Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Program Summary

The Master of Science in Nursing curriculum is offered in a distance-based and online format. The number of credit hours required for completion of a major varies from 36 to 49, depending on the major.

There are a few primary study options within the MSN Program at the Duke University School of Nursing:

  • an MSN degree in one of eight advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) majors and three systems majors.

  • a post-graduate certificate for those who already hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from an ACEN- or CCNE-accredited school to gain specialized knowledge in a variety of majors and clinical specialties.

  • a clinical specialty or professional certificate in one of eight clinical areas as an addition to APRN degrees or PGC certificates or as a nondegree enrollment option.

  • professional certificates in nursing education or health informatics

In the MSN program, 1 credit hour is granted for the completion of each 56 clinical or practicum hours. No students enrolled in graduate programs of the School of Nursing may take undergraduate courses (those numbered 500 or under) to meet requirements of their degrees. Undergraduate courses may not be applied toward the required credits needed for a post-baccalaureate degree and will not be included in cumulative GPA or cumulative credit calculations.

MSN Majors

Each major has its own degree requirements in addition to the core degree requirements. These major requirements are available at the links below.

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Majors

    • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care

    • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care

    • Family Nurse Practitioner

    • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care

    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care

    • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

    • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

  • Systems Majors

    • Health Informatics

    • Nursing and Healthcare Leadership

    • Nursing Education

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Majors

All APRN majors in the MSN curriculum are offered as distance-based programs. Didactic course content is delivered via a virtual learning platform, and students in these majors are required to come to the School of Nursing campus in a few semesters for two to five days. These sessions, known as nurse practitioner intensives, or “NPIs,” include face-to-face interactions, simulation, and other hands-on activities with DUSON faculty and other experts. Dates for nurse practitioner intensives are announced several months in advance.

In addition to the MSN core and MSN clinical core courses, all APRN majors complete didactic and clinical courses focused on a particular population or clinical area of expertise. As a final clinical experience, all APRN majors complete a clinical synthesis under the mentorship of an experienced clinician. The minimum number of credit hours required for completion of the MSN degree varies by major, ranging from 36 to 49 credit hours.

Clinical experience requirements for the MSN degree in all APRN majors meet or exceed the requirements of national credentialing organizations such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP), American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), National Certification Corporation (NCC), and Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Upon graduation, students are qualified to sit for the appropriate certification examination.

Requirements for Completion of MSN Specialties for APRN Majors

Students who are interested in adding a specialty to their academic plan must complete and submit an Add a Specialty form to the MSN Program Office via email ( at least 10 days prior to the start of the semester. Brief descriptions and requirements for the completion of each specialty are provided on the program pages linked below.

Groupings of courses pertaining to an advanced practice specialty are available within certain APRN majors. Students who wish to include a clinical specialty in their course of study should consult their advisors in order to determine if the specialty is appropriate for and available in their majors. The following specialties are currently available:

MSN Program Outcomes

The integration of education, practice, and research undergirds the entire master of science in nursing curriculum and the behavior of those individuals involved in the educative process. Upon completion of the program, the MSN graduate is able to:

  • contribute to the science of nursing in one’s specialty area of practice by analyzing underlying disparities in knowledge or evidence; formulating research questions; and systematically evaluating the impact on quality and disseminating evidence-based solutions to nursing problems.

  • implement one’s advanced nursing role in ways that foster best practices, promote the personal and professional growth of oneself and others, demonstrate leadership, promote positive change in people and systems, and advance the profession.

  • synthesize specialty knowledge and skills unique to one’s area of advanced nursing practice to deliver safe, high-quality care to diverse populations in the context of facilitating human flourishing.

  • implement one’s advanced nursing role through effective interprofessional collaboration, relationship-centered caring, cultural competency, proficiency in a range of communication techniques, and individual, population-focused, and system-wide thinking so that safe, high-quality care is achieved.

  • model excellence as a nursing leader who effects needed change in one’s specialty area of practice and helps shape a preferred future for nursing and health care.

  • integrate knowledge of socio-cultural-political contexts and determinants of health to improve the health of diverse populations within one’s specialty area of practice.

  • use information management skills to synthesize knowledge from nursing and related disciplines in the ethical practice of one’s advanced practice nursing role.