What is an MSN/MBA Program?
Definition of an MSN/MBA Program
An MSN/MBA program is an option for nurses who would like to add business training, management expertise & financial skills to their clinical knowledge.
- All MSN/MBA programs will help you earn two master’s degrees: a Master of Science in Nursing and a Master of Business Administration.
- These types of programs are run by the School of Nursing, with input from the College or School of Business.
Although Schools of Nursing try to ensure dual degree programs are accelerated, MSN/MBA programs may take more time to complete than single degrees (e.g. 3 years vs. 2 years). They may also cost more due to the extra credits.
Types of MSN/MBA Programs
Healthcare Administration Slant
The majority of MSN/MBA programs are aimed at aspiring nurse administrators & executives. The typical pairing is an MSN in healthcare administration and an MBA. These programs are best for folks who wish to move out of direct patient care and into high-level posts and public sector positions.
A few MSN/MBA programs combine an MSN in a nurse practitioner specialty (e.g. FNP) with the MBA. These programs cater to nurses who want to prepare themselves for management & entrepreneurial roles in direct patient care settings (e.g. running a nurse-led family practice, leading a NICU unit, etc.).
Nursing Education Slant
Occasionally, you may run across an MSN/MBA program that allows you to concentrate on nursing education during the MSN. These programs are built for nurses who wish to combine teaching tasks (e.g. training nurses within the unit; instructing at a community college; etc.) with management responsibilities.
Why Pursue an MSN/MBA?
Benefits of an MSN/MBA Program
The short answer is career opportunities. By adding an MBA to your résumé, you qualify for plenty of high-level nursing administrative positions and promotions. The longer answer involves the realities of the job market:
- Complex Healthcare Settings: Medicine is now big business. That means employers at large healthcare institutions may be reluctant to trust executive candidates who don’t have an MBA or the equivalent. Nurses who lack critical management & financial skills are often passed over for C-level positions (e.g. CNO, CNE, etc.).
- Corporate Know-How: Nurse leaders must maintain a tricky balance between optimum patient care and business concerns (e.g. hospital operations, budgets, accounting, cost distribution, HR management, etc.). It can be extremely difficult to acquire this kind of corporate knowledge on-the-job. That’s why many experienced clinical nurses still end up pursuing an MBA.
- International Reputation: An MBA has power. It tells colleagues, physicians, and employers that you speak the language of business. If you want to sit at the management table and be listened to with respect, those three little letters are going to be very helpful.
Not sure if you’re ready for the tough business coursework? Talk to your mentors, ask current nurses with both degrees about their experiences, and check out our guide to RN to MSN Nurse Administration Programs before you make a decision.
Our section on MSN/MBA Jobs also has more advice on career pathways.
RN to MSN/MBA Programs
RN to MSN/MBA: Overview
RN to MSN/MBA programs are designed for existing RNs who have a diploma or an associate’s degree (e.g. ASN/ADN) and want to pursue an MSN or MS and an MBA. There are also RN to MSN/MBA programs for RNs who have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. Our directory has both options!
As you dig into the offerings, you’ll find that many RN to MSN/MBA degrees offer a range of concentrations/tracks in the MSN portion of the program. For example, we’ve seen MSN/MBA programs that allow you to focus on:
- Nurse executive leadership
- Healthcare administration
- Human resource development
- Organizational consulting
- Clinical nurse leadership (i.e. the CNL)
- NP specialty (e.g. FNP)
- Nursing education
You can choose a path that exactly matches your career goals!
RN to MSN/MBA: Admissions
RN to MSN/MBA programs share the same general prerequisites as many other RN to MSN advanced nursing programs (especially RN to MSN Nursing Administration degrees). You’ll typically need to have:
- A diploma or associate’s degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in another field from a regionally accredited institution
- A current RN license
- At least one year of full-time RN clinical experience
- A baseline undergraduate GPA (usually 2.75-3.0)—some schools will also ask for GMAT or GRE scores, especially if your GPA is not very high
- Letters of professional/academic reference
RN to MSN/MBA: Undergraduate Phases
Before you can start work on the MBA and MSN parts of your program, you will have to earn good grades on upper-level undergraduate courses through your chosen college or university.
