Best Dual-Degree Nursing Programs

ASO Staff Writers
Updated June 26, 2023
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Each nursing position requires a specific set of skills, and nurses must complete a relevant degree to land the highest-paying positions. In some instances, completing multiple degrees increases a nurse’s chance of securing a new role. To speed up the process of earning multiple degrees, many nurses complete a dual-degree nursing program.

The best dual-degree nursing programs combine a nursing-oriented degree with a second degree focused on a different subject, such as business, administration, or public health. Schools offer dual-degree nursing programs at the graduate level.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses (RNs) earned a median annual salary of $73,300 in 2019. However, professionals with a master’s degree in nursing, such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, earned $115,800. Some of the highest-paid nurses complete multiple degrees.

“The best dual-degree nursing programs combine a nursing-oriented degree with a second degree focused on a different subject, such as business, administration, or public health.” -The ASO Staff

What is a Dual Nursing Degree Program?

A dual-degree nursing program builds off previous nursing experience. Applicants need a current RN license and must complete a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from an accredited institution. These programs usually require 66-72 credits, though specific credit requirements vary. Most full-time learners earn both degrees in two years. However, some schools offer part-time options that take 3-7 years, depending on how many courses students take each semester.

By enrolling in a dual nursing degree, nurses benefit from the accelerated nature of both degrees. Instead of spending 1-2 years on each degree, learners can complete both in just two years. Also, a dual degree could cost less than completing each master’s degree separately.

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What Can I Do With an Online Degree in Nursing?

While nursing requires practical skills that students learn during clinical rotations, some advanced nursing positions do not require additional clinical experience. For example, medical and health services managers typically combine healthcare experience with a master’s degree in business. In 2019, medical and health services managers earned a median annual salary of $100,980, according to the BLS. Jobs for these professionals are projected to grow 32% between 2019 and 2029, which is significantly faster than average.

Aspiring medical and health services managers must first complete a BSN. Next, they should gain several years of professional experience. Many online programs allow students to continue working while earning their degrees. The combination of experience and master’s degrees helps nursing professionals find niche roles within healthcare organizations. Aside from management and administration positions, potential careers vary based on the two degrees learners select.

Accreditation for a Degree in Nursing

Before committing to any dual-degree nursing program, prospective students should look for both programmatic and regional accreditation. Accreditation demonstrates academic excellence as accredited programs meet the standards set by industry leaders.

Nurses should choose degrees with programmatic accreditation since many employers only hire nurses who graduate from programs featuring programmatic accreditation. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing provide programmatic accreditation for nursing programs.

Prospective nurses should also only explore regionally accredited colleges or universities. While both accreditation types demonstrate quality, employers and graduate schools prefer applicants who graduate from regionally accredited institutions. To learn more about accrediting organizations and to discover which accrediting organizations to look for in your area, refer to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Are the Requirements for a Degree in Nursing?

Requirements for a nursing degree vary by program. A BSN usually requires a 2.5 GPA or higher, an entrance essay, and recommendation letters. Applicants should also earn volunteer experience, preferably related to healthcare delivery.

During a BSN program, students must complete clinical rotations before taking the NCLEX, the national standardized exam used to award RN eligibility.

Courses in a Nursing Program

Nursing programs combine theories learned in classrooms with practical knowledge gained through clinical experience. During a program, nurses must complete around 800 hours of clinical experience. Accredited nursing degrees require these hours as part of the program.

In the classroom, learners study topics that prepare them for nursing. They learn how to care for patients, work with others, and provide healthcare ethically. Dual-degree nursing programs might also require a final project or thesis, though requirements vary by program. Read below for some common courses in a nursing program.

Certifications and Licensure for Nursing Majors

Nursing majors earn various certifications and licenses to qualify for high-paying positions. Some certifications require nurses to complete specific programs or earn professional experience. See below for some popular nursing certifications and licenses to secure advanced nursing positions.

