What Are Some of the Best MSN Careers in the Nursing Field?

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A family nurse practitioner meets with his patients.

Nursing is among the fastest-growing fields in the United States. As the population ages and the health care industry expands, qualified registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) will be needed to care for seniors and fill in the gaps as current providers retire.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the number of nursing jobs is expected to grow 15% between 2016 and 2026, much higher than the national average across all professions. Because of nursing’s immense job growth potential, many nurses are looking into advanced nursing degrees. But with the wide variety of specialties to choose from, making an informed choice about a prospective career can be difficult. Here we’ll explore the duties, responsibilities, salaries, and job growth potential of eight popular MSN careers.

The Best MSN Careers in the Nursing Field: Scope, Skills, and Salaries

Depending on your skills and interests, a nursing career can focus on a specialty such as administration or education, or on a specific population, from children to elders.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric mental health NPs diagnose psychiatric conditions, provide direct psychiatric care to individuals and groups, and prescribe and dispense medications. They may work in emergency rooms, psychiatric health crisis centers, inpatient and outpatient clinics, nursing homes, corporations, correctional facilities, and residential treatment programs, as well as in private practice.

To effectively assess and treat patients, psychiatric mental health NPs need excellent critical-thinking and analytical skills. Identifying the signs of mental illness and developing care plans requires a deep understanding of how mental illnesses manifest and can be treated. Compassion and empathy are also key, as many providers in this field will be working with people who are in crisis or have experienced trauma.

According to August 2019 PayScale data, the average annual salary for psychiatric mental health NPs is $99,000.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric NPs work with young patients to provide comprehensive care. They may have a private office in a community setting or work in public health clinics, hospitals, specialty clinics, and schools to provide quality health care to children.

Because they work with children, pediatric NPs need to be warm, kind, and compassionate. They also need excellent written and verbal communication skills to communicate with parents and children from different backgrounds. Other necessary skills include performing basic inspection of patients through auscultation, percussion, and palpation; taking urine or blood samples; and measuring vital signs. Experienced nurses may aid doctors in developing patient care plans.

According to August 2019 PayScale data, the average annual salary for pediatric NPs is $88,000.

Family Nurse Practitioner

In private practice, community clinics, hospitals, schools, and other medical settings, family NPs provide comprehensive care to patients of all ages. Their duties and responsibilities may include care for acute illnesses, as well as preventive care like vaccinations and routine checkups. Additionally, family NPs often pair up with external specialists to provide long-term care to patients with disabilities, ongoing health conditions, and chronic illnesses.

Family NPs need to have excellent critical-thinking skills to be able to diagnose, treat, and serve diverse populations with a wide variety of health needs and conditions. Their communication skills must also be strong, as they’ll need to advise patients on potential lifestyle changes to improve their health, as well as coordinate with other specialists for referrals and long-term care. As the first caregivers some patients encounter, family NPs are responsible for overall wellness and disease prevention. They must be extremely organized and keep meticulous records to share with other health personnel if the need arises.

According to August 2019 PayScale data, the average annual salary for family NPs is $93,000.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Women’s health NPs work in birth centers, hospitals, private practices, community clinics, midwifery centers, OB-GYN offices, correctional facilities, and schools, among other medical settings. They provide direct care to female patients starting in puberty and across women’s lifespans. The issues addressed may include menstrual difficulties, pregnancy, and menopause, as well as general well-being and physical and emotional health.

Compassion and empathy are key to effective practice, especially when dealing with sensitive issues like fertility and childbirth. Women’s health NPs also need to have a high aptitude for written and verbal communication to provide the best possible care to patients.

According to August 2019 PayScale data, the average annual salary for women’s health NPs is $89,000.

Adult-Geriatric Nurse Practitioner

Adult-geriatric NPs coordinate and provide care for seniors. This may include routine checkups, diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease, and health maintenance education related to the aging process.

Many adult-geriatric NPs work in nursing homes and residential treatment centers, but they also may work in private practice, physical therapy offices, hospitals, and community clinics. Some adult-geriatric NPs provide end-of-life care in hospice settings and work with patients and their families as they deal with terminal illnesses or loss.

NPs working in geriatric care should be sensitive to the needs of their patients, especially when providing grief counseling or end-of-life care. Adult-geriatric NPs also require a deep understanding of the health problems that can affect seniors, such as neurodegenerative diseases. They must be able to develop and implement patient care plans for chronic illnesses and educate families about their loved ones’ condition, clearly explaining older patients’ special needs.

According to August 2019 PayScale data, the average annual salary for adult-geriatric NPs is $91,000.

Nurse Administrator

Nurse administrators, who may also be called nurse managers, charge nurses, or directors of nursing, oversee and manage teams of nurses. Depending on their level of education and experience, as well as work setting, they may oversee a single team of nurses or several.

Nurse administrators complete various tasks related to the improvement of patient care, in addition to ensuring that hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other medical facilities run smoothly. For example, a nurse administrator might hire and supervise nurses and other medical staff, make sure that staff members comply with relevant laws and regulations, manage budgets, and coordinate care with supervisors and other specialists.

These medical professionals often oversee complex, diverse teams, which requires excellent leadership and problem-solving skills. They should also be effective organizers who can oversee both the big picture and smaller details. Nurse administrators must also understand the business side of nursing, including finance and human resources. They must be familiar with local and state compliance regulations, and be efficient record keepers and communicators. Finally, they should be able to outline and implement strategic plans, including setting achievable goals, defining project timelines, and identifying potential obstacles.

According to the BLS, medical and health services managers had a median annual salary of $99,700 in 2018.

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators use their advanced degrees, such as master’s degrees in nursing, and their experiences as RNs to teach aspiring nurses in college and university settings. They craft, develop, assess, and deliver nursing curricula to college and university students. Some nurse educators may work in teaching hospitals or continuing education centers.

Nurse educators need excellent leadership and communication skills to be able to help fellow nurses reach their potential. They must also have advanced knowledge of a wide range of health conditions and relevant clinical topics and be able to communicate that knowledge with confidence and accuracy. They need to be skilled mentors, able to help students find their strengths and embark on their own careers.

According to August 2019 PayScale data, the average annual salary for nurse educators is $74,000.

Nurse Researcher

Nurses who enjoy investigating complex scientific problems and who are passionate about helping to improve the population’s health on a grand scale may use a master’s degree in nursing to pursue a career as a nurse researcher. Nurse researchers usually work in academic settings or laboratories, investigating scientific questions about chronic illness, injury, disease, and public health issues. They may start out as clinical data coordinators or research assistants and move up the ranks to principal investigators over the course of their careers.

Nurse researchers require deep critical-thinking, analytical, and research skills to pose apt scientific questions; conduct accurate, detailed research to achieve accurate results; and communicate those results to the rest of the scientific community and the public. Effective nurse researchers usually also have excellent technical and computer skills.

According to August 2019 PayScale data, the average annual salary for clinical research nurses is $71,000.

How to Prepare for Rewarding MSN Careers

To be a competitive candidate for an MSN career you’ll need to master technological advances and understand the latest scholarship. Regis’s high-quality, dedicated instructors teach by example, imparting these skills to students in a practical and understandable way. Regis’ online Master of Science in Nursing program is designed to equip ambitious students with the tools they need to sit for certification exams and become leaders and educators in nursing.

Nurses pursuing advanced degrees may not be able to leave their current positions or move out of state. Regis’s online MSN program affords students the ability to learn and train with no need to relocate. Moreover, you can customize your education according to your specific career goals and passions. Regis can put you on the fast track to a wide range of challenging, rewarding MSN careers.


Recommended Readings
Degrees Defined: What Does MSN Mean?
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner: The Road to Advanced Nursing Practice
The Future of Nursing: Trends in a Demanding Industry

Houston Chronicle, “The Qualities of a Nurse Manager”
Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, Nurse Practitioner and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Practice Facts
PayScale, Average Clinical Research Nurse Salary
PayScale, Average Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary
PayScale, Average Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Salary
PayScale, Average Nurse Educator Salary
PayScale, Average Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Salary
PayScale, Average Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary
Regis College, Online Master of Science in Nursing
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical Scientists
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses