What Can You Do with a Master’s in Nursing?

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Two female nurses with stethoscopes

Education is key to advancing a nursing career. While an Associate of Nursing degree (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) can launch a nursing career, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) might offer better positions, higher salaries, and the chance for nurses to hone their skills. In today’s market, the demand for nurses with advanced degrees is growing considerably and will likely continue to increase. A study by the Association of American Medical Colleges forecasts a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2030. Who will fill this gap? Nurses holding MSNs will.

An MSN builds upon the foundation of a baccalaureate degree and enables nurses to develop expertise in a specific area. In addition, it enables them to pursue nonclinical career paths in nursing as educators, managers, administrators, and researchers. For those who already love what they do, an MSN might be the best path to take their career to the next level.

With the availability of online programs, earning an MSN has never been easier. Nursing students with an associate degree can complete the program in as few as three years; with a bachelor’s degree, two years — while still working and raising families. After finishing required coursework, students can take certification exams in specialty areas, such as adult gerontology, family practice, and psychiatric mental health.

An Overview of the Degree and Potential Career Paths

Those who graduate with an MSN degree seldom wonder what they can do with a master’s in nursing. The MSN degree program offers several industry-relevant concentrations that lead to five exciting career options:

  • Pediatric Nurse Students specialize in providing health care to infants, babies, and children in medical facility settings as well as at home. Instruction deals with solving medical problems for young patients who often cannot articulate their symptoms.
  • Family Nurse Students specialize in providing long-term health care to family members of all ages. Instruction deals with developing a knowledge base that enables the provider to assess, diagnose, and treat patients regardless of age.
  • Women’s Health Nurse Students specialize in providing health care to women throughout their lives. Instruction deals with treating women’s health needs during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as during post-childbearing years.
  • Adult-Geriatric Nurse Students specialize in providing health care to people advanced in age. Instruction deals with the primary care of the adult geriatric, as well as treating special conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, while providing palliative care.
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Students specialize in providing mental health care services to patients. Instruction deals with psychopharmacology, contemporary psychotherapies, and the psychiatric mental health care of the family.

All MSN students take courses in the theories and concepts of nursing science, health care management, and research, ensuring a well-rounded education. The curriculum also focuses on building leadership and interpersonal skills in the nursing field. In addition, students are required to complete clinical hours with the option of spacing them out over four semesters.

The Need for Nurse Educators

Yet another career option for nurses with an MSN is to become nurse educators. Nurse educators share their knowledge and help prepare new nurses. They are also often responsible for carrying out research, ensuring that standards are maintained in a medical setting, writing grant proposals, addressing and correcting mistakes, and shortening the onboarding process. The need for nurse educators is ever growing because so many are reaching retirement age.

Better Career Preparedness

Students who consider MSN programs often wonder, “What can you do with a master’s in nursing?” MSN-prepared nurses improve the quality and level of clinical practice delivered to patients, according to research findings. In addition, MSN graduates are more likely to enter the job market with board certifications in specialty areas, further increasing their ability to meet the needs of those they serve and experiencing greater satisfaction in their work.

The increased need for nurses with advanced degrees is undeniable. Due to the increase in the newly insured and a rapidly aging population, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 31 percent growth in nurse practitioner roles between 2014 and 2024. Now is the time for those passionate about nursing to obtain an MSN and reap the rewards of the current need.

Learn More

Both nurses and physician assistants play a vital role in today’s health care system. By working together with other health care professionals, those working in these professions can have a lasting, positive impact on patient care, but nurse practitioners often have more autonomy as providers, which many prospective students appreciate. Now that you know more about the two careers, consider advancing your own nursing practice by enrolling in one of Regis College’s Master of Science in Nursing programs. This degree program can help provide the foundation for an exciting and rewarding career in nursing.

Recommended Reading

Nurse Practitioners and the Primary Care Shortage

9 Essential Qualities of Nurse Leadership

Should Nurse Practitioners Have Full Practice Authority?


Association of American Medical Colleges

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Regis College Online Master of Science in Nursing Program