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Choosing the Right MSN Program for YOUR Nursing Career

Are you considering an MSN program and need help getting started? Here are some things you will want to consider. If you are thinking about getting your MSN degree, it is important to choose a program that will meet your personal, lifestyle, career, and professional development needs. With so many choices, investigating different programs can be confusing and time-consuming. So which MSN program is right for you? The following pointers can help you decide.

If you are thinking about getting your MSN degree, it is important to choose a program that will meet your nursing career and professional development needs. With so many choices, investigating different programs can be confusing and time-consuming. So, which MSN program is right for you? The following videos will help you learn more about some of the advanced nursing practice degrees available at DeSales University.

Choosing the Right MSN Program

  • On Campus – is location a factor?

    Which schools offer MSN programs in your field of interest and geographic area? 
    What specialty area of nursing do you want to pursue? Is a program available in your local area? If not, are you willing to travel? If so, how far? Is relocating an option? Or should you consider an online MSN degree?

    Compare classes and schedules. 
    When are classes offered? Are the days and times convenient for you? Is there any flexibility in the schedule, or is there an option to take some classes online?

    Go to the campus and look around. 
    Do you like what you see? Does it seem like a good environment in which to learn and to study?

  • Online or Hybrid - quality and experience are critical factors!

    What is the typical class size? 
    What is the student : faculty ratio? 1:18 is the average size that does not compromise quality in an online class. If teaching assistants are utilized for online courses, is a reasonable ratio maintained?

    Do the online course faculty have experience teaching in the online environment? 
    Teaching an online class is very different from teaching in a classroom. Make sure the faculty use a variety of instructional technologies to support pedagogically-sound delivery of course content.

    Do online students have access to support services? 
    Technical support, library access, and other support services are critical to a quality education at the graduate level.

    All of DeSales University's MSN tracks are offered in hybrid format, with some courses meeting on campus, some online. The MSN/MBA, MSN/MSIS Dual Degree in Data Analytics, and MSN in Forensic Nursing with Certification in Investigative Forensics degree programs can be obtained completely online, in the classroom, or hybrid - your choice!

    DeSales University provides extensive library, instructional technology, computing, and information technology resources and services, both on campus and remotely. The University Center for Educational Resources and Technology (CERT) offers a variety of supportive resources for students in online and hybrid courses.

  • Not all MSN degrees are created equal

    What is the value of an MSN degree from each university? 
    Talk to current and former students - ask questions. What did they like or dislike about their academic experience? Ask them about their experience with support services that might be important to you and about their post-graduation employment search.

    Cheaper is not always better. 
    Consider the tuition costs in relation to added earning potential. Take time to investigate financial aid sources, as well as tuition support that might be available through the school. Be wary of hidden costs or fees that may increase the overall cost of program completion.

    Choose a program that suits your goals. 
    Do not choose a program based on convenience or cost. The wrong program can result in several years of wasted time, effort, and money – and might not produce the results you were expecting! Our students tell us the DeSales MSN is perfect for the working nurse because we acknowledge and accommodate your individual needs.

    Verify that the school is accredited.
    Accreditation ensures the program has met the quality standards for nursing education. MSN programs should be accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing and Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

    * The baccalaureate degree program in nursing, master’s degree program in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and post-graduate APRN certificate programs at DeSales University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org).

    What are the MSN programs' certification exam pass-rates? 
    This can be used as a measure of how well the school is preparing its graduates. Ask the schools you are interested in to provide this information for the past five years.

    *DeSales University boasts a 99% pass rate for all nurse practitioner programs since 1999.

  • Specific information on Nurse Practitioner programs

    Nurse Practitioners (NPs) possess an advanced degree in nursing and are prepared to perform acts of medical diagnosis and prescription of medical, therapeutic or corrective measures autonomously or collaboratively, depending upon State requirements. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 31% growth in NP jobs between 2016 and 2026.

    NP roles are stratified according to patient population and setting.  Patient populations include neonate, pediatric, adult-gerontology, psychiatric, women’s health, and lifespan. Settings are identified as inpatient or outpatient, but more importantly, addresses the acuity of the patient.  DeSales University offers NP tracks in:

    It is important to consider the type of RN experience that best prepares you to enter these specific NP roles.  For example, DSU requires 24 months of ICU experience prior to starting the NP clinical courses for the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP track, and 24 months of psychiatric experience prior to starting the NP clinical courses for the Psychiatric-Mental Health NP track. Applicants to the Family/Across the Lifespan NP track are required to have 24 months of RN experience in the care of men, women, and children prior to starting the NP clinical courses. Having the required RN experience ensures you gain the essentials skills and confidence in your nursing abilities to help be successful in your NP program of choice.

