While you may only need a bachelor’s in nursing in order to start your career, many nurses choose to pursue a master’s degree in order to expand their career opportunities and provide better patient care. As more healthcare facilities seek advanced practice nurses and the nursing shortage continues to grow, the demand for nurses with an MSN is growing faster than ever.

Why Should You Get a Master’s Degree in Nursing?

Nurses with a master’s degree are better prepared to take on the challenges of working in the healthcare industry. Their skills are more fine tuned and they have more experience that allows them to be better leaders and caregivers.

When you pursue an MSN, you’ll have the opportunity to choose or expand upon a chosen specialty. Depending on your interests and your specialty, you may find that your skills are in higher demand than others. Some specialties have a particularly large need for nurses and pursuing a master’s degree centered on one of these specialties can increase your job opportunities.

In addition to more potential job opportunities, you can also expect a higher salary. Most nursing jobs that require an MSN have a higher starting salary and will increase over time as you gain experience. 

Do You Need a Master’s Degree?

For some nursing careers, you won’t need anything higher than a BSN and a nursing license. If you want to work as an advanced practice nurse or open the door to more opportunities, then you will find that you do need an MSN.

What Nursing Careers Can You Do With an MSN?

If you’re interested in pursuing your MSN or you already have it, here are some potential career paths that you can follow now that you have a graduate degree.

#1. Clinical Research Nurse

For nurses interested in research, working as a clinical research nurse is a great opportunity after you graduate. These nurses help conduct research for clinical trials and studies and their work includes finding willing participants, ordering and analyzing test results, reviewing participants’ medical history, and caring for those involved in the trial.

Research nurses typically have a high starting salary around $105,000 annually. In addition to this, they’ll also have non-cash benefits such as a 401k, healthcare and dental insurance, paid time off, and guaranteed vacation leave.

#2. Director of Nursing

Nurses that are interested in leadership roles can take up a position as the director of nursing. This is an administrative role and doesn’t involve much patient care, but it is vital to the functionality of every nursing department.

Nursing directors are responsible for hiring and training new nurses, scheduling shifts, budgeting for the department, increasing productivity, and other accounting processes. In some cases, the director of nursing may also facilitate communication between nurses and other medical professionals to ensure that a patient receives the best care possible.

#3. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

This type of advanced practice nurse specializes in mental health. These nurses typically work with patients suffering from psychiatric disorders or mental health issues. They help patients get the care they need and ensure that they receive all medications necessary.

Psychiatric nurses may work in mental health institutes, psych wards, or other areas where mental health is a concern. Some nurses may even work in prisons to ensure that inmates receive the mental health care that they need.

#4. Nurse Educator

Nurse educators are in exceptionally high demand as a nursing faculty shortage becomes an increasingly worrisome problem. Without enough nurse educators to replace retiring staff, nursing programs are having to turn away more prospective students simply because they cannot find teachers to fill the classrooms.

As can be expected, nurse educators are responsible for training new nurses and ensuring that all students get through the nursing program. They may work in classrooms or help direct clinical programs.

#5. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

CRNAs are advanced practice nurses who administer anesthesia and monitor patients. While most CRNAs do hold a doctoral degree, you can start your training with just a master’s degree and work towards becoming fully certified over time.

CRNAs are the primary anesthesia providers in rural areas as they are able to work without the supervision of a physician. They work not only in medical facilities, but also in dental offices and outpatient care centers. Some CRNAs may even open their own practice or become independent contractors depending on their area’s need.

#6. Forensic Nurse Consultant

As the word forensic indicates, these nurses work with law enforcement and attorneys. They provide medical care to victims of crimes and gather medical evidence that can be used in court. During court cases, they’ll act as an expert witness to explain medical diagnoses and the evidence presented by either side of the case.

Forensic nurse consultants must be both compassionate and strong as much of their work centers around domestic abuse cases and they will see a lot of violence. Being a forensic nurse consultant is not easy, but you can help a lot of victims feel safe and cared for during a difficult time in their lives.

Boost Your Career With an MSN

Earning your master’s degree in nursing is one of the best ways to boost your career and explore new opportunities. Whether you want to improve your patient care or learn more about your specialty, an MSN is one of the best ways to do so. 

For nurses that have already started work, there are all sorts of opportunities for online or hybrid learning and in some cases, you may even be able to get tuition reimbursement from your employer. As more hospitals and medical facilities offer tuition reimbursement to current and future nurses, obtaining your MSN is both affordable and possible without having to step out of the workforce.

No matter what specialty you want to pursue or where you obtain your degree, earning your MSN is a surefire way to steer your career in the direction you want to take it.