Perhaps you aren't able to find work with your current Bachelor's degree, or maybe you've simply discovered a passion for the field of nursing. Regardless of why you want to jump into a nursing career, an MSN program may be the way to start your new career. Despite popular belief, you do not need a Bachelor's degree in nursing to enter a Master's-level program. Several Alabama schools have direct entry MSN programs that allow you to earn an MSN with an unrelated Bachelor's degree.
Take some time to find out which nursing schools in Alabama offer a Direct Entry Master’s route and request program information from each to compare.
Admissions requirements for these degree programs tend to be fairly stringent, since you must complete four years of work in 18 to 24 months. You'll likely need a GPA of 3.0 or higher from an accredited university and high grades in science courses. Accelerated MSN programs do not typically include courses like chemistry, human biology, and anatomy & physiology, so these courses must be completed ahead of time.
In Direct entry programs your nursing courses are completed in an accelerated time frame, so many colleges require you to set aside work or only work part-time while earning your degree. In your first year of school, you may take lower-level nursing courses in combination with high-level theory courses. Some schools structure their curriculum so that you can sit for the NCLEX-RN after the first year and start getting nursing experience while finishing your MSN.
Early courses are similar to those taken by BSN students. Commonly required courses include Pharmacology, Health Assessments, and Foundations of Professional Nursing. Due to the accelerated nature of this program, by the end of your first year you may be taking specialty courses like Clinical Practice with Childbearing Families, Promoting Health in Communities, and Leadership in Professional Nursing.
The second half of your program tends to be less demanding than the first half, since you generally complete fewer credits per semester. Some of the graduate-level courses you may take include Diagnostic Reasoning, Health Care Systems for Advanced Nursing Practice, and Advanced Pathology. It's clear that clinical experience is crucial in this type of program. Between all your nursing courses, you may complete over 900 clinical hours.
There are many scholarships, grants, and loan repayment options for those who are working towards a Master's degree in nursing. The Alabama Nurses Association awards scholarships to nurses at different educational levels. You can apply for scholarships through the Alabama Board of Nursing as well; in 2013, they awarded over $166,000 in graduate nursing scholarships. If you join the Alabama Association of Nursing Students, you may be eligible for graduate-level scholarships.
In general, the job outlook is quite positive for those who go into Master's-level nursing careers. O*Net expects job openings for nurse practitioners to increase by 32% between 2012 and 2022. They anticipate a 20% increase for nurse anesthetists (O*Net, 2012). Job openings for nurse instructors may increase by 33% in the same time frame (O*Net, 2012).
Nursing professionals at this level may have a higher salary potential than those who have Associate's degrees or Bachelor's degrees. Average salaries at this level range between $64,300 per year for nursing instructors to $144,600 per year for nurse anesthetists (O*Net, 2013).
The Alabama Board of Nursing oversees licensing for nurses at all levels. Even if you go into a specialty field like informatics or research, you will likely still need to maintain an active nursing license.
Completing your MSN degree can have a lasting and positive effect on your future. Of course, for many people, it may lead to an increase in earning potential. It can also be very personally fulfilling, since you get to work with people of all different needs and backgrounds. A nursing career may give you the freedom to work in a number of settings, allowing you to explore different nursing options and find what you really enjoy.
Having a higher level of education can also benefit your local nursing community. With an MSN degree, you can harness a thorough understanding of nursing research and use it to enhance the standard of patient care in Alabama. Whether you work directly with patients, study nursing developments, or teach students, your education can have a powerful impact on the people around you.
Take some time to review programs today to determine which is the best fit for you.