  • Certification for Nurse Educators

    Offered by the National League for Nursing, this certification demonstrates excellence as an academic nurse educator. Best for those interested in teaching future nurses, the certification features options for general nursing or clinical nurse education. Applicants must currently practice as a nurse and hold a masters or doctoral degree with an emphasis in education.
  • Certified Nurse Manager and Leader

    This certification helps current and future nurse managers secure high-level positions. Applicants must demonstrate nurse management experience, including some clinical nursing experience. The certification also requires an active RN license and a BSN.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner Certification

    A required certification for aspiring family nurse practitioners, this certification aligns with advanced practice registered nurse regulations and standards. Nurses must complete an approved family nurse practitioner program and renew the certification every five years.

Professional Organizations for Nursing Students

Before graduating, nursing students can network and explore career opportunities through professional organizations. Nursing students should consider joining organizations that align with their career goals. Read below for some professional organizations for nursing students and nursing professionals.

Scholarships for Nursing Students

Nursing students, particularly those interested in a dual-degree nursing program, must find ways to pay for their education. Fortunately, thousands of nursing students use scholarships to help cover their tuition costs. Some scholarships accept applications from all nursing students while others only accept applicants pursuing a specific nursing degree.

Best Dual Nursing Degree Programs

University of Southern California
LocationLos Angeles, CA

A centerpiece of the California public higher education system, USC educates over 26,500 graduate and professional students each year. The school offers many graduate programs online, including dual degree nursing programs that run at least partially online.

USC's online master of science in nursing comes with a family nurse practitioner specialization. This 49-credit program requires 784 clinical hours of experience. Full-time students graduate in just five semesters, while part-time students take eight semesters. For students without a background in pharmacology or pathophysiology, USC requires a two-credit bridge course.

While students complete most coursework online, USC requires two on-campus intensives in Los Angeles. Learners complete these intensives at the end of their first and third terms. Nursing students must also complete clinicals onsite. USC helps connect learners with clinical opportunities. Applicants need a bachelor of science in nursing with a 3.0 GPA and one year of professional nursing experience.

Duke University
LocationDurham, NC

Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke is an esteemed public research university that prepares graduate students for various future careers. Duke's master of science in nursing allows students to select from eight majors and three minors. Along with their major, learners can select a specialty to complete a dual degree nursing program. Specialties include areas such as cardiology, endocrinology, HIV, oncology, and orthopedics. This innovative program also prepares nursing students to enroll in a doctor of nursing practice program.

Most of Duke's graduate-level nursing courses run entirely online. However, the university requires an onsite intensive (2-5 days) at least once per semester. During these on-campus intensives, students work face-to-face with faculty. Applicants must submit a resume, professional recommendations, and a personal statement. Duke requires a 3.0 GPA on college transcripts but does not require GRE scores.

Johns Hopkins University
LocationBaltimore, MD

Johns Hopkins, the nation's first research university, provides some of the best dual degree nursing programs for graduate students. Options at the master's level include advanced nursing practice specialties, a master of science in nursing (MSN) in healthcare organizational leadership, and an MSN/MBA dual degree.

Most of Johns Hopkins' dual nursing degree programs require at least two years of study and more than 500 clinical hours. The MSN/MBA route requires five full-time semesters of study, including a summer semester. Part-time learners take more than three years to complete the program. In total, learners earn 65 credits, many of which come online. However, both the MSN and MBA require some onsite clinical experience.

To qualify for Johns Hopkins' dual nursing degree programs, learners must submit three recommendation letters, hold a bachelor of science in nursing and active registered nurse license, and demonstrate at least two years of professional nursing experience.

Saint Louis University
LocationSaint Louis, MO

One of the nation's oldest Catholic institutions, SLU serves nearly 13,000 students each year. The private university gained renown for its quality healthcare programs, including those created for nurses.

SLU's RN-to-BSN program runs entirely online and helps current nurses complete their four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). The degree requires 120 credits, though learners with an active registered nurse (RN) license or associate degree can transfer many required credits. SLU offers the courses in an accelerated eight-week format and uses six terms throughout the year. Full-time learners complete this program in just one year, while part-time students take 1.5-2 years.

SLU accepts online learners with active RN licenses in most states. Applicants need at least a high school diploma. Those without previous college experience must complete pre-nursing courses through SLU.

University of Rochester
LocationRochester, NY

Despite enrolling over 12,000 students, Rochester maintains a low 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The New York-based school hosts one of the region's top nursing schools that offers a dual degree nursing program.

