Why Get a Master’s in Nursing?

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Nurse checking xray

Work and life obligations are often the reasons for putting off getting a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Yet the substantial benefits of earning an MSN coupled with the exponential growth in career opportunities available for those with an MSN show why the pursuit of this advanced degree should be a priority for any nurse. An MSN degree can also help students cultivate the skills needed to make a positive impact on the ever-changing world of health care, now and in the future.

The Need for Advanced Nursing

The best way to answer the question, “why get a master’s in nursing?” is to emphasize that the industry needs MSN-equipped nurses. There is a serious nursing shortage on the horizon. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects nearly 440,000 registered nurses (RN) jobs will need to be filled from 2016 to 2026. The BLS also anticipates a 31 percent job growth in the nurse practitioner field over that same time period. The combination of anticipated retirements by nurses and the unprecedented increase in the number of senior citizens in the country means there are going to be more patients to care for than ever before.

These statistics translate to an increased need for nurses who can help deliver high-quality care that improves patient health. They also stress a greater need for nursing leaders who can help guide staff through the industry’s relentless changes. These relate not only to direct patient care but also to peripheral areas that can impact patient care, like health care legislation and preventive care measures.

The Benefits of an MSN Degree

Earning an MSN degree can position students to rise to the forefront of the health care industry, where they can pursue several high-level career opportunities. These pursuits could lead to lucrative positions in the health care field. Even more important, they can enable students to use their skills and leadership to help sculpt the future landscape of the industry.

The skill set that can be refined through an MSN degree program combines traditional nursing with management competencies that ultimately prepare students for leadership roles. Students can cultivate the leadership skills needed to confidently and effectively guide others through health care’s shifting landscapes. They can also strengthen the interpersonal and communication skills necessary for interacting with staff and high-level health care administrators. These skills merge with finely honed nursing competencies such as compassion, critical thinking, and attention to detail.

Obtaining an MSN degree can also enable students to enjoy several key benefits once they enter the field. An MSN can potentially lead to jobs that are typically not open to those who do not possess an advanced degree, including jobs as nurse administrators or nurse educators. These opportunities can help prevent those in the field from feeling like they’re stuck in a mid-level position with no room for career advancement.

The positions typically available for MSN degree holders also offer the chance to earn a higher wage, with some positions offering six-figure median salaries. These positions can also translate to truncated hours, as they may not be subject to the scheduling norms of the nursing field like 12-hour work shifts or holiday on-call duty.

Potential Positions

One of the most influential positions those with MSN degrees can fill is the role of the nurse educator. Those in this position are charged with teaching patient care to nursing students in either a classroom or a clinical unit setting. They can also be tasked with researching medical and nonmedical developments and advancements that affect the industry to ensure the information they provide students remains accurate. Because of the projected shortage of nurses in the industry, the need for nurse educators who can give proper instruction is more urgent than ever. The position can also be financially rewarding; according to the BLS, the median wage for nursing instructors and teachers is roughly $71,300.

An MSN degree can also provide a path toward a career as a nurse practitioner, which can allow nurses to coordinate and potentially provide primary patient care. The degree could also help land a position as a research nurse, which focuses on creating and analyzing medications and treatments. Additionally, an MSN may allow students to enter the realm of nurse management, where they can be tasked with overseeing the operation of a medical practice or a specific medical department.

These positions can also yield financial dividends. The BLS indicates the median salary for nurse educators in 2017 was around $71,000 per year. The 2017 median salary for those involved in nurse management was roughly $98,000, per the BLS. Finally, the BLS lists the 2017 median salary for nurse practitioners at around $110,000.

Become a Leader in Health Care

An MSN is worth pursuing because it offers students a significant range of career opportunities in health care. More importantly, it can enable students to become leaders who can help others make sense of the health care industry’s constant changes. Ultimately, when the projected pressing need for high-quality nurses in the next few years is considered, an MSN degree provides students with an unprecedented opportunity to make a profound impact on health care.

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.

Recommended Reading

Ohio University Blog, “A Look at Today’s Nursing Health Care Challenges”
Ohio University Blog, “Child Health In The United States”
Ohio University Blog, “Focus Areas That Promote Evidence-Based Nursing”


Health Careers, “5 Benefits of Having a Master’s Degree in Nursing”
American Nurses Association, Workforce
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment, and Wages, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary 
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers 
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses
Glassdoor.com, Clinical Research Nurse Salaries