6 questions to ask yourself as you choose a graduate nursing program

Now that you've succeeded as an undergraduate student, the next step is getting your Masters of Science in Nursing. Selecting a graduate nursing program is an important decision that can have a major impact on your career.

There's a handful of key factors that you should consider as you explore your options, including factors about the program itself and your personal goals and preferences. To get started on your search for the right graduate program, ask yourself these six essential questions.

1. Is an online program my best option?
According to U.S. News & World Report, many experts suggest choosing an online nursing program, as they often lead to nursing roles that offer more authority over patient care and higher salaries. Online programs also provide working nurses with the option to advance their careers without sacrificing their jobs, which is often the case when nursing students have to physically attend classes. However, before enrolling in a program, check to see that it's accredited and accepted in your state of residence or you won't be able to meet licensing and other requirements .

2. What nursing specialties am I interested in?
It's a good idea to have a firm grasp on which specialty you'll want to work in once you have your desired degree. Not all nursing programs are going to provide you with the knowledge or skills you need to take on a career in certain nursing fields. It's also important to note that some specialties require an advanced nursing degree from an accredited institution. Make sure that the program you choose has you on the path to your ideal nursing job.

Choosing your specialty before enrolling in your nursing program will better align your studies with your career goals.Choosing your specialty before enrolling in your nursing program will better align your studies with your career goals.

3. Does the program have prerequisites?
Some nursing programs have prerequisites that you need to complete prior to enrolling. Many programs require the same courses, but most will also have unique prerequisites, such as credit transfer policies and a certain grade point average. If you find there are prerequisites you haven't completed yet, make sure that your credits will transfer to your program of choice if it doesn't offer its own perquisite program. 

"See what percentage of students have passed the NCLEX exam."

4. Does the institution have high NCLEX exam pass rates?
If you're looking for a graduate nursing program, you've already taken the National Council Licensure Examination. However, if the institution you're hoping to enroll with offers programs for undergraduate nurses, checking the NCLEX exam pass rates is a good indicator of the school or organization's quality. See what percentage of students have passed the NCLEX exam during the last 5-10 years. CollegeAtlas.org explained that if the percentage is low, chances are good that something is awry with the school's curriculum and it's usually best to avoid any programs it offers.

5. Who are the clinical partners?
It's beneficial to see if your nursing program has quality clinical partners, as these partnerships are key to a good program experience. Determining which hospitals are nearby your program and the number of hours of clinical experience your program offers is also good to know before enrolling. While you've already done clinicals as an undergraduate nursing student, it may best to participate in a program that allows you to continue hands-on experience in a care setting, as this will prepare you for your future job.  

6. Have past students had success at finding jobs?
Most institutions will provide you with information on how many of their past students were able to secure full-time jobs within a year of earning their degrees. If you can't locate this information, or the organization can't answer these questions, this may be a red flag that you'll want to take into consideration as you decide if this is the right program for you. 

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