Online education and distance learning are fast becoming normative in regards to master’s degree programs. Even master’s programs that require a hands-on experience, like clinical hours in a graduate nursing program, are becoming more widespread. As a matter of fact, the online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is one of the most popular online master’s degree programs, and for good reason. For nurses who want to specialize in a particular area or increase their earning potential, a master’s degree is a natural choice. We hear you though—you may wonder how future employers will view your online MSN degree. There is no need to fear that they will view your degree any less favorably than if you uprooted your family and moved across country to attend the same school in an on-campus program. We know as a working nurse that you have precious little time to devote to advancing your education—adding a big move into the mix just seems unnecessary to say the least. That’s why we here at Master’s Programs Guide have done the research to make sure you are covered in your online MSN program. Read on to understand the must-have factors in any online program, and you’ll gain the confidence you need to pursue your MSN degree online.
The two most important factors in choosing your online MSN program are accreditation and accreditation. Here we are talking about both regional, institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation. Picking a university or college with a brick-and-mortar location and regional accreditation from a recognized accrediting agency is very important. With the rise in popularity of online degrees there has been a rise in degree mills that offer all of the convenience without any of the credentials of a respected school. Regional accreditation is an unbiased assessment of the school’s attributes–certain standards have to be met, and if the school has regional accreditation, students can be confident that their school is meeting the standards of higher education. Program accreditation is just as important, because it is a stamp of approval on the program itself. For online graduate nursing programs, accreditation should come from either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). An additional bonus for a program is designation by the National League for Nursing (NLN) as a Center for Excellence (COE)–less than 100 institutions in the United States have been awarded that designation.
The next key factor in picking a program is how hands-on clinical hours will be implemented. Employers want to know that MSN graduates have worked with real people as patients, so picking a school that offers you assistance in finding a site to put in your clinical hours is a plus. Not every school will offer assistance, which is not enough to discount them as a possibility (especially if you are already employed and can use your current work towards clinical hours). Just understand the expectations and make sure you have a plan.
The bottom line is, as long as the school you choose has that third-party accreditation and the program it offers is also accredited, you are in good hands. Most diplomas don’t even make note that the degree was “online,” so it shouldn’t be an issue with future employers. To help you find a program that meets your needs, check out the list we’ve compiled of the 50 best online master of nursing degree programs.