Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?
Nurses can build a fulfilling career with an associate or a bachelor's in nursing. But you could benefit from a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree when you want added flexibility, advancement, and leadership roles.
You may have become a nurse because it's a stable job that allows you to move anywhere in the country. Yet, you may have now fallen in love with your job that has become a career.
Many nurses find their desire to provide excellent patient care and support other healthcare professionals is the motivation for promotion. This can include staff development, risk management, or informatics.
But, what is the value of a master's degree in nursing? Wherever your career path is aimed, you'll find the journey likely requires an advanced degree.
You may think that it's impossible to earn your MSN when you're working full time and have other duties. Many schools have created alternative programs for working nurses. You may choose from part-time or hybrid programs where you can attend some classes online.
On this page, we discuss five ways earning an MSN can impact your career.
Featured Online MSN Programs
1. Qualify for High-Demand Advanced Practice Nursing Roles
Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are a vital part of the healthcare team. Studies have analyzed the impact APRNs have in an emergency room or critical care setting. The data revealed that APRNs helped transform healthcare and improved patient outcomes.
APRNs can work in four advanced practice roles: certified nurse practitioner (CNP), clinical nurse specialist, certified registered nurse anesthetist, and certified nurse midwife. As healthcare continues to expand, nurses and APRNs will continue to be a major part of the industry.
Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners are projected to be the fourth fastest-growing occupation in the country. The rate of growth is 52% for nurse practitioners from 2020 to 2030 as compared to 7.7% for all occupations.
Advanced practice nurses must understand the state laws that regulate their practice. In the U.S., nurses may have full-practice, reduced-practice, or restricted-practice laws. In full-practice states, all CNPs can manage their patients independently. However, in reduced- and restricted-practice states nurses must practice under the supervision of a physician.
Current shortages of APRNs are a concern, especially in primary care. CNPs work most frequently in private practice and outpatient clinics, and 89% are working full or part time.
Several of the roles in high demand are the following:
- Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
- Family nurse practitioner
- Hospitalist nurse practitioner
- Telemedicine nurse practitioner
2. Become a Mentor or Educator to the Next Generation of Nurses
Nursing mentors are important to the next generation of nurses. They help put the information you've learned in school into practice. These professionals can save employers thousands of dollars each year by improving nurses' retention rate and patient outcomes. Mentors can help you make career decisions or evaluate interpersonal problems.
Nurse educators also play a unique and crucial role in the development of new nurses.They can work in many settings, including hospitals, schools, universities, and community colleges. Nurse educators face many challenges and are in short supply, which means nursing programs must turn away qualified applicants.
Both MSN-prepared nurse mentors and educators take on leadership roles. These roles require strong critical decision-making and conflict resolution skills. The best educators and mentors are positive and patient, have good insight, and are committed to supporting new nurses.
3. Influence Real Change in Your Organization as a Nurse Manager or Administrator
Nurses in management or administrative positions have the opportunity to influence healthcare organizations to make real change. Leadership roles may include:
- Chief nursing officer
- Assistant nursing manager
- Clinical research specialist
- Nursing supervisor
- Director of nurse case management
- Surgical nurse manager
- Chief information officer
Healthcare organizations are looking for MSN-prepared nurses to lead cross-functional care teams or improve the nursing process. Earning an MSN also places you in a position to help shape health policy or educate nurses within your organization.
Nurse leaders are crucial to creating a successful culture and setting expectations for interdisciplinary collaboration. An MSN degree opens further opportunities in your professional career, including serving on the board of healthcare organizations, analyzing software systems, and overseeing day-to-day operations of the organization.
Nurses in management roles influence both patient care and nursing staff. Few studies have evaluated how the division of responsibilities of nurse managers may affect patient outcomes and nursing staff. One cross-sectional study found multiple relationships affected the outcome measurements. The findings suggested that nurse managers should focus on improving nursing practices while supporting and motivating the nursing staff.
A secondary option is a dual degree. One of the more popular dual degrees is an MSN and master of healthcare administration (MHA). The MSN/MHA prepares the nursing candidate for leadership and administrative roles. The candidate earns both degrees simultaneously while spending less time and money than if they earned each degree separately.
Similarly, an MSN and a master of business administration (MBA) dual degree is aimed at nurses with the goal of working on the business side of healthcare, including executives, health information managers, and chief nursing officers.
Both dual degrees may be earned in person or online.
4. Become Certified in a Specialty You're Truly Passionate About
Passion drives excellence and nursing certification demonstrates passion. Certifications are offered through professional nursing organizations in your MSN specialty, which are earned through an assessment process. In many cases, the certification must be renewed after a specified amount of time.
Certification is different from your state license, which gives you the legal authority to practice nursing.
Nurses have a unique opportunity to specialize in a variety of different healthcare fields that affect patient care. Certification in your chosen specialty demonstrates to your employer a growing body of knowledge and skill.
It establishes professional credibility with organizations, and a certification in your specialty also offers you a competitive advantage by differentiating you from other nurses in your field. It shows a commitment to understanding and excelling in your profession.
Several organizations offer certification in nursing specialties. These include:
American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification
American Organization for Nursing Leadership
Additionally, specialty nursing associations offer certifications for MSN-prepared nurses. For example, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board offers certification for pediatric nurse practitioners, as does the ANCC. Several certifications are more highly sought after, including:
- Acute care nurse practitioner
- Adult-gerontology primary and acute care nurse practitioner
- Adult health clinical nurse specialist
- Adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist
- Advanced forensic nursing
- Ambulatory care nursing
- Cardiac vascular nursing
- Care coordination and transition management
- Critical care nursing
- Dermatology certified nurse practitioner
- Emergency nurse practitioner
- Family nurse practitioner
- Holistic nursing
- Hospice nursing
- Medical-surgical nursing
- Neonatal nursing
- Nursing informatics
- Oncology nursing
- Pediatric nurse practitioner
- Psychiatric mental health nursing
- Public health nursing
- School nursing
- Trauma nursing
- Wound care nursing
In addition to better nurse and patient outcomes, some employers now require certification for a particular role. For example, in a physical rehabilitation unit, employers seek to hire nurses who are certified rehabilitation registered nurses. This validates the nurse's competency and is a valued addition for insurance reimbursement.
5. Increase Your Median Earning Potential by 48%
Of course, your salary is an important consideration when you're choosing a career. Yet, many nurses chose a career in healthcare because of a passion for helping people. And the same is true for advancing your education and promotion — most nurses want more of what nursing has to offer.
Earning an MSN can dramatically increase your earning potential while you are fulfilling your passion every day. It's a win/win situation. For example, the median annual salary for registered nurses (RNs) is $75,330. Some RNs make as much as $116,230 annually. This salary is higher than the median annual wage for all healthcare occupations ($69,870) and far higher than the median annual wage for all occupations ($41,950).
After you've become an MSN-prepared nurse, your potential median annual salary goes up dramatically to $111,680 for nurse practitioners. This can be as high as $156,160, depending on your geographical location and specialization. The median annual salary for nurse midwives is similar, but the end range, depending on geography, certifications, and experience, can be as high as $179,770.
Find the Right MSN for Your Career Goals
Nursing offers you the unique opportunity to work in healthcare while choosing from a variety of specialty fields. If your interests are in administration, but your passion is infant care, management of a maternity unit may be just what you've been seeking.
No matter your interests, there is likely an advanced degree that meets the requirements for your career. This answers the question: What is the value of a master's degree in nursing?
Earning an MSN is a commitment to your career, so it's important to identify the driving force behind your decision. You'll also need to figure out how the program will fit with your current responsibilities. Seek out information from your local colleges and universities and consider if an online nursing program may best meet your needs.
The choices you make for your career today can determine your advancement opportunities and job satisfaction in the years to come. Discuss your plans with your mentor, college counselors, and family before deciding on your future path.
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