The University of Arkansas at Monticello is set to offer the state’s only online Master of Science in nursing degree with an emphasis in public health.

The Institutional Actions Council of the Higher Learning Commission approved the proposed program at its meeting on May 23.

The degree is 100 percent online and requires 37 credit hours. The practicum credit hours built into the degree offer flexibility, allowing students to choose times that fit their schedules.

“The goal of our new MSN degree is to expand all nursing opportunities and reach all communities,” said Dr. Brandy Haley, dean of the School of Nursing at UAM. Haley has been a nurse for more than 25 years, with a decade of experience in public health.

“This degree teaches registered nurses to connect resources in the community to create a healthier population,” Haley said. “There is a huge demand. We did a workforce analysis and a survey of all our stakeholders, including our current students, clinical instructors, clinical facilities and employers. We asked them if they saw any benefit in this; it was an overwhelming, yes.”

Crystal Halley, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at UAM, said the online design of the program offers registered nurses an opportunity to advance their studies while maintaining their employment.

“The program will also serve our region and state by training more nurses to look at their community as a whole in order to determine the needs of that community and promote its overall health,” Halley said.

To qualify for the MSN program, candidates must have at least one year of nursing experience in the field. There will be two tracks for the nursing master’s degree. Prospective students with a Bachelor of Science in nursing can complete the MSN program in two to five years, depending on how many credits they take each year. Students with an associate degree or nursing diploma will need three to seven years to complete the BSN and MSN degrees.

“We also have a post-master’s certificate option for registered nurses who have already earned a master’s or doctoral degree,” Haley said.

The MSN degree can offer another significant benefit for graduates. Haley estimates that the difference between the salary for the BSN degree and MSN degree is about $15,000 a year, depending on the population, size of the facility and locale.

The MSN program at UAM is now accepting applicants. The program will begin in January 2023.

For more information on the program or how to apply, contact Dr. Christine Felts, MSN program director at UAM, at 870-460-1969 or Dr. Brandy Haley, dean of the School of Nursing at UAM, at 870-460-1069. Learn more about the nursing program at UAM here.