Registered nurses earned an average salary of $72,180 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s more than some similar health care professions, but it’s hardly the top of the pay scale. Pursuing further education, such as earning a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN), can prepare practicing nurses for other positions — many of them in leadership roles — that command higher salaries.
This article will explore five rewarding MSN careers — clinical research specialist, nursing supervisor, nurse educator, advanced nurse practitioner, and nurse executive — and discuss the typical responsibilities, work environments, and career outlook for each.
Clinical Research Specialist
Nurses who enjoy clinical research, such as patient trials, should consider pursuing a career as a clinical research specialist, or medical scientist. These professionals conduct research aimed at finding ways to improve overall human health, using scientific investigation methods and clinical trials to form their conclusions. Those in leadership positions facilitate the research and track compliance to ensure research projects are ethical, medically relevant, and scientifically valid. Clinical research specialists also monitor and report on assigned studies to assess the data collection and reporting.
This career requires adherence to positive ethical and moral principles along with following the mission of the employing organization. Nurses who become clinical research specialists typically work in labs, in academia, or at medical care facilities, though there are other job options as well.
The BLS reports that the median pay for a clinical research specialist in 2017 was $82,090. As of 2016, there were 120,000 clinical research specialist positions, with that number expected to increase by about 13 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than average job growth.
Nursing supervisors are responsible for overseeing the quality of nursing offered at a facility or organization. Their responsibilities include coordinating nursing and training programs, solving administrative and supervisory problems within a department or assigned area, and ensuring that the quality of nursing services for patients remains high.
Nursing supervisors often work in hospitals or medical clinics, but there are employment opportunities wherever there are nursing teams to manage. Candidates for this career must be able to exercise considerable judgment when applying professional knowledge to solve problems, and they need to be able to oversee and train a diverse staff.
Nursing supervisors earn about $83,000 per year, though pay increases are possible depending upon the employing organization. As the number of nurses in the workforce increases, the demand for nursing supervisors expands as well. The BLS says the need for qualified professionals is expected to grow by about 20 percent in the next decade.
As the nursing field continues to grow, so does the need for nurse educators, who are tasked with guiding students on the path to becoming nurses. Nurse educators work as faculty members at colleges, universities, vocational and technical schools, and hospital-based education programs. They create and design courses that comply with federal and state regulations, and they also analyze and report on the effectiveness of these programs, so they can be updated and revised as necessary.
Because of the myriad opportunities for nurse educators, the salaries vary widely. The BLS reports that nurse educators who work at colleges and universities earn about $79,000 per year. However, nurse educators working in hospital settings earn an average of almost $90,000 per year, and those working in specialty hospitals earn about $96,000 per year, on average.
Advanced Nurse Practitioner
Nurses looking to take on leadership roles could pursue MSN careers as advanced nurse practitioners. They often specialize in fields such as adult-gerontology care, pediatric/family care, or pharmacotherapeutics, among others, and can work in hospital or lab settings in the public or private sector. Advanced nurse practitioners’ responsibilities include performing physical exams; creating and administering patient care plans; ordering and performing diagnostic tests; analyzing changes in patient health while altering treatment plans as needed; and consulting with doctors and other health care professionals.
In 2017, nurse practitioners earned a median salary of nearly $111,000 per year, according to the BLS, and the industry’s job outlook is for 31 percent growth from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than average. BLS statistics show there were about 203,000 nurse practitioner positions nationwide in 2016, and the industry will add 64,200 new employment opportunities by 2026.
Nurses in executive roles focus on accountability for patient care. They’re members of an organization’s senior leadership team who facilitate the design and implementation of patient care delivery, build relationships between staff members, and provide mentoring and coaching to their subordinates. Their roles include influencing innovation, expanding the use of emerging technologies, leading professionals across the continuum of health care, and steering their organizations so they stay relevant in the future. They must possess superior communication skills, the ability to create and manage large budgets, and the ability to predict their organization’s long-term needs.
Nursing executives in 2017 earned a median salary of about $100,000 per year, though continuing education and certification could increase a nurse executive’s earning potential. The BLS predicts 20 percent job growth between 2016 and 2026, with the number of nurse executive positions increasing from 352,200 to about 424,300.
Nursing is a high-demand career that can be rewarding because the work is meaningful and can offer high salaries. There are many MSN careers that offer generous pay packages, including the five highlighted here. As the U.S. population ages, the demand for nurses with advanced knowledge will also continue to grow.
We’ve designed our online Master of Science in Nursing program to meet the needs of practicing RNs like you: hard-working professionals with the drive to advance their expertise. Our robust core curriculum integrates advanced nursing theory with evidence-based nursing practice, allowing you to immediately apply new skills in the field.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers