What It Takes to Get a Masters in Nursing

The average RN spends a lot of time in school, and in hospitals knocking out their clinical hours. Most probably don’t want to see another textbook again when they finally graduate. Some do.

Getting a master’s degree in nursing improves your understanding of the discipline while also opening you up to more career opportunities. For the right person, it is a worthwhile endeavor. It’s also a difficult one.

In this article, we take a look at what it takes to get your master’s in nursing.

Why Get a Master’s in Nursing?

There are many reasons nurses opt for earning a graduate degree. Perhaps the most important of these is to improve their knowledge and help patients achieve better outcomes. Nurses with advanced degrees also command higher salaries and may be eligible for senior positions.

Graduate studies are very difficult. It’s important to understand what you hope to achieve with your degree so you can select a program that is aligned with your goals.


To get a master’s in nursing, you first must complete a nursing undergraduate program. This usually takes four years and can happen at the majority of certified United States Universities. However, there are accelerated programs that allow you to complete your undergraduate work in as little as eighteen months.

These curriculums teach the same skills and information as their four-year counterparts, but in a truncated period of time. Consequently, they are good for people who are eager to launch their careers but may be difficult to balance with other responsibilities.

Once you have completed your undergraduate program, you are then eligible to seek your master’s.

Finding a Program

You can complete a master’s in nursing both in person or online, though in both cases it will be necessary to complete the requisite number of clinical hours.

People seeking a master’s degree in nursing should find a program that suits their lifestyle needs. The proximity of the school itself is important, but you are also advised to consider how said program will allow you to accomplish your clinical requirements. Is there a specific hospital you must work at, or are you allowed some flexibility?

Getting a master’s is difficult. Finding a program that suits your needs is an important element of making the experience comfortable and manageable.

Length of Time

How long does it take to complete a master’s in a nursing program? The answer to that question can vary significantly. Many people who enroll in graduate studies are balancing the coursework with a career. This can, of course, slow your studies.

The average time it takes to complete a master’s in nursing ranges from 18 months to three years, with most working nurses finding themselves on the longer end of that spectrum.

Clinical Hours

The number of clinical hours required for earning a master’s degree in nursing can vary but hovers around 540 hours. However, every program, school, and state will have its own requirements. Note that this is unpaid time.

Working nurses may be able to use their job as clinical hours, though this will depend both on the rules of the school and their place of work. Usually, clinicals are accomplished outside of work.

If you are currently employed at a hospital, consider discussing the possibility of doing your clinicals on the job, both with your onsite supervisor and with your school.

Your place of employment may have their own objections to this. Clinicals include targeted learning exercises that may not align with the responsibilities of your job.

Still, it never hurts to ask.

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