The length of this undergraduate phase will depend on what qualification you currently hold (e.g. ASN vs. non-nursing bachelor’s degree), but most coursework takes 6 months-2 years to complete.
RN to MSN Undergraduate Courses
Examples of prerequisite undergraduate courses can include:
- Professional nursing practice
- Nursing research & evidence-based practice
- Public health nursing
- Community & population-focused nursing
Schools of Nursing almost always list statistics & health assessment as standard prerequisites for the MSN. Schools are usually willing to accept transfer credits or a health assessment portfolio for these two courses.
RN to MBA Undergraduate Courses
Although this isn’t a standard requirement across the board, we’ve also seen schools that expect future MBA students to complete introductory management practicums and/or undergraduate workshops in business (e.g. financial accounting, principles of finance, etc.).
These requirements may be waived if you have relevant professional work experience or have taken related undergraduate coursework.
RN to MSN/MBA: Master’s Curriculum
After you’ve finished your undergraduate courses, you can get stuck into the MSN and the MBA. In most cases, schools will blend the two degrees together, so you’ll be able to take nursing courses and business courses each semester.
Every program is going to have its unique twists, but here’s how a sample master’s curriculum in healthcare administration would look:
MSN Core Courses
- Health promotion
- Evidence-based nursing practice & research
- Healthcare policy & advocacy
- Policy, law & ethics in nursing
- Quality improvement & safety in healthcare systems
Some schools (but not all) will include the 3 fundamentals of advanced clinical practice: advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced health assessment. Check the curriculum carefully if you’re intending to transfer those graduate credits to a post-master’s certificate.
MSN Concentration Courses: Healthcare Administration
- Health & social policy
- Healthcare economics
- Nursing informatics
- Applied healthcare accounting & business planning
- Advanced roles in administrative nursing practice
- Leadership development in healthcare
Keep in mind that concentration courses will vary widely depending on the focus. For example, if you choose a concentration/track in:
- Executive Leadership: Coursework could include nursing leadership & systems thinking, advanced healthcare finance, the nurse executive leader role, and executive career development.
- HR Management: Courses might cover workplace learning & development, management and HR development, and organizational psychology.
MBA Core Courses
- Applied economics
- Accounting and decision-making
- Financial management/managerial finance
- Organizational behavior
- Business strategy & policy
MBA Concentration Courses
- Operations & technology management
- Marketing management
- Human resource management
- Training & development
In addition to traditional coursework, MSN/MBA programs will include an internship, a capstone project, a field study and/or practicums.
Note: MSN nurse practitioner programs must include a number of mandatory healthcare subjects in the curriculum. See our guide to RN to MSN Nurse Practitioner Programs for full details.
RN to MSN /MBA: Master’s Clinical Hours / Practicums
Unless the MSN part of the program is preparing you for a nurse practitioner specialty or a related role (see below), there are no specific rules for MSN/MBA practicums. Schools of Nursing are free to decide how much on-the-ground work they want to feature.
Most MSN/MBA programs in executive leadership & healthcare administration follow a similar pattern to nursing administration degrees. That means you’ll often be expected to complete 100-300 practicum hours (e.g. an internship) in management settings. For example:
- Seton Hall University’s MSN/MBA has two clinical experiences: an executive internship in health systems administration and an internship in managed care and reimbursement.
- Thomas University’s MSN/MBA has a 90-hour nursing administration internship where students can apply their knowledge of leadership, financing, and resource management to various healthcare settings.
Don’t be afraid to ask the program coordinator about how practicums are organized. You can also talk to program alumni about their experiences. Were the internships relevant? Did you acquire real-world skills? Were you able to apply ideas learned in class?
MSN programs in fields other than administration & education often have minimum clinical hours. For example, Saint Xavier University’s MSN/MBA in clinical leadership (i.e. CNL) includes 450 practicum hours—just above the 400 hours cited in AACN’s Recommended CNL Practice Experiences (2017).
In addition, MSN programs in NP specialties (e.g. FNP) almost always contain 600-800 clinical hours in specific healthcare settings. If you’re looking at MSN/MBA options in this arena, be prepared for a lot of practicum work. See our guide to RN to MSN Nurse Practitioner Programs for full details.
Online RN to MSN/MBA Programs
Are Online RN to MSN/MBA Programs Available?
Yes! Our directory contains a number of Online RN to MSN/MBA degrees, especially in the field of healthcare administration (where there are no stringent rules regarding clinical practicums). Some schools offer online and hybrid options. Others will even help you earn a BSN along the way.
- Undergraduate Phase: Just like an on-campus degree, you’ll be required to earn good grades in upper-level undergraduate courses from the university. These courses are almost always offered online, so you can work while you study.
- Graduate Phase: You’ll be able to take all (or almost all) of your standard MS or MSN courses online; many courses are offered in an asynchronous format (i.e. you can log into class at any time). You can fulfill your practicums in your home community, but you may be expected to find the preceptor and arrange the setting.
Depending on the program, some Schools of Nursing that will ask you to visit the campus for orientation, residencies, or training sessions. Check with the program coordinator and budget for every expense (e.g. travel).
Note: Do you live near an excellent School of Nursing? Hybrid or blended programs may be a valid alternative! For example, students in Thomas University’s hybrid MSN-MBA only meet for one half-day per month.
Online RN to MSN/MBA Programs & State Licensure
Administration & Executive Focus
RN to MSN/MBA programs in healthcare administration & executive leadership will not lead to advance practice state licensure. That means many of the regulations involving distance learning and clinical practicums disappear. In other words, you should be eligible for a number of online programs, regardless of your state of residence.
On the other hand, because of interstate agreements, Schools of Nursing may still be unable to accept certain out-of-state MSN applicants. You can usually find details about these issues on program websites or the school’s State Authorization or State Regulation page. Talk to the program coordinator if you have any questions.
Nurse Practitioner Focus
RN to MSN/MBA programs in a nurse practitioner specialty (e.g. FNP) will lead to advanced practice state licensure (e.g. APRN). Before you opt for an online program, check with your State Board of Nursing and the program coordinator about state licensure.
State Boards have specific rules and regulations regarding clinical learning experiences for students enrolled in distance education programs. You need to be sure your degree components will meet licensure requirements in your state.
Sometimes online just won’t be an option. For example, Saint Xavier University notes that courses in the FNP track of its MSN/MBA are only available in face-to-face settings on its Chicago campus.
Nurse Administrator & Executive Certification
Overview of Nurse Administrator & Executive Certification
Once you have your MSN/MBA in hand, you can consider national certifications. In the field of nursing leadership, there are lots of options for nurse administrators & executives, including the:
- CNML and CENP from the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE)
- NE-BC and the NEA-BC from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
- FACHE from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)
We’ve laid out the requirements for each in our guide to RN to MSN Nursing Administration Programs.
If you’re really keen, you can talk to your mentors about business-related certifications (e.g. project management, marketing, etc.). However, most nurses stick to listing their nursing qualifications in their employment profiles. For instance:
- Sarah Smith RN, MSN, MBA, NEA-BC, Director of Nursing
- Jane Lopez RN, MSN, MBA, CNOR, CENP, CNE
- Seth Patel RN, MSN, MBA, CMSRN, FACHE, CNO
With a solid background in administration and an MSN and an MBA in hand, you’ll be primed for a range of career opportunities. If you’re currently on the bottom rung of the management ladder and looking to climb your way up, we have some tips for improving your hiring chances in our guide to RN to MSN Nursing Administration Programs.
Hospitals & Medical Centers
- Institutional Leadership: CNOs & CNEs have all kinds of fascinating executive duties. They oversee complex medical and health services, maintain clinical and patient care standards, provide expert advice on healthcare issues, ensure that staff are trained to the highest standards, and act as liaisons between nurses, physicians, and administrators. CNOs are well-placed to become hospital CEOs.
- Nursing Administration: Don’t have a lot of leadership experience yet? The MSN/MBA will also set you up for a career as a head of department, lead nurse, or clinical manager (i.e. mid-level supervisory roles). You’ll be responsible for a number of managerial tasks, including staffing units, hiring & training nurses, improving healthcare delivery systems, creating staff budgets & finance reports, and more.
- HR Management: Love working with people? The MBA curriculum almost always includes training in human resource management. Plus, as we noted in our section on RN to MSN/MBA degrees, some programs will allow you to concentrate on this field.
- Hospital Finance: If you discover you have a talent for finance & accounting, you might also consider a career as a healthcare finance manager within the accounting department of a medical center or hospital.
Other Major Settings
- Independent Practice: Thanks to sharp corporate skills, you’re in a strong position to become a CEO of a nurse-led practice or a practice manager for a physician’s office or group practice. The hours may be easier than a hospital.
- Nursing Home Management: Nursing home employers are thrilled to see candidates who know how to keep a business running profitably. Long-term care administrators in licensed nursing homes & residential care facilities require a separate state license—see our guide to RN to MSN Nursing Administration Programs for specifics.
- Healthcare Consulting: As we noted in our section on RN to MSN/MBA degrees, some programs will train you to be an independent healthcare consultant. You can step in and advise organizations on profitability, quality, and reputation.
- Public Sector: You may even wish to investigate openings for healthcare executives & public health advocates in non-profit and government organizations. With your unique combo of clinical work and business acumen, you’ll know the “ins and outs” of large-scale healthcare issues.
MSN/MBA Job Openings
- ACHE Job Center (e.g. CEO, CNO, Senior Director of Nursing, etc.)
- Indeed: Executive Nurse Administrator Jobs; Nurse Executive Jobs.
- LinkedIn: Nurse Executive Jobs (includes mid-level positions)
Director of Nursing
- Indeed: Director of Nursing Jobs, Nurse Director Jobs; Director of Patient Services Jobs.
- Monster: Director of Nursing Jobs.
- Glassdoor: Director of Nursing Jobs; Director of Patient Care Services Jobs.
- LinkedIn: Director of Nursing Jobs.
- Indeed: Chief Nursing Executive Jobs; Chief Nursing Officer Jobs.
- Monster: Chief Nursing Officer Jobs.
- Glassdoor: Chief Nursing Officer Jobs.
- LinkedIn: Chief Nursing Officer Jobs.
Vice President of Nursing
- Indeed: Vice President Nursing Jobs; Vice President of Nursing Jobs.
- Glassdoor: Vice President-Patient Services/Nurse Executive Jobs; Vice President Nursing Jobs.
- LinkedIn: Vice President Nursing Jobs.
Alternative Job Titles for Nurses with an MSN/MBA
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- Chief Clinical Officer (CCO)
- Chief Operating Officer (COO)
- Chief Management Officer (CMO)
- Vice President (VP) of Operations
- Vice President (VP) of Patient Care Operations
- Practice Administrator
- Practice Manager
- Healthcare Administrator
- Nursing Administrator
- Clinical Manager
- Healthcare Finance Manager
- Human Resources Manager
- Healthcare Consultant
AONE also has a useful database of high-level job descriptions (e.g. clinical director, CNO, VP, etc.), but it’s only open to AONE members.
AONE Salary and Compensation Study for Nurse Leaders is a good place to start for salary data. AONE members have free, unlimited access; non-members may purchase the report.
In 2016, AONE noted that the average respondent held an executive or management title (e.g. director, manager, CNO, etc.); had been in nursing leadership for at least six years; held a master’s degree; and earned between $90,000 and $149,999 annually.
You can compare these numbers to career sites. These statistics are based on respondent data, so take them with a grain of salt.
Director of Nursing
Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)
Chief Nursing Executive (CNE)
In 2018, Payscale’s page on Chief Nurse Executive (CNE) Salaries put the average salary at $124,000.
Vice President of Nursing
In 2018, Payscale’s page on Vice President (VP) and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Salaries put the average salary at $169,000.
MSN/MBA Certification Bodies
- American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)
- American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
- American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE)
- AONE: CENP Review Course
- AONE: CNML Review Course
MSN/MBA Professional Associations
- American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM)
- American College of Healthcare Administrators (ACHCA)
- American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)
- American Management Association (AMA)
- American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE)
- Council on Graduate Education for Administration in Nursing (CGEAN)
- National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration in Long Term Care (NADONA)
- National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB)
- National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA)
- National Human Resources Association (NHRA)
MSN/MBA Conferences & Events
- ACHCA Convocation & Expo
- ACHE Congress on Healthcare Leadership
- AONE Annual Meeting
- AONE Education Calendar
- Emerging Nurse Leader Institute (ENLI)
- NADONA National Conference
- Nurse Manager Institute
- Journal of Nursing Administration (JONA)
- Nurse Leader Journal
- Voice of Nursing Leadership Newsletter
MSN/MBA Useful Resources
- ACHE Job Center
- ANA: Nursing Administration Scope and Standards of Practice
- AONE Nurse Director Fellowship
- AONE Nurse Leader Competencies
- AONE Nurse Manager Fellowship
- AONE Online Career Center
- AONE Salary and Compensation Study for Nurse Leaders
Thomas University has a dual-degree MSN/MBA program. Once RNs without a BSN have completed bridge courses, they can complete both master's degrees in as few as three years. The combined degree requires 54 credits including 30 credits in nursing courses. The nursing curriculum has a focus on nursing administration, and MSN candidates must complete an internship and a research project. Students also take 24 credits in MBA courses, including core courses such as financial management, accounting, marketing management, and business strategy. Before starting MBA work, students must complete three online undergraduate workshops covering the principles of financial accounting, macroeconomics, and finance. Students can complete all the coursework online or in a hybrid format that combines online classes with face-to-face classes that meet for half a day once a month. Students in this program may be eligible for the Madis Spires Scholarship, carries an annual award of nearly $2,000.
The College of Our Lady of the Elms has an MSN/MBA program that is jointly offered by the School of Nursing and the Division of Business. The 64-credit program has an interdisciplinary focus on health services management, and students take nursing and business classes concurrently. Students can complete the degree in three years of full-time study. Nurses who don't have a background in business begin the program with an accelerated course in business foundations where they get an overview of accounting, economics, finance, business law, management, and marketing. Students in this program complete the requirements for an MSN with a nursing and health services management concentration. That concentration requires nurses to complete two practicum experiences. In addition to MBA core classes, candidates also complete the classes needed for the healthcare leadership concentration. Students can start the program in the fall or winter term.
RNs in the MSN/MBA program at Spring Arbor University can choose from five concentrations: health care administration, human resource development, management, organizational consulting, or executive leadership. Nursing students take core MBA classes such as marketing, accounting for managers, and business leadership in addition to the three courses required for their chosen concentration. The MBA requires a capstone project where the candidate works with a real organization to find an issue and propose a solution to improve organizational performance. Nurses also complete core master's level nursing classes covering leadership, health policy, nursing theory, and advanced practice classes such as pharmacology. Two MSN courses require a residency. In all, candidates in the RN to MSN/MBA dual-degree program complete 100 credits. Spring Arbor's online classes have as many as six start dates per year.
At Seton Hall University, the MBA/MSN in health systems administration program is a collaboration between the College of Nursing and the Stillman School of Business. Students take 25 credits in nursing classes and 30 credits in business classes. Some of the courses include nursing and health systems administration, special topics in management, and financial analysis. All candidates are required to complete two clinical internships. One is an executive internship in health systems administration and the other focuses on managed care and reimbursement. The College of Nursing has partnerships with major hospitals and health care agencies around New Jersey for clinical experiences. Examples of partners include the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center. Seton Hall accepts full-time and part-time students for this dual degree. Full-time students can complete the MBA/MSN in three years.