The American Nurses Association describes the nursing profession as "both an art and a science; a heart and a mind". The art and the heart are what draw many to a nursing career—but doing this meaningful work shouldn’t keep ambitious nurses from earning a comfortable living. Fortunately, the nursing world offers many avenues that lead to lucrative pay; specialization, for example.
Nurses who choose a specialization focus their strengths and skills in practice areas that include women's health, pediatrics, gerontology, oncology, and mental health services. Each of these nursing career paths is different in scope, specificity, education, and required skills. Each offers rich opportunities to provide essential services to unique populations.
This article reviews many of the positions available for those holding a Master of Science in Nursing, including:
The nursing profession can be broken down into three levels of training and responsibility:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a 40 percent growth in jobs for nurses with an MSN degree over the next decade, a much higher rate than the predicted growth of most other occupations. Nurses with master's degrees earn an annual average salary of approximately $124,000. RNs, in contrast, make $77,600 per year, on average.
MSN salaries vary by location. California offers the highest median annual salaries for nurse practitioners ($151,830), followed by New Jersey ($137,010), New York ($133,940), Washington ($130,840), and Massachusetts ($129,540). States like Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas pay an average of nearly $50,000 less per year. Cost of living by state, region, or city should be considered when assessing such pay differences. The median apartment rental rate in New York State is $2,220 per month; in Arkansas, it's $875.
So what are the different jobs available to MSN holders? Let's run down the list of positions.
Nurse practitioners work independently and in collaboration with other healthcare professionals in acute care, primary care, and specialty care services. Their duties include ordering and performing tests, diagnosing acute and chronic conditions, and prescribing medications. They may also provide counseling and education to patients on their overall health and wellness as well as on preventive care. Nurse practitioners report a median salary of $120,680 per year, a figure that varies based on specialization.
Mental health services is a specialty area for psychiatric nurse practitioners and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs). These NPs work in both inpatient and outpatient medical settings such as correctional facilities, acute care hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, and private practice. The average salary for this position is $143,240 per year.
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) provide primary healthcare for patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. They treat illness and injury and provide information and guidance on preventive care for all stages of life. The salary range for family nurse practitioners is $107,570 per year to $125,930 per year, depending primarily on years of experience.
Urgent care nurse practitioners work in acute care settings and deal with emergency patient care. They treat heart attack victims, provide life-saving interventions, assist with surgeries and medical procedures, and monitor a patient's risk factors and progress. These positions deliver an average income of $125,665 per year.
Primary care nurse practitioners' work differs from physicians in the same practice because they can often work with the patient’s holistic health instead of treating a reported condition or physical complaint. They are able to work in a complementary role in cooperation with physicians in a primary care practice. They earn an average salary of $101,424 per year.
Nurses working in clinical research provide patient advocacy for participants while enrolling them in clinical trials and studies. They obtain blood and tissue samples, collect information from charts, interviews, or questionnaires, report on test results, and review or set trial protocols. They also run follow-up interviews and research with trial participants. The average salary for a clinical research nurse ranges from $81,778 to $101,104 per year.
Clinical nurse specialists work in hospitals, hospices, clinics, and in-home settings to provide direct patient care in specialty areas like pediatrics, oncology, or geriatric care. Some perform as clinical nurse leaders, acting as liaisons among patients, nurses, and other members of the healthcare team to oversee practices and policies, and how the two impact patient care. They earn an average salary of $113,507 per year.
Informatics nurse specialists work with data, compile digital patient health records, oversee clinical documentation and data organization, and design and implement procedures for working with clinical results. They provide technological support for medical staff and ensure that all documentation meets accreditation standards. The average pay for an informatics nurse specialist is $80,735 per year.
Nursing administrators organize and oversee nursing teams at hospitals and clinics, determining schedules, hiring new staff, and making sure everyone follows all policies, practices, and guidelines. Entry-level administrators make around $83,000 per year but can expect to earn closer to $97,000 per year after 20 years of experience. A chief nursing officer earns an average of $123,134 per year.
Nurse anesthetists monitor patients' vital signs and airways while administering anesthesia. They also assist surgeons or dentists during procedures and monitor patients in post-operative care as they recover from anesthesia. A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) makes $195,610 per year on average, placing CRNAs among the top-earning nurses.
Nurse educators work in instructional positions teaching coursework for MSN degree programs, holding workshops in clinics, or providing public health education sessions. They may spend time in research positions or work directly with nursing students in the medical field. Salaries range from $104,000 per year to $163,000 per year on average, depending on area of expertise and work experience.
Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) work independently and in larger healthcare teams to treat patients throughout the birthing process. They oversee prenatal and postnatal care, monitor fetal health and development, and provide care for the patient and the baby post-birth. They also provide family planning services and lactation care for patients and prescribe medications as needed. The average annual salary for nurse midwives is $112,830 per year.
Public health nurses provide educational training and instruction to the public on topics like reproductive health and postpartum care or teach coursework to nursing students in clinic or classroom settings. Some public health nurses work in research positions or as advisors to governments and organizations. They may also provide group services rather than daily patient care. The average salary for public health nurses ranges from $55,925 per year to $74,886 per year.
Obtaining a Master in Science in Nursing can provide any RN with a range of opportunities in the nursing industry. Though the options are varied, almost every avenue can lead to a substantial salary increase.
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