Dual Nursing Degree Programs

What is a Dual Nursing Degree?

In order to increase their skill set and advance their careers, many RNs choose to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Some nurses seek an education that provides them with opportunities to expand their career into other areas, such as health care administration or public health. For these students, a dual nursing degree program may be an ideal opportunity.

The interdisciplinary training that is required in a dual nursing degree program means enrolled students must complete a rigorous curriculum of work—enough to demonstrate their mastery of both disciplines. However, upon completing the program graduates will have earned master’s degrees in two fields. Graduates of dual degree programs have a variety of opportunities to advance their career in a number of different directions.

Types of Dual Nursing Degree Programs

There are several types of dual nursing degree programs which allow students to earn their MSN alongside a Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), or even dual Nurse Practitioner concentrations. We’ll explore common dual nursing degree programs in further detail below.

MSN/MHA Dual Degree

A Master of Science in Nursing/Master Healthcare Administration (MSN/MHA) dual degree program provides students with all of the education and benefits of an MSN degree while also providing education in health care administration.

Students who graduate from these programs earn both their Master of Science in Nursing and their Master of Healthcare Administration. Students enrolled in an MSN/MHA dual-degree program must complete internship and clinical hour requirements and are required to complete the necessary credit hours to earn their MHA degree.

Students interested in an MSN/MHA program should take time to research and find nursing dual programs  that have been accredited by organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), and the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). Programs that have been accredited by these organizations must meet strict quality standards.

Possible Careers

Some may choose to continue on a clinical path in an advanced nursing role, while others choose to obtain administrative roles. Depending on their goals and interests, graduates may find employment as:

  • Hospital Administrators
  • Clinical Nurse Managers
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
  • Directors of Nursing (DON)
  • Clinical Manager
  • Health Information Manager
  • Nursing Home Administrator

These are only several career options for graduates. Some choose to work in the public sector while others pursue careers as educators.

For graduates, a dual MSN/MHA degree may offer advanced career opportunities, flexibility and job security. For example, careers for Medical and Health Services Managers are expected to grow by 18% between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS. In addition, the BLS reports the median annual salary for these same occupations is $100,980. Graduates who have earned their MSN may be qualified to enter a number of advanced nursing occupations, as well. 

Admissions Requirements

Applicants to an MSN/MHA program must meet the requirements for both programs. In many cases, colleges require students to submit their undergraduate transcripts and have earned a minimum GPA between 2.75 and 3.0. Other requirements can include:

  • Standardized test scores
  • Current RN licensure
  • Prerequisite class requirements 
  • Minimum number of years of professional experience
  • Academic transcripts
  • Two to three letters of recommendation
  • Personal essays and statements

In some cases applicants may be required to interview with the program director or department chair. This is especially common in cases where programs have limited capacity but a high application rate. Always research the programs you are interested in to ensure you fully understand their requirements.

Programs

MSN/MHA dual-degree programs allow students to earn two graduate degrees, and it’s important to understand the coursework and expectations of these programs.

Students enrolling in an MSN/MHA program should anticipate a rigorous coursework load. Examples of classes students are often required to take include:

  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Health Informatics
  • Health Policy
  • Health Information Systems (HIS)
  • Health Services Management

In addition, students should expect to take more general classes in business administration, management, and law and ethics. These are commonly integral courses of an MHA program. However, specific course requirements will vary by program.

The length of an MSN/MHA program will also vary by school and is determined by factors like internship requirements, number of credits required for graduation and program structure. Generally, most programs can be completed in two years; however, it’s important to research the requirements of the program you’re interested in applying to. Programs will have different structures and course requirements which can affect how long it takes students to complete them.

MSN/MPH Dual Degree

A Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Public Health (MSN/MPH) dual degree provides an opportunity to nurses who wish to advance their nursing skills while obtaining knowledge of public health. Students who complete this program earn both their MSN degree and an MPH degree. Be sure to look for accredited MSN degrees by the CCNE and ACEN, and MPH degrees accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

Like other dual nursing degrees, this degree may take two years to complete and may be designed for nurses who have earned their BSN and have their RN certification. This degree may be particularly appealing to nurses who want to advance their career as a public health nurse or have an interest in community health, public health education and health care policy.

By earning their MSN/MPH, graduates will complete courses and clinical experiences in both disciplines. Upon graduation, students may be prepared to pursue careers in advanced nursing roles, including leadership positions, as well as community health assessment, program planning and policy.

