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Nurses can have a prosperous and successful career with only a bachelor’s degree in nursing. However, nurses who earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) have many more financially and personally rewarding employment opportunities. Plus, healthcare in the US is growing and changing, requiring more highly specialized nursing professionals to take on more and more complex roles.
Advanced practice nursing professionals (APRNs) are increasingly taking over occupations and tasks that once were the domain only of physicians. Today that is changing, and these are some of the best reasons to earn your MSN online:
Jump to a Recommended MSN Degree Options
- Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Educator
- Certified Nurse Midwife
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Nursing Administrator
Nurses with a BSN are well trained, but they are generally working in general, clinical nursing practice for much of their careers. Graduate level nursing programs allow the nurse to study in much more detail their area of interest.
This higher level of expertise and specialization will often prepare you to assume a leadership position in your nursing career. Nurses with an MSN do not usually simply follow doctor instructions anymore and perform basic patient care. They are at the forefront of the patient care system and provide leadership for both healthcare workers and patients and families.
More detail is provided later in this article about the major APRN roles in which you can specialize with an MSN degree.
There is a doctor shortage in America today that is being driven by higher healthcare demand across the board. It takes up to eight years for an MD to obtain his or her education and residency. It is necessary for APRNs with a master’s degree to take on some of their workload.
This brings many new job opportunities for MSN-trained nurses. Recently the Institute of Medicine recommended that scope of practice barriers by removed from the path of APRNs. This would mean that nurse practitioners, for instance, would be paid the same as a doctor would for a similar healthcare service.
At this time, 28 states are looking at legislation that would change current barriers to practice. These changes would result in higher pay for APRNs.
A lack of nurses generally means there is not enough teachers to teach them as well. More details are provided below about the nurse educator profession. If your passion is to teach the new generation of nurses, you will find that becoming a nurse educator can be a great career opportunity.
More Education Opportunities
Earning your master’s in nursing takes time and money, but it has never been easier to do than today. Online MSN degree programs provide many with the opportunity to earn their advanced degree from home, and still work part time.
Most accredited, online MSN degree programs offer a high level of flexibility so that you can earn your degree in two or three years.
Helping People at a Higher Level
Also, nursing is a career that can affect thousands of people positively. With a master’s degree in nursing, you can help be the change that the world needs and you can help ease the fears that patients face every day. You will have the opportunity to not just serve the individual patient: You also will likely work in a leadership position where you can have a greater influence on the healthcare provided in a practice, hospital floor, or entire healthcare center.
For those that want a career that is more than just a paycheck, nursing with a master’s degree is a career that can be rewarding on so many different levels.
For those that want a career that is not only going to enrich their own lives but also the lives of those they work with, nursing is the career for you. Those that choose this career path can be certain that they are going to make a difference in the lives of everyone that they work with from day to day. The average annual salary for a nurse with a master’s is $130,000. This salary may of course change depending on where you find employment.
If you take the time to earn more certifications and special awards you can also increase your pay per year. This salary does not reflect over time and added time you may be required to work. It is always helpful to do a bit of looking into how much nurses in your own area make in order to better determine the average salary for a nurse in the area in which you live.
You can learn more about nursing salaries by discussing them with the local healthcare facilities that you will be applying to after graduation and after you have passed your tests.
Skills Developed with an MSN Degree
Skills that will be sharpened by a nursing program:
- Patient care
- Public interaction
- And more
Students can learn more about these programs and those that are similar by requesting information from our site. We hope that the information we provide will be helpful and useful on your path to finding the program that is going to work for you and your individual needs and goals.
Though nursing is a very hands on degree, some colleges and universities offer some measure of online classes to help expedite the process and allow students to learn from home. Though these classes are online, there will likely be some measure of in person classes to help to evaluate skills and progress. Master’s in Nursing degrees are difficult to come by but ultimately fulfilling for those that are up for the challenge.
