As the population ages, it places an increasing strain on healthcare systems. Also, there is a limit to the number of nurses who can be trained each year and earn the necessary credentials. Since a large number of active nurses will begin retiring soon, the nursing profession is facing a critical shortage of professional talent. Therefore, the healthcare industry understands it needs to employ more nurses to care for all the patients who need medical care.


Registered nurses can begin filling the necessary roles left empty by retiring medical professionals. However, the field of healthcare needs not only registered nurses but also advanced practice registered nurses. To pursue an MSN degree, nurses should already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and experience as an RN.


By learning specialized nursing skills through an MSN program, nurses can position themselves to pursue leadership roles in administration or clinical work as nurse practitioners (NPs). MSN graduates are equipped with a broad spectrum of knowledge and practical skills that can be incredibly valuable to their nursing careers. Outside of a nurse’s individual career, earning an MSN is also beneficial to the nursing profession as an industry. This is because educated nurses are provided with the mentorship skills necessary to qualify as nurse educators and pass their clinical skills on to future generations.

How Long Does It Take to Get an MSN Degree?

Nurses have a remarkable responsibility: caring for the health and safety of patients. As this is the case, they must be regulated by effective administrators who recognize the importance of adhering to healthcare policies and correctly administering treatments. Through an MSN program, nursing professionals can learn what leadership skills form the core of an effective nursing professional’s expertise.


Nursing leadership roles require a combination of nursing expertise and executive leadership skills. For instance, nurse leaders must be able to manage other nurses efficiently in day-to-day operations. Outside of the ordinary tasks, nurse leaders must also take into account any goals that have been set by their department and by the healthcare institution as a whole. These skills can often be honed during practice in the field, but pursuing an MSN may help to accelerate the educational process.


A prospective nursing student considering “What is an MSN?” might also wonder, “What is an MSN degree going to offer in terms of preventive care techniques?” Preventive healthcare is broadly defined as any measure taken to prevent a disease, illness, or health-related issue before it affects a patient. Nurses in an MSN program are taught how to provide patients with common forms of preventive care, such as immunizations, regular health screenings, and blood testing.


Advanced nurses can find themselves responsible for coordinating with other healthcare providers in an effort to teach community members how to prevent certain diseases. This could be through simply explaining preventive methods directly to patients during hospital visits or through less direct approaches, such as distributing educational materials to potentially at-risk members of the community.


Preventive care is incredibly important, especially for people who are at higher risk of chronic diseases, such as the elderly and children. Nurses can help educate people of all ages on the risks associated with obesity and the importance of a proper diet and exercise. Through an MSN program, educated nurses may have the opportunity to master the communication skills needed to pass along preventive care directives to patients in an effective, actionable manner.


Due to the extent of knowledge MSN students must learn, programs usually take about two years, but the number of credits required to earn the degree depends on the nursing specialty. At Maryville University, for example, nursing students can choose a Master of Science in Nursing with a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) specialty, which consists of 47 credit hours between the core courses and the specialized ones. The Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP) specialty consists of 41 credit hours, and the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) specialty consists of 47. For the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) specialty, nursing students take 44 credit hours; and for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), they take 50. While these concentrations vary in the number of credit hours required, the MSN degree program should take about two years to complete.

MSN Degree Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a nurse practitioner is $113,930. Salaries can be higher for NPs with certain specializations, such as anesthesiology and midwifery. They can also differ among family nurse practitioners, adult-gerontology primary care NPs, adult-gerontology acute care NPs, pediatric NPs, and psychiatric mental health NPs based on geographic location.


Nursing professionals should understand that even though there is a need for nurses, competition for these specialties is high, and starting salaries may be below the median for nurse practitioners. Factors such as experience, education, and type of medical facility can also play a role in how much nurse practitioners earn.

Pursue an MSN Degree

The patient population in the United States is growing rapidly. Consequently, the healthcare community will need to be more efficient to keep acute and chronic illness rates in check. To do this, experienced nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers should collaborate to keep medical institutions running smoothly. By earning a Master of Science in Nursing, nurses can better position themselves as experts in their field. They can have a greater chance to provide exceptional clinical care and to offer guidance to the next generation of nursing professionals.


For nurses who are asking “What is an MSN?” and want to advance their careers, Maryville University’s MSN program can serve as a stepping stone to more rewarding and impactful careers in nursing. Discover how MSN nursing online programs can help you advance your nursing career and achieve your professional goals.


Student support specialist helping online student in café

Learn more about our programs.

Student sitting outdoors on her computer

Take your next step.

Stay in the know

Program Type
Program Name
Total tuition:
Program Type
Program Name