Advanced Practice Nursing

Is a Master of Science in Nursing Worth It?

Is a Master of Science in Nursing Worth It?
If you’re looking for a way to take your nursing career to the next level, getting a master’s degree might be the solution that you seek. Image from Unsplash
Paige Cerulli profile
Paige Cerulli March 12, 2019

The average starting salary for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners with their master’s degree is over $110,000 per year.

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You thrive in the fast-paced world of the ER. Or maybe you love building trust with nervous patients as they enter their primary caregiver’s office. Whatever prompted you to become a nurse, an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program can get you started along this career path.

But is either degree enough? Do you need to advance further? Is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) worth the investment of time, energy, and money?

If you’re looking for a way to take your nursing career to the next level, pursuing a master’s degree can help you do that. Maybe you want to enter an advanced practice in the nursing field, or maybe you want to specialize in an area that you particularly enjoy. Earning your Master of Science in Nursing creates new career opportunities, allowing you to earn a higher salary (never a bad thing!). It might even help you to enjoy your career more.

Pursuing an MSN degree needs to be the right career choice for you. Whether you’re a nursing student or a nursing professional, pursuing an advanced degree has its advantages and disadvantages. You’ll be balancing school with other obligations and facing the potential need to take out student loans. Those can be tough mental obstacles. Nursing isn’t an easy field—and any MSN program will be challenging—but getting your master’s degree can also be a highly rewarding experience that helps advance your career.

Master of Science in Nursing career opportunities

If you decide to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing, you’ll be qualified for more career opportunities than you will with only an ADN or BSN. An MSN diversifies your expertise, develops your leadership skills, and qualifies you to step into upper-level positions. In a competitive job market, having your choice of job opportunities can give you and your family peace of mind.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for nurses with their master’s degree is very good—and expected to grow 40 percent between 2021 and 2031. Not only is the job market for nurses much stronger than the job market as a whole, but the average starting salary for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners with their master’s degree is over $123,000 per year.

Additional career opportunities available to nurses with an MSN degree (and their average annual compensation) include:

An MSN degree prepares you for clinical roles as well as management and administrative positions. In some cases, those who earn their MSN pursue careers in research or education. Many nursing careers require a master’s.

Earning potential with an MSN

With a Master of Science in Nursing, you’re likely to earn a higher-paying salary. Looking for financial stability for yourself and your family? According to Payscale, professionals who have a Master of Science in Nursing degree earn a $101,000 salary on average. Top earners bring in more than $150,000 per year. Nurses with a bachelor’s degree only earn $10,000 or more less annually, on average. Multiply that income differential over a career and you have a significant pile of cash. While you may need to take student loans or other forms of aid to finance your MSN, landing higher-paying opportunities once you have your degree will position you to pay off those loans.

What will you learn in an MSN program?

MSN candidates should expect to spend between two and three years completing this degree. A BSN will hasten the process; those without this degree will likely need to complete foundation courses before starting work on their MSN.

An MSN enables you to specialize in such areas as:

  • Anesthesia
  • Management
  • Mental health
  • Midwifery
  • Nursing education
  • Sports medicine

Different programs offer different areas of specialization. If you have a particular specialization in mind before you begin your MSN, this may help you to filter your options. Keep in mind that if your heart’s set on a unique specialization that isn’t widely offered, you may need to relocate or find a school that teaches your chosen field online.

Some MSN programs offer the flexibility needed to balance your career and family life with your master’s program. Low-residency courses, night classes, and summer or weekend intensives are just a few of the options that can help you earn your degree while managing your own schedule. Even so, your MSN will require a significant amount of time—both in class and studying.

Is an MSN worth it?

You’re the only one who can decide whether a Master of Science in Nursing is worth it. Consider the following:

  • Your career goals and what types of degrees those roles require
  • How an MSN can improve your current work (and life) environment, in both the long- and short-term
  • How much time you can realistically dedicate to an MSN program and what sacrifices you’ll need to make to do so
  • The earning potential of having an MSN and how important compensation is to you
  • Your level of passion for nursing and if/how an MSN will allow you to explore those passions further

While earning an MSN degree isn’t the right choice for everyone, it may make sense to you if you’re looking to maximize your earning potential, qualify for more and higher-level nursing jobs, and increase your ability to help more people through direct care, education, or even an administrative role in healthcare.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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