For those who are looking to choose a career or change careers, getting a Master of Science in Nursing MSN may be an option. Understanding what an MSN degree entails and the potential salary it offers can help a student plan out their career journey. When assessing the salary that comes with having an MSN, there are various factors that will need to be looked at. Education level, geography, industry, and specialties are all integral in that final salary number.
While the choice to pursue an advanced degree in nursing is a great choice, it should not be centered only on salary. Those with an MSN will likely make more than their registered nurse salary and the degree will also increase the availability of other career possibilities. Advanced practice registered nurses can hold positions such as a nurse anesthetist, a surgical nurse practitioner, nurse midwife or family nurse practitioner once they have an MSN. Careers are not limited to general nurse practitioners. There are also administrative and managerial positions that are obtainable for those with an MSN degree.
What is Included in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree?
Getting a Master of Science in Nursing opens the doors to many career options. There are lots of jobs that can be done with this health care degree. An MSN degree means the graduate will be able to offer health care for others beyond the capacity of a registered nurse. They will have the ability to assess and create programs that not only support patients but increase their chance of living long and healthy lives.
Students who are successful in attaining an MSN will be able to support patients as well as their caregivers, families and communities as well. Nurses are consistently a profession that is in high demand. This demand will be increasing as the national demographics shift to having a bigger elderly population. This growth in an older demographic will put heavier demands on the health care system and the providers that work within it.
When you achieve the degree of MSN, there are many things that can be done with it. Along with increased salary, a nurse can choose a diversified career path that is interesting, stable and flexible. With the ability and training to use critical thought while working with various personalities within different environments, a nurse’s passion for their profession should shine through. It is this application of creative reasoning, leadership skills and flexibility that will open the door to a wide range of employment options.
Whether the career path is taken to becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP), a nurse specialist, nurse management or to work in a nontraditional health care venue as a nurse educator or community organizations, students with an MSN will find their professional choice rewarding. Here are some of the careers you can do with a Master of Science in Nursing, some with and some without complimentary nursing degrees:
Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
This position is a profession that is growing quickly in the healthcare workforce. Having a Master of Science in Nursing qualifies a nurse practitioner to offer high-end health support that includes diagnosis, the ability to treat general health issues, assessing results from the lab, prescribing meds, creating and coordinating treatment plans as well as educating patients and their families on promoting wellness and referring patients as required.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
This job is the perfect one to do if you find enjoyment working with children. Being a pediatric nurse practitioner encompasses a Master of Science in Nursing degree with the compassionate skills needed when supporting children’s physical and mental health. A pediatric nurse practitioner will take care of children who have been admitted to an ICU or other clinical settings where they need specialized medical attention for both critical and chronic care. Having a Master of Science in Nursing opens up the career path to pediatric care. Specialized certification in this area allows a practitioner to work in diverse places that range from pediatric hospitals to private children-focused practices. It is a rewarding job to do if you have a warm heart, a love of children and the required advanced education and certification.
Nursing Informatics Specialist
While many master’s graduates choose some of the more typical advanced nursing jobs, this position is one you can do if being a nurse and technological skills are your specialties. Taking on a job in informatics means the nurse will be using their nursing skills along with computer science and information technology. These are then applied together for patient care. This career strategy is going to continue to grow as technology changes and evolves in the health care field. Medical services, private consultants as well as technology startups are going to move forward with modernization and need a diverse field of nursing informatics specialists. The goal of this position is to apply cognitive, medical and knowledge of technology to move innovation forward in the field of nursing and health care.
Geriatric or Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
This job is a great one to do if you enjoy working with those who are in the older demographic. Elderly patients need care in hospitals and special care facilities when they are dealing with critical and chronic illnesses. These illnesses can include dementia, diabetes, heart issues and other health complexities that tend to target those who are elderly. Being able to treat complex health issues that exist in the geriatric community requires an MSN along with geriatric certification but is a great opportunity to use both advanced nursing skills and compassionate care for the elderly.
Clinical Nurse Researcher
This job is perfect for nurses who are skilled in the area of pharmaceutical work along with medical research. These nursing jobs that use critical thinking to evaluate and research areas in the medical field are growing in number as the demand for research talent increases. Nurse researchers will have the skills to write grant proposals, assess researched information and integrate large quantities of data. Nursing skills must be accompanied by strong verbal and written communication skills since research and composing content are key in this occupation. If a nurse is strong in the area of working with statistics, data collecting and evidence-based methodology then this job is a great one to do with your MSN. Focus on patient care combined with a clinical research strength is a good combination.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Using your Master of Science in Nursing to work in the area of psychiatric medicine is something to do if you like a work environment that is busy and unpredictable. The ability to treat patients with both biological and functional psychiatric disorders is important as is being part of a psychiatric care team that supports the care of these patients. The demands for professionals in this area of nursing care are high. An advanced degree along with 2000 hours of clinical work in a setting dealing with those who have mental health issues is required as is 30 hours of Con Ed before a certification exam can be taken. It is a tough entrance to this career path but worth the time and effort once it is complete.
Forensic Nurse Consultant or SANE Specialist
This is one of the most interesting areas that a nurse practitioner can get into in this specialty field of forensics. A nurse with an MSN is able to do this job that advises law enforcement and the court’s lawyers as an expert witness. There is patient care involved as well because forensic nurse consultants work with patients as they look for indications of criminal occurrences such as domestic violence. This job can also move into the area where the nurse is designated a SANE – Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.
The requirements for this position are not only a Master of Science in Nursing but also specialized studies and clinical work within the field of medical forensic care. The job focuses on those who have been abused and endured sexual assault. Skills have to include the ability to be an advocate and support for patient/survivor healing. It is not an easy field to work in but if a nurse can do it then the rewards are many. The ability to help prosecute those who are abusers, human traffickers and those who sexually assaulted people while tough can be meaningful and life-changing.
The healthcare field is changing as health care legislation is altered to adapt to new social issues and viewpoints. Nursing must be part of that discussion when it comes to ethics. This can involve topics such as informed consent about life decisions, end-of-life care and more. This position is not just about having high-level political and ethical discussions it’s also about working with patients who need to make decisions around both their own care as well as patients who are no longer capable or competent of making decisions on their own. Nurses in this field teach, comfort and discuss many topics that can be ethical dilemmas for patients and their caregivers.
Nurses who love their jobs and are good at expressing that can be great educators for those who are a nursing student who are in nursing programs and those entering the health care field. Having a talent for academics and teaching along with good nursing skills can make being a nurse educator a rewarding job to take on. Whether the nursing education job is in a classroom, during clinical practice or being a mentor, they can all be deeply meaningful jobs that need both nursing and teaching skills. Working with a curriculum in various settings can keep the job fresh and enjoyable while offering insight and experience-based knowledge to students.
Health Care Attorney or Legal Nurse Consultant
While getting a Master of Science in Nursing is an accomplishment, going one step further for law school can make the job extremely rewarding along with offering a good salary. The focus of the legal practice could be on medical malpractice, health care reform or work around the Affordable Care Act. Having both advanced degrees in nursing as well as law is a great combination. Nurses with a Master’s degree in Science can enter the field with a law degree or even a specialization in the field. The biggest professional combination of these two degrees step would be to become a health care attorney; however, a legal nurse consultant is extremely rewarding as well.
Health Systems Management
This job is one that can be done with an MSN or an MBA. However, the MSN is going to do this with a healthcare understanding that a business degree alone will not offer. Both degrees offer management skills, but the MBA focuses strictly on business management with a focus on business operations and strategies. An MSN will give students further nursing skills along with healthcare management skills. Choosing to do an MSN with a specialization with an executive focus will offer good insights into both business and leadership skills along with advanced nursing. It’s a combination that many hospitals and health care facilities are looking for.
All these jobs can be done with a Master of Science in Nursing along with some positions that require additional certification as well.
How Much Someone with an MSN Degree can Expect to Make
Having a Master of Science in Nursing boosts salary above a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. This salary takes another step up if the graduate passes their Advanced Practice Registered Nurse certifying exam. However, there is an extensive range of salaries for those with an MSN depending on where they are practicing and if they have a specialty. Here are some of the salaries for those with an MSN.
Registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing tend to make $73,000 per year on average. Those nurses who then go on to get the MSN and further specialist advanced degrees will earn on average $115,800. If a nurse decides to go with a Master’s in Health Care Administration, then that average salary starts at $82,000 with top earners at $144,000. These annual incomes vary based on area, seniority and scope of practice. Although nurses who have an MSN earn more, that salary has a wide range based on the variables including specialties. A nurse anesthetist who is working in a high-ranked hospital will earn a greater salary compared to a family nurse practitioner who is working in a clinic in a small town.
When a student pursues a Master of Science in Nursing degree, they are going to get a foundational education that moves beyond the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They will have a foundation in community and public healthcare, ethics, research, clinical skills and leadership. Along with these foundational skills comes a specialty track that can be included, and this additional track will outline the specifics that are taught beyond the general skills of the MSN program. For example, choosing to take an administrative track will mean there is a curriculum centered on team leadership and management skills for positions such as Chief Nursing Officer. In contrast, taking a track that focuses on clinical skills leads a student to more hands-on nursing professions. Here are the highest salaries based on the specialty chosen. These are salary only and are not adjusted for cost of living, placement or geographical location.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
This is one of the highest average salaries for nurses with an MSN. The average salary comes in at $174,790.
Certified Nurse Midwife
This specialty is centered on caring for patients who are pregnant and need support around both their reproductive and gynecological health. The salary per year averages $105,030.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
This is a salary that carries its own internal range of pay simply because nurse practitioners have been their own profession that is then subdivided by specialties as well. These specialties may focus on family practices, pediatrics, mental health, women’s health, acute care, gerontology, surgical care and orthopedics just to name a few of them. The specialty a student graduates with will determine pay along with location as will the place of practice.
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
This profession includes nurses who have high levels of expertise and experience in their field of practice. The salary averages about $95,000-$115,000 per year.