Possible Careers

Graduates of MSN/MPH programs obtain skills for roles in both public health and nursing fields. Graduates can find leadership roles in government agencies, community health and clinical settings such as hospitals and health care facilities.

Given the extensive knowledge acquired through this program, graduates are presented with a range of career opportunities. Some of the more common opportunities may include:

  • Community Health Educators 
  • Advanced Nurse Specialists such as midwives and nurse practitioners
  • Public Health Nurse
  • Clinical Nursing Researcher
  • Director of Nursing

The BLS reports the number of jobs for nurse practitioners is expected to increase by 28% between 2018 and 2028. In addition, job growth for health educators is expected to grow by 10% in the same timeframe.

Admissions Requirements

Admissions requirements for MSN/MPH programs will vary by college but generally applicants must meet these prerequisites and provide the following:

  • Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Hold a current RN license
  • Official undergraduate transcripts
  • GRE scores 
  • Personal essay or goal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Current Resume/CV

In addition, some programs may require students to have prior nursing experience and interview with department or admissions staff. Always be certain of a school’s admission criteria before submitting your application. Colleges have strict submission windows and deadlines.

Programs

MSN/MPH students must complete their nursing clinicals and curriculum alongside the coursework and potential internship requirements for their MPH degree. Students may expect to take a broad mix of courses, both general courses, as well as courses that are specific to both their nursing and public health degrees. These classes can include:

  • Public Health Policy
  • Principles of Epidemiology
  • Public Health Nursing Leadership and Management
  • Medical Research Methods and Design 
  • Biostatistics
  • Advanced Health Assessment

MSN/MBA Dual Degree

A Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Business Administration (MSN/MBA) dual degree is an option that is well suited for students who wish to advance their nursing career while increasing their knowledge of business, management or marketing.

Graduates with their MSN and MBA degrees may be prepared to take advanced roles in direct nursing fields by becoming an APRN. Alternatively, with the skills they have gained through their MBA education, graduates may also enter into a variety of administration and management positions. In addition to MSN accreditation by the CCNE and ACEN, the MBA portion of this degree may also be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Be sure to research your preferred program’s accreditation status.

Possible Careers

Graduates of MSN/MBA programs may be prepared to enter a number of careers. Some graduates continue on to advanced clinical occupations. For these graduates, their MSN education may prepare them for a number of direct health care positions including:

  • Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNP)(Nurse Practitioners or Midwives)
  • Clinical nurse managers
  • Directors of Nursing (DON)

However, the advanced business skills they have gained through their MBA degree also allow graduates to pursue careers in administration, management, and marketing roles within the health care industry. These positions may include:

  • Medical and Health Services Managers
  • Health Care Market Research Analysts
  • Hospital Administrators
  • Health Information Manager

Depending on the concentration of their MBA, some graduates may even be qualified to enter into health care marketing. According to the BLS, Medical and Health Services Managers are expected to see substantial job growth, approximately 18%, between 2018 and 2028.

Admissions Requirements

Admission requirements for MSN/MBA programs vary by program. However, some common requirements include:

  • BSN or RN license
  • Minimum undergraduate GPAs; typically a 3.0 
  • Standardized test scores
  • A personal essay or goal statement 
  • 2-3 letters of recommendation.
  • Specific course prerequisites

Different universities will often have specific requirements that applicants must meet before being accepted to the program.

Programs

The curricula of MSN/MBA programs vary by school; however, most programs require students to complete hands-on clinical work and a medical internship in accordance with accreditation standards. For the MBA side of the program students can expect to undertake courses in a variety of business management and marketing subjects. In some cases, schools may offer specific MBA concentrations.

In general, students enrolled in an MSN/MBA program should expect course requirements that include subjects like:

  • Economics
  • Accounting
  • Operations Management
  • Project Management
  • Human Resources
  • Evidence-Based Nursing
  • Health Informatics

The length of an MSN/MBA program will vary by school and can be further influenced by additional academic requirements including internships, total academic credits and program structure. However, like most dual degree programs, most MSN/MBA are designed to be completed within a two year time frame.

Before applying, always research the program’s curriculum, structure, and overall requirements. Programs will have varying structures and requirements depending on the college and whether the program is online or on campus.

