Best-Paying MSN Jobs in Nursing

Jane Nam
Updated November 29, 2023
Edited by
    Explore top-paying nursing jobs for practitioners with an MSN. Learn the difference between the value of a BSN and an MSN, and determine the next step in your career.
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    A mid-adult Hispanic female nurse is chatting with a physician behind the administrative desk of the clinic. She is holding a patient file in her left hand and consulting with the physician about the patient's medication.Credit: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

    Registered nurses (RNs) can consider earning a master’s in nursing (MSN) to advance their careers. Earning an MSN allows graduates to pursue advanced clinical, research, or teaching roles, offering increased pay, responsibilities, and career opportunities.

    Direct-entry MSN programs require a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited program. Explore advanced nursing positions, job responsibilities, and earning potential on this page.

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    Top-Paying Nursing Jobs with an MSN

    Gaining experience allows RNs to discover nurse specialty areas they enjoy most. Each specialty offers different perks, including notable increases in pay.

    MSN graduates can pursue roles as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) after passing an exam and earning their APRN licenses. APRNs provide direct patient care and include nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and midwives. Non-patient-facing roles include nurse consultants, researchers, and educators.

    Our list ranks the eight top-paying advanced nurse practitioner roles. When considering an MSN career path, compare and contrast the responsibilities, pay, and patient population of the following positions.

    Nurse Anesthetists

    The highest paid nursing speciality is certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). CRNAs assist patients undergoing surgeries or procedures with pre-surgery consults concerning the medications they take, their allergies, and any illnesses. During procedures, anesthetists administer and adjust anesthesia levels. After surgery, they monitor vital signs and manage patients’ pain. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows a projected job growth rate of 9% from 2022-2032, faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.

    Median Annual Salary:$203,090

    Note: In 2009, the Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) announced that nurse anesthesia programs must offer doctoral degrees for entry into practice by 2025. Nurse anesthetists will be required to have a doctorate of nursing practice rather than an MSN.

    Nurse Practitioners

    Nurse Practitioners (NPs) focus on particular patient populations, including acute care, family practice, geriatrics, and oncology. NPs perform many of the same duties as doctors, independently or under a collaboration agreement with a physician, including prescribing medications. Due to a primary healthcare provider shortage, the BLS projects NP jobs to grow by 45% from 2022-2032, significantly faster than average.

    Median Annual Salary:$121,610

    Nurse Midwives

    Certified nurse midwives care for patients throughout all stages of family planning, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. They deliver babies, perform gynecological exams, advise new mothers about wellness care, and assist surgeons with cesarean births. BLS data indicates that nurse midwives can anticipate a projected 6% growth in jobs from 2022-2032, faster than average.

    Median Annual Salary:$120,880

    Nurse Consultant

    Nurse consultants work for hospitals, insurance companies, law offices, and pharmaceutical companies. They analyze and advise legal issues and claims concerning healthcare policies and regulations, medical terminology, and patient records. These MSN jobs typically require RN licenses. RN jobs have a projected job growth of 6% from 2022-2032.

    Average Annual Salary:$91,520 (October 2023)

    Research Nurse

    Research nurses work in clinics, hospitals, and laboratories. They specialize in data collection, analysis, and informatics to advance patient care outcomes. Some research nurses leverage their MSN to earn a doctoral degree.

    Average Annual Salary:$74,420 (September 2023)

    Nurse Educator

    Nurse educators work with hospital administrators and nursing faculty to train nurses. They develop continuing education programs, performance evaluations, and educational policies, systems, and resources. These educators also analyze standards of care for deficiencies and formulate improvement initiatives. BLS data projects that nurse educators jobs will grow 18% from 2022-2032, much faster than average.

    Average Annual Salary:$82,770 (October 2023)

    Nurse Administrator

    These professionals manage nurses and healthcare services at residential care facilities, hospitals, and clinics. They hire staff and ensure nurses comply with laws, regulations, and policies. Nurse administrators also interact with patients to monitor the care they receive. BLS data projects a 28% job growth rate for medical and health services managers from 2022-2032, significantly faster than average.

    Median Annual Salary:$104, 840

    Frequently Asked Questions: Master’s of Nursing Salary

    Do MSN nurses get paid more than BSN nurses?

    Yes, MSN-prepared nurses earn significantly more than BSN-prepared nurses. RNs earn $81,220 in median annual salary while APRNS, including nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists, earn around $125,900, according to the BLS. However, many factors can affect earning potential, including work environment, geographic location, work shifts, and experience.

    MSN holders can take on leadership roles and more responsibilities than RNs with a BSN. For instance, MSN holders can pursue their APRN licenses. Depending on their state of residence, APRNs can prescribe medication and serve as primary care providers without working under a physician.

    RNs perform multiple tasks, which can vary by work environment. Responsibilities include conducting assessments, recording medical symptoms, administering treatment or medications, or educating patients. While RNs play a significant role in managing or maintaining patient health, RNs with a bachelor of science in nursing cannot perform certain duties and must work under nurse practitioners and physicians.

    Is it worth it to get an MSN?

    It can be worth it to get an MSN if you want to advance in your nursing career. Earning an MSN helps you pursue many job opportunities in direct patient care, education, and research.

    Currently, only about 17% of nurses hold an MSN nationwide in 2022, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The demand for nurse practitioners with an advanced degree exceeds the number of professionals in the field.

    The BLS projects a 45% increase in demand for nurse practitioners from 2022-2032, which is much faster than average. RNs with experience and interested in pursuing a specialty or advancing in their careers, can apply to online MSN programs, allowing them to work while earning their degree.

    It’s important to note that MSN programs cost thousands of dollars and would not offer a good return on a student’s investment if they study a field they could eventually dislike.

    RNs not yet ready for MSN program may want to consider shadowing practitioners in different specialties or securing employment in a setting that allows them to work with their target population.

    Do hospitals pay for an MSN?

    RNs considering an MSN may hesitate when they see the cost of obtaining this advanced degree. However, practitioners working in hospitals can often access financial help. RNs should contact their HR manager to see what financial assistance is available.

    While employers rarely pay for tuition directly out of pocket, hospitals may offer tuition reimbursement, as a highly educated staff offers a great return on investment. Tuition reimbursement can range from 50-100%, depending on the hospital.

    Hospitals offering tuition reimbursement often require applicants to commit to working for the hospital for a certain number of years. Likewise, tuition reimbursement may also include a minimum GPA requirement. RNs should note that they can become fully responsible for repaying the hospital should they break their commitment.

    RNs can complete their MSN degrees online, as these programs offer more flexibility than in-person programs. However, hospitals typically provide students with a flexible or abbreviated work schedule that allows practitioners to complete their degrees.

    Is it better to get a BSN or an MSN?

    A BSN and an MSN both offer access to high-paying careers with ample job opportunities in multiple specialty areas. However, determining which degree to get depends on your aspirations, experience, and education. For instance, without an RN license, you do not qualify to apply for an MSN and would need to obtain a BSN before considering an MSN.

    RNs with an associate degree in nursing can complete an RN-to-BSN or an RN-to-MSN program. These professionals should consider how much time they want to invest in earning another degree, program costs, and ideal roles they wish to apply for to determine which program meets their needs.

    BSN-prepared nurses with RN experience can consider enrolling in an MSN, as a master of nursing salary typically offers higher earning potential. RNs interested in a terminal degree can consider a BSN-to-DNP bridge program.

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