Master’s in Nursing Overview
This program is challenging and will test the limits of what you already know and what you are capable of learning. It is required that in order to apply for a master’s in the art of nursing that you already have some measure of nursing education.
Those that enroll in this degree program will be required to learn both the basics of nursing as well as advanced life support and care techniques. You will also learn bedside manner, how to work with members of the public, and how to work with doctors and other critical members of staff within the hospital or doctors’ office where you will work.
This degree is very strenuous but rewarding and those that have the ability to take each class and test with skill will be rewarded with a career that keeps giving. This degree most often focuses on advanced skills that go above and beyond the scope of similar two year or four year nursing degrees to create a graduate that is prepared to take on any challenge.
Masters in Nursing Course Requirements
There are a wide range of classes that you will be required to complete and listed below are some of the most common classes that will become part of your course content.
- Foundational nursing concepts and applications
- Theoretical basis for advanced nursing practice
- Leadership and nursing practice role development
- Advanced research methods: evidence based practice
- Healthcare policy
- Fundamentals of nursing informatics
In most cases it is a requirement that in order to be approved for admission into a nursing master’s program you must have a degree in nursing from an accredited school. You may also be required to have certain classes that you have completed like psychology, statistics, English composition, epidemiology, and more. It is important that you determine what is needed to be accepted to a program before you apply.
Master’s in Nursing Career Outlook
Healthcare is one of the most secure career options out there. People will always need people to care for them. That being said, the odds of a new graduate of a nursing master’s program being hired are good. This means that you will have a pool from which to draw when it comes time for you to apply for a job with the hospital or medical facility of your choice.
As a nurse you will have the opportunity to really work with patients and help them to not only feel better but to actually start down the road to real recovery and good health.
Where Can Master’s of Nursing Candidates Find Work After They Graduate?
With your MSN, your career options are going to depend upon what your nursing specialty is. Most nurses find work easily in hospitals, doctor’s’ offices, home health care and nursing homes. As noted in the above specialties, there are plenty of jobs available for all APRN specialties: NPs, CRNAs, CNSs, nurse educators, nurse administrators and more.
When you complete your MSN, you will have the chance to work in very prestigious roles, such as chief nursing officer, nursing administrator, clinical nurse educator, nurse practitioner, or nursing director of education. Some of the other top nursing careers where you can find employment are:
- Certified legal nurse consultant
- Nurse case manager
- Nurse educator
- Nurse researcher
- Nurse informatics analyst
- Pediatric endocrinology nurse
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median salary for all nurses was $68,450 in 2016. That includes nursing roles for those who only have an LPN or BSN degree, so the salary number is a bit skewed.
The top 10%, which usually are those who have at least a master’s degree in nursing, was $95,100.
The median salary for all nurses depends upon where they work:
- General medical and surgical hospitals – private: $66,600
- Doctors’ offices: $62,800
- General medical and surgical hospitals – local: $62,600
- Home health care services: $60,690
- Nursing care facilities: $58,100
Most nurses with an MSN will not have problems finding work, with job growth for registered nurses expected to be 26% by 2020. Job growth is expected to be much faster in outpatient care centers, including those that provide chemotherapy, rehabilitation and surgery.
More information about the major occupations that you can work in with your Master of Science in Nursing is below.
One of the nursing professions in the highest demand to day is nurse practitioner or NP. NPs are primary and secondary care providers who perform a lot of the same work as doctors. NPs are able to work for a lower cost than most physicians, so it makes sense that healthcare systems and insurance companies are increasingly relying on NPs to handle more of the patient workload.
NPs deliver advanced nursing care services to patients and families in settings from doctor’s offices to hospitals to home healthcare centers. Many NPs may eventually specialize in certain populations of patients, such as oncology, neonates or geriatrics.
NPs will see a rapid 35% increase in job demand by 2024. This is one of the fastest rates of job growth in any profession currently, and probably the highest demand in all of healthcare. Healthcare professionals who want to have their choice of positions often prefer to become a nurse practitioner.
