Most nurses who think of entering a master's program are already practicing nurses. They have a good idea of what they want to specialize in before they apply for admission. It is crucial to know what you want to study before you enter a nursing master's program.
Find the nursing graduate program that's best for you
The best way to ensure success in a nursing master's program is to understand your individual strengths and career desires and then find the faculty and college setting that are best suited to help you develop those strengths. Students must make an effort to educate themselves as to the strength of the faculty in each college's master's program. That's the best thing to look for: a strong faculty in one specialty.
This can be tricky. One university's master's program may be rated reasonably high in all fields. Another program might not be rated as high overall, but its cardiovascular program, for example, may be one of the best because of its access to facilities or the fact that its faculty is in the process of developing an innovative new treatment.
Contact nursing graduate schools to get info
This type of information is not hard for the master's candidate to discover; it just takes time. Such information is available from each school's admissions office, which should be more than happy to promote its nursing faculty and support its opinion with proof, such as the research papers that faculty members have published in journals or the number of degrees each faculty member holds.
This type of research is the best way to find a program that meets your needs. If you can, narrow the list to three or four nursing graduate schools, and then write each school's admissions department for catalogs and other information. Visit the schools and take time to talk to a guidance counselor from the nursing program in each one.
Other key questions to consider when applying for a master's program are:
- Does the school offer financial aid, such as loans, scholarships, fellowships, or teaching posts?
- How much clinical work is needed?
- Does the clinical work meet your needs, and does the type of clinical work involved match what you understand the health-care system will be using when you graduate?
- Is the course work flexible?
- Can you work part-time and still progress toward a nursing master's degree?
Working while pursuing a degree
A majority of master's program students continue to work while they pursue the degree. Therefore, nursing master's degree programs may present a flexible offering of short courses to meet the student's schedule demands.
After the master's degree
Once you have completed your master's degree, you may want to advance your career immediately or you may decide to pursue a nursing doctorate, also known as a nursing Ph.D.
By Kathleen Dracup, D.N.Sc, RN, Professor and Dean, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco