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Increasingly in the world of medicine, we’re beginning to see a shift in the essential role that nurses play. No longer are treatment and decision-making the sole responsibility of doctors, with advanced practice nurses also performing a fundamental function.
From operating rooms to intermediate-care facilities, these health care professionals are increasingly in demand, and a graduate degree can offer the skills and leadership abilities to reach the top of the field.
Most of those who complete an MSN will do so with the objective of becoming a nurse practitioner: a registered nurse who has an advanced skill set and enhanced knowledge gained through either a nursing degree or specialized training.
Due to their unique skill sets and specialty, they will be able to perform a wide spectrum of functions in a health care setting, many normally taken care of by doctors and physicians, and can also prescribe and administer medications in most states. 
The utility of such professionals means they are now in high demand, and thus have a significantly higher earning potential than their standard nursing counterparts. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for such professionals is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years at 31%. 
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Before you commit to an MSN program, it’s important to know how long it will take you to complete, how much it will cost you, and the admission requirements.
A traditional MSN program can be completed more quickly than a BSN. Most extend over a period of 18 to 24 months, but they are still rigorous.
Most programs let you choose between part-time or full-time study. Although part-time will often be best for those who wish to continue working, these will take longer to complete than a full-time program.
However, even standard full-time options are not out of the question for those who hope to work while studying. With most programs designed with the working RN in mind, they are structured to allow you to continue fulfilling your responsibilities. 
It is important to fully understand your options, which is why you should comprehensively explore the degree paths open to you before committing to your MSN.
Other degrees you might want to research further include:
Two terminal degrees exist in nursing, and either one is worth exploring should you wish to continue your education to the highest level. The first of these is the Ph.D., which is intended for those wishing to go into research-focused or academic roles.
Like a Ph.D., a DNP is a terminal degree, the difference being that although it will educate you to the highest level in your field, it will focus more heavily on clinical practice.
There are various paths to earning a Master of Science in Nursing.
Direct-entry BSN-MSN programs are formulated for students who wish to pursue an advanced nursing degree and know which MSN specialty they would like to focus on.
Alternatively, RNs with an associate degree can enroll in an RN to MSN program, which allows them to earn their MSN without separately obtaining their BSN. These typically take around three years to complete, with the first year devoted to entry-level nursing coursework and the last two focusing on master’s-level study.
Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.
Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.
You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.
The following national organizations offer specialized accreditation for nursing programs: