If you’re considering beginning or advancing a nursing career, you might wonder what the differences between a nursing degree and a master’s in nursing education degree are – and which choice is right for you. Nursing degrees and nursing education degrees prepare students for distinct roles. There are a number of differences between a nursing degree and a master’s in nursing education degree, including the coursework they require, the opportunities they prepare you for and the subjects they emphasize.
Nursing vs. Nursing Education Job Roles
A major difference between a nursing degree and a master’s in nursing education degree is what each academic path prepares you to do. If you want to become a nurse and work directly with patients, providing care for them, then you need a nursing degree. Registered nurses who want to advance within the nursing profession into roles like nurse practitioner should pursue one of the following degrees, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing:
- Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.)
- Master of Nursing (M.N.)
- Master of Science (M.S.), nursing major
- Master of Arts (M.A.), nursing major
Master’s in nursing degree programs teach the advanced nursing skills required to provide specialized or independent nursing care. Nursing education programs, on the other hand, are intended to train nursing instructors. These educators teach the next generation of nurses in academic settings like colleges and universities and in clinical settings like hospitals.
Nursing vs. Nursing Education Coursework
Another difference between a nursing degree and a master’s in nursing education degree is what academic subjects students in each program will study. Of course, there is some overlap. Students in both programs may study advanced nursing topics. However, master’s in nursing degree programs are more likely to emphasize clinical experience than nursing education programs. They often include advanced coursework in subjects like pharmacology, physiology, anatomy and a nursing specialization, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
On the other hand, nursing education programs emphasize the development of a nurse’s teaching skills. Many nursing education programs do require that students complete a practicum and at least some advanced nursing practice and research courses. However, they typically focus more on studies into topics like:
- Curriculum design and development
- Teaching methods and learning principles
- Leadership in advanced nursing roles
- Foundations of nursing theory and practice
- Evaluation methods in nursing education
- The role of nurse educators
To become a nursing instructor, you must first become a nurse. That means earning your associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, completing clinical requirements, and attaining your license. A nursing education program builds upon existing nursing knowledge while enhancing the skills needed to educate others effectively.
Understanding the differences between a nursing degree and a master’s in nursing education degree – and, of course, knowing your own career goals – can help you determine which educational path is the right choice for you.