As with other professions, the bar for the nursing profession has been increasing, both in educational and skill sets. A 2020 survey found that 14.9% of registered nurses held master’s degrees, a 2.1% increase over the same survey in 2013.This trend means that a good next step for many registered nurses is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
A graduate nursing education can boost a nurse’s salary by opening new career opportunities. Advanced MSN coursework also prepares graduates for the future of health care. Let’s examine why an MSN degree is right for you and the professional paths available upon graduation.
Reasons to Earn an MSN Degree
Registered nurses balancing work with graduate studies can expect good returns on their educational investment. The median salary for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners - all requiring master’s degrees - was $123,780 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Registered nurses earned a median salary of $77,600 in the same year.
MSN career salaries are only one measure of the value of advanced nursing education. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) found that 93% of MSN graduates received job offers within six months of graduation. MSN degree holders are in high demand based on this job placement rate.
This demand is driven by a number of factors including an aging workforce and increased demand for health services. For example, the BLS projects a 46% growth in nurse practitioner jobs by 2031 as the country faces primary care physician shortages. Experienced nurses can pursue opportunities to fill these vacancies and serve their communities by earning MSN degrees.
Nursing Career Options with an MSN Degree
The complexity of the health care system creates plenty of opportunities for advancement by MSN-educated nurses. Graduate nursing education prepares advanced practice nurses and administrators to make evidence-based decisions in challenging situations. Here are some popular career paths for nurses who have earned MSNs.
Hospital and organizational departments rely on strong nursing leadership to juggle patient care responsibilities, and operational and financial needs. MSN-educated nursing professionals use their experiences and professional relationships to achieve this difficult balance. The work done by nurse administrators includes some of the following tasks:
- Personnel management including work schedules and staff training
- Monitor and facilitate staff and facility compliance with regulatory requirements
- Develop department goals and budgets
- Interprofessional and interdepartmental collaboration to improve patient outcomes
There are no state-level licensing requirements for nurse administrators though there are optional credentials like the Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC). When filling these roles, employers look for combinations of health care experience and advanced education. The BLS estimates a $101,340 median salary for health service managers including nurse administrators.
Family Nurse Practitioner
Registered nurses interested in greater autonomy in caring for patients pursue careers APRNs such as family nurse practitioners (FNPs). Depending on state regulations, FNPs may work in private practice or collaborate with physicians in caring for patients of all ages. A typical day for an FNP may include:
- Assessing and evaluating patient conditions
- Ordering and prescribing diagnostic tests based on patient needs
- Prescribing appropriate medications and other treatments
- Collaborating with specialists and physicians for optimal patient outcomes;
- Following up with patient treatment plans and educating patients to improve understanding
A completed MSN is the first step toward FNP certification. FNPs must pass a certification exam endorsed by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to apply for state licensure as an APRN. For example, Tennessee’s Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Licensure process includes the following requirements:
- Current state or multi-state RN license
- Official transcript from MSN program
- Declaration of Citizenship
- Completed Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners found an average salary of $115,000 in a national survey of FNPs. There is also a trend toward full-practice authority for nurse practitioners, with most states authorizing full practice as of 2022. The combination of a good salary and practice independence makes this a great career option for MSN-trained nurses.
RBC Capital Markets found that the health care sector produced 30% of the world’s data in 2018. The sector will experience a 36% annual growth rate in data from 2018 through 2025. These trends result from the rapid expansion of healthcare technology adoption.
Nurse informaticists combine their clinical experiences with IT acumen to maximize technology’s impact on patient health. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) identified the following job responsibilities in its 2020 survey:
- Implementing new systems and technologies
- Optimizing system performance and utilization rates
- Educating nurses and other staff about the benefits of new systems
- Informing care quality initiatives with data analytics
HIMSS found that 66% of nurse informaticists hold master’s degrees including 24% with MSN degrees. Though informaticists typically complete additional coursework and certificates in the field, there isn't a state licensing requirement for this profession. Half of HIMSS survey respondents with master’s degrees earned more than $100,000 including just over 10% earning more than $151,000.
Advance Your Nursing Education at Carson-Newman University
Carson-Newman’s Online MSN-FNP program is designed for working nurses interested in careers as primary care providers. This part-time degree features entirely online courses taught by experienced nurse practitioners. Students build on their previous education and experiences with courses in:
- Advanced Health Assessment
- Advanced Pathophysiology
- Advanced Pharmacology
- Advanced Primary Nursing Care for Adults
The Advanced Health Assessment course is integrated with a three-day residency on the Carson-Newman campus. Students meet their colleagues and learn how to conduct physical exams under faculty supervision. These in-person sessions build camaraderie among students and build skills necessary for family practice.
The Online MSN-FNP degree also requires 600 hours of clinical placements. Carson-Newman’s placement specialists identify clinical locations and preceptors in students’ communities. This free service adds even more value to a degree priced under $30,000.
Request a free program guide today to find out how Carson-Newman’s FNP program can support your career.