Online Dual-Degree MSN-MBA Programs

Healthcare is big business in the United States. In 2021, the healthcare industry was valued to have a worth of $808 billion. Sixty-five percent of that value derived from patient care-generated revenue. And national health expenditures reached $4.5 trillion in 2022. 

The medical and healthcare sector will remain a large portion of the US economy in the coming years. Factors that will sustain the industry include the nation’s aging demographic driving a growing need for professionals skilled in geriatric care, breakthroughs in medical knowledge and related technologies, and the growing impact of climate change necessitating a change in public health programs and related resources.

Among the many professions within the healthcare industry, nursing remains a popular one. Nursing is forecast to remain in relatively high demand in the 2020s and beyond. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2023) projects the employment of registered nurses to grow by 6 percent between 2022 and 2032, a growth rate faster than the average of all occupations. 

Nursing professionals who ultimately wish to reach high-level positions within healthcare may aspire to do more than obtain a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree. For some, a dual degree program in which they also develop business skills may ultimately make them highly competitive candidates for leadership and executive roles in hospital operations, administration, research initiatives and much more.

Dual MSN-MBA degree programs are a good option for nursing professionals who wish to reach upper-level leadership and related positions within the healthcare industry. This guide provides an overview of such accredited dual degree programs, admission requirements, the typical clinical experience requirement, and a sampling of dual degree programs offered throughout the United States. 

What is a Dual MSN-MBA Degree Program?

A dual degree program featuring master of science in nursing and master of business administration (MSN-MBA) degrees is designed for professionals seeking roles combining advanced nursing expertise with executive leadership and business administration skills. Graduates of such programs have the qualifications necessary to reach high-level executive positions within the healthcare field. 

Nursing professionals who typically benefit from such a program may have several motivations. They may desire to impact the value and cultures of a company positively, have clinical experience but wish to gain more business experience, wish to drive institutional change from the top down, or desire to contribute to the healthcare industry in a manner that does not feature direct patient care as a primary focus. 

Given the variety of patient populations, health issues, and settings where a professional nurse may develop specialized expertise and the variety of ways a person with an MBA can apply their particular training, it naturally follows there are numerous possibilities for how a dual MSN-MBA degree holder can work in the world. Graduates of these dual programs may assume managerial positions and leadership roles in varied settings, including community health centers, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and other types of healthcare organizations. 

Populations often underserved by the healthcare industry are an example of how dual-degree-trained nurses may put their skills to valuable use. Consider, for example, dual-degree nurses with specialized expertise in rare or under-researched diseases. They apply their education by serving in leadership roles to encourage innovative research and healthcare delivery programming for populations that otherwise might easily go without proper care. The swell of people chronically ill with what is often called long Covid presents another opportunity for dual-degree professionals to make a meaningful contribution to a population that has often struggled with sufficient patient care and research attention.

Dual Degree Programs & School Accreditation

Prospective applicants should educate themselves on accreditation as they consider their options. There are a variety of accreditation topics to consider when contemplating a dual degree. First of all, there are two basic types of accreditation to be aware of. These are programmatic and institutional accreditation.

Programmatic accreditation is awarded to a particular academic program operating within an institution of higher education. Accrediting entities that provide programmatic accreditation will assess the rigor of an educational program within a larger college or university to ensure it meets rigorous criteria. 

Within the nursing field, two accrediting bodies are well known. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) vets baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral nursing programs, whereas the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) regulates associate’s, bachelor’s, and doctoral degrees.

Meanwhile, within the field of business, there are three top accrediting agencies for MBA programs. These are the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).

Institutional accreditation is the accreditation of an entire institution. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a US Department of Education branch, approves seven regional institutional accrediting bodies. These regional institutional accrediting bodies are responsible for institutional accreditation within a particular region of the United States.

Learning delivery models have multiplied in recent decades. Accreditation processes have consequently adapted to the reality of in-person, hybrid and fully online academic programs. When exploring online programs, it is important to check the state authorization or NC-SARA status. NC-SARA stands for National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. NC-SARA is a private non-profit organization devoted to expanding students’ access to educational opportunities and ensuring effective regulatory oversight of distance learning programs.

Accreditation is just one issue to consider when reviewing programs. Prospective students must also be mindful of other aspects of their professional development. For example, they should verify whether a program accepts students from their state of residence and whether the program offers an education that will meet the licensing criteria in the states where they intend to seek licensure after graduation. Prospective students can find this data on school websites or by contacting the schools directly.

Dual MBA-MSN degree holders may experience greater regulatory complexity in their professional lives due to the regulations involved in starting, sustaining and/or leading a business. Although some leadership roles within hospital systems may have in-house expertise to guide executives and other high-level personnel in how to work within what may be a complex legal-ethics-business framework, it is nonetheless wise for professionals working in the fields of healthcare and business to do sufficient research to understand the potential complexities of the roles they seek to fill.

In short, given the complexity of accrediting institutions, admissions criteria, learning delivery models, and licensure and certification standards, applicants must do their due diligence to clearly understand what they are committing to when enrolling in a dual degree academic program.

Typical Admissions Requirements

The complexity dual degree holders may encounter within the workforce can also be found when applying to these programs. Simply put, seeking two degrees will add layer of complexity to the various admissions criteria they must fulfill to be offered entry. It is beyond the scope of this document to exhaustively detail every potential scenario such students may encounter. Those seeking to enroll in a dual MSN-MBA program should be mindful of the admissions criteria typically found when applying to one freestanding program or the other. The admissions criteria for these two degrees are addressed separately immediately below.

MSN Degrees

To gain entry into an MSN degree program, a person must complete various requirements. While application requirements do vary among programs, many feature a common set of core requirements. Admissions requirements for most MSN programs include:

  • BSN from an accredited college or university
  • Minimum GPA (the threshold is often 3.0 on a 4.0 scale)
  • Transcripts from all colleges/universities attended
  • CV or resume
  • Professional letters of reference
  • Personal essay
  • Interview
  • Copy of current U.S. RN license
  • Most programs require the completion of prerequisite coursework such as anatomy and physiology I and II, microbiology, nutrition, statistics, lifespan development, and chemistry

MBA Degrees

MBA degree programs feature application requirements that are often at least somewhat distinct from MSN programs. While application requirements also vary among MBA programs, many feature a common set of requirements. Admissions requirements for MBA programs typically include:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
  • Minimum GPA (the threshold is often 3.0 on a 4.0 scale)
  • Transcripts from all colleges/universities attended
  • CV or resume
  • Professional letters of reference
  • Work experience demonstrating a history relevant to business school
  • Personal essay
  • Interview
  • Some MBA programs expect applicants to take either the GRE or GMAT within five years of their application
  • Proof of English language competency

Supervised Hour Requirements

Practical, hands-on experience is a common feature of many academic programs. It is common for both MSN and MBA programs to feature a curriculum requirement in which students apply their theoretical knowledge and skills to address a real-world problem.

For nursing students completing an MSN degree, this hands-on experience takes the form of the clinical experience requirement, usually comprising at least 500 hours at a local clinical placement. This placement may be identified and selected through the student’s sole efforts, through collaboration with the academic program or solely by the academic program. Clinical placement requirements vary by the specialization within the field of nursing the student pursues, the requirements of the degree program, and other factors.

For MBA students, their required capstone project represents the rough equivalent of the clinical experience requirement MSN students must complete. The capstone project is frequently the final step in many MBA degree programs. As with the clinical requirement for MSN students, MBA students demonstrate their knowledge and skill within the capstone project. MBA students often explore a meaningful and strategic business question as the focus of their project. In many cases, they will work with an existing company. Some programs allow students to create business plans or simulations to fulfill their capstone requirements. As with the MSN clinical requirement, capstone project requirements will vary according to program and other factors.

Featured Dual Degree MSN-MBA Programs

Below appears a listing of dual MSN-MBA degree programs. Accrediting agencies for both degree programs are listed in a format where the first is the accrediting agency for the MSN program and the second entry is for the MBA program.

Grand Canyon University (Online)

The Grand Canyon University College of Nursing and Health Care Professions offers students industry-level nursing education. The 74-credit-hour MBA-MSN-L dual degree combines nursing education with business skills. In recognition of the needs of students of diverse backgrounds and needs, coursework is offered in traditional, online, and evening options. 

The dual degree program curriculum features course topics, including leadership and management, accounting, economics, operations management, ethics in health care, and leadership and management theories. Online courses are generally eight weeks in length.

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Duration: See website for details
  • Accreditation: CCNE; ACBSP

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (Online)

The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and Carey Business School offer an online dual MSN-MBA degree in healthcare organizational leadership. This program is ideal for graduates seeking to provide excellent healthcare and create meaningful change in healthcare leadership and corporate environments. 

The program, focused on real-world skills and business fundamentals and informed by medical, economic, regulatory, and ethical perspectives, provides graduates the skills and experience necessary to become thoughtful, inclusive leaders. Graduates are qualified to fill roles where daily operations and leadership are guided by more than just the bottom line.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Duration: Part-time 10 semesters (fall, spring, and summer)
  • Accreditation:  CCNE; AACSB

Texas Tech University (On-campus)

Texas Tech University (TTU) offers a dual MSN-MBA degree program made possible through an agreement between the TTU Health Sciences Center School of Nursing and TTU Rawls College of Business. Graduates of this program receive an MSN with a concentration in nursing administration and an MBA with a concentration in health organization management. The joint administration of this program reduces the total curriculum requirement from 78 credit hours to 57 credit hours. Up to twenty-one hours of transfer credits may be pre-approved to serve as dual credit. When completed separately the MSN degree features a 36 credit hour requirement and the MBA degree requires 42 credit hours.

Dual-degree applicants enter the MSN program using the same process as single-degree students. After admission students must inform the MSN Program Director of their interest in the dual degree program. Prospective dual-degree students then apply to the Rawls College of Business. Upon acceptance into this second program the MSN degree plan is revised to include dual credit courses. After completing their MSN, students continue with TTU to complete MBA requirements.

  • Location: Lubbock, TX
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: CCNE; AACSB

Drexel University (Online)

Drexel University offers an online dual MSN-MBA degree program in nursing leadership in health systems management. This program is designed for part-time attendance by working nurses. It prepares graduates for senior leadership roles. The 82-quarter-credit program curriculum emphasizes numerous topics such as problem-solving, decision-making, conflict resolution, legal and ethical issues, advanced nursing competencies, transformational leadership, and strategic business practices. Popular roles graduates of this program may fill include nurse manager and nurse administrator. The curriculum is offered in four 10-week quarters throughout the calendar year.

Applicants must have a BSN from a program fully accredited by either the National League of Nursing or the American Association Colleges of Nursing and a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. They must also have a current, unrestricted United States RN license. Full details regarding admission can be found on the school website.

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: CCNE; AACSB

University of Maryland (Online)

The University of Maryland MSN-MBA program offers an MSN specializing in leadership and management in health services. This program, consisting of between 66 and 72 credits, trains students in the skills necessary to manage the financial, strategic planning, resource management, and governance aspects of healthcare providers’ business operations. 

This program is especially suited to ambitious students seeking to work in senior administrator/executive leadership roles such as unit director, senior director, or C-suite positions. Men interested in becoming nurses may find this program particularly interesting due in part to online content profiling the presence of men in the nursing profession.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Duration: May be completed within seven years on a part-time basis
  • Accreditation: CCNE; AACSB

Kent State University (Online)

Kent State University is a three-time designated Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing. Kent State offers an online MSN-MBA dual degree program for nursing professionals seeking to fill middle or advanced management roles. The program is also a good match for entrepreneurial students motivated to start their own businesses.  

