Nurses can transition into medical school.
Nurses can transition into medical school.

By the time you have your master’s degree in nursing, you’re well on your way to a career in medicine. Odds are you’ve already worked as a nurse in a hospital setting and are sure that medicine is the life for you. If the next step is to become a doctor, you have a few options -- not to mention a few different definitions of “doctor.”

Ph.D. in Nursing

Nurses with a master’s degree are well-poised to move into the final stage of academic study of nursing: the nursing Ph.D. The nursing Ph.D. will earn you the “doctor” title, but it will stand for “doctor of philosophy.” Nursing Ph.D. programs prepare candidates for a career in research or academics, meaning you can contribute your expertise as a nurse doctor to advancing the field of nursing, either at a university or research center. These programs are research-intensive, but are one way to transition from a master’s degree to a doctor.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Nurses also become doctors by way of doctor of nursing practice programs, which bridge the space between a master’s and a medical doctor. Nurses with their doctor of nursing practice work to bring new research into practice, implementing new technologies and new practices in health-care settings. Doctors of nursing practice can expect to find leadership positions in health-care practices.

Medical Doctor

Becoming a medical doctor takes years of study. A master’s in nursing is not equivalent to a pre-med course, the usual first path that students take on the way to becoming MDs, but your practical experience and grades from your undergrad -- the high scores that got you into the master’s program in the first place -- can help you get into medical school. Additionally, you have to write the Medical Colleges Admission Test; MCAT scores and grades are the two most important aspects for getting through the initial screening of med school applications, according to John Hopkins University.

Pre-Med

Most doctors take a pre-med path to their medical school, and you may not be inclined to go back for a new undergraduate degree having already finished a master’s. Some colleges have taken to offering nursing as a pre-med program, however, so applying to a nursing pre-med may accelerate your entry into medical college -- especially if your undergrad was in nursing. You may find that your master’s degree fulfills many of the pre-med requirements, too, though you’ll need to check with the school to find which credits from your previous degrees transfer.