MSN/MPA Dual Degree

A Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Public Administration (MSN/MPA) dual nursing degree integrates the required coursework of an MSN program with the coursework of an MPA program. Students who graduate from an MSN/MPA program earn both degrees. Adjacent to CCNE and AACN accreditation for MSN degrees, be sure to search for National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) accredited MPA programs.

Despite programs combining two graduate degrees, students in full-time programs generally graduate in two years. However, some colleges offer part-time MSN/MPA programs, which students may take four years to complete. While many programs are offered on campus, schools are increasingly offering online options for both in-state and out-of-state students.

Possible Careers

The MPA portion allows students to learn skills in public sector management, including finance and accounting, organizational management, and public programs evaluation and planning. 

With the skills and knowledge they develop through the program, MSN/MPA graduates may find employment in:

  • Government
  • NGOs 
  • Nonprofits in community-based health promotion
  • Disaster preparedness
  • Public health care administration

They may also act as policy makers, helping to ensure adequate health care access for the public. With the skills earned through the MSN portion of their degree, graduates may also pursue leadership positions within clinical settings. These roles can include hospital administrators, directors of nursing for health care facilities and advanced nursing roles.

As such, this degree is an ideal option for nurses who would like to enter careers in governmental or public sector leadership roles. Possible careers for graduates can include public policy development officers and nonprofit directors. According to the BLS, job growth for administrative management roles is expected to increase by 7% between 2018 and 2028.

Admissions Requirements

While application processes will differ, most universities offering a MSN/MPA program will require applicants to meet certain prerequisites and submit documents including:

  • Completion of  Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with a minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Current licensure to practice as a Registered Nurse
  • Submission of official transcripts from an accredited institution
  • Goal statement or statement of purpose
  • Personal statement or essay 
  • Two to three letters of recommendation

In addition, some programs may require applicants to have completed certain nursing courses, such as a lab with a research component. Further, applicants may have to undergo an interview process with admissions staff or the department chair.

Programs

MSN/MPA programs may require students to undertake a significant course load in order to graduate on time. Students should expect to attend classes year-round in a full-time program. Students enrolled in a part-time program may take fewer courses during each semester or have extended breaks in between semesters.

While program structure and courses vary by school, students will generally be required to work in hands-on clinical nursing courses and may even be required to participate in an internship or similar experiential learning program. Often, programs are structured in such a way that full-time students will take their internship while still completing other courses.

For students in an MSN/MPA program, courses will teach advanced nursing skills and public administration skills. Additionally, students are often required to complete general classes in accounting, public policy and management as part of their MPA degree requirements. Students can expect to take classes such as:

  • Nursing Research
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention 
  • Leadership and Management in Health Care
  • Economic Analysis and Public Policy
  • Accounting and Financial Analysis
  • Labor Management Relations in the Public Sector

Additionally, many programs will allow students to take elective courses in both nursing and public administration. Generally, programs require students to complete between 50 and 60 credits; however, this number can vary widely depending on the institution and their curriculum. Students will often take these classes concurrently, meaning they will complete their nursing classes while also completing MPA coursework.

It is a best practice to thoroughly research several dual degree programs in order to understand the course offerings and requirements of each. Determining the program that best aligns with your personal and career goals is an important part of any enrollment decision. Be sure to carefully consider the type of skills most important to develop for your career.

Dual Nurse Practitioner Concentrations

For individuals who are looking to further advance their nursing career and become a Nurse Practitioner (NP), many nursing schools offer dual NP concentration degrees. These MSN programs may allow students to earn their certification in two separate fields of practice.

For example, students may enroll in a dual concentration program that allows them to earn their NP certification in both Adult-Gerontology Acute Care and Family Nursing. Other programs prepare students to earn their certifications in Nurse-midwifery and Primary Care Family Nursing.

A dual NP concentration program gives graduates the opportunity to grow their career in multiple directions. This could be an ideal solution for nurses who are interested in multiple fields of practice or who simply want to broaden their career prospects. While many programs can be completed on-campus, there are opportunities to pursue an online nurse practitioner degree.

Compared to other dual nursing degree programs, a dual NP concentration is designed for current RNs who are interested in advancing their clinical skills and career.

Is a Dual Degree Program Right for Me?

Before enrolling it’s important to decide if it is the right choice for you. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether this type of program is the right fit. One of the most important considerations for prospective students is the structure of their program. Dual degree programs require students to complete coursework to satisfy the requirements for both degrees.