These positions that fall into the category of medical and health service managers, as well as nursing administration, have an average salary of $113,730.
Clinical Nurse Leader
This is a position for nurses who have their MSN and years of experience. For those nurses who have 10+ years of experience their salary as a clinical nurse leader will be about the average of $88,000
This position has a variety of ways it may be done. A nurse educator could work in an academic setting or be assisting nurses as they pursue their BSN or MSN, teaching in a clinical setting or being lead staff on educational upgrades. The average pay for these positions depending on the setting is $83,160.
This is a role that is growing in demand. It is the intersection of nursing clinical care with computers and technology. It is an interesting mix of skills that are required as healthcare systems change and adapt to new demands for improved technology integration with health care. The average pay for an Informatics Nurse is $77,000 per year right now but this should shift upward as demand increases.
Factors Affecting MSN Salary
While an MSN generates an average salary, this can be affected by certain factors such as:
- Specialty and additional degrees
- Hours – Whether you are part of full time.
- Setting – This could be a hospital, private practice, surgical units, clinics or schools
- Shift – Days, evenings, weekends or swing shift.
- Geographical location – Average will vary based on the state of practice and cost of living in that state.
Career Path Options for an MSN
Career path options are varied for those with an MSN. With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing followed by a Masters, there are many career opportunities that open up. While there are opportunities to work in hospitals, private practices and clinics, there are also other parts of practice that are specialty areas. Often this takes further schooling and certification, but these roles can be gratifying and well paying too. A nursing career path can lead to being a:
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Nursing Informatics Specialist
- Geriatric or Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
- Clinical Nurse Researcher
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
- Forensic Nurse Consultant or SANE Specialist
- Nurse Ethicist
These are just some of the specialty roles available. Once you have your MSN and then any specialty education required, certification should be attained as outlined by the state the nurse is working in.
There are also career paths that include more administrative or educational roles such as a nurse administrator, a researcher, nurse educator and more. An MSN can be combined with an MBA to open the door to administrative jobs as well.
Benefits of Earning an MSN Degree
Nurses who have decided to get their MSN degree will need to be committed to putting in a lot of time and effort over the course of the degree. It often takes approximately 2 years to get the degree and sometimes longer if the students are working while doing it. Specialties can also add additional time for advanced education, clinical hours and writing exams for state and national requirements. However, all this time and energy is well worth it when it comes to expanding career opportunities and enjoying increased salaries in the healthcare field. The benefits of earning an MSN degree are not solely about salary. There are other benefits as well.
- The opportunity to specialize and gain expertise – while a general degree is a good move forward, choosing a specialty can offer career choices that may have not been considered previously. Course work while doing an MSN will offer a chance at advanced knowledge in areas of specialization like community health, pediatrics, midwifery, anesthetics and more. Specialization allows nurses to build up their expertise and move into areas of the healthcare field that are looking for support. Having an MSN means they can be hired to reduce physician and system workload while carrying increased medical responsibility. Advanced practice nurses are also able to take over for physicians in particular settings such as ambulatory care clinics and community care settings.
- Increased job opportunities and pay – This is a standard benefit when anyone works to increase their educational level and training and obtain advanced credentials. Doing this means that more career opportunities become available. Advanced skill levels obtained after getting an MSN will enhance nursing opportunities be it as a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, clinical nurse specialist, informatics or in another specialty area. While these many positions need advanced certification and accreditation, they will increase both job satisfaction and pay scale. Some employers may even help with tuition costs as they get the benefit of having a certified nurse with advanced skills. Having these nurses on staff is highly beneficial for the employer.
- The opportunity to educate and teach other nurses – For those nurses who not only love their job but want to share that experience with others, teaching is a great way to do it. Sharing knowledge and experience with the up-and-coming generation of nurses is a wonderful benefit of having an MSN. Those who are teaching get to influence the next group of nurses heading into the field of health care. A nurse educator may be able to teach basic nursing care, support clinical hours, be a mentor or teach specialties and advanced nursing care. The opportunities for teaching are many and while needing an MSN to do it, bringing hands-on experience is a big plus for teaching as well.
- The ability to work independently – Having an MSN allows nurses the ability to flourish on their own as the system and processes involved in health care shift with system demand and changing demographics. Nurses with an MSN are at the front of the line to take advantage of these changes especially if they have a specialty to offer as well. The ability to work independently from physician oversight is growing and can allow certain nurses to open and work in their own clinics and offer medical support without worrying about answering to physicians for the smallest care issue. Non-acute clinics and medical centers can benefit from nurses with this ability as well.
- Increased opportunities for managerial positions – An MSN offers the basics of administration but there are also specialty streams that will focus on the business side of nursing more thoroughly. If a graduate has an MSN and has taken those helpful administrative courses, then they have more chance of qualifying for managerial jobs that can also include supervisory roles as well. These jobs will often offer bonuses, merit pay due to additional and changed responsibilities that are added to the role. Lead Nurse, Director of Nursing and Chief of Operations are all positions that can be held with an MSN. Career prospects increase with advanced education.