If you’re an experienced nurse and want to transition into a leadership role in healthcare, you might consider earning a masters in nursing leadership.
There is a growing need for nurses who have the clinical experience to manage and teach others as well as the business and management skills to help run their organization.
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Professionals with an MSN in Nursing Leadership have career options available in numerous industries, including but not limited to healthcare settings.
Online Masters in Nursing Leadership Programs
Pursuing a masters in nursing leadership online can help broaden your knowledge, skills, and professional opportunities as an experienced and registered nurse.
Within the healthcare industry, organizations need nurses who can use their experience to train and mentor other nurses. Nursing leadership programs also help you develop the financial and business skills needed to establish and manage budgets and help an organization meet its financial goals.
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You can also develop the management and communication skills needed to help you function as a team leader and a professional representative of your organization. Successful nurse leaders possess strong leadership, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, planning, and organizational skills.
The core concepts of your program will likely include:
- Nursing theory
- Nursing leadership
- Ethics in healthcare
- Research and technology
- Organizational structure
Courses you may take as part of your program include finance and operations management, nursing theory, health politics and policy, quality improvement, and database design. Some programs may offer focused tracks that allow you to narrow down your field of study into areas such as:
- Health administration
- Clinical research
- Health policies
- Clinical nurse leadership
Graduates may find careers in various settings, including healthcare facilities, health insurance companies, educational institutions, and government agencies, to name a few. Potential leadership roles for nursing professionals include:
- Nurse manager
- Nurse educator
- Director of nursing
- Information manager
- Health director
With career opportunities on the rise, graduates may find employment in public and private industries and within local, state, and federal government agencies. Individuals with the unique combination of clinical nursing experience and business and management skills are in high demand in many organizations.
Nursing Leadership Careers & Salaries
Earning your masters in nursing leadership online could lead to a number of career opportunities that allow you to use your nursing experience in a new way.
Graduates who wish to stay more directly involved in patient care may find opportunities in hospitals, home health agencies, nursing home facilities, or ambulatory care offices. While nurse managers are not always directly involved in patient care, they ensure that operations run smoothly so nurses can focus their time and energy on high-quality patient care.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, below are some careers that could be related to nursing leadership.
|Annual Median Salaries
|Training and Development Managers
|Medical and Health Services Managers
|Administrative Services and Facilities Managers
|General and Operations Managers
|Postsecondary Education Administrators
|Postsecondary Nursing Instructors and Teachers
|Social and Community Service Managers
|Training and Development Specialists
|Career and Technical Education Teachers
Careers in this field tend to pay higher than average salaries, with job opportunities on the rise for the foreseeable future.
Graduates interested in educating others may find employment as instructors, professors, or clinical nurse leaders in community or technical colleges or universities. Those who are interested in using technology in healthcare may find employment as healthcare statisticians, analysts, or information managers.
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You might also seek to enact change on a larger scale through policy formation in hospitals, healthcare companies, or government agencies.
Master of Science in Nursing Curriculum & Courses
While courses vary in MSN in Nurse Leadership programs, below are some common courses you may take as part of your program:
- Nursing Theory: This course focuses on the history of nursing theories and their application to nursing practice, research, leadership, and education.
- Health Ethics and Law: In this course, you’ll explore ethical and legal issues in areas like patient rights, confidentiality, organizational responsibility, and more.
- Healthcare Informatics and Technology: This course provides the knowledge and skills to use health information technology to improve and enhance patient care.
- Finance and Operations Management: In this course, you’ll focus on managing an organization’s financial budget, including labor management, equipment, and supplies.
- Economics of Healthcare: This course provides the analysis tools to understand the economic challenges in our healthcare system.
- Leadership and Management for Nurse Executives: This course examines the role and skills for success, including communication, management, and critical thinking.
- Healthcare Quality Management: This course explores the evolution of issues such as patient safety, quality measurement, accreditation, and continuous quality improvement.
- Database Design and Development: In this course, you’ll become familiar with the types of databases used in healthcare and their usage, design, and structure.
- Health Policy, Politics, and Perspective: This course focuses on US healthcare policy, political challenges, and the lifecycle of the policy-making process.
- Quality Improvement of Interprofessional Care: In this course, you’ll investigate initiatives for quality improvement, focusing on identifying and measuring outcomes.
Some masters in nursing leadership and management programs may offer a group of core courses, with specific courses in focus areas such as informatics or clinical leadership.
While admissions requirements vary from program to program, below are some common requirements of online MSN in Leadership programs:
- Bachelors in nursing
- Minimum college GPA
- Letters of recommendation from a professional source
- Unencumbered registered nursing license
- GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)
In addition to the above requirements, some programs also require a resume, an online application, an interview, a statement of intent, and a background check.
Nursing Leadership Programs Accreditation
Regional accreditation ensures that a school, its faculty, and its course offerings meet a predetermined standard of quality. Regional accreditation is the most widely accepted type of accreditation. It can potentially affect the additional educational opportunities and employment opportunities you might explore.
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Should you pursue a doctorate after your masters, some schools may only recognize masters degrees from a regionally accredited institution. You can visit the US Department of Education’s website for additional school accreditation information.
Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) Accreditation
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is the accrediting organization for nursing programs. This programmatic accreditation is a process of ensuring a school’s nursing programs meet predetermined criteria.
Schools accredited by CCNE have proven to meet national requirements and follow educational best practices in nursing. Doctoral programs as well as certification boards may require applicants to hold degrees from CCNE accredited programs. You can learn more about CCNE accreditation on the CCNE website.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
As you look into masters in nurse leadership programs, you can also look into financial assistance resources. If you’re currently employed as a registered nurse, your employer might offer financial assistance, tuition reimbursement, or reduced tuition with cooperating educational programs.
Teaching hospitals may also offer tuition assistance or reduced tuition to nurses enrolled in their programs. In addition, there’s funding available through state and federal loans or grants for students who qualify. You may also explore work-study programs, which allow you to work to help pay for your program. To learn more about possible financial opportunities, you can visit the Federal Student Aid website.
What Is a Nursing Leadership Masters Degree?
A nursing leadership masters degree is a graduate program that provides experienced nurses with additional skills not typically taught in a BSN nursing program. These advanced skills can help nurses transition to upper-level administration, management, and leadership roles in various organizations.
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The coursework can help you develop skills in critical thinking, communication, financial and business management, and professional development, among others. Some programs also allow students to explore other ways of using their nursing experience, including pathways in education, technology, and policy formation.
What Can You Do with a Masters in Nursing Leadership?
Graduates of online MSN in Leadership programs may find career opportunities in various settings, including healthcare facilities, insurance companies, and educational institutions.
You may choose to use your skills to improve an organization’s operations, ensuring high-quality patient care through quality improvement and nurse management. You might also choose a career path in education, either in an educational institution or as a clinical lead in a healthcare setting.
To enable change on a larger scale, some nursing professionals seek opportunities with government legislative agencies through policy creation and reform. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, careers for medical and health services managers are on the rise, with much faster than average growth anticipated over the next ten years.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s in Nursing Leadership Online?
The length of time needed to complete your masters in nursing leadership online will depend on several factors, including your schedule and whether a thesis is required.
If a program consists of 36 credit hours and has no thesis requirement, you may be able to complete it in 1 year of full-time enrollment, including summer courses. If your program does requires a thesis, it will likely take longer to complete. If your schedule only allows you to take courses part-time, this could extend the length of your program as well.
Is a Masters in Nurse Leadership Degree Worth It?
Yes, a masters in nurse leadership degree is worth it for many students. Experienced nurses can use their experience to expand their career opportunities in new and exciting ways.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for medical and health services managers is expected to grow 28% over the next ten years, which is much faster than average. If you want to expand your job opportunities, increase your job security, and improve the quality of patient care on a large scale, then this may be a fitting degree path for you.
Universities Offering Online MSN in Nursing Leadership Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
The Master of Science in Nursing at Allen College offers a specialization for Leadership in Healthcare Delivery. The curriculum is designed to prepare nurses for leadership roles in various healthcare settings. Students must complete a minimum of 38 credits and 300 clinical hours to graduate. On average, students can complete their requirements in 2.5 years.
Allen College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The Master of Science in Nursing at Benedictine University offers a Nurse Executive Leader concentration. The program seeks to help nurses develop collaborative, organizational, communication, and strategic thinking skills needed to serve as effective leaders. Most students can complete the program in 2 years. All classes meet online.
Benedictine University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Capella University offers a Master of Science in Nursing in Nursing Leadership and Administration. The curriculum covers advanced skills in leadership, finance, operations management, and healthcare informatics and technology. The program utilizes a convenient online learning format. Students must complete a minimum of 54 credit hours to graduate.
Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The Master of Science in Nursing at Cedarville University offers a concentration in Leadership in Healthcare Improvement. This program may be an ideal next step for nursing professionals who want to effect positive change in the field of healthcare. Students can attend their classes entirely online using either part-time or full-time schedules.
Cedarville University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Drexel University offers a Master of Science in Nursing with a Leadership in Health Systems Management concentration. Graduates often pursue careers as clinical directors, health information managers, or nursing home administrators. The program requires the completion of 45 credits. Didactic courses can be attended online, and practicum hours can be completed at approved healthcare settings close to students’ homes.
Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Excelsior University offers an online program for a Master of Science in Nursing with a Nursing Leadership and Administration of Health Care Systems specialization. The curriculum is designed to equip students with the skills needed to manage business operations, fiscal challenges, and human resources. Students may be able to transfer in up to 16 of their 38 required credit hours from outside institutions.
Excelsior University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
George Washington University offers a Master of Science in Nursing in Nursing Leadership and Management. This program may be an ideal fit for nursing professionals pursuing leadership roles in a variety of healthcare settings. The curriculum consists of 36 credit hours of didactic courses and practicum hours. Students can attend part-time or full-time.
George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The Master of Science in Nursing at Gonzaga University offers a concentration in Nursing Leadership in Healthcare. Graduates often pursue careers as nurse administrators, medical directors, or clinical nurse leaders. The curriculum aims to help students develop collaborative, in-personal, strategic thinking, and patient care skills. All classes can be attended online.
Gonzaga University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Houston Baptist University offers a Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in Leadership. At the core of this program is the drive to educate nursing professionals who provide ethical and strategic leadership in their field. On average, students can complete their studies in 24 months. Classes meet fully online.
Houston Baptist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Ohio University offers a 100% online program for a Master of Science in Nursing for Nurse Leaders. The curriculum covers key concepts like policy development, healthcare informatics, quality improvement, and administration. Most students can complete the program’s 30 required credits and 400 clinical hours in just 5 semesters of full-time attendance. New students are admitted once yearly.
Ohio University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Roberts Wesleyan University offers a Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and Administration. This program is designed for registered nurses who have previously completed their bachelor’s in nursing and want to pursue advanced leadership roles. Students have the potential to complete the degree in just 18 months. All classes meet online.
Roberts Wesleyan University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The Master of Science in Nursing program at Sacred Heart University offers a specialization in Nursing Management and Executive Leadership. This program may be an excellent next step for nurses wanting to prepare for leadership opportunities. The program requires the completion of 36 credit hours and meets primarily online. Students can typically finish their coursework and clinical practicum in 2 years.
Sacred Heart University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
The Master of Science in Nursing program at Saint Xavier University offers a concentration in Clinical Leadership. It is designed for nursing professionals who want to continue working with patients while serving as leaders and educators in their organizations. The program is housed online. Students must complete a minimum of 38 credit hours to graduate.
Saint Xavier University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The University of Central Florida offers a Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Nursing Leadership and Management. The curriculum consists of 36 credit hours of didactic courses and 315 clinical hours in the field. Students in the accelerated program can typically finish in 5 semesters, while part-time students usually finish in 7 semesters.
The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Colorado—Anschutz offers a Master of Science in Nursing Leadership. Students interested in pursuing advanced leadership roles within the field of healthcare may find an ideal fit in this program. The program spans 30 credit hours. On average, students can complete their requirements in just 2 years of full-time attendance.
The University of Colorado – Anschutz is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Master of Science in Nursing at the University of Indianapolis offers a concentration in Nursing and Health Systems Leadership. The curriculum seeks to help professional nurses develop advanced critical thinking, problem solving, and decision-making skills. This program is designed to be completed in 7 semesters of part-time attendance. All classes meet fully online.
The University of Indianapolis is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of North Carolina—Greensboro offers an online program for a Master of Science in Nursing with a Nursing Leadership and Management specialization.
Potential courses include Information Technology in Nursing Administration, Financial Management, and Research Methods in Nursing. Students must complete a minimum of 37 credits and 504 clinical hours to graduate. The program can typically be completed in 7 semesters.
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Vanderbilt University offers a Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in Nursing and Healthcare Leadership. This program is designed for registered nurses with at least a year of experience now looking to develop their leadership skills. Students typically need to devote 15 to 20 hours weekly to their coursework. The program is part-time and distance accessible.
Vanderbilt University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Western Governors University offers a Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and Management. Many graduates pursue leadership roles in settings like hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospice organizations, or government agencies. The curriculum consists of 15 courses and required practicum experiences. Most students can complete the program’s requirements in 24 months when attending full-time.
Western Governors University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The Master of Science in Nursing at Wilmington University offers a Nursing Leadership concentration. Students can select a further leadership specialization in executive, educator, legal nurse consultant, or public health subjects. The program requires the completion of 36 credit hours. Classes are held fully online and follow an accelerated, 7 week schedule.
Wilmington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Getting Your MSN in Leadership and Management Online
Unlike an online accelerated RN to BSN or on campus program, which is designed for nurses new to the profession, pursuing your masters in nursing leadership online may provide you with additional career opportunities that utilize your clinical nursing experience in numerous ways.
You may seek opportunities in education or technology fields, with government agencies, or in high-level careers within the healthcare system. Nurses specifically interested in entering the nursing education field may benefit from an on-campus or online masters in nursing education program that a growing number of universities offer. Some even offer on-campus or online doctorate in nursing education programs as well.
There is also a growing demand for nurses with additional skills in management, communication, business, and financial management that could improve an organization’s overall operations.
If you wish to take on a leadership role that applies your prior clinical experience, you can start exploring online MSN in Leadership programs from accredited universities.