Is a Master of Science in Nursing Worth It?

ms in nursing

Key Takeaways 

  • An MSN offers advanced skills, career opportunities, and specialization choices for nurses seeking professional growth.
  • Choose between campus-based and online MSN programs based on flexibility, learning style, and career goals.
  • Consider the value of an MSN in job market demand, salary potential, and personal fulfillment in advancing your nursing career.


Is a Master of Science in Nursing worth it? Let’s explore.

The MSN is an advanced nursing degree that equips professionals with knowledge and skills to navigate today’s fast-paced healthcare environment. It typically takes three years to complete and involves advanced health assessment, pharmacology, and nursing research coursework. 


Featured Programs

MSN job opportunities are diverse and expanding, opening doors to numerous career paths and specialization options with significantly higher wages. The difference between the average yearly salary of a BSN and MSN graduate is $44,680, according to recent Labor Statistics data.

Among the most commonly pursued paths by MSN graduates include the following:

  • Clinical Research Nurse
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Physician Assistant
  • Nurse Consultant
  • Public Health Nurse
  • Director of Nursing
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist

Traditionally, pursuing an MSN meant attending on-campus classes, which is challenging for working professionals. Today, aspiring nursing leaders can study online and effectively balance work and education.

While online degrees are sought-after for their convenience, it’s not for everyone. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of MSN programs, whether online or on-campus. The best learning format will depend on your personal goals and needs.

Campus-Based MSN Programs


1. Hands-On Clinical Experience 

An on-campus MSN degree offers an immersive, hands-on clinical experience that provides essential insight and practice to students, developing their skills and confidence for leadership roles. Some online programs also require clinical experiences such as simulations, virtual clinical experiences, or arranging clinical placements in students’ local areas. However, they may not offer the same level of learning and experience as on-campus clinical training.

2. Networking Opportunities

Building a robust professional network is essential in your MSN career advancement journey. On-campus MSN programs allow you to build relationships with peers and advisors in addition to seminars and workshops. You may use the advantages of networking at every stage of your career, regardless of your experience as a caregiver, job seeker, or recruiter.

3. Access to On-Campus Resources

Access to invaluable assistance and guidance and other on-campus resources can greatly enhance your academic journey. Whether it’s faculty mentorship, research opportunities, or access to specialized equipment, these resources can significantly contribute to your growth and achievement in the program.


1. Time Commitment for On-Site Classes

Traditional on-campus MSN programs require full-time enrollment and frequent travel to campus, placing constraints on already busy students. Commuting to campus adds time and logistical challenges, potentially limiting flexibility and hindering your ability to excel in MSN studies.

2. Potential Challenges for Working Professionals

The demands of a campus-based MSN program can be overwhelming. Balancing a full-time job with the rigorous schedule of on-site classes, clinical rotations, and assignments may lead to stress and fatigue, potentially compromising your academic performance and professional efficacy. 

3. Location Constraints

MSN program accreditation is very important. If you live somewhere without many recognized MSN programs, you might have to move a lot or travel far to attend a campus-based program. It will increase the total cost of education, which may leave you in large debt. 

Online MSN Programs


1. Flexibility for Working Nurses

While online MSN programs may still require a few on-campus visits and live meetings, most of the time, you’ll be working independently. The self-paced and asynchronous learning of online MSN programs benefits you significantly by allowing you to tailor your studies around your work and personal commitments. You can decide when is the best time to attend class. 

2. Access to Diverse Programs Nationwide

The nursing field continues to evolve, creating more specialized nursing roles and focus areas. Online MSN programs allow you to join different programs from anywhere in the country. This means you can pick specializations that match your career goals and interests, allowing you to advance your education in the areas you care about most.

3. Lower Cost and Convenience

Online degrees are cheaper because they waive certain campus fees. Moreover, online MSN programs use e-learning tools and resources, saving you money on textbooks and other materials. According to the Education Data Initiative, online degrees are $31,165 cheaper than on-campus programs. 


1. Self-Discipline and Time Management

Because online programs are often self-paced, some students start to procrastinate. Doing so causes backlash on your studies; you’ll later realize that you’re left far behind and have no choice but to drop out. You should assess your self-discipline and time management skills. 

2. Interaction with Peers and Instructors

Online asynchronous MSN programs require independent study, so you’ll interact less with peers and instructors. Transitioning to an online learning format may seem isolating, and you may have fewer networking opportunities. If you want constant interaction with others, opt for synchronous online MSN programs or hybrid formats. 

3. Accreditation and Program Quality

Is an online MSN worth it? Yes. If you choose the right program, that is. 

Online programs may be affordable and flexible but only useful with proper accreditation. Pursuing an unaccredited program will affect your MSN salary potential and credibility. Most employers value accreditation and program quality when considering candidates for employment and determining salary levels. 

Look for online MSN programs accredited by reputable accrediting bodies like the CCNE or the ACEN. Another effective strategy for determining a program’s quality is reading the school’s MSN success stories.

Factors to Consider Before Pursuing an MSN

Career Goals and Specialization

Before deciding on the format, establish a clear career goal. Do you want to practice, teach, or work in administration? You must set clear goals to get the best out of your investment. 

Spend some time learning about different nursing specializations and evaluating your skills and interests. Think about your long-term professional goals and how an MSN degree can assist you in achieving them.

Job Market Demand and Salary Potential

Not all MSN programs are created equal. Some lead to higher-paying wages than others, which makes assessing the job market demand and potential salary outcomes associated with different specializations and program choices essential.

According to the federal data, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners are among the best MSN specializations that pay the highest salaries. These positions pay an average of $125,900. 

Personal Learning Style and Preferences

While the concentration and curriculum of an MSN program are important, you also need to consider the practical aspects. Are your traits and needs better suited for an online or on-campus program? 

For instance, if you want constant interaction and various networking opportunities, consider an on-campus MSN. However, if you have a full-time job or other important commitments, pursue an online option. 


Campus-based MSN programs can offer more hands-on learning experiences, better networking opportunities, and better student support services. However, this format requires you to adhere to a fixed schedule, posing a greater challenge if you have prior commitments. It can also limit your specialization options and can often be more expensive if pursued out-of-state.

On the other hand, online MSN programs offer flexibility, more specialization options, and affordable tuition fees. However, they’re not recommended for students who lack self-discipline and strong organizational skills. Moreover, the reduced face-to-face communication may limit your networking opportunities and often leave you feeling isolated.

People will have different takes on MSN vs. BSN. However, considering the salary difference between graduates of each program and career opportunities, an MSN is evidently valuable. With an MSN, you can pursue higher-level roles, choose a specialization, and earn more in a lifetime than BSN graduates.