MSN Careers – A Lifetime of Opportunity


As the nursing profession continues to grow, so do career opportunities. While a bachelor’s degree is a must in nursing, you should probably look into getting your MSN. Whether you pursue an RN to MSN, BSN to MSN or ADN to MSN program, the end result will be a more advanced education with more opportunity. Careers as advanced practice nurses and specialized nurses involve masters’ degrees, and these professions oftentimes pay more money than do registered nurses who only hold bachelors degrees.

General Advancement
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there is an increasing demand for management-level nursing positions to require a graduate or advanced degree in either nursing or health services administration. Getting your MSN means that you can fulfill this requirement while also preparing for management positions since you will learn advanced leadership and communication skills in your graduate program.

Increasing Your Salary
On average, careers for MSN-holding nurses tend to pay between $57,000 and $88,000, but this depends on the type of specialization you pursue. Nurses with an MSN can also expect to receive between $850 and $4,000 in bonuses each year. And as you continue to gain experience, your salary will probably increase. Keep in mind that salaries will differ in geographic regions as well as the type of facility in which you practice.

The type of specialization you choose can influence your salary. Typically, you will make a higher salary if you work in acute care, cardiovascular disease, emergency room care or the intensive care unit. These faster-paced and more stressful positions are often highly demanding and therefore have bigger payouts.

Advanced Practice Nursing
If you opt for a career in advanced practice nursing you will first need your master’s degree. Your MSN will enable you to being a clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife or nurse practitioner. Advanced practice nursing careers not only involve a specialty focus, but they also typically start off with higher pay. Though different states have different requirements for advanced practice nurses, your responsibilities and opportunities will be greater than those presented to you if you only have your bachelor’s degree. Advanced practice nursing careers are expected to be in high demand in the coming year, especially in medically underserved areas such as inner cities or rural regions.

Specialized Learning
Though BSN nurses can specialize in areas of care, they typically receive on-the-job training in specialty care whereas MSN nurses study a specific specialty over a longer period of time–prior to being on the job. This puts MSN nurses at an advantage when it comes to pay scale and job responsibilities.

Specific Career Paths for MSN Nurses

  • Nurse Practitioner – In order to be a nurse practitioner, you must have an MSN. As a nurse practitioner, you can prescribe medication in all 50 states and can even practice independently, without being under the supervision of a physician, in some states. This profession is expected to grow as more nurse practitioners are filling roles in retail clinics that open within chain stores, grocery stores and pharmacies.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist – Though you need an MSN to be a clinical nurse specialist, you get the choice of selecting the specialty that most interests you. These specialties are based on types of care, populations and diseases. Despite similarities between nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists, the two roles are very different in that clinical nurse specialists primarily focus on providing specialized, expert patient care and mentoring of staff within hospitals whereas nurse practitioners often focus on primary care outside of hospitals.
  • Clinical Nurse Leader – A fairly new role in nursing, clinical nurse leaders are nurses who have earned their MSN degrees in clinical nurse leadership. This type of nurse assumes a research-based leadership role whose ultimate goal is to improve clinical cost and patient outcomes.
  • Certified Nurse Midwife – To become a certified nurse midwife, you must be an RN who completes a midwifery program approved by the American College of Nurse-Midwives and pass a national certification exam. Though you do not need to possess a master’s degree for this profession, it certainly does not hurt. You will get the chance to gain more knowledge during your studies and then potentially start out making more money.
  • Nurse Anesthetist – If you choose to become a nurse anesthetist, you must graduate from a master’s program in nurse anesthesia and pass a national certification exam. Nurse anesthetists are the sole providers of anesthesia in more than two-thirds of all rural hospitals in the US.

Clearly there is a lot of opportunity for MSN nurses. The first step to your new career path should start with researching your desired specialties. Decide in which areas of nursing you’re interested then find out which education program best suits your needs. Next, select the track that’s right for you. RN to MSN, BSN to MSN or ADN to MSN are offered to accommodate nurses at different levels in their careers and with different schedules.

One more thing to note is that many MSN programs are now offered online. This enables you to continue working while you learn, so that you can gain more experience, apply your newly learned skills as you go and be well on your way to a promotion.




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