Jul 13, 2024  
2024-2025 Catalog 
2024-2025 Catalog

Nursing, M.S.N.*

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Program of Study

The mission of the graduate program in nursing at California State University San Marcos is to provide superior graduate education to qualified students, leading to the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Our objective is to prepare nurses in generalist and advanced practice roles for positions in the healthcare industry, community or public health agencies, and academia, and for continued study at the doctoral level.

The MSN program includes a strong foundation in theory and research inquiry. The School of Nursing acknowledges the responsibility to address the nursing and healthcare needs in populations and communities around the globe, including those who are underserved and vulnerable. The graduate program builds on the knowledge gained at the baccalaureate level and promotes nursing scholarship at the local, state, national, and international levels through research, service, and practice. Values, ethics, and multicultural perspectives are heavily embedded within the graduate program. Cultural sensitivity and competence are emphasized in the curriculum as students interface with a diverse population both professionally and in the care of clients, families, and communities.

The master’s degree program is designed for two groups of students with different pathways. Students who have completed an associate degree program in nursing (ADN) at a community college and seek completion of their baccalaureate and master’ degree follow the RN-to-MSN

  • Option 1. Students who have completed a baccalaureate degree follow the MSN only
  • Option 2. Both options are designed as part-time programs. The RN-to-MSN program is designed to be completed part-time in 4 years (including summers). The (basic) MSN is designed to be completed part-time in 2.5 years, depending on whether a summer session is elected.

Students in both options have the choice of three concentrations. The first is the Nursing Education concentration which offers the student courses in the theories of adult learning, curriculum design and development, and classroom and online teaching strategies. The second concentration is Advanced Practice Nurse which prepares the student for advanced practice nursing through courses in advanced health/physical assessment, advanced pathophysiology/pharmacology and advanced practice management of clients in acute care and community settings.

Students in the Advanced Practice Nurse concentration are required to choose one of two tracks: Clinical Nurse Specialist or Nurse Practitioner. Students will also choose a specialization for the Clinical Nurse Specialist track including Adult/Gerontology, Pediatrics, or Advanced Public Health, and for the Nurse Practitioner track including Family Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Students will complete a minimum of 500 hours of advanced field study and will be eligible to sit for a National certification exam upon completion of the MSN program. The third concentration is Clinical Nurse Leader which prepares the student to be a leader, manager, and educator at the unit level. The Clinical Nurse Leader role is learned through courses in health systems leadership, quality improvement, evaluation and accreditation in nursing organizations, financial resource management, and management of patients in the acute care setting.

New Post-Master of Science in Nursing Certificates:

Clinical Nurse Leader Post-Master of Science in Nursing Certificate* 
Clinical Nurse Specialist Post-Master of Science in Nursing Certificate*  
Family Nurse Practitioner Post-Master of Science in Nursing Certificate*  
Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner Post-Master of Science in Nursing Certificate  
Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist Post-Master of Science in Nursing Certificate  
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Certificate*  

*The M.S. in Nursing is offered through Extended Learning.

Program Student Learning Outcomes

The Master of Science in Nursing has been designed for nurses seeking careers as a nurse educator, advanced practice nurse, or a generalist nurse responsible for leadership and management of patient populations at the unit level in an acute care facility.

Students who graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing will be able to:

  1. Integrate theory and research from the Sciences and Humanities in the delivery of evidence-based nursing practice.
  2. Utilize leadership skills to influence the quality of health care at the organizational and/or systems level.
  3. Demonstrate the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to improve the quality and safety in the environments where graduates practice.
  4. Translate and apply evidence-based research in nursing practice.
  5. Integrate current informatics and health care technologies in nursing practice.
  6. Use health policy development process and advocacy strategies to influence positive change in health care delivery.
  7. Demonstrate inter-professional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes
  8. Identify clinical prevention strategies to improve health of diverse populations.
  9. Demonstrate Master’s level knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to lead nursing education, leadership, and practice.

Professional Licensure and Certification 

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing/master’s degree program in nursing at CSUSM is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org).


Notice to Students about Professional Licensure and Certification, please access https://www.csusm.edu/nursing/aboutus/accreditation.html for more information.

