An online master's in nursing education makes for an excellent investment. Healthcare employers increasingly prefer candidates with advanced degrees for top-paying positions, so many licensed and practicing nurses choose to upgrade their academic credentials.
Given the wide range of specializations and concentrations in nursing, prospective students should approach their search for an online master's program with long-term career goals. This guide covers important information about master's degrees in nursing, including common courses, timelines, and potential careers for graduates.
Overview of an Online Master's Program in Nursing Education
An online master's in nursing education builds upon the skills and concepts introduced in bachelor's programs, delivering enriched curricula with concentration options that focus on specific aspects of healthcare delivery.
Common Classes and Coursework
While precise course titles and offerings vary among schools and programs, online nursing education master's degree programs usually feature a similar set of core classes. The following sample curriculum introduces five topics common among the best accredited online nursing schools:
Evidence-based Nursing Practice
This course builds on existing fundamentals with an advanced exploration of evidence-based approaches to healthcare delivery. Students explore and critically assess current best practice models, learning how to apply them to optimize patient benefit in clinical, home, and rehabilitative settings.
Advanced Health Assessment
Students learn how to assess and monitor acute and chronic patient conditions through an integrated evaluation of physical and psychological markers and symptoms. Coursework teaches students how to apply these methods to the triage systems used to establish priority of care in hospital emergency rooms.
A well-developed understanding of disease pathology enables nurses to ease doctor demand and improve workload efficiency in hospital settings. This course emphasizes methods of linking symptoms and changes in patient conditions to specific pathological processes, leading to advanced diagnostic and disease management proficiencies.
Some advanced practice registered nurses can write prescriptions, while others hold supervisory responsibility for medicated patients. This course teaches intermediate and advanced strategies for prescribing and administering medications for common illnesses. It also covers medication selection, patient education, and evaluation techniques.
Health Risk Management Across the Human Lifespan
In this course, students learn how to promote and protect long-term health at all stages of the human lifespan. Diet, genetics, physical activity, and lifestyle considerations lead the list of covered topics.
Skills You Will Gain
After completing a master's in nursing education online, students can pursue senior and leadership positions in diverse professional settings. The ability to integrate nursing theory with evidence-based treatment approaches comprises the central learning outcome of any accredited master's program in nursing. Students also work with current medical technologies and health information systems.
Examples of specializations and concentrations include gerontology, pediatrics, midwifery, family nursing, and anesthesiology
Additional learning outcomes include the ability to guide patients to better health and support safe and supportive care environments. Master's nursing programs also encourage learners to become public health advocates while leveraging their clinical practice experience to campaign for improvements to the healthcare system.
Students in a specialized nursing education master's program also develop focused competencies supporting career growth in niche practice areas. Examples of specializations and concentrations include gerontology, pediatrics, midwifery, family nursing, and anesthesiology. Graduates emerge with advanced skills in a specific practice area, facilitating placement in specialist roles.
Average Degree Length
Most online nursing education master's programs comprise about 36 credits, though some may require up to 55 credits. Full-time learners can complete 36-credit programs in four semesters, allowing highly motivated students to graduate in 16 months.
Full-time learners can complete 36-credit programs in four semesters, allowing highly motivated students to graduate in 16 months
Earning a master's in nursing education online offers flexibility for working students. Students can complete coursework on their own schedules, making it easier to balance work responsibilities with school. Part-time study makes it even easier to manage a work-study balance, though it can significantly lengthen the time to graduation.
How to Find a Top Program
Given the volume of online master's in nursing education programs, candidates should learn to identify markers of high-quality universities. Beyond program accreditation, features to look for in a good nursing college include:
High NCLEX Pass Rates
Top programs feature high pass rates for students on national nursing licensure examinations, indicating these programs offer adequate career preparation.
Students should look for prospective schools' training partnerships with local clinics and hospitals. A complete and varied range of healthcare settings indicates a good reputation for the school.
Universities with competitive admissions processes tend to attract more accomplished applicants. If a program sets the acceptance bar too low, it often signals lower program quality.
Student Retention Rates
Nursing colleges with high dropout rates generally lose students because they fail to provide proper support or instructional quality. Students should seek schools with high retention rates.
Post-graduation Employment Rates
In a high-demand field like nursing, quality schools feature high job placement rates for students within a year of graduation.
Nursing Education Careers After Earning Your Master's
Graduates of online master's in nursing education programs enjoy strong job prospects. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to increase 31% by 2026. APRNs make high average salaries, with the BLS reporting median earnings of almost $114,000 a year in 2018. RNs with master's degrees work in hospitals, physicians' offices, inpatient and outpatient care facilities, and nursing education institutions. Five potential career paths for graduates include:
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
APRNs hold specialized nursing positions with high levels of responsibility. APRNs take one of four main roles: nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, or clinical nursing specialist.
Average Annual Salary: $94,220
Research nurses mainly work with participants in clinical trials. They administer treatments, assess and monitor patient conditions, and participate in reporting procedures.
Average Annual Salary: $70,593
Nurse educators lead courses in nursing schools, drawing on their clinical knowledge and experience to design classes, teach students, and assist in field placements.
Average Annual Salary: $81,350
Nurse administrators work for hospitals, inpatient clinics, outpatient care centers, and other healthcare institutions with high patient volumes. They supervise operations, create and implement nursing department policies, manage staff, prepare budgets, and ensure compliance with regulatory standards.
Average Annual Salary: $87,084
Nursing consultants liaise with industry stakeholders, including insurance companies, public and private clinics, and private enterprises. They offer case-specific consulting services and expert insight on legal cases and claims assessments.
Average Annual Salary: $79,622
Source: PayScale, BLS
Additional Certifications for Nursing Education
Nursing is a regulated profession, meaning that all nurses must hold state licensure. Beyond this requirement, nurses seeking to specialize in a particular field, boost their earning potential, and differentiate themselves in the labor market can also earn optional certifications. Examples of such certifications include:
Family Nurse Practitioner
These professionals can perform many of the same duties as physicians, such as diagnosing conditions and writing prescriptions. They can also order tests, interpret and report test results, perform patient examinations, and refer patients to specialists. Candidates need an RN license and 500 hours of supervised clinical training to sit the FNP examination.
Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse
Offered by the Advanced Oncology Certification Corporation, the AOCN designation requires an advanced nursing degree with courses in oncology and extensive clinical experience. AOCNs work primarily with cancer patients, administering and monitoring treatment.
Certified Pediatric Nurse
The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board offers this certification, which indicates pediatric knowledge and clinical capabilities beyond those of standard RNs. To qualify for the examination, candidates need at least 1,800 hours of pediatrics experience within the past two years or at least 3,000 pediatric nursing hours within the past five years and 1,000 hours in the past two years.
Professional Organizations & Resources for Nursing Education Students
Professional organizations and resources offer many benefits for nursing students and graduates, such as networking, professional development, and scholarship opportunities.
- National Student Nurses Association Members of this student-oriented professional network enjoy access to many educational resources, a job board, and career support services.
- Emergency Nurses Association With annual conferences and continuing education and professional development resources, the Emergency Nurses Association provides valuable support to nurses who work in urgent care settings.
- Medical Library Association, Nursing and Allied Health Resources This free resource provides students with access to dozens of medical research databases, journal entries, career-building tools, and wiki materials.
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association Students considering a specialization in psychiatric nursing should consider this organization, which offers competency testing, a medical journal, and a collection of subject-specific prevention and treatment guides.
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing Many nursing schools hold institutional membership to this organization, which offers organizational and research leadership support. Students in member programs enjoy access to its resource network.
- Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses The lone professional organization dedicated to the medical-surgical nursing specialty, the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses hosts professional development resources.
- American College of Nurse-Midwives This global organization works to promote the midwife profession around the world and safeguard the health and safety of mothers and infants, especially in developing regions.
- National Association of Neonatal Nurses This organization offers advanced research, educational resources, and job opportunities for neonatal nurses.
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing This regulatory agency prepares students to sit for the standardized exams required for many specialized nursing licenses and certifications.
- National Association of Licenced Practical Nurses This national organization hosts an annual conference, offers scholarships, and provides training seminars. It boasts a 100% member satisfaction rate and offers affordable student and lifetime membership options.