In an April 2018 press release, the Association of American Medical Colleges projected a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030. This void presents an opportunity to consider the benefits of nursing certification. Registered nurses who already have their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can advance their careers and expand upon the services they can deliver as a primary care provider by becoming a certified nurse practitioner (NP).
Today, earning a post-master’s certification for NP areas such as pediatrics, family health, women’s health, psychiatric mental health, or adult-gerontology can be completed entirely online in as few as 20 months.
While becoming licensed is a requirement for nurses to work in a particular state, certification is a type of add-on that’s valued by nurses, their employer, and their patients. If licensure guarantees that a nurse has the qualifications to deliver a level of care, certification is focused on a nurse’s specialized ability and competence, providing a powerful means to distinguish nurses from their peers. Among the benefits offered by a post-master’s nursing certification are: positioning nurses for professional advancement with the ability to climb clinical ladders; an enhanced sense of confidence in the capability to deliver a strong level of professional care; and validation of a nurse’s knowledge base to employers and their patients.
What Are the Benefits of Post-Master’s Certificates? Job Outlook for Certified Nurse Practitioners
A shortage of registered nurses is projected in the U.S. through 2030 for several reasons, including population growth and turnover in the nursing workforce. Further illustrating the need for nurses, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates a 15 percent job growth in the field from 2016 through 2026, which places registered nursing among the top occupations for job growth.
Those findings mirrored those by U.S. News & World Report, which listed NPs among the Best Jobs for 2018. Further research published in Academic Medicine, the journal of Association of American Medical Colleges, found that 66 percent of primary care physicians who were surveyed recommended high school and college students pursue careers as NPs.
“The explosive growth of the nurse practitioner profession is a public heath boon considering our nation’s skyrocketing demand for high-quality, accessible care,” said Dr. Ken Miller, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
The first step to becoming a certified NP is to earn a master’s degree from an accredited program. There are several certification programs, like pediatrics, women’s health, gerontology, mental health, and family practice. Some non-clinical Master of Science in Nursing graduates accept the post-master’s certification programs and certification exams from certification boards, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, the National Certification Corporation, and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
Certification positions NPs for a host of career opportunities throughout the medical industry, including hospitals, outpatient care centers, and educational service programs. The BLS confirms that most NPs enjoy the stability of working normal business hours while earning a median salary of $103,880 in 2017. Data from the research site PayScale indicates that some employers may have bonus and profit-sharing structures that potentially pay nurse practitioners up to an additional $12,000 per year.
Here are two certified nursing positions in addition to nurse practitioner that are in high demand, along with their responsibilities, specific required certification, and estimated job growth:
While all registered nurses are required to be licensed in the state where they practice, certification serves as a voluntary “add-on” that allows for specialized practice, which in turn leads to specific skills that are in-demand. The job outlook for certified registered nurses is strong and expected to increase 15 percent from 2016 to 2026. While a registered nurse can expect to earn, on average, $75,900 annually, certification can result in a significant increase. For example, pediatric oncology nurses will work with younger cancer patients and cardiovascular nurses will work specifically with patients suffering from heart disease. The general duties of a registered nurse include:
- Creating a patient’s care plan and providing input on the existing plans
- Analyzing test results and altering treatment plans, if necessary
- Observing patients
- Consulting with doctors and other members of the health care team as needed
To become a RN requires either a diploma, associate, or bachelor’s degree. While additional licensing may be necessary in certain states, all RNs must have a nursing license and pass the National Council Licensure Examination.
Licensed Vocational Nurse
With a projected job growth rate of 12 percent in the decade from 2016 through 2026, licensed vocational nurses are in demand. Earning a median salary of $45,030, a vocational nurse can earn more by exhibiting a level of expertise through certification. Working under the supervision of a registered nurse and doctor while providing a basic level of medical care, including:
- Changing bandages, inserting catheters, etc.
- Providing basic necessities, including helping a patient to bathe or dress
- Maintaining records on patients’ health
- Reporting concerns and status updates to registered nurses and doctors
A licensed vocational nurse needs to earn a diploma from an approved program. A license is then obtained through various professional associations that specialize in different areas, such as intravenous therapy and gerontology. Vocational nurses are required to pass the National Council Examination for Practical Nurses.
Nursing has many levels of patient care. Nurses can enter the field with an Associate of Science in Nursing degree and can choose to continue their education on the way to earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Nurses who have a non-clinical Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or who are practicing nurse practitioners (NPs) might consider an online post-master’s certificate program in primary care specialties like gerontology, women’s health, mental health, family practice or pediatrics. Some certificate programs are available entirely online. Students can complete the coursework in less than two years and prepare to take the certification exams to add the extra specialty to their practice, or prepare to practice autonomously.
At Regis College, the online post-master’s certification program offers a cutting-edge curriculum that can be completed entirely online to guide nurses into pursuing an advanced practice role and help them become leaders in their field.
Association of American Medical Colleges
US News & World Report
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses