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How to Choose When to Pursue Your Online Masters in Nursing

BY Nicole Gull McElroyAugust 10, 2022, 1:18 p.m.

Artwork by Martin Laksman

Deciding when in your career is the perfect time to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a delicate balance between professional goals and personal obligations. You can continue to work full-time or part-time during your studies, and these programs can take up to three years, depending on the work/study/life balance you choose.

Katarina Maric spent 10 years working as a registered nurse (RN) before enrolling in the online master’s program at Marymount University. She returned to school with the goal of working as a family nurse practitioner. It was something Maric had been considering for some time, and once she got sick and had to navigate the healthcare system with some frustration, Maric formalized her decision to return to school and moved on. is committed to register.

Outside of her experience running the system, timing her graduation in the middle of child-rearing after spending a lot of time as a registered nurse made sense. This allowed Maric to leverage his clinical experience as a bedside nurse to get the most out of his training. “It’s an art to talk to patients about sensitive topics,” she says. “It helps to have that nursing background to know how to approach patients. We build on the knowledge we already have.

Additionally, Maric, 34, lives with her husband and two young children about 40 minutes from campus and decided that completing the degree online made the most sense for her lifestyle. The idea of ​​a daily commute to class, while managing life at home with her three- and five-year-old sons, seemed particularly daunting, especially in the traffic of suburban Washington DC. She needed a program that would allow her to get the degree she wanted, while maximizing her time at home with her children, but the online program wasn’t her only requirement.

“I wanted to be able to go to campus if I needed to,” she says. “I wanted a support system.”

Maric’s story is not uncommon, and there are myriad reasons why working nurses and recent nursing school graduates pursue master’s degrees.

The opportunity behind the degree

Drexel University offers several tracks in its online MSN program, including nurse practitioner, nursing leadership, and nursing education. “The student profile at Drexel in these programs varies greatly,” says Jackie Murphy, an assistant professor of clinical nursing at the university, who earned her MSN through her online program.

The program attracts both newly graduated nursing students, who have been working for a year or who may have gained experience while in school, as well as more seasoned professionals, she notes. “Then we have people who have been nurses for over 20 years and have decided to go back to school. It is a diverse group of learners.

Nursing has been branded as a recession-proof career and offers great flexibility in career trajectory, with graduates moving into roles in administration, education, private practice, clinical work, and more. . The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs for nurse practitioners and similar career paths will increase by 45% over the 10-year period between 2020 and 2030. The median income for the role in 2021 was $123,781.

Personal calendar

When to pursue a master’s degree in nursing is a personal choice that depends on many factors, such as finances, personal life, geography, career goals, and more, Murphy says.

For Nicole Barbour, the pandemic accelerated her decision to enroll in the online nurse practitioner course at Marymount. Barbour, 44, works as a school nurse, and because students in her suburban Virginia school district were attending classes virtually from home, she had plenty of extra time to devote to her own education.

“I felt like it was a natural progression to move into a more advanced role and become more of a health care provider,” says Barbour, who balances her schoolwork with raising two children. school age and will graduate in December. Like Maric, she says working as long as a registered nurse has better prepared her for Marymount’s curriculum. After graduating, Barbour plans to find a new job in family medicine. After five years of working under an agreement with a doctor (according to Virginia law), she will also have the opportunity to start her own private practice.

Meanwhile, others are coming to these master’s programs directly from undergraduates, like 25-year-old Harleen Singh, who later completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) online at Johns Hopkins University. “I always had it as a goal,” says Singh, who graduated in May and earned her degree while working part-time as a nurse on a pediatric care unit at the University of Maryland. “It was a great crossroads to continue my experience as a bedside nurse, but also to prescribe and be an educator if I [eventually] sought.”

A few months after graduating, Singh is in the process of applying for jobs and studying for board exams. “I’m mainly looking for outpatient pediatric primary care jobs,” she adds. “My main interest is pediatric hematology and oncology. It’s great to have a full and comprehensive outpatient experience.

Whether it’s a decade or more of full-time work or going straight to a higher degree after nursing school, an online master’s degree in nursing can open countless doors and enable immense flexibility.

“Nursing is trending toward more advanced degrees, more responsibility, and more pay,” says Kimberly McIltrot, assistant professor, acting associate dean and director of the DNP program at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. “This [offers] lots of opportunities for a truly flexible and rewarding career.

See how the schools you are considering fared Fortuneit is rankings of the best masters programs in nursing, computingcyber security, psychology, public health, business analysisand data scienceas well as the best doctorate in education programs and part time, executive, full timeand on line MBA programs.

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