Today, many registered nurses (RNs) return to school to earn master’s or doctorate degrees. An advanced nursing degree significantly expands your career opportunities, earning potential and job satisfaction.

In fact, as healthcare reform proceeds, nurses with advanced degrees and highly specialized skills will assume exciting new roles and responsibilities. In particular, nurses with advanced degrees are needed to educate the next generation of nursing students. It’s a perfect time for you to pursue an advanced nursing degree. For details about specific programs, visit the websites of the schools found in our list of Indiana Accredited Schools of Nursing.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in nursing (MSN) prepares you for many advanced roles in the nursing profession, including clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, nurse educator, nurse administrator and informatics nurse. Nurses with master’s degrees can orchestrate and provide direct patient care at an enhanced level, conduct research, and teach in nursing school.

Most master’s degree programs can be completed in 18 months to three years, with full-time attendance, or three to six years, with part-time attendance. Application to a master’s program requires an RN license. Some programs may also expect a specified amount of clinical work experience. Traditional programs require a bachelor’s degree (BSN) from an accredited program, but there are master’s programs that you can begin with only an associate’s degree (ASN). Career changers with a prior bachelor’s degree in another discipline can enroll in an accelerated MSN program, in which you obtain both a BSN and a master’s degree. Dual degree programs combine a master’s in nursing with an advanced degree in a related field of study, such as business (MSN/MBA) or public health (MSN/MPA).

Post-Master’s Certificate

Certificate programs enable nurses with master’s degrees to expand their knowledge base and hone their clinical skills in areas such as leadership, nursing education, informatics and specialty practice.

Doctoral Degree

A doctorate prepares you for advanced roles in leadership, education, research and clinical practice. Doctoral programs are practice based (DNP) or research based (PhD or DNS). Traditionally, nurses enter a doctorate program after earning a master’s degree in nursing, but there are also accelerated baccalaureate-to-doctorate options. You can usually complete a doctorate degree in three years, by attending full-time; however, there are many part-time options.