  • Special considerations for advanced practice degrees

    Does the program incorporate simulation and standardized patients as part of the curriculum? 
    Simulation is widely recognized as a means to reduce future errors, foster interdisciplinary practice, and contribute to a quality education. DeSales University has the premier health care simulation facilities in the region, using both hi-fidelity human patient simulators and standardized patients, as well as the only human anatomy (cadaver) lab in the region.

    Does the program meet standards for supervised clinical hours? 
    Talk to current students or recent graduates to get a feel for the types and variety of available practice sites.

    Does the program provide clinical placement services or must students secure their own placement sites? 
    Quality clinical placements and preceptors are the backbone of a solid advanced practice education. Look for a school that provides the placements and requires that faculty perform site visits as part of the evaluation process.

    *DeSales University employs a full-time Clinical Liaison who is responsible for obtaining all clinical placements. Clinical preceptors must pass a review of credentials prior to working with our students. Each clinical site is visited by a faculty member at least once per semester.

    Are the faculty credentialed in advanced practice? 
    Make sure that advanced practice faculty (NP, CNS, etc.) are credentialed and certified in the specialty in which they teach.

    * DeSales University advanced practice faculty are all credentialed and certified in their advanced practice specialty, and 90% possess the doctoral degree.

    Do the faculty maintain an active clinical practice? 
    This might be found on the school's website. If not, it's an important question to ask during the application process. You want to be sure these faculty are clinically current and up to date on the most recent healthcare literature and guidelines.

    *DeSales University advanced practice faculty are clinically active in outpatient, community, clinic, skilled nursing facilities and hospital sites. Learn more about the DeSales Nursing Faculty

MSN Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I apply?

    Apply directly through the DeSales University online application here: Graduate Application

  • Is there an application fee?

    DeSales requires a $50 application fee for the MSN program. Alumni of DeSales do not have to pay an application fee and may contact msn@desales.edu for an alumni application fee waiver code. However, online information session attendees may also be eligible for an application fee waiver.

  • What is the deadline for application to DeSales University's MSN Program?

    Nurse Practitioner applicants are admitted twice a year as per the following deadlines:

    • The deadline is August 31 for an April (Spring semester) start
    • The deadline is February 28 for an August (Fall semester) start

    All other MSN degree applicants are admitted on a rolling basis up until the following deadlines:

    • The deadline is May 15 for a July (Summer semester) start
    • The deadline is June 15 for an August (Fall semester) start
    • The deadline is November 15 for a January (Winter semester) start
    • The deadline is February 15 for an April (Spring semester) start
  • Is the GRE required for admission?

    For applicants who do not meet the minimum GPA requirement of 3.0, completion of the GRE or MAT will be required to be considered for admission to the program.

    You can register for a GRE test date by visiting www.gre.org.

    You can register for an MAT test date by visiting https://www.pearsonassessments.com/graduate-admissions/mat/about.html.

  • Is a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score necessary?

    Since we believe that verbal and written communication is a vital part of taking care of patients, we require the TOEFL test for any applicant, regardless of citizenship, for whom English is a second language. MSN applicants must have a total score of 104, with a minimum of 26 in all subscales on the internet-based test. Exams must have been taken within two years of application to a DeSales program.

    DeSales University's School Code: 002021

  • What additional items are required for the MSN application?

    In order for your application to be complete for review, the following supplemental items must be received by the application deadline:

    • Official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate schools attended
    • Copy of current RN license
    • Two professional letters of recommendation
    • Current résumé or curriculum vitae
    • Personal statement
    • Official copy of GRE or MAT scores if cumulative undergraduate GPA is below 3.0
    • Official copy of TOEFL scores if first language is not English

    Further details can be found at MSN: How to Apply

  • Where do I send additional documents needed for my admissions file?

    Electronic official transcripts can be sent to: msn@desales.edu

    Paper official transcripts can be mailed to: DeSales University, Division of Nursing, ATTN: Graduate Program Assistant, 2755 Station Ave., Center Valley PA 18034

    All transcripts from any degree-granting institution outside the United States must be evaluated by a NACES approved evaluation service, such as World Education Services, Inc., with the resulting report submitted directly to: DeSales University, Office of Graduate Admissions, 2755 Station Ave., Center Valley, PA 18034. Please visit naces.org for additional information. DeSales University's institutional reporting code is 002021.

    Recommendation requests must be submitted electronically through the online application system. All additional supplemental items must be uploaded directly to your online application. Log into your current application here: MSN Application Login
  • Is an interview required for the MSN program?