Nurse practitioners earn a good salary, with the median salary at $100,900 as of 2016.
Another attractive feature of the NP field: Some states allow NPs to work independently of doctors. It is possible in those states to open your own private practice.
Recommended MSN-NP Degree Options
The following online universities have an accredited Master of Science in Nursing for the NP specialty without a GRE requirement:
- Master of Science in Nursing FNP – Saint Joseph’s College
- Master of Science in Nursing FNP – Herzing University
- Master of Science in Nursing FNP – Gonzaga University
Don’t just list FNP programs. List up to 10 schools for this section.
With the shortage of nursing professionals in the US today, it is not surprising that there is not enough teachers to teach them. Nurse educators are experienced nurses with an MSN degree who teach new nurses at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level what they need to succeed in the field.
Many nurse educators serve as college or university faculty in nursing schools and teaching hospitals. Their most common duties are to develop nursing lesson plans, teach nursing courses, evaluate nursing educational programs, oversee the clinical practice of nursing students, and serve as nursing mentors for the new generation of nurses.
Some nurse educators teach general clinical nursing classes, and others may teach courses in geriatrics, pediatrics or informatics. It is very important for nurse educators to be up to date on new clinical nursing skills and technologies. Nurse educators may also write or review nursing school textbooks, and develop continuing education materials for current RNs.
Payscale.com reports that the median salary for nurse educators today is $72,000 per year.
Recommended MSN Nurse Educator Degree Options
The following online universities have an accredited Master of Science in Nursing for the nurse educator specialty without a GRE requirement:
- Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Educator – Capella University
- Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Educator – Jacksonville University
- Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Educator – Southern New Hampshire University
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
CNMs offer specialized primary and secondary care to women. Their common job duties include performing gynecological examinations, family planning, prenatal care, and general primary care for women and their newborns.
CNMs are highly skilled healthcare professionals who practice in most clinical settings. They are a very important part of the modern healthcare team in most healthcare organizations.
CNM-attended births were 12% of vaginal births in the US and more than 8% of all births in 2014. Of all of these deliveries done by nurse midwives, 94% were done in hospitals, and 3% were done at home, and 3% were done in freestanding birth centers.
CNMs also deliver babies, handle emergencies during labor, and often provide surgical assistance to doctors during a cesarean birth. Nurse midwives also offer wellness care to young mothers, as they educate patients on ways to live a healthier life through preventing disease and eating better.
Employment for CNMs will increase by 25% by 2024, as more underserved areas of the country rely on nurse midwives to provide greatly needed pre- and post-natal care services to women. The median salary for CNMs is $99,700.
Recommended MSN-CNM Degree Options
The following online universities have an accredited Master of Science in Nursing for the CNM specialty without a GRE requirement:
- Master of Science in Nursing CNM – Georgetown University
- Master of Science in Nursing CNM – Ohio State University
Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
CRNAs provide a variety of anesthesia services to all types of patients who are undergoing many surgeries and procedures. CRNAs are trained and qualified to perform most of the same tasks as anesthesiologists. But they can do so with an MSN or DNP degree, instead of spending more than six years in medical school and residency.
CRNAs also offer emergency services with anesthesia and some pain management services. All CRNAs have to work closely with patients before any procedure to determine the best types and amounts of anesthesia to use. They also monitor the patient closely throughout the procedure and adjust the amount of anesthesia as needed.
Job prospects for CRNAs are bright, with 19% increase in demand expected in the next decade. Many jobs are opening in underserved regions, such as rural and urban settings. CRNAs perform greatly needed services but at a lower price than doctors. This is driving demand very high.
The median pay for CRNAs is $160,200 per year.
