What Kind of Nurse Should I Be?

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Female nurse smiling at patient

Nurse is one of the most vital roles in health care. It’s also one of the most eclectic professions, one that can go beyond a career as a registered nurse. Those who attain a Master of Science in Nursing can pursue numerous career options, making “What kind of nurse should I be?” an essential inquiry. While nursing career paths differ based on patient type or work environment, they are all fortified by a foundational desire to help others.

Master of Science in Nursing: What to Expect

A Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN, is an advanced degree designed to strengthen nursing-related core competencies. The fortification of critical thinking, communication, leadership skills, and other key elements can equip students with an ability to potentially advance their careers in various leadership or management positions. It can also prepare students to apply for certification. Certain states require additional nursing certifications in order to practice tasks in certain fields. MSN graduates can attain these certifications through a host of organizations, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

A typical MSN curriculum allows students to focus their areas of study to prepare for a specific position in the nursing industry, such as nurse practitioner or nurse educator. These concentrations help give students specialized knowledge in their chosen areas of expertise. Regardless of concentration, each curriculum usually features several core courses that focus on strengthening students’ knowledge of foundational elements of nursing, which they can apply throughout the nursing field.

The Types of Nursing Roles Available to MSN Candidates

Nurse Educator

The objective of a nurse educator is to teach students essential skills designed to prepare them for a position in the health care industry. They can deploy a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on teaching in a clinical setting. Nurse educators can focus their instruction on a particular aspect of nursing, such as obstetrics or oncology. They may also teach courses relating to management or leadership.

In addition to holding an advanced degree, such as an MSN, nurse educators tend to pursue certifications relating to their specialties. While certification is not required to teach, it is recommended, as it provides prospective employers with validation that the candidate is qualified beyond years of work experience. Additionally, nurse educators may attend conferences, study journals, or take an active role in their facilities’ nursing programs to keep abreast of the industry’s numerous changes.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the projected employment growth for postsecondary instructors is 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is a much faster rate compared with the average employment growth of 7 percent for all professions. The BLS also reports the 2017 median wage for nurse educators to be about $77,000. However, it should be noted that the actual wage may depend on a few key factors, such as years of experience and job location.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners organize and oversee patient care in a health care setting. They are typically tasked with several essential duties; for example, they may record a patient’s medical history, observe patients, and work with physicians to create a patient health strategy. In most states, nurse practitioners can prescribe medications and order tests. They may even provide basic, non-specialized health care depending on the states in which they conduct their work.

Family nurse practitioners must have an MSN, and many choose to specialize. They must be licensed to practice as registered nurses in their state and also need to pass a certification test. These tests are used to show proficiency in a certain area of the field and are available through several professional organizations, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

The nurse practitioner field is also poised for expansion. The BLS projects job growth to be 31 percent between 2016 and 2026. It also lists the 2017 median pay at around $111,000, although this could fluctuate based on experience and job location.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

An adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, or AGACNP, provides hospital and clinical care to adults, including older adults. Their tasks can include complex monitoring, conducting analytics-driven diagnostic tests, and using the derived data to build a strategic wellness strategy for the patient.

Because AGACNPs are similar to family nurse practitioners, they have comparable educational, licensing, and certification requirements. According to PayScale, the 2018 median salary for those in this position is roughly $92,500. Furthermore, the BLS includes AGACNPs in its projected job growth for all nurse practitioners: 31 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Mental health care service providers require a diverse staff of interdisciplinary medical professionals. This includes nurses, technicians, and doctors. Registered nurses can perform basic care for patients who are diagnosed with mental illness, mental distress, or addiction, but to deliver holistic care to patients, they may look to become certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNP).

Graduates from an accredited MSN program with a certification in the PMHNP specialization are qualified to perform complex tasks, such as prescribing medications, facilitating psychotherapeutic interventions, performing diagnostic examinations of patients, and interpreting the result of such diagnostic services. PMHNPs perform critical duties that allow advanced mental health practitioners, like psychiatrists, to stay focused on providing high-level care. The median salary for PMHNPs sits at $100,408, as reported by Payscale in 2018. Like the other NP specializations, the BLS projects job growth at 31 percent between 2016 and 2026.

All Roads Lead to One Goal

The path of an MSN student can lead to a fulfilling career with the goal of helping to make strides toward quality health care that improves patient outcomes. How an MSN student achieves this goal depends on what path he or she is interested in taking. Over time, the individual’s experience may provide him or her with solid financial security. However, the impact nursing professionals can have on the health care industry as a whole can begin the moment they enter the advanced nursing field.

Learn More:

For students who aspire to an advanced career in nursing, Ohio University’s online MSN program helps them gain the skills and experience necessary to take their nursing careers to the next level. Learn more about Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Nursing.


Recommended Reading:

A Blueprint for Becoming a Nurse Educator

The Rise of the Robot Nurse

MSN vs. DNP: Where Does This Path Lead?



Bureau of Labor Statistics, Interview With a Nursing Instructor

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Teachers

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

Ohio University, Online Master of Science in Nursing

Payscale.com, Average Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Salary

World Health Organization, Nurse Educator Core Competencies