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How do I get a Graduate Degree in Nursing?

By Elva K.
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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Reasons for choosing to earn a graduate degree could vary. For instance, one could pursue a graduate degree just to increase one's general knowledge of a particular topic or one could pursue a graduate degree to improve one's competitiveness in the job market. Regardless of the reason for pursuit of the graduate degree, it should be noted that getting a graduate degree in a subject such as nursing can be particularly demanding. Nonetheless, one can typically get a graduate degree in nursing either through pursuit of an undergraduate nursing degree or a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing subject and then a direct entry nursing graduate program.

If one opts to pursue an undergraduate nursing degree prior to pursuing graduate study, this can be done through either an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Associate's degree programs are two years in duration while bachelor's degree programs are four years. Both associate's and bachelor's degree programs include curriculum such as pathophysiology, nursing practice, health assessment, nutrition, pharmacology, and nursing clinical courses. The biggest difference between associate's and bachelor's degree programs is bachelor's degree programs might require more non-nursing preliminary courses such as liberal arts courses or other university-required courses whereas associate's degree programs have comparatively fewer preliminary courses before getting into the nursing coursework.

Something to keep in mind is the fact that although a graduate degree in nursing can be pursued after completion of the bachelor's degree in nursing, unlike some other professions, nurses actually can pursue a graduate degree in nursing immediately after they complete the associate's degree in nursing. For example there are registered nurse to Master of Science in Nursing (RN-to-MSN) programs that exist for that purpose. If by contrast one chooses to pursue a non-medical undergraduate degree before pursuing a graduate degree in nursing, as an undergraduate, one must take certain prerequisite courses such as chemistry, biology, and physiology on an elective basis.

The actual process of applying for a graduate degree program in nursing involves getting college transcripts, letters of recommendation from previous instructors and employers, taking the (Graduate Record Examination (GRE), writing an application essay, and going through an application interview. The application process can be a challenge; however, if one has good undergraduate grades, good test scores and if one can communicate strong aptitude in science and math, this can be helpful in the application process and will facilitate acceptance to a graduate degree program in nursing. Then, once accepted to the graduate degree program, it is a matter of successfully completing the required coursework and nursing practicums to earn a graduate degree in nursing.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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