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) degree 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 between 54,100 and 139,000 doctors by 2033. 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.

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.

Why Earn an MSN and Prepare to Advance in Nursing?

Students who consider MSN programs often wonder what they can 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.

A nurse practitioner meets with the medical staff.

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

Leadership comes with a greater level of responsibility, which has its own advantages. For instance, nurses may be able to work with a greater level of independence, particularly if they practice in a state that allows full practice or full prescriptive authority. This can also give them a better opportunity 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

The increased need for nurses with advanced degrees is undeniable. Due to the increase in the newly insured, a rapidly aging population, and the ongoing nursing shortage, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 52% growth in nurse practitioner (NP) roles between 2019 and 2029. Now is the time for those passionate about nursing to obtain an MSN and reap the rewards of this need.

An Overview of the Degree and Potential Career Paths

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

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric NPs (PNPs) specialize in providing health care to infants, babies, 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 NPs (FNPs) specialize in providing long-term health care to family members of all ages and possess a knowledge base that enables the provider to assess, diagnose, and treat patients regardless of age.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

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

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Adult gerontology NPs specializing in acute care treat adult patients dealing with complex or critical medical issues. Instruction involves cultivating a knowledge base that allows the provider to treat a wide range of acute conditions in adults who are facing immediate threats to their health and monitor their post-treatment recovery process.

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

MSN students studying to become adult gerontology primary care NPs specialize in providing health care to a range of patients –– starting as early as adolescence. Instruction can also include the primary care of the adult geriatric client, as well as treating special conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, while providing palliative care.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric mental health NPs specialize in providing mental health care to patients with mental and psychiatric health issues, as well as substance abuse issues. Instruction can include a focus in 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.

Prepare to Pursue Higher Salaries with an MSN

Earning an MSN can allow 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 to be roughly $96,300 as of July 2021.

Numerous factors can influence the precise amount a nurse may receive after obtaining the MSN degree. One of these is job location, as an individual working in an area with a higher cost of living may earn more than an individual working in an area with a lower cost of living. Another prime factor may be the position itself. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for NPs was $117,670 in 2020.

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 vs. Physician: What’s the Difference?

Nurse Practitioner Demand: How to Help Solve the Shortage Issue

Should Nurse Practitioners Have Full Practice Authority?



American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner?

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner?

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, State Practice Environment

Association of American Medical Colleges, New AAMC Report Confirms Growing Physician Shortage

American Psychiatric Nurses Association, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses

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

National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Nursing Shortage”

National League for Nursing, Nurse Educator Core Competencies

PayScale, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

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