This 57-credit-hour program features coursework in topics including accounting, analytics for decision-making, economics of healthcare, managerial finance, human resource management, and marketing management. Nursing coursework includes health policy and advanced nursing practice, nursing practice theory, healthcare organization structure and behavior, and a nursing administration and health systems leadership practicum. To matriculate applicants must complete separate applications for the two programs. Students can view admission requirements for each program on the respective program’s online catalog pages.

  • Location: Kent, OH
  • Duration: Two to three years
  • Accreditation: CCNE; AACSB

University of Nebraska Medical Center (Online)

The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) features a 56-credit dual MSN-MBA degree program. This program allows students to complete both degrees faster than if they completed the curriculum for each program separately. Among the requirements for graduation are the 500 clinical hours practicum. 

Because students have the option to complete both degrees online they may also opt to complete their clinical practicum at a placement close to where they actually live. A flexible learning model also allows students to complete the program on a part-time basis over four to six years. Fall, spring, and summer semester options are available.

The MSN program has no academic prerequisites. To enroll in the MBA program, students must have completed prerequisite coursework in accounting principles, macro and microeconomics, college statistics, and college algebra. International students required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) must also complete a course in English composition.

  • Location: Omaha, NE
  • Duration: Four to six years
  • Accreditation: CCNE; AACSB

Dual MSN-MBA degree recipients can discover many opportunities once they complete their education. A few such potential career paths appear below.

Jobs for Professionals with an MSN-MBA

Become a Chief Nursing Officer

A chief nursing officer (CNO) is an experienced nurse typically tasked with financial, policy, patient care and leadership responsibilities. A CNO is often considered one of the top potential nursing leadership roles a nurse can aspire to. CNOs may have several duties in their job description. 

They may include leading nursing staff towards success by monitoring and improving patient outcomes at their facility, evaluating nursing staff performance at the individual and institutional level, implementing new medical technologies and policies to streamline operations, reduce costs, improve efficiencies, improve patient care, hire new nurses as needed, manage financial assets, and regularly provide data and reporting to their employer’s president or board of executives.

Become a Healthcare Administrator

Healthcare administrators serve a vital purpose in the operations of healthcare providers. Due to the central nature of their roles within the daily operations of their employer, they typically need professionals committed to continued learning and skilled in communications, financial management, policy, and personnel training. Individuals seeking a critical, stable job focused on healthcare policy may find becoming a healthcare administrator an exemplary fit. 

While their daily duties will vary according to their expertise, their employer’s priorities and other factors, healthcare administrators usually have core competencies. They will typically have skills in the management of facility finances as well as patient accounts, monitoring and improvement of daily operations, training of personnel, communications with staff, policy development, review and compliance, and relations with external stakeholders. Though some healthcare administrators may manage a whole facility, others may be tasked with a single department. Such individuals may be found in various settings from rural clinics to the largest hospital systems in large cities.

Become a Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers is a term that describes a collection of closely related managerial and administrative healthcare positions. Those who enjoy leadership roles featuring business planning and organization, and who also enjoy working in the healthcare sector, may find the role of health services manager to be a compatible and fulfilling position. 

Health services managers typically oversee the planning and operations of various healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. Such individuals do not provide direct patient care but instead focus on ensuring that healthcare facilities provide quality care while being efficient, responsive, and cost-effective. Though their exact duties will vary according to their employer’s needs, many health services managers have a core set of skills and experience they regularly use. Common duties include organizational planning, oversight of facility finances, regulatory compliance, medical staff communications, and design of work schedules for personnel.

Bernd Geels

Bernd Geels


Bernd Geels is a Berlin, Germany-based freelance writer and artist. He holds an undergraduate degree in atmospheric science and two graduate degrees. He completed his most recent graduate degree in international environmental studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2011. He is interested in healthcare, climate change, marine conservation, indigenous science and refugee issues. You can reach him directly at [email protected].