Recommended MSN-CRNA Degree Options
The following online universities have an accredited Master of Science in Nursing for the CRNA specialty without a GRE requirement:
- Master of Science in Nursing CRNA – University of South Alabama
Clinical Nurse Specialist
A clinical nurse specialist is a lesser-known but still important advanced nursing practice professional. These nurses are experienced RNs who earn their MSN in advanced clinical nursing practice. A CNS is fully capable of diagnosing a patient and providing treatment, but also serves in consulting and leadership in many healthcare organizations.
A CNS is very influential and can affect healthcare outcomes in most healthcare organizations. A skilled CNS can help to reduce the number of patient complications that occur in a hospital, and also can improve patient satisfaction with their care.
Some of the most significant duties that clinical nurse specialists handle include the following:
- Optimize the care of patients by working closely with and supervising nursing staff. This usually includes such things as evaluating current nursing practices, reviewing potential alternatives, consulting with patient care managers and educating staff on best nursing practices.
- Make critical decisions about where to best allocate staff time and resources
- Develop new, specialized treatment plans after patients have been examined
- Incorporate new clinical nursing practices to improve teamwork among staff
- Analyze large amounts of patient outcomes and data to determine how to appropriately staff in the future
After earning your MSN as a CNS and obtaining state licensure, you have the option of working in these types of facilities:
- Private and public hospitals
- Healthcare clinics
- Home health practices
- Long term care centers
- Public health facilities
Your career path as a CNS can vary based upon the exact speciality you study. Some clinical nursing specialists obtain specialized training in geriatrics or neonates. Others may opt for studying women’s health and serving primarily women across the lifespan.
CNN Money reports that the median salary in this field is more than $86,000 per year. As with all advanced nursing practice positions, there is no doubt that demand in this field will increase dramatically in the coming years. BLS reports that all advanced nursing practice roles will see nearly 30% rise in demand by 2024.
Recommended MSN-CNS Degree Options
The following online universities have an accredited Master of Science in Nursing for the CNS specialty without a GRE requirement:
- Master of Science in Nursing Adult Gerontology CNS – University of South Alabama
- Master of Science in Nursing CNS – Adult Gerontology CNS – Loyola University Chicago
- Master of Science in Nursing CNS – Adult Gerontology CNS – Kent State University
The modern healthcare environment requires nursing administration leader professional who are effective in creating effective systems of healthcare delivery across departments and facilities. This leads to better patient care in all medical settings, from doctor’s offices to private hospitals to large medical centers.
Nursing administration is a growing area of advanced nursing practice that more online MSN programs are offering. Depending upon the place you are employed, your title could vary:
- Nurse manager
- Nurse administrator
- Director of nursing
- VP of nursing
- Chief nursing officer
BLS states that the median salary for nursing administrators and related positions is $96,500 per year.
Recommended MSN Nursing Administration Degree Options
The following online universities have an accredited Master of Science in Nursing for the nursing administration specialty without a GRE requirement:
- Master of Science in Nursing – Health Systems Leadership – Gonzaga University
- Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Leadership and Administration – Capella University
- Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Administration – Liberty University
Some of the organizations that you can consider for getting financial aid assistance for your master’s degree are:
- National Health Service Corps
- NURSE Corps Scholarship Program
- Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students
- Health Professions Student Loans
- Primary Care Loans
- 70+ Nursing Scholarships
- Nurse Practitioner News: Resources for APRN Nurses
- Learning Nurse Resource Center
- Nursing and Allied Health Resource Section
- Practical Clinical Skills
- American Nurses Association
- National Student Nurses Association
- American Holistic Nurses Association
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
Other MSN Degrees
Master’s degree courses in nursing deal with advanced concepts of nursing science and how they are applied, along with health care management. Intensive research is used to give a strong foundation to improve health care techniques. Students also develop leadership and interpersonal skills that help them to thrive in an advanced nursing practice career.
Both classroom and clinical work is required to graduate with an MSN. You will need to complete clinical hour experience at a local health facility if you are earning your MSN online.
Debbie explains why she wanted a master’s degree in nursing, why Capella was the right choice, and how her education is already impacting her career.
- Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, Nurse Practitioners. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-2