Becoming a nurse these days has many great benefits. With the aging US population and people’s life spans getting longer and longer, it’s a safe bet that there will be higher demand for most health care services for many years to come.
This is borne out in the statistics collected by the US government; the Department of Labor reports that demand for registered nurses (RNs) will increase by 16% by 2024. This comes as no surprise because registered nurses are the backbone of the American health care system.
Registered nurses handle everything from recording the medical history of patients, to operating and monitoring medical equipment, to teaching patients and families how to cope with illness and injury. Nurses also are the primary contact that patients have with the health care system; doctors on rounds see patients every 12 hours. Nurses see them throughout their 12 hours shift. Without nurses, the health care system would largely grind to a halt.
While becoming a regular RN with a bachelor’s degree is a great career option, you can enjoy an even more amazing career if you earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Consider these five benefits of an MSN degree:
#1 Advanced Practice Nurses Get Paid the Most
An RN who earns her master’s degree can become one of several types of advanced practice nurses (ADNs). These are the best paid and most prestigious nursing jobs in the country. With your MSN degree, you can become one of the following advanced practice nurses:
- Nurse practitioner (NP): Primary and specialty care providers; assess patients, prescribe drugs, and order and diagnose tests. NPs can do most of a doctor’s job at a lower cost, which makes them a huge player in 21st century American medicine.
- Certified nurse midwife (CNM): Provide gynecological care to women, as well as pre- and post-natal care to women and their infants.
- Certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA): Provide anesthesia services to people having various surgeries and procedures. Does most of the same work as an anesthesiologist at a lower price.
- Clinical nurse specialist (CNS): A registered nurse with a master’s degree and special certification in a specific population: geriatrics, pediatrics, critical care, neonates, oncology, etc.
Each of these ADN roles involves a high level of training and responsibility, and that is why all of these jobs pay so well. Here’s what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says about median salaries:
- NPs are paid a median salary of $98,190.
- CNMs are paid a median salary of $92,500.
- CRNAs are paid a median salary of $157,000.
- CNSs are paid a median salary of $98,200.
- com reports that the average salary for all ADNs is a healthy $87,537.
- com reports that the average salary for all ADNs is $77,000.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also states that the highest-paying jobs generally are found in:
- Hospitals: $111,000
- Doctors’ offices: $104,000
- Outpatient: $102,000
- Other health care practitioner offices: $98,600
- Educational services: $95,700
Sometimes the highest salaries will depend upon where you live. The best cities as of 2015 for NP salaries were:
- Columbus IN
- San Jose CA
- Vallejo CA
- Honolulu HI
- Lafayette IN
#2 Huge and Growing Demand for All ADN Roles
If you want a career that you will virtually never have to worry about looking for work, earning your MSN degree cannot be beat.
Government statistics state that overall, demand for NPs, CRNAs, CNMs and CNSs will increase by an amazing 31% by 2024. This shows that there is far more demand than supply for all of these advanced practice nurses.
If you want to become a nurse practitioner, wait because it gets even better: NPs will see a 35% increase in demand by 2024. As of 2014, there were 126,900 NPs practicing in the US; by 2024, that number will be 171,700.
Also, Forbes magazine states that NPs are actually more in demand than physicians.
#3 More States Allow NPs to Work Independently
Generally, nurse practitioners need to work under the supervision of a doctor. However, with things as they are, that is starting to change. There are many states that allow NPs to practice independently and more are coming.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported in 2014 that more states are allowing NPs to work on their own. It reported that the National Conference of State Legislators stated that year that there were 100 bills that were related to NP scope of practice being debated at the state level. Approximately ¼ of those were enacted.
Currently, the following states allow NPs to work completely independently in their own offices. This means that NPs can assess, diagnose, interpret diagnostic tests and prescribe medicines independently.
Becoming an NP often allows you to work autonomously and independently of physician oversight, which many nurses find attractive.
#4 ADNs Can Specialize
Many advanced nursing practice professionals are pleased to know that they can specialize in many different populations of patients. Below is just a sample of some of the specializations you can focus on as a nurse practitioner.
- Women’s health
- Adult gerontology
- Psychiatric and mental health
- Acute care
Which specialty you choose will have a major influence on the direction your career takes. As you are thinking about specializing, you should consider the following:
- What is your personal area of interest? If you already are an RN, odds are that you know what you like and don’t like when it comes to caring for patients. If you find that working with ventilators stresses you out, you probably want to avoid the intensive care unit. If you enjoy children, you may want to work in pediatrics. But if you would rather that your patients cannot talk and argue with you, the neonatal field could be a good fit.
- Employment: As we noted above, NPs generally are in high demand, but your employment situation will vary depending upon your speciality. While there is something to be said for choosing a highly specialized field such as cardiology or dermatology, you may want to select a more generalized field, such as family or women’s health. Odds are you will not get your highly specialized dream NP job right after you finish your MSN program. It is better for you to be a family NP with endless job choices than be a highly specialized NP looking for work.
- Salary: All NPs make good money, but some pay more than others. If you can handle the stress, you should think about becoming an ER NP; they make some of the highest salaries. Which specialty you select will not affect your income as much as with physicians, but it still will have some effect.
- Career flexibility: You might graduