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College of Nursing

Degree Requirements

 Graduate Nursing Program Requirements

Individual program policies may supersede this policy due to national accreditation regulations. Check with your Program Director to determine any additional requirements.

MSN Overview

Four programs are offered at the master’s degree level:  Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), and Nursing Administration (NA).  Each program of graduate degree study is a distinct and sequential course plan leading to theoretical and clinical expertise within the specialty. Course work ranges in length from 30 to 45 credit hours, depending on the foci.  Foundation course include nursing theory, research methodology, and statistics. A detailed description of the courses required in each major and emphasis area is found in the USC Graduate Studies Bulletin

Advanced practice core foundation courses include advanced diagnostics, pharmacology, pathophysiology, and physical assessment. 

The MSN-Nursing Administration program prepares nurses to be key leaders in health organizations managing the delivery of health services across the spectrum of health care. Applicants to the MSN-Nursing Administration program are accepted 3 times a year. Please see website for up to date admission deadlines. The MSN-Nursing Administration leadership courses are offered online in 7-week blocks. Upon completion, graduates may be eligible to take a certification exam through either AONL or ANCC.  Exam eligibility is also dependent on the candidate’s work experience. 

Applicants to the MSN degree programs are reviewed after the published deadlines. Course schedules are planned around the semesters following admission with courses offered fall, spring, and summer.  Program requirements must be completed within 4 years. 

 MSN Admissions Requirements

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing from a nationally accredited program.
  • Unencumbered, active registered nurse (RN) license in state where clinical experiences will occur.
  • Preferred cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (official transcripts for all nursing coursework required).  Applicants who attended a BSN program that issued pass or fail grades for all classes will not be considered a competitive applicant.
  • Science grades will be strongly considered (e.g., Human Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Pathology).
  • Current CV or Resume (In addition to your education and professional experiences, include any certifications, leadership experiences, experiences with diverse or underserved population, paid or volunteer healthcare experiences.)
  • Current BLS and ACLS certifications are required for students seeking admission into the AGACNP program.
  • Must have a minimum of 600 hours of experience as a Registered Nurse within the past 2 years in an acute care setting (ICU, Med-Surg, and Emergency Department). Submit verification of work hours from employer. This must be completed and submitted on the University of South Carolina College of Nursing Form.
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation that attest to the applicant's academic ability, professional competence and personal character.  These letters must be from a master’s or doctorally prepared healthcare professional.
  • Personal statement:  Describe the role and scope of the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP). Describe how this program will advance your professional goals.
  • GRE is not required.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing from a nationally accredited program.
  • Unencumbered, active registered nurse (RN) license in state where clinical experiences will occur.
  • Preferred cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (official transcripts for all nursing coursework required).  Applicants who attended a BSN program that issued pass or fail grades for all classes will not be considered a competitive applicant.
  • Science grades will be strongly considered (e.g., Human Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Pathology).
  • Current CV or Resume (In addition to your education and professional experiences, include any certifications, leadership experiences, experiences with diverse or underserved population, paid or volunteer healthcare experiences.)
  • Current BLS certification is required for students seeking admission into the FNP program.
  • Must have a minimum of 600 hours of experience as a Registered Nurse within the past 2 years. Submit verification of work hours from employer. This must be completed and submitted on the University of South Carolina College of Nursing Form.
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation that attest to the applicant's academic ability, professional competence and personal character.  These letters must be from a master’s or doctorally prepared healthcare professional.
  • Personal statement:  Describe the role and scope of the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). Describe how this program will advance your professional goals.
  • GRE is not required.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing from a nationally accredited program.
  • Unencumbered, active registered nurse (RN) license in state where clinical experiences will occur.
  • Preferred cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (official transcripts for all nursing coursework required).  Applicants who attended a BSN program that issued pass or fail grades for all classes will not be considered a competitive applicant.
  •  Current CV or Resume (In addition to your education and professional experiences, include any certifications, leadership experiences, experiences with diverse or underserved population, paid or volunteer healthcare experiences.)
  •  Three (3) letters of recommendation that attest to the applicant's academic ability, professional competence and personal character.  These letters must be from a master’s or doctorally prepared healthcare professional.
  • Personal statement:  Describe your plan for obtaining a preceptor and/or project site.  In addition, describe your plan for your project.
  • GRE is not required.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing from a nationally accredited program.
  •  Unencumbered, active registered nurse (RN) license in state where clinical experiences will occur.
  • Preferred cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (official transcripts for all nursing coursework required).  Applicants who attended a BSN program that issued pass or fail grades for all classes will not be considered a competitive applicant.
  • Science grades will be strongly considered (e.g., Human Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Pathology).
  • Current CV or Resume (In addition to your education and professional experiences, include any certifications, leadership experiences, experiences with diverse or underserved population, paid or volunteer healthcare experiences.)
  • Current BLS certification is required for students seeking admission into the PMHNP program.
  • Must have a minimum of 600 hours of experience as a Registered Nurse within the past 2 years strongly preferred. Submit verification of work hours from employer. This must be completed and submitted on the University of South Carolina College of Nursing Form.
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation that attest to the applicant's academic ability, professional competence and personal character.  These letters must be from a master’s or doctorally prepared healthcare professional.
  • Personal statement:  Describe the role and scope of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). Describe how this program will advance your professional goals.
  • GRE is not required.

MSN Certification Requirements

While program curricula offered by the University of South Carolina, College of Nursing prepare students to sit for national certification within their specialty area, Nurse Practitioner program graduates may be required to complete additional state specific requirements before being permitted to practice.

MSN Degree Requirements

Requirements for earning the MSN degree include:

  1. Completion of an approved Master’s Program of Study in Nursing
  2. Completion of an applied research course, NURS 791 (3 credits), or a thesis, NURS 799 (6 credits)
  3.  A cumulative GPA of at least 3.000 at time of graduation
  4. Average on all grades recorded on the program of study for courses numbered 700 or above must be at least 3.00 and all courses listed on the program of study must be at least 3.00.
  5. Complete Clinical Hours
  6. Successful completion of the Master’s Comprehensive Assessment Exam

MSN Time Limitations

A maximum of four (4) calendar years, beginning with the initial graduate course following matriculation, is allowed for completion of the work for the MSN degree. Additionally, when courses are taken at the University are beyond The Graduate School six-year limit, the course must be revalidated to be applied toward the degree.  Please refer to the Graduate School Bulletin Academic Regulations section on Revalidation of Out of Date Courses for more information. Coursework taken at other institutions cannot be revalidated.

MSN Research Requirements

Candidates for an MSN degree must complete research activities consistent with program requirements.  For the MSN degree, the student may elect a thesis option or a non-thesis option.  Students electing the thesis option must meet with the Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs at matriculation in order to enroll in NURS 799 Thesis Preparation (6 credits) and complete a thesis under the supervision of a thesis committee.  Students electing the non-thesis option enroll in NURS 791 Seminar in Clinical Nursing Research (3 credits). Thesis Guidelines are available at The Graduate School website.

MSN Comprehensive Assessment

The Graduate School requires that all master’s degree programs offered by the University of South Carolina have an end of program comprehensive assessment of graduating students.  All MSN students must successfully pass a comprehensive assessment during the last semester of the program.

Masters Program Objectives

  1. Knowledge and skills required for advanced nursing practice or nursing administration
  2. Ability to apply theory and research in practice
  3. Leadership skills for nursing practice

Masters Learning Objectives

  • Apply knowledge from core courses in the assessment of clients.
  • Integrate core and clinical course content in the diagnosis and treatment of clients.
  • Use core and clinical course content within the context of the community and to understand the community as client.
  • Apply theory to practice problems, to analyze practice guidelines, and to conduct an evidence-based practice project.
  • Examine laws governing advanced practice, to understand scope of practice, and to apply evidence-based practice knowledge in treatment planning.
  • Apply knowledge from core courses in the assessment of clients.
  • Integrate core and clinical course content in the diagnosis and treatment of clients.
  •  Use core and clinical course content within the context of the community and to understand the community as client.
  • Apply theory to practice problems, to analyze practice guidelines, and to conduct an evidence-based practice project.
  • Examine laws governing advanced practice, to understand scope of practice, and to apply evidence-based practice knowledge in treatment planning.
  • Apply knowledge of nursing leadership practice in the healthcare system.
  •  Integrate core and clinical course content in the application to nursing leadership roles
  • Demonstrate nursing leadership knowledge to facilitate efficient and effective interdisciplinary teams.
  •  Integrate nursing leadership principles to actively engage and direct quality healthcare outcomes.
  • Apply knowledge from core courses in the assessment of clients.
  •  Integrate core and clinical course content in the diagnosis and treatment of clients.
  • Use core and clinical course content within the context of the community and to understand the community as client.
  • Apply theory to practice problems, to analyze practice guidelines, and to conduct an evidence-based practice project.
  • Examine laws governing advanced practice, to understand scope of practice, and to apply evidence-based practice knowledge in treatment planning.


 Post-Master’s Certificate of Graduate Study (CGS)

CGS Overview

The College offers three post-master’s certificate of graduate study program options in advanced practice. The curriculum is 25 to 30 credit hours for students who have a master’s degree in nursing and are not certified as advanced practice nurses. The curriculum is 18 or 19 credit hours* for students who have a master’s degree in nursing and are currently licensed, certified and practicing as advanced practice nurses (i.e., nurse practitioners), and are seeking an additional certification emphasis area. Additionally, students requesting the 18 hours CGS program must submit transcript and in some cases syllabi to support the following three separate, advanced APRN course across the life-span with a B or higher in: Pharmacology, Health Assessment and Pathophysiology. 

* Note: If the advanced practice core courses do not meet requirements for secondary certification, 25 to 30 hours may be required for these students. 

The emphasis areas are Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.  Depending on the certification that the student currently has and is seeking, additional foundation courses or other courses may be required.  