    Select nurse practitioner applicants will be invited to an on-campus interview after review of their completed application. All other applicants may be required to complete a phone interview after review of their completed application, should the committee need additional information not included in the application.
  • I’ve submitted my application. When will I know if I’ve been accepted?

    Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis up until the application deadline. Upon submission of your application and all supplemental items, your application will be reviewed by the Graduate Admissions and Standards Committee. Applicants will receive a response within one month of application completion and as per the timeline below.

    Nurse Practitioner Programs

    Fall start

    • Application Deadline: February 28
    • Notification of Interview: March 31
    • Interview Dates: March or April
    • Notification of Decision: May or June
    • Deposit Due: As per acceptance letter

    Spring start

    • Application Deadline: August 31
    • Notification of Interview: September 30
    • Interview Dates: October or November
    • Notification of Decision: November or December
    • Deposit Due: As per acceptance letter

    All other programs

    Fall start

    • Application Deadline: June 15
    • Notification of Decision: July 15
    • Deposit Due: As per acceptance letter

    Winter start

    • Application Deadline: November 15
    • Notification of Decision: December 15
    • Deposit Due: As per acceptance letter

    Spring start

    • Application Deadline: February 15
    • Notification of Decision: March 15
    • Deposit Due: As per acceptance letter

    Summer start

    • Application Deadline: May 15
    • Notification of Decision: June 15
    • Deposit Due: As per acceptance letter
  • I don’t have a BSN but I have another bachelor’s degree. Can I apply to the MSN program?

    In order to be eligible for the MSN program, in any track, a BSN is required. DeSales University offers three (3) pre-licensure options for obtaining a BSN, including a second degree Accelerated BSN for applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than nursing.  For questions about any of our BSN programs, you may contact the Nursing Marketing Liaison at laurie.stoudt@desales.edu or 610-282-1100, x2838.

    Learn more about the ABSN program

  • I just completed my BSN. Can I apply to the MSN program?

    New BSN graduates may be eligible to start the MSN program soon after graduation provided they meet the following criteria:

    • Hold current RN licensure
    • Meet nursing practice requirements outlined for the program track of interest

    Applicants who do not meet the nursing practice requirements must continue to work full-time while attending the program part-time in order to progress to the specialty clinical courses.

  • Do I need experience as an RN to apply for the MSN program?

    All MSN and Post-Graduate Certificate program tracks require evidence of the equivalent of 12 months full-time nursing practice within the last three (3) years. Additional nursing practice experience is required for certain tracks as per below.

    For the AGACNP: Evidence of the equivalent of two (2) years of full-time nursing practice in an adult acute care/ICU specialty area (i.e. medical/surgical ICU, trauma ICU, neuro/neurosurgical ICU, cardiac ICU, open heart unit, burn unit, etc.) within 18 months of application completion. Students will be required to continue to work as an Acute Care/ICU registered nurse to fulfill the 2 years of nursing practice experience required to progress to the specialty clinical courses.

    For the FNP: Evidence of the equivalent of two (2) years of full-time nursing practice within 18 months of application completion. Currently practicing nurses who have only had pediatric or labor and delivery experience will be required to obtain employment as an RN in the care of the adult while completing the program part-time. Students will be required to continue to work as a registered nurse to fulfill the 2 years of nursing practice experience required to progress to the specialty clinical courses.

    For the PMHNP: Evidence of the equivalent of 12 months’ full-time experience as a practicing psychiatric RN within 18 months of application completion. Students will be required to continue to work as a psychiatric nurse to fulfill the 12 months of nursing practice experience required to progress to the specialty clinical courses.

    All other MSN tracks: Students with less than one year of full-time nursing practice will be required to continue to work as a registered nurse to fulfill the 1 year of nursing practice experience required to progress to the specialty clinical courses.
  • I’m currently enrolled in an MSN program but want to transfer. Do you accept courses for transfer?

    Yes! The MSN program will generally accept up to six (6) transfer credits or two (2) courses into the declared MSN track based upon the following criteria:

    • Course work must have been completed within five (5) years before admission to the MSN program.
    • Courses transferred must be similar in credits, scope and subject matter to the courses offered in the MSN program. The student must provide a course syllabus and topical outline for any courses requested for transfer for evaluation by the Chair of Graduate Programs upon acceptance.
    • Only courses from an ACEN or CCNE accredited college or university will be accepted for transfer.
    • Grades for transfer courses must be a B or higher.
  • I started a DeSales MSN Program but didn’t finish. Do I need to reapply?

    Yes. Students who have not taken a course within a 12-month period are considered withdrawn from the MSN program. If the student decides in the future to return to complete the MSN degree, he or she will need to submit a new complete application to the program. Re-admission is not guaranteed and coursework may need to be repeated.

