Benchmarks of a Quality Online MSN Program

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The nursing field of 50 years ago left very little room for upward mobility. Today, nurses have an abundance of options for improving their prospects, their responsibilities and authority, and their pay.

Lady typing on laptop keyboard

One way to climb the career ladder is to enroll in an online Masters of Science in Nursing Degree Program. Nurses with a BSN who are thinking about an MSN program should consider the demands the program would make on their time, program prerequisites, accreditation and faculty qualifications, and the college’s financial aid and career placement services.

Is Now The Right Time?

People going back to school understand that the time required for coursework and clinical hours has to be integrated into work and family responsibilities. But timing is about more than hours spent in class. More detailed considerations, according to the article, “Pursuing Graduate Studies In Nursing Education,” by nursing authority Heather Cathro, RN, BN, MN, on The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing include:

  • The need to support a family must outweigh a student’s current ability to meet family responsibilities.
  • Financial assistance and employer incentives for continuing education must outweigh any apprehensions over the financial costs of returning to school.
  • Are collaborations available between academic and clinical institutions, allowing for nurses to participate in school-related activities while continuing to work their normal nursing shifts?
  • Are mentors available through the educational institution to help nurses who desire to increase their knowledge and effectiveness in their chosen career?

Students also may want to become better nurses, increase their autonomy at work, transition into managerial roles, grow their professional networks, or ultimately pursue a doctorate, according to “25 Reasons Why To Get A Masters In Nursing” on

Prerequisites and Specialties

Nursing colleges offer different tracks for student acceptance. The most common track is the BSN to MSN program, which allows nurses who have already obtained four-year degrees in nursing to continue on to graduate school.

Once students find the right track, they can look into concentrations offered by MSN schools. Concentrations require different graduate-level coursework. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing lists some of the more popular nursing specialties in “Your Guide To Graduate Nursing Programs,” including nurse practitioner, forensic nursing, nurse educator, and nurse administrator.

Accreditation and Faculty Qualifications

Students should disregard schools that are not officially accredited. Very few credible employers will hire people with non-accredited diplomas.

“Accreditation is a nongovernmental process conducted by members of postsecondary institutions and professional groups,” according to “Standards For Accreditation Of Baccalaureate And Graduate Nursing Programs” by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), “Accreditation focuses on the quality of institutions of higher and professional education and the quality of educational programs within institutions.”

The CCNE and ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing) are two of the most widely respected accreditation bodies in the United States.

Accreditation commissions make sure that nursing schools meet established standards, but the instructors are responsible for actually teaching their students. Nursing educators must be competent and effective because their teaching could save a life someday.

Faculty biographies are available on most online college websites so students can find instructors who are licensed in the fields in which they are teaching and who specialize in the field the student wants to pursue. Bios also can offer an idea of the instructor’s teaching style and whether it would fit the student’s needs and preferences.

Financial Aid and Career Placement

Paying for education is always a consideration. Traditional federal loans (Stafford) and veterans benefits are available to any student who qualifies, but other financial aid options are in place specifically for nurses.

The Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP) offers financial aid to students pursuing a career as a nurse educator. Also, the Nurses’ Higher Education and Loan Repayment Act of 2008 is available to those who qualify.

Research nursing students can also obtain financial aid and grants for assistantship programs within their university or from outside investors.

Finally, most colleges offer career assistance and job placement programs. But a couple of months before graduation is not the time to find out that the career assistance department may not be able to help. Students can research a program’s internship offerings, career exploration programs, and placement rates of the career department before enrolling.

Duquesne University’s Online Master Of Sciences In Nursing Program

The online MSN program at Duquesne University is fully accredited by CCNE and offers MSN concentrations in family (individual across the lifespan) nurse practitioner, forensic nursing, and nursing education. Duquesne’s faculty of nurse educators delivers a quality nursing education that prepares students to sit for required credentialing exams and for the real-world challenges they will encounter as an MSN. Contact Duquesne University today to learn more.