A post-master’s Certificate of Graduate Study in Nursing Administration is offered. The curriculum is 18 credit hours for students who have a master’s degree in nursing. 

Both the Certificate of Graduate Study in Advanced Practice Nursing and Certificate of Graduate Study in Nursing Administration are restricted to students who hold a master’s degree in nursing.  The program of study is designed to augment the student’s prior graduate study through advanced practice preparation in one of four emphasis areas; Nursing Administration, Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. 

 CGS Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from a nationally accredited program.
  • Preferred cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for undergraduate and graduate coursework (official transcripts for all post-secondary school coursework are required).  Applicants who attended a BSN or MSN program that issued pass or fail grades for all classes will not be a competitive applicant.
  • Unencumbered, active advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license in state where clinical experiences will occur. This includes telehealth visits (South Carolina) for PMHNP Certificate of Graduate Study.
  • A copy of current APRN specialty certification must be submitted
  • Current BLS is required for students seeking admission into the FNP and PMHNP Certificate of Graduate Studies.
  • Current BLS and ACLS certifications are required for students seeking admission into the AGACNP Certificate of Graduate Study.
  • Evidence of completion (with an earned grade of B or higher) of graduate level courses in Health/Physical Assessment (across the lifespan), Physiology/Pathophysiology (across the lifespan), and Pharmacology (broad categories of drugs).  These must be three separate courses that meet current criteria for content based on the Consensus Model for APRN regulation (AACN, 2008).
  • Current CV or Resume (In addition to your education and professional experiences, include any certifications, leadership experiences, experiences with diverse or underserved population, paid or volunteer healthcare experiences.)
  • Three (3) recommendations that attest to the applicant's academic ability, professional competency and personal character.  These letters must be from a master’s or doctoral prepared health care professional.
  •  Personal statement:  Describe the advanced practice role (AGACNP, FNP, PMHNP) and scope for which you are seeking certification.  Describe how this program will advance your professional goals.
  • GRE not required.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from a nationally accredited program.
  • Preferred cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for undergraduate and graduate coursework (official transcripts for all post-secondary school coursework are required).  Applicants who attended a BSN or MSN program that issued pass or fail grades for all classes will not be a competitive applicant.
  • Unencumbered, active registered nurse (RN) license in state where clinical experiences will occur. This includes telehealth visits (South Carolina) for PMHNP Certificate of Graduate Study.
  • Current BLS certification is required for students seeking admission into the FNP and PMHNP Certificate of Graduate Studies.
  • Current BLS and ACLS certifications is required for students seeking admission into the AGACNP Certificate of Graduate Study.
  • Current CV or Resume (In addition to your education and professional experiences, include any certifications, leadership experiences, experiences with diverse or underserved population, paid or volunteer healthcare experiences.)
  • Three (3) recommendations that attest to the applicant's academic ability, professional competency and personal character.  These letters must be from a master’s or doctoral prepared health care professional.
  • Personal statement:  Describe the advanced practice role (AGACNP, FNP, PMHNP) and scope for which you are seeking certification.  Describe how this program will advance your professional goals.
  • GRE not required.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from a nationally accredited program and evidence of credentialing within the applicant’s specialty.
  • Preferred cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for undergraduate and graduate coursework (official transcripts for all nursing coursework are required).  Applicants who attended a BSN or MSN program that issued pass or fail grades for all classes will not be a competitive applicant.
  •  Unencumbered, active registered nurse (RN) license in state where clinical experiences will occur.
  • Current CV or Resume (In addition to your education and professional experiences, include any certifications, leadership experiences, experiences with diverse or underserved population, paid or volunteer healthcare experiences.)
  • Three (3) recommendations that attest to the applicant's academic ability, professional competency and personal character.  These letters must be from a master’s or doctoral prepared health care professional.
  •  Personal Statement:  Describe your plan for obtaining a preceptor and/or project site.  In addition, describe your plan for your project.
  • GRE not required.

CGS Certification Requirements

Students who complete the program of study are eligible to apply for national certification examinations in the applicable specialty area.

CGS Plan of Study

In developing the plan of study, the following criteria will apply for Post Master’s Certificate:

  • The course listing will depend on the emphasis and entry preparation.
  • All clinical hours within the plan of study must be completed in the role area and with the population specific to the degree or certificate sought.
  • Work hours may not be substituted for, or counted towards, the completion of required clinical hours.
  • The number of clinical hours taken at the University of South Carolina College of Nursing will be consistent with the requirements of certification in the specialty area specific to the degree or certificate sought.
  • Once the Program of Study has been developed in consultation with the student graduate advisor and program director, it will be reviewed with the applicant and guide the completion of the selected program.

CGS Degree Requirements

Requirements for earning the CGS degree include:

  1. Complete an approved program of study.
  2. Have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and earn a 3.0 or better in all required classes and courses number 700 or higher.
  3. Complete clinical hours.
  4. The CON requires a comprehensive exam for all CGS Advanced Practice candidates.

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