  • Can the MSN Program be achieved completely online?

    Yes, depending on program track. The DeSales University MSN program includes three (3) tracks that can be completed in a 100% online format. Each program uses a combination of synchronous and a-synchronous online teaching. Our online programs are:

    All other MSN program tracks include some on-campus requirements. Students have the option of completing core MSN courses in a completely asynchronous online format or in a hybrid format. Advanced core and specialty clinical courses are completed in a hybrid format.

  • What’s the difference between hybrid and online courses?

    Hybrid courses are courses that have both on-campus and online requirements. At most, hybrid courses meet once per week on campus.

    Online courses are courses that have no on-campus requirements at all. All MSN online courses are offered in a completely asynchronous format. However, MBA, MCJ, and MSIS online course offerings may include synchronous online activities.

  • Does DeSales have a cadaver lab?

    Yes! The Human Gross Anatomy Lab opened in 2013 and is currently in use by students across the nursing, PA, and PT programs. Students have experiences in the lab during the physical assessment course. FNP and AGACNP students use the lab to practice certain procedures.

  • What are the MSN certification examination pass rates?

    Our overall certification pass rate for first-time test takers in the nurse practitioner programs is 99% since inception of the program in 1996.

    The Adult-Gerontology CNS certification pass rate for first-time test takers is 97% since inception of the program in 1984.

    The Advanced Nurse Administrator certification pass rate for first-time test takers is 100%
  • Do I have to find my own preceptors?

    No! DeSales University employs a full-time Graduate Clinical Liaison who is responsible for obtaining all clinical placements. Clinical preceptors must pass a review of credentials prior to working with our students. Each clinical site is visited by a faculty member at least once per semester.

    Please note: the vast majority of advanced practice program clinical sites are located in Eastern Pennsylvania, with some in New Jersey and surrounding states. Students in any online MSN program at DeSales will be expected to help facilitate obtaining preceptors in their respective state.

  • It’s been a long time since I’ve been in school. Do you have student support and resources to help me get acquainted with online learning?

    Yes! New MSN students begin the program with a thorough orientation to the curriculum, policies, procedures, technology, and course methods. The Center for Educational Resources and Technology (CERT) provides free instructional workshops and support to help you get the most out of your distance learning experience.

    View all ways in which students are supported at DeSales

  • Are DeSales University MSN graduates working?

    DeSales University graduates are highly sought after.  On average, 100% of our graduates are who are seeking new jobs are employed in their specialty within 9 months of graduating. Additionally, approximately 50% of students have already obtained jobs by graduation.

  • Why should I attend DeSales University's MSN Program?

    Flexibility
    The DeSales University MSN program offers both part-time and full-time options, as well as online and hybrid course options, allowing students the flexibility to complete their degree in a way that meets their individual needs.

    Faculty
    Nursing faculty are experienced clinicians. In fact, most of the faculty continue to practice one day per week in order to maintain their clinical skills. We have more than 150 years of clinical experience among our 17 full-time faculty members.

    State-of-the-art Simulation Center
    The DeSales University Gambet Center for Business and Healthcare is home to 2 clinical skills labs, 5 human patient simulator (HPS) rooms, a Standardized Patient (SP) suite, and Human Gross Anatomy lab. Students in the advanced practice programs learn and practice necessary skills in the inpatient and/or outpatient skills labs and Human Gross Anatomy lab. Students will have encounters with Standardized Patients to prepare them for the real world. In addition, students obtain individual feedback from the standardized patient as well as an evaluation from faculty. Finally, students have the opportunity to participate in Inter-professional Education through simulation in the Human Patient Simulator rooms as well as the Standardized Patient Suite.

    Clinical Placements Coordinated by the University
    DeSales University’s Division of Nursing employs a Graduate Clinical Liaison to coordinate clinical placements for all MSN students in our network of nationally-ranked clinical facilities throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and surrounding states.

    Please note: the vast majority of advanced practice program clinical sites are located in Eastern Pennsylvania, with some in New Jersey and surrounding states. Students in any online MSN program at DeSales will be expected to help facilitate obtaining preceptors in their respective state.

  • I still have questions. Are there any information sessions available for the MSN program?

    Monthly information sessions are held in an online format utilizing Zoom conferencing, a web-based platform that does not require any additional software. You may register for an upcoming information session here: MSN Information Sessions

  • I still have questions. Can I speak with someone?

    Of course! Any questions regarding the MSN program may be directed to the Marketing Liaison at msn@desales.edu or 610-282-1100, x2838.