If you feel that you’re unable to dedicate the appropriate amount of time toward studying and other academic responsibilities, then a dual degree program may not be the best fit for you.

Advantages of a Dual Nursing Degree

A dual degree will often require less time and, overall, cost less than earning both degrees separately. Additionally, dual degree programs may allow students to advance both their nursing career as well as obtain an education in a related field. This helps to prepare graduates for a number of roles within the health care industry.

Depending on their program and their concentration, graduates can embark on a career in a number of leadership and advanced roles in many fields. For some students, a dual nursing degree program prepares them for a role in management or marketing. For others, they are able to obtain leadership positions in nursing departments or serve as policy makers and educators.

Above all else, they can provide job security and flexibility to their graduates. With the BLS reporting a growth of 1.9 million new jobs for health care occupations between 2018 and 2028, the career outlook for dual nursing degree graduates is bright.

FAQs

What should you consider before applying for a dual degree?

Before applying for a dual nursing degree program, do thorough research to ensure that the program is accredited by all of the appropriate third-party accreditation bodies. For nursing programs this primarily includes:

Additional accreditation bodies for nursing programs can include:

Also be certain to check that other programs that are part of the dual degree, such as the MBA or MPH program, are also fully accredited by the appropriate organizations.

Students interested should also research program options at colleges in their area of interest. Some programs may be offered on campus only while others may be offered online or both on campus and online. Finding the program that meets your needs plays a crucial role in your success.

What should be the first step if I am interested in a dual degree program?

The first step to pursuing a dual degree is to thoroughly research colleges and programs related to your goals and interests. Understanding what each individual program requires of its students and how the program is structured is important in determining how well it will fit with your goals and your career aspirations.

Additionally, take note of the programs accreditations, whether the programs are offered in online or on-campus formats, the programs costs, and what types of financial aid and scholarships are available for students.

Can I complete a dual nursing degree online?

Yes, colleges are increasingly offering online dual nursing degree programs. It’s important to note that students who are enrolled in an online program are still required to complete clinical and lab hours. In many cases, online nursing programs allow students to complete their clinical rotations at local medical and health care facilities. Some programs may even allow students to complete virtual clinical experience through online simulations.

When researching online nursing programs, be sure to determine what options are available for clinical experience and internships. For out-of-state students, some colleges may have agreements with other universities across the country to facilitate hands-on laboratory experience.

Does a dual degree program cost more than a regular program?

Dual degree programs may cost more than regular programs, but be sure to check with your preferred program. Despite taking approximately the same amount of time to complete, dual degrees require students to undertake a heavier course load. The larger number of courses may result in a higher per semester cost. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even if it costs more per semester there are generally cost savings because dual degrees may be earned faster than getting each degree on its own.

Additionally, students may qualify for nursing school scholarships or financial aid. This can also help to offset the higher costs of the program.

How do dual nursing programs work?

Dual nursing degree programs combine an MSN degree with a second master’s degree program. By completing a dual degree program, graduates will earn both their MSN and another master’s level degree. Programs vary by college, but often pair an MSN with an MPH, MBA or MPA degree.

A dual degree program differs from a dual major in that students who complete the program earn two separate degrees. This generally means that students earning a dual degree must complete a larger body of coursework and credits in order to graduate with both of their degrees. Often the programs are custom tailored to provide a comprehensive yet complementary education.

What should I expect from a dual nursing program?

Regardless of which type of dual nursing degree program you ultimately choose to enroll in, you should expect a rigorous curriculum that combines clinical courses, hands-on practicum, internships, and general nursing courses alongside the courses required for your second degree.

Generally, students will need to take a full course load year-round, including during winter and summer semesters, to successfully complete most programs.

Are there dual DNP Programs?

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest degree obtainable within the nursing field. There are many DNP programs available at colleges across the country. Some colleges do offer students the option to enroll in dual DNP-PhD programs. Upon graduation students will earn their DNP degree alongside their PhD.

Students applying to a dual DNP program must have at least completed their bachelor’s degree in nursing. As with traditional PhD programs, as part of a dual degree program, students are required to complete a dissertation in order to complete the PhD degree. 

Students who graduate from a dual DNP program may work in advanced clinical settings, completing medical research or working within direct patient care as nurse practitioners. Other graduates may wish to return to an academic setting, enjoying careers as nursing educators.

Information on this page was last updated in May 2020.