What is the Difference Between an MSN and a DNP?There is a big difference between an MSN and a DNP degree. This is because the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is typically a prerequisite for obtaining a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. In fact, colleges offer MSN to DNP programs that are designed for nurses with specialized training, such as nurse midwives or anesthetists. Most MSN and DNP candidates will either be an RN or have a bachelor’s in nursing degree.

A Master of Science in Nursing

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN),Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs generally offer four specializations: nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse anesthetist and midwife. These four specializations allow every student to concentrate on the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in their target career. To illustrate, a nurse practitioner will diagnose and treat common injuries and illnesses similar to a physician. A clinical nurse specialist will work in a distinct medical field, such as pediatrics, gynecology and even psychiatric nursing. However, all programs emphasize a holistic approach to health care operations, leadership and education. Most MSN programs last two years and require candidates to be licensed Registered Nurses (RNs).

Sample Coursework for an MSN

Master of Science in Nursing degrees generally start with a course that introduces the student to advanced nursing roles. This class will define the skills and strategies needed to succeed in the role of an advanced nurse. For example, students will be introduced to cutting-edge practices and trends, such as health care informatics. Next, the program will provide a class that revolves around the theoretical foundations of advanced nursing. Thus, students will be exposed to a variety of complex topics that connect nursing with social, medical and behavioral sciences. Finally, students will be introduced to relevant legal and ethical issues within the field of advanced nursing.

A Doctor of Nursing Practice

The AACN states that Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs are designed for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Coincidently, the standard educational background of these professionals is a Master of Science in Nursing. DNP programs are different from conventional master’s programs in nursing because they also focus on visionary leadership, quality improvements and in-depth statistics. Thus, students will learn how to incorporate complex concepts and professional practices to create innovative nursing practices and systems. These programs also impart the skills needed to transform and enhance evidence-based care systems. The basic requirement to enter this program is an RN license and a Master’s of Science in Nursing.

Sample Coursework for a DNP

Doctor of Nursing Practice programs will cover fundamental advanced care concepts, such as effective organizational leadership and pioneering evidence-based practices. However, there will be plenty of specialty courses, such as quantitative and qualitative data and research methodology.
Thus, students will focus more on academic based research and coursework. Classes will focus on how to make data driven health care process and system improvements. Students will also study how health care systems are changing and how to prepare for future developments. Lastly, these degree programs will most likely involve a major research project where students will demonstrate their scholarly competency.

The difference between an MSN and a DNP degree comes down to the degree level and academic coursework intensity. The DNP basically begins where the MSN ends. Both are viable options for nurses looking to advance their careers and leadership opportunities.