Transfer Students

For the returning RN student interested in the RN-to-BSN-to-MSN track, it is anticipated that many of the required general education courses may have been completed at a community college. These students will be required to meet the same mandatory standards either by transferable coursework, certification of general education requirements by previous academic institutions, or by completion of general education requirements at CSUSM. These courses will be included in the maximum transfer credit of 70 lower-division units from a community college. Imbedded in these 70 units are 32 units, which will be articulated for lower-division nursing courses from a regionally accredited community college nursing program which is Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) approved. Some prerequisite and required preparatory courses for the nursing major are also imbedded in the 51 units of required general education courses.

Admission and Application Requirements

Admission to the RN-to-BSN-to-MSN program requires an associate degree from an accredited community college, completion of all courses in the Pre-Nursing Core (or the equivalents of these courses) with an overall GPA of 2.75 in the Core and with no grade lower than a C (2.0). Nursing courses and Pre-Nursing Core courses for which the student earns less than a grade of C (2.0) may be repeated once with consent of instructor, but only on a space-available-basis. While in the BSN component of the program, the student must maintain a 3.0 GPA. Those who do not perform at this level may elect to complete the baccalaureate via the RN-to-BSN program.

Admission to the Master of Science in Nursing program requires a baccalaureate degree in nursing from a Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or National League of Nursing (NLN) accredited program, a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the last 60 semester hours of undergraduate coursework, and evidence of satisfactory completion of physical assessment, inferential statistics, and nursing research with a grade of C (2.0) or better at the baccalaureate level. For students enrolled in the RN-to-MSN track, physical assessment will be taken at the graduate level. One year of recent Registered Nurse experience is recommended for both tracks prior to advancement to candidacy.

Students should have computing skills sufficient to complete graduate work including word processing and statistical software programs. Admission decisions will be influenced by the strength of the undergraduate program, academic achievement, community service, and the educational goals of individual applicants.

Special Requirements

Students in the nursing program must pass a physical health examination, and demonstrate a sufficient immunization record consistent with that required of clinical placement in local health care agencies.

The academic advisor for the School of Nursing, working with the Office of Disabled Student Services, will assist students to determine what accommodations will be required for students to meet the standards of our program.

A complete application consists of:

  1. a completed application form;
  2. submit one set of official transcripts from colleges and universities attended with indication of an undergraduate degree;
  3. provide evidence of completion of an undergraduate or graduate level bioethics course;
  4. proof of licensure as a registered nurse in California;
  5. a reference list of three person’s qualified to assess the applicant’s potential to succeed as a graduate student, including one nursing faculty in the student’s baccalaureate program;
  6. a resume or curriculum vitae; and
  7. a one- to two-page essay outlining professional and educational goals.

Applicants will be admitted annually in the Fall semester. To be considered for admission, all required applications should be received by May 1. Review of applications will continue until all the openings for Fall semester have been filled. Applicants are notified of admission decisions following this process.

Students in the nursing program must pass a physical health examination. Additionally:

  1. Prior to being allowed to enroll in nursing courses students are required to be in compliance with immunizations consistent with the requirements of the School of Nursing and the healthcare agencies in which they will be placed for clinical experiences.
  2. Prior to being allowed to enroll in nursing courses students are required to complete a background check including statewide, county, and federal screening. Background checks are also required for persons seeking a nursing license in the state of California. Students who have reason to believe that a background check would reveal a prior misdemeanor or felony conviction should seek to have these matters expunged from their record if possible and/or seek another career path.

The academic advisor for the School of Nursing, working with the Office of Disabled Student Services, will assist students to determine what accommodations will be required for students to meet the standards of our program.


Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and a grade of C or better in all classes. If the GPA falls below 3.0 for two consecutive semesters, the student will be dropped from the program. Students must be continuously enrolled or request a leave of absence if time is needed away from studies. Students who are not continuously enrolled or have a leave of absence for longer than two semesters must petition the School of Nursing for continuation. All requirements for the degree must be completed within five years of beginning any coursework in the MSN program.

Students will receive advisement from the School of Nursing’s advisors until they have reached candidacy and form a thesis or project committee. The thesis or project committee will be comprised of at least two School of Nursing faculty. The third member may be faculty from the School of Nursing, the wider University, or the general community. Advisors will work closely with students in selection of courses and research or project topics.

Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL)

Students need to fulfill the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL) before advancing to candidacy. Please refer to Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL)  for more information regarding this requirement.

Advancement to Candidacy

A draft of the thesis or project proposal will be completed as part of the requirement for the graduate level research course (NURS 510 ). The students will form a thesis or project committee following completion of the course. Committee members will review and approve thesis or project proposals. Students will advance to candidacy once they have successfully passed an oral defense of their thesis or project proposal. The thesis or project committee will assist with refinement of the proposal and with the research for the thesis or evaluation of the project and will serve as the committee for the oral examination once the thesis or project is completed. To advance to candidacy, a student must:

  1. Be in good standing with an overall GPA of at least 3.0;
  2. Have completed 20 units of the core courses toward the graduate degree; and
  3. Have successfully proposed his/her thesis or project to the faculty.

Degree Requirements

Option 1: RN-to-BSN-to-MSN

The total number of units required for the RN-to-BSN-to-MSN nursing student is 171 to 183 semester units (depending on the concentration and track chosen). A maximum of 70 units can be transferred from the previous nursing program and includes general education, preparatory to the major courses and 33 units of lower-division nursing. The number of units needed to be completed may vary depending on units previously completed in a community college. RN-to- BSN-to-MSN students must complete 9 units of upper-division electives and complete the second language requirement. Irrespective of the number of courses previously attempted, the RN-to-BSN-to-MSN students will need to complete the following courses or their equivalent(s): 51 units of general education, 47 units for preparation for the major, 31 upper-division nursing units, and 42-54 graduate nursing units. The units may vary depending on units previously completed in a community college.

Required Prerequisite/Preparatory Nursing Courses for the RN-to-BSN-to-MSN Student


* Usually part of the 51 units of general education.

**Upper-division General Education  courses. MATH 125 , MATH 132 , or MATH 160  may be substituted for MATH 115 . This requirement may also be satisfied by any Lower-Division General Education  Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning (B-4) course taken before matriculation at CSUSM if students have already completed the equivalent of CHEM 105 /CHEM 105L .

***Most RN transfer students have required growth and development and nutrition content integrated into their previous nursing program. For those who wish to add additional nutrition content, BIOL 343 is recommended.

Additional Information

Students will complete the second language requirement. Spanish is strongly recommended.

To meet the unit requirements for the BSN, academic credit may be awarded using the NCLEX examination to demonstrate prior learning of the pre-licensure art and science of nursing required by the BRN.

Graduate level health assessment and lab, pathophysiology and pharmacology courses are completed in the RN-to-BSN-to-MSN Option.

Additionally, the graduate program outlined in Option 2 is required for completion of Option 1. By completing these requirements, students in Option 1 earn the units required for the BSN and 42-54 units required for the MSN.

Option 2: Master of Science in Nursing

Students in Option 2 must complete the 42-54 units required for the MSN. In addition, students in both Option 1 and 2 will write a 15- to 20-page concept analysis paper in the NURS 500 , and this paper will be used to conduct a writing assessment in keeping with the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR).

The following core courses are required for the MSN. The NURS 598 and NURS 599 courses can be taken with variable units but must total 3 units required for completion of the program.

Recommended Electives:

Students should select a 3-unit clinical course and 3 unit advanced field study (NURS 532A  and NURS 533A  or NURS 533E  or NURS 534A  and NURS 535A  or NURS 535E ). For the clinical course and corresponding advanced field study students may focus on adult/gerontology, pediatric, or advanced public health nursing. Students will select one 3-unit additional education course relative to nursing education. The following courses are recommended electives:

Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) Concentration (24-26 Units)

Additional Courses

Students in the APN concentration are required to choose a specialty and take additional courses totaling 53 to 56 units. This includes 500 hours of advanced field study required for a National certification exam. Students will be prepared to sit for the exam upon graduation from the MSN program.  Students taking Transitions of Care CNS courses will also take CNS courses in a population focus for Adult/Gerontology or Pediatric Health specialty making them eligible to take the Adult/Gerontology or Pediatric CNS certification exam.  See CNS in Adult/Gerontology or Pediatric Health Specialty courses below.

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