Current registered nurses (RNs) can enroll in Rochester's online RN-to-BSN, a 32-credit bachelor's-completion program that takes part-time learners as few as 16 months to complete. The entirely online program offers three start dates during the year, and students pay a variable per-credit tuition rate depending on their previous education and county of residence.

Eligible nurses need an associate degree or diploma in nursing, along with an active RN license in New York. Applicants submit previous transcripts with at least a 3.0 GPA, resume or CV, and recommendation letter. Rochester does not charge an application fee.

Drexel University
LocationPhiladelphia, PA

A private research school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel offers its dual degree nursing program, an RN-to-BSN degree, entirely online. The unique program takes as few as 12 months to complete and emphasizes experiential and evidence-based learning.

Learners must complete 180 quarter credits to earn Drexel's bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), though current nurses can transfer up to 135 credits. Drexel uses an accelerated learning format for online students, including those pursuing the RN-to-BSN. This accelerated format allows learners to study at their own pace and continue working while completing the BSN. For learners who plan on taking more than 12 months, Drexel guarantees the same flat tuition rate for three years.

Applicants need a 2.0 GPA or higher and an active registered nurse (RN) license. Applicants must also first complete at least 60 semester hours of college prerequisites. Those without adequate prerequisites can complete the courses through Drexel.

Catholic University of America
LocationWashington, DC

The Catholic University of America, a private research school based in Washington, D.C., serves students in all fields through the Catholic intellectual tradition. Despite the university's religious background, learners enrolled in the online master of science in nursing (MSN) do not take Catholic-based or religious courses.

The online MSN's nurse practitioner track offers options including family nurse practitioner, acute care, and pediatric primary care. Each route begins with 27 core credits followed by 17-25 specialty credits. All options culminate with a three-credit capstone research project. The program takes most students 2-3 years to complete, depending on whether they study full time and the specialty they select. The Catholic University of America's dual degree nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

While the MSN features fully online courses, nurses must complete 700 hours of clinical experience onsite. Learners must also travel to campus two times during the program for on-campus intensives.

Georgetown University
LocationWashington, DC

Founded in the Catholic Jesuit tradition, Georgetown ranks among the nation's top research universities. Located in Washington, D.C., Georgetown enrolls over 17,000 students from various religious backgrounds.

Learners interested in a dual nursing degree program can choose a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Students can specialize in areas such as nurse midwifery and acute care nurse practitioner. Each option varies in length and requirements, though learners typically complete 40 credits over 2-3 years. Georgetown designs its dual degree nursing programs for part-time study, so nurses can continue working while earning their degree. Aside from 600-700 clinical hours and several on-campus intensives, learners complete all courses online.

All of Georgetown's online MSN and DNP options meet certification requirements set by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

George Washington University
LocationWashington, DC

GW, a comprehensive institution that educates over 26,000 students, serves as a leader in research and alumni success. GW's distinguished faculty help graduate learners, including those enrolled in a dual degree nursing program, achieve their career goals.

The online master of science in nursing (MSN), considered one of the nation's top online graduate nursing programs, uses online courses and onsite training through clinicals and simulations. Nurses can select from multiple specialties, and each option posts its own clinical experience and credit requirements. For example, the RN-to-MSN, which leads to both a bachelor of science in nursing and an MSN, takes roughly three years to complete with varying clinical hour requirements based on specialization.

Applicants to all programs aside from the RN-to-MSN need a bachelor's degree in nursing with a 3.0 GPA. Learners also submit two recommendation letters, a personal statement, and a professional resume.

Simmons College
LocationBoston, MA

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Simmons primarily educates undergraduate women and graduate learners. The graduate students outnumber undergraduates nearly 3-to-1, and many enroll in a graduate-level dual nursing degree program.

Established in 1902, Simmons' nursing school offers an online master of science in nursing (MSN) with a family nurse practitioner specialization. Designed for current registered nurses (RNs) with or without a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), the online MSN combines online courses with onsite clinicals. During the program, learners conduct individual research. Learners can pursue the MSN full time or part time, with the options taking 2-3 years, respectively. Both routes require 48 credits and 770 hours of clinical research. Graduates qualify to become certified family nurse practitioners and continue on to a doctor of nursing practice program if they choose.

Applicants need a current RN license and must submit a personal statement, three recommendation letters, a resume, and previous college transcripts.

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