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What to Look for in an Online MSN Degree Program

by | Oct 26, 2021

An online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program is a flexible and practical way to prepare you to further your career in service of others. But before you enroll, make sure your prospective program measures up.

There are hundreds of online nursing programs across the country. As you consider which to enroll in, look for components that will help you narrow down your list and make a better decision for your future.

MSN Program Accreditation

Make sure that whatever program you choose; it is accredited through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). If a program isn’t accredited, it may not be recognized by licensing agencies or potential employers. Without accreditation, you also may not be able to attain the certifications you need to practice following degree completion. Importantly, non-accredited programs may not meet the quality standards that properly prepare you for an advanced nursing career.

MSN Program Curriculum

Your online MSN program should cover a depth and breadth of topics to help you develop advanced practice knowledge. The core courses should be developed in accordance with experts, similar programs, and national requirements, and be based on academic and practical experience and an awareness of current and future healthcare needs. Courses should cover advanced topics including:

  • Nursing Practice
  • Health Assessment
  • Pathophysiology and Pharmacology Across the Lifespan
  • Healthcare Informatics
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Ethics in Healthcare

You should also look for a combination of theory, practical experience, and labs, and whether the program offers specializations. Above and beyond what should be in the curriculum, think about what you’re most interested in personally, and how any MSN program might help you achieve your long-term goals.

MSN Program Faculty

Check out the credentials of the faculty who will teach you. Look for professors from different nursing disciplines and adjunct faculty specialists that include practicing healthcare professionals, educators, and policymakers. Your instructors should know their content and teach with passion. They should be deeply committed to your academic, professional, practical, and personal progression. And they should combine their dedication to the field with excellence in teaching, professional expertise, and the integration of theory and practice.

Clinical Placement for MSN Candidates

Even an online program should help you coordinate in-person clinical placements while in the program. These placements will help you apply what you’ve learned and get hands-on experience to sharpen your skills, build confidence, and strengthen your resume. Make sure you will be able to get placements in your local area and that you will be able to arrange your schedule to accommodate the clinical hours required by the MSN program.

MSN Specializations

Your desire to pursue an MSN degree is likely driven by your desire to focus on an area of nursing that is particularly important to you. Potential specializations include: Family Nurse Practitioner, Leadership/Education, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

MSN Online Learning Format

Online formats can differ depending on the program you choose. Think about what you want out of your learning. Synchronous instruction (real-time with an instructor), asynchronous (recorded) or a combination of the two are common formats. There’s no right or wrong way to learn online, but you’ll want to have a sense of how you’ll be taught before you enroll.

What’s the Job Outlook for MSN Degree Holders?

Many careers that require the MSN degree are seeing a surge in demand. If you become a Nurse Practitioner, for example, you can expect to see much faster than average demand through the next decade. Salaries for Nurse Practitioners can also be more than $100,000 in some regions of the country. Most importantly, the MSN degree can help you bring advanced skills to a broader and more diverse patient base that may really need your expertise. Are you ready to make a difference in the lives of others even more than you do now?


Bluefield University is a Christian University based in rural Virginia. Our online MSN program is patient-focused and prepares you to further your career in nursing. We offer a hybrid program of online courses and onsite practicums in your local area. You can choose concentrations in Family Nurse Practitioner, Leadership/Educator, or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Start your application today.

Do I only apply once?

  • No. Students must apply each academic year for the fall semester and submit the necessary documents.

Do I have to take the classes specified in the Associate's Degree tracks as they are listed on the information sheet?

  • No. Students may take any of the courses that are offered in a given term.

Where do I find the textbook listing, and where do I purchase the books?

  • Log in to myBU, and under the "Student" tab, you will find a list of the textbooks required (if any) for each course. Students are responsible for purchasing their own textbooks.

How long is a semester?

  • Our semesters are divided into two 8-week terms.

Is there an orientation?

  • Yes. Students can attend an orientation session that explains how to access courses, how to register for classes, and answers other questions.

Where can I find a course description?

Does the student need to take the SAT or ACT in order to take Dual Enrollment classes?

  • No. If a student decides to study at BU full time, BU is currently test-optional for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.

Are the classes live? Do students need to log in and participate at certain times?

  • Classes are offered online, so a student can log-on and study at their convenience and their own pace. Students have assignments due each week; you can complete your assignments at any point in time before the deadline.

Does an Early College student need to come to campus for anything?

  • No. However, we would love to have you visit our campus if you are interested in continuing with traditional on-campus study. Students who complete their associate's degree have the option to walk at our commencement ceremony.

Are Early College students able to receive Financial Aid?

  • No. However, Early College courses are very affordable compared to other options. The cost for an online Dual Enrollment course is $100 per credit hour.

How do transferring credits work?

  • Each College or University completes a transcript review in order to decide which courses transfer. Sticking to general education classes generally makes transferring credits simple. All Early College courses at Bluefield University are general education classes that should transfer to another accredited institution.

Is an Early College student considered, and treated, as a transfer student when they become a full-time college student if they have earned enough credits to be a Junior?

  • No. Since they have not graduated from high school, they are considered a first-time college student regardless of how many credits transfer. However, by transferring credits when they enroll as a full-time student, they will have to take fewer classes to receive their bachelor's degree, which shortens the length of time to earn the degree.

Can I speak to someone if I have more questions?

  • Yes. Please contact the Office of Admissions by email or you can call them at 276.326.4231


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