What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Nursing?

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Today, nurses are in high demand in healthcare facilities across the nation. While an associate’s or bachelor’s degree provides a solid foundation for a nursing career, those who choose to pursue advanced degrees are laying the groundwork for the opportunity for more employment options, higher levels of job satisfaction, greater earning potential, and excellent marketability in the job market.

Five nurses standing side-by-side

A Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree allows nurses to further their studies, choose an area of specialization, and pursue higher ranking and better-paying jobs. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, it takes a full-time graduate student between 18 and 24 months to earn an MSN. For many, returning to school full time isn’t an option due to the scheduling and financial burdens of returning to college, so they opt to take part-time classes while continuing to work. Part-time students usually take between three and five years to complete the program but graduate with all the benefits of an advanced degree. Many working professionals also consider the option of pursuing their MSN with an online program. These programs usually offer a combination of online coursework and a practicum where the student currently works or in another local medical facility.


After deciding to pursue an MSN, there are several prerequisites that need to be met before studies can begin. Candidates must be a registered nurse (RN) with a current license and have a bachelor’s degree, preferably a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Some RNs choose to continue their education directly after finishing their BSN, while others prefer to get hands-on clinical experience by working in a doctor’s office or hospital before beginning the next level of their education. Many schools also require that prospective students take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT).

Degree Choices

There are several options for specialization within MSN programs. At most schools, graduate nursing students choose to pursue one or more of the following career paths:

  • Nurse Practitioner – Provides specialized and primary care with the ability to write prescriptions
  • Nurse Administrator – Provides indirect patient care by assuming a leadership role to manage a staff of nurses, budgets, resources, and other administrative duties
  • Nurse Educator – Teaches future generations of nurses in a variety of classroom settings, develops and evaluates curriculum, performs research projects, writes and publishes reports
  • Clinical Nurse Midwife– Provides prenatal, delivery, postpartum and gynecological services
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist– Provides anesthesia and pain relief during surgeries, deliveries, and traumas

What to Look For

After deciding to go back to school to earn an MSN, prospective students should consider a number of factors before selecting a school. Some of these include:

  • Accreditation and State Acceptance: The degree program should be accredited by the National League for Nursing Accreditation or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education in order to be nationally recognized. The program should also be recognized by the state where the RN plans to work.
  • Prerequisites: Students should carefully investigate the prerequisite courses needed for the MSN program. Many programs require undergraduate coursework in management or statistics and research. Additionally, nurses who want to specialize for their MSN may need to take some undergraduate prerequisite classes before beginning the advanced degree program.
  • Flexibility in Scheduling: Before enrolling in a program, many nurses explore the scheduling flexibility of their courses. Many choose to work while taking classes, so the times of classes, location of practicums, and availability of online courses are all important factors to consider.
  • Reputation and Staff: The overall reputation of the school in the marketplace is a final consideration. Before selecting a college or university, prospective students should learn about the teaching staff. To get the most out of an MSN program, there should be teachers and professors with expertise in the student’s desired specialty.

Career Options

With an MSN degree, nurses have a much wider variety of career options open to them.

Some jobs they might consider include:

  • Nursing Administrator
  • Nurse Educator
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Community Health Nurse
  • Nurse Researcher
  • Nurse Midwife

Another benefit of an MSN degree is its compatibility with other career fields. While the MSN degree does focus on advanced practice nursing, it also goes hand in hand with business and research. For those with aspirations to work on the business side of operating a hospital or a desire to work on clinical trials and other research studies, the MSN is the perfect springboard to opportunities in these career paths.

Higher salary

Earning an MSN is often a path to increase earning potential. According to payscale.com, the average salary range for nurses with an MSN degree is $57,000 to $88,000. (This figure varies based on specific career paths, geographic location, years of experience, and type of healthcare organization.) Payscale.com also reports that most nurses with an MSN receive $850 to $4,000 per year in bonuses, two to four weeks of paid vacation time, and other perks.
An MSN degree increases the scope of career possibilities for nurses looking for leadership roles, advancement in the workplace, and increased job satisfaction. By putting in the time and effort to complete this advanced degree, MSN graduates take an important step toward advancing their nursing careers to the next level.

Ohio University’s Master’s in Nursing – Family Practitioner Concentration

Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a comprehensive program designed for active registered nurses (RNs) who have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing and want to advance their education through the flexibility and convenience of online courses. This master’s in nursing program features a robust core curriculum that integrates advanced nursing theory and evidence-based nursing practice through case-driven studies. Coursework is 100% online, plus residency and clinical requirements, and all clinical requirements can be performed at an approved facility close to where you live or work.

Payscale, “Master in Nursing Degree Salary”