What Can I Do (And How Much Will I Earn) With a Master’s in Nursing?
March 15, 2021
Nurses are in demand, but with so many areas of study, higher learning can be confusing.
Nurses are our healthcare superheroes, and there are more than 3.6 million of them registered in the United States today.
More than a century after Florence Nightingale professionalized the practice, nurses are still creating close relationships with patients and making a tremendous impact on the field of medicine. In addition to understanding disease, they manage the human face of medical treatments and procedures. Balancing art with science takes skill and training; master’s in nursing (MSN) programs prepare future nurses to enter this respected career.
But what happens after an MSN is complete?
Becoming an RN As Baby Boomers age and the cost of healthcare increases, many nurses enjoy self-employment opportunities and comfortable salaries in “recession-proof" careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for registered nurses (RNs) was $70,000 in 2017.
To become an RN, you must earn an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), a diploma in nursing, or a bachelor of science in nursing (BS/BSN). Then you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)-RN. From there, you can reach even greater opportunities with a master of science in nursing (MSN), which takes about two years to complete. Once you’ve earned your MSN, you might choose to focus on a clinical specialty, administration, research, or education. In fact, the medical field has a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms available to describe all the various job paths available to you as an MSN RN.
Choose your own adventure with an MSN
Legal Nurse Consultant (LNC) If you are independent person with a head for law and medicine, you could be an LNC, someone who advises attorneys about healthcare practices. Established as a specialty in the 1970s, legal nurse consulting emcompasses categories such as medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, and forensics. In addition to working in healthcare facilities and law firms, LNCs can also be self-employed. While salaries in this field are not as widely reported as in some other sectors, PayScale puts the average annual salary for entry-level LNCs at $78,000. Other research shows that experienced LMCs can earn up to $150 an hour.
Research Nurse Some nurses are especially interested in studying diseases and assisting with clinical trials. Research nurses work for pharmaceutical companies, universities, teaching hospitals, research organizations, and government agencies. Some employers require that research nurses have an MSM or a doctoral degree in their specialty. One way to become a research nurse is to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing with a concentration on research and statistics. According to Glassdoor, the average salary in this profession is $92,267 per year.
Nurse Educator Nurse educators love to share their knowledge with up-and-coming medical professionals. They are thoughtful in developing curricula, and their presence shapes the future of nursing. Through their work in the classroom, emerging medical professionals gain a strong example of best practices. PayScale lists the annual salary of a nurse educator at $73,680.
Nurse Administrator Nurse administrators have substantial clinical experience, but their true skill is in managing teams of healthcare professionals. They may not spend as much time with patients as they do with managers and other personnel, but they communicate effectively with executives and patients alike. Because nurse administrators are often in leadership roles, they fall on the higher end of the pay scale with an average annual salary of $83,375.
Advanced Nurse Practitioner (APRN) Under the supervision of a doctor, an APRN can serve as a patient’s primary care provider. An example of this would be a nurse midwife, who works in women’s health, or a nurse anesthetist, who practices in surgical settings. As part of their practitioner status, an APRN might also be able to prescribe medication. A nurse must hold an MSN and pass an APRN exam in order to earn this title. According to PayScale, the average annual salary for an APRN is $92,857.
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) A CNS excels at evidence-based practices, education and training, and providing bedside reports to healthcare facility leaders. CNS personnel must have an MSM or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree, and might be permitted to prescribe medication, order and evaluate tests, and diagnose conditions within a certain scope of practice. With this considerable amount of responsibility, a CNS can expect to make an average annual salary of $87,093.
Choosing the right path post-MSN
Upon completing your MSN, you will have numerous career options. Some, like the APRN, might require additional training or credentialing, while others, like the nurse administrator role, will take you off of the front lines and give you more authority to shape the way your healthcare facility operates.
Any of these paths will provide a competitive salary and excellent benefits, and will enable you to make a positive difference in the world of medicine.