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

Education is key to advancing a nursing career. While an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (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 (AAMC) forecasts a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 doctors by 2034. Furthermore, the study states these projections could increase if the barriers to health care access in underserved populations are not resolved. Who will fill this gap and help overcome these barriers? MSN-credentialed nurses can.

Students with an ADN or BSN may wonder what they can do with a master’s in nursing. An MSN builds upon the foundation of a baccalaureate degree and enables nurses to develop expertise in a specific area. In addition, it allows them to pursue nonclinical career paths in nursing such 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, a little over two years — while still working and balancing life’s responsibilities. After finishing required coursework, students can take certification exams in specialty areas, such as adult gerontology, family practice, and psychiatric mental health.

What Is a Master’s Degree in Nursing?

A master’s degree in nursing allows students to expand their expertise related to core nursing concepts, such as care delivery strategies, research, and administration. Gaining a deeper level of expertise can ultimately prepare individuals to develop a keen understanding of where care delivery may be going, whether this involves treatment innovations for a specific patient demographic or cutting-edge health care technology that can help a facility run more efficiently.

Ultimately, a master’s degree in nursing can transform nurses into health care leaders, fully equipped to lead a health care facility to provide more efficient, effective levels of patient care.

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

An MSN degree program may offer several industry-relevant concentrations that can lead to rewarding career opportunities. These career paths allow nurses to focus their skills on specific patient populations, enabling them to provide a heightened level of care to those patients.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) specialize in providing health care to infants and children in medical facility settings as well as in homes, and solving medical problems for young patients who often cannot articulate their symptoms.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) specialize in providing long-term health care to family members of all ages and possess a knowledge base that enables them to assess, diagnose, and treat patients regardless of age.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Women’s health nurse practitioners specialize in providing health care to women throughout their lives. Instruction includes treating women’s health needs during and after pregnancy, and health issues that occur more commonly in women, such as breast cancer.

Adult Gerontology – Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Adult gerontology – acute care nurse practitioners treat adult patients dealing with complex or critical medical issues. The curriculum aims to prepare nurses to treat a wide range of acute conditions in adults who are facing urgent health concerns and monitor their post-treatment recovery process.

Adult Gerontology – Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Adult gerontology – primary care nurse practitioners specialize in providing health care to a range of patients, starting as early as adolescence. Instruction may also cover primary care for adult geriatric patients, including treating conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as providing palliative care.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners specialize in providing mental health care to patients with mental health issues, as well as substance abuse issues. Instruction covers topics such as psychopharmacology, contemporary psychotherapies, and the psychiatric mental health care of the family.

All MSN students typically 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 several semesters.

Why Earn an MSN and Prepare to Advance in Nursing?

Beyond the specialized career paths it can lead to, what else can students do with a master’s in nursing? MSN-prepared nurses improve the quality and level of clinical practice delivered to patients. 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 experience greater satisfaction in their work.

Earning an MSN degree can also help cultivate an individual’s skill set. These competencies may not only improve an individual’s ability to deliver optimal patient care, but may also help nurses develop into leaders who are equipped to guide their staff to handle health- or regulatory-related challenges.

Leadership comes with a greater level of responsibility, which has its own advantages. For instance, nurses may be able to work with greater autonomy, particularly if they practice in a state that allows full practice or full prescriptive authority. This can also provide opportunities to implement new strategies that could positively influence a health care facility’s ability to administer care, either as a whole or for a specific patient demographic.

Demand for Master’s in Nursing Graduates

Some of the advanced fields in which MSN-prepared nurses specialize offer remarkable job growth potential. For instance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 40% employment growth for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners between 2021 and 2031 — eight times higher than the 5% rate that the BLS projects for the average profession. Employment of nurse practitioners, in particular, is expected to grow by 46% over the next several years, adding nearly 113,000 new jobs.

Master’s in Nursing Salary

Earning an MSN can enable nurses to not only advance their careers but also earn a lucrative wage. The compensation website Payscale reports the median annual salary for nurses with an MSN degree was roughly $100,000 as of March 2023.

Numerous factors can influence the precise amount a nurse may receive after obtaining an MSN degree. One of these is job location, as a nurse working in an area with a higher cost of living may earn more than a nurse working in an area with a lower cost of living. Another prime factor in compensation may be the type of nursing they practice. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for nurse practitioners was $120,680 in 2021.

Learn More About a Master’s in Nursing

Nurses play a vital role in today’s health care system. By developing the skills and knowledge needed to lead and coordinate with other health care professionals, those in the nursing profession can have a lasting, positive impact on patient care. Nurses who are interested in becoming NPs with specialized skills and advancing their nursing practice should consider enrolling in Regis College’s online Master of Science in Nursing program.

Discover how Regis College’s online MSN program can help provide the foundation for an exciting and rewarding career in nursing.

Recommended Readings

Nurse Practitioner Demand: How to Help Solve the Shortage Issue

Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician: What’s the Difference?

Should Nurse Practitioners Have Full Practice Authority?


American Association of Nurse Practitioners, State Practice Environment

American Psychiatric Nurses Association, About Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing

Association of American Medical Colleges, “AAMC Report Reinforces Mounting Physician Shortage”

Indeed, “What Is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?”

Indeed, “What Is an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?”

Johnson & Johnson Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) at a Glance

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, About Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

Payscale, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

StatPearls, “Nursing Shortage”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners