"Constant attention by a good nurse may be just as important as a major operation by a surgeon." These words were spoken in 1956 by Dag Hammarskjold, a famed Swedish economist, diplomat, and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient who clearly understood the power of competent, caring attention in the medical profession.
While he was correct in the fact that nursing has always held the reputation of being a noble and well-valued profession, Hammarskjold may not have known that this field would offer a highly promising career outlook in 21st-century America.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employment prospects for nurse practitioners are set to grow 31 percent through 2026, over four times the average job growth of all U.S. occupations.
A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree allows students to seek specialized roles, or subfields, within the Nurse Practitioner (NP) profession.
Since MSN programs typically require students to possess a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Registered Nurse (RN) license, this path is commonly pursued by professionals looking to advance their nursing careers.
Graduates with this degree often pursue roles like:
This graduate-level nursing program also prepares students to pursue further advancement in their field through additional licensure or a doctoral level of study. However, those aren't the only reasons to consider this degree.
Most nurses enter the field out of a passion for helping others, but the work of a registered nurse only allows for "helping" in specific ways. Pursuing an MSN degree opens up an even greater variety of pathways to improving the lives and outcomes of patients, whether you're caring for people in underserved areas, providing acute resuscitation in an emergency room, or ensuring premature and sickly newborns get the treatment they need to thrive.
MSN programs require students to complete faculty-supervised clinical experience, which allows them to gain hands-on experience within their chosen specialty and later, position them to qualify for any board certification or licensure that is necessary for their specializations. In class, MSN curricula typically combine core courses in nursing with specialized classes in students' intended subfields.
Those core classes usually include:
MSN degree holders earn more overall than compared to those in the field who hold associate or bachelor's degrees.
According to PayScale, MSN degree holders take home an average salary of $92,000, while professionals with a BSN average $81,000 per year, and those who hold an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) earn an earn $68,000.
An MSN degree serves as a launching pad for more advanced education, such as a Ph.D. in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). A Ph.D. in Nursing is research-focused and prepares nurses for research and teaching positions at hospitals, colleges, and universities. DNP programs prepare nurses for leadership roles within hospitals and clinics, such as an executive nurse or chief nursing officer. Not all DNP or Ph.D. programs require applicants to have an MSN, but many do. The degree may help you gain admission and/or receive advance placement in those programs that don't require it.
Nurses with more years of experience and education in the field may consider forming a mentor relationship with less experienced nurses. Whether through a formal program or happening spontaneously, you'll serve as a guide and role model in both a personal and professional sense, and use your knowledge and expertise to help new nurses come into their own within the field.
Working on your feet in clinical settings like hospital wards and doctors' offices, which can lead to exhaustion. With an MSN degree, you'll be able to move into roles that require less physical exertion such as teaching and administration—and potentially avoid the physical problems many RNs experience after due to the physical intensity of their work.
Most registered nurses work shifts, which makes for regimented and relatively rigid work life. An MSN degree provides a path to advanced roles that generally make up some of the senior nursing positions within a healthcare organization, and you'll be able to create a schedule that suits your needs and priorities. Moreover, given your earnings, you may even pursue a higher amount of time off.
As a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or nurse administrator, you'll be subjected to less supervision and more independence than RNs. You'll be given more trust, allowed to make more decisions, and tasked to supervise others' work. You'll play a lead role in evolving the scope of healthcare—and make an impact on the field's overarching task to serve the greater good.
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