Should I Get an MSN/MBA Dual Degree?

| OnlineMBA.com Staff Updated on July 18, 2022

Should I Get an MSN/MBA Dual Degree?

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

An MSN/MBA dual degree combines a master of science in nursing (MSN) with a master of business administration (MBA). Combining these degrees can significantly enhance a professional's career prospects and earning power.

MSN/MBA degree-holders qualify to continue working as frontline healthcare providers. However, most professionals pursue a dual degree to advance additional career interests. These include entrepreneurship or management and leadership roles in healthcare institutions.

Programs leading to dual MSN/MBAs often favor applicants with a bachelor's degree in nursing science. Admission standards include an unencumbered nursing license. Some programs also attach minimum professional experience requirements to their eligibility standards.

This guide explores the career paths and benefits of MSN/MBA degrees. It also covers degree options, curriculum, admissions, and potential returns on investment (ROI).

Why Enroll in an Online MSN/MBA Dual Degree Program?

An MSN/MBA dual-degree can fast-track careers for nursing professionals seeking management and executive roles. It can also be an asset to entrepreneurs launching their own consultancies or healthcare-related ventures.

Online MSN/MBA programs offer excellent scheduling flexibility. Many follow asynchronous formats that allow learners to engage with lectures and coursework on a 24/7 basis. This can benefit working professionals aiming to upgrade their credentials during their off hours.

A 2021 analysis published by Nurse.org reported dual MSN/MBA cost ranges from about $45,000-$75,000. Online students may need to upgrade their computer equipment and pay technology fees that do not apply to campus-based programs.

Full-time dual-degree MSN/MBA programs often take about three academic years to complete. By comparison, standalone MBAs require about 1-2 years of full-time study. Standalone MBA costs generally fall into the same overall ranges as joint MSN/MBAs, but actual costs depend heavily on institution.

The following list details four key proficiencies learners develop in MSN/MBA dual-degree programs:

  • Business Acumen: In privatized healthcare systems, nursing is both an essential service and a business. MSN/MBA programs develop healthcare providers' understanding of how finance and resource management impact operations. Joint-degree MSN/MBA study paths help nurses grasp the financial factors behind decision-making processes.
  • Leadership: Many graduates of MSN/MBA dual-degree programs aspire to high-ranking leadership and executive positions. Specialized degrees with a joint focus develop valuable leadership abilities. Leadership development tends to guide both the MSN and MBA coursework. Some programs place a stronger emphasis on nursing leadership skills, while others focus more on business leadership.
  • New Perspectives on Nursing: The business, management, and leadership components frame nursing practice in ways that expand student viewpoints. For instance, the MSN components of dual programs go beyond clinical skills to include nursing administration. Similarly, the MBA components explore the organizational challenges that impact frontline care.
  • Advanced Care Planning Abilities: MSN/MBA graduates emerge with holistic perspectives on healthcare organizations. This perspective pairs with clinical nursing skills to equip professionals with elite care planning proficiencies. As a result, they can have a strong impact on patient outcomes.

What to Expect From an MSN/MBA Dual Degree Program

Dual-degree MSN/MBA programs aim to build advanced clinical nursing skills while developing students' management and leadership abilities. Credit requirements vary, and schools place differing levels of emphasis on the MSN or MBA components.

Comparing Degrees
Degree Credit Requirements

MSN/MBA

60-72 credits

MSN

36-50 credits

MBA

30-36 credits

Source: UMSON, TTUHSC

In general, combined MSN/MBA degrees fall in the range of 60-72 credits (approximately 20-24 courses). Standalone MSN programs feature about 36-50 credits, while most MBAs cover 30-36 credits. Combined degrees may slightly compress the credit requirements of earning the designations separately.

Some schools divide MSN/MBA coursework equally between nursing and business topics. Others place more emphasis on the MBA components. In these cases, schools may maintain more rigorous admission standards regarding nursing education and professional experience.

Some programs allow students to transfer in existing graduate-level nursing credits. This may reduce overall credit requirements and graduation timelines.

Degree and Concentration Options

Some campus-based and online MSN/MBA degrees have a generalist focus in both their nursing and business components. These programs build skill sets that can transfer to many professional environments.

Other programs allow students to pursue concentrations geared toward specific career paths. Examples of specialized MSN/MBA dual degree options include:

  • Nursing informatics
  • Healthcare or nursing administration
  • Organizational leadership

Specialized programs often aim to train students for specific career paths. For instance, MSN/MBA degrees with a nursing informatics concentration can put students on the path to becoming a chief nursing informatics officer.

If you have specific career goals, keep them in mind as you search for and compare programs. It may make more sense for you to pursue a concentrated program than to invest in a dual-degree with a general focus.

Curriculum for MSN/MBA Dual Degree Programs

MSN/MBA dual degrees cover both nursing and business courses. Some programs blend both perspectives within single courses, presenting business material specifically from a healthcare administration viewpoint and vice-versa. Others maintain a stronger separation of the subject matter.

Coursework varies among institutions. The following list of sample courses offers a glimpse of some possible courses:

  • Healthcare Policy and Organizational Structure: This course provides a thorough overview of healthcare institutions' organizational structure. It examines the ways roles interrelate, while exploring policy and resource allocation from an organizational perspective.
  • Leadership in Nursing: Students explore various leadership styles through the lens of business and healthcare institution management. The course also examines the ways experienced nurses can lead organizational policy development and positively impact patient outcomes.
  • Concepts in Organizational and Financial Management: This business-oriented course highlights fundamentals in healthcare finance. Coursework may specifically focus on points of contact between financial concerns and the provision of care. Learners emerge with a practical understanding of how economics impacts healthcare operations.
  • Principles of Managerial Accounting: The fundamental concepts of managerial accounting apply to any industry, including healthcare. This course equips students with practical knowledge of financial and managerial accounting.
  • Quantitative Methods: This business-focused course introduces key quantitative methods that inform organizational decision-making. Nursing professionals who advance into management, administrative, and executive roles routinely need to make impactful organizational decisions. The methods introduced in this course emphasize data-driven strategies for improving decision-making efficiency and confidence.

Admissions Process

Core admission requirements often include a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. In addition to a BSN, some institutions also prefer or require:

GPA requirements fall around 3.0 (on the 4.0 scale).

Some programs request or require students to submit GMAT or GRE test scores. However, institutions may waive testing requirements for applicants with advanced professional experience or other special qualifications.

Admissions standards vary by school and program. Ensure that you fulfill all listed requirements before going to the effort of applying for a particular program.

The ROI of an MSN/MBA Dual Degree Program

Return on investment (ROI) is a business concept that calculates if spending money was worth what you spent it on. From this perspective, the time and money you put into an MSN/MBA dual degree represents an investment. Calculating your projected ROI involves determining whether you will extract positive value over the long term.

To calculate ROI, weigh the costs of getting a joint MSN/MBA degree against the benefits you stand to gain. Costs include:

  • The amount of time involved, and the impact of that time commitment on your ability to earn money
  • Tuition and other program costs (commuting/relocating, books, technology, mandatory feets, etc.)
  • Debt accrued via student loans
  • Opportunity costs (money-making opportunities you missed out on because you committed to an MSN/MBA program)

Potential benefits include:

  • Increased salary
  • Possibilities for future career and salary growth
  • Intangibles (leadership skills, the ability to positively impact patient outcomes, etc.)

Note that you can either estimate your potential ROI, or perform a thorough data-based analysis to come up with firm numbers. It depends on how large an impact the potential ROI has on your educational decision.

MSN/MBA Career Opportunities After Graduating

In general, professionals with MSN/MBA dual degrees qualify for high-profile and well-paid careers. Those same careers may not be readily available to a candidate who holds only one of the two designations.

Examples of specialized careers open to professionals with MSN/MBA dual designations include nurse administrator, medical and health services manager, chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO), and chief nursing officer (CNO) roles. More details below:

  • Nurse Administrator: Nurse administrators lead nursing departments in healthcare institutions. They function as lead nursing managers and act as liaisons between nursing staff and upper management. Nurse administrators implement and oversee compliance standards and manage nursing budgets.
  • Medical and Health Services Manager: Medical and health services managers supervise operations in healthcare settings and institutions. Like other healthcare managers, they are often involved in policy development and compliance initiatives. They are also responsible for patient care standards, and hiring and training professionals in lower-ranking management roles.
  • Chief Nursing Informatics Officer: Technology continues to impact healthcare organizations and the delivery of healthcare services. CNIOs guide technology integration in healthcare institutions. They choose technologies and platforms, work to safeguard data security and privacy, and use tech tools to improve service delivery.
  • Chief Nursing Officer: The CNO is often described as the apex of the nursing management profession. CNOs handle formulation of care standards and developing the policies to meet them. They also serve as the top-level administrator in organizations' nursing departments.

Common Questions about MSN/MBA Dual Degrees


How much does an MSN/MBA dual degree program cost?

According to a 2021 Nurse.org review, dual-degree MSN/MBA programs typically fall within the range of $45,000-$75,000. However, tuition costs can be higher or lower, depending on the school.

Is an MSN/MBA dual degree worth it?

Nursing professionals interested in advancing to management and administrative roles often see positive returns on MSN/MBA degrees. By contrast, candidates more interested in clinical nursing practice may prefer to earn only an MSN.

What can a nurse do with an MBA degree?

MBAs may greatly accelerate a nursing professional's career prospects. Nurses with MBAs can advance into upper-level management and executive roles with healthcare organizations. They also develop the business acumen needed to succeed as entrepreneurs or consultants.

What can I do with an MBA and MSN?

Holding both an MBA and an MSN qualifies candidates for many roles in nursing, healthcare, and medical service management. Ambitious professionals can also combine these degrees with experience to advance into top-level roles such as chief nursing officer (CNO).

Reviewed by:

Shri Deshaies is a nurse educator with over 20 years of experience teaching in hospital, nursing school, and community settings. Deshaies' clinical area of expertise is critical care nursing and she is a certified critical care nurse. She has worked in various surgical ICUs throughout her career, including cardiovascular, trauma, and neurosurgery.
Shri Deshaies is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network.
Learn more about our review partners.



Featured Image: miodrag ignjatovic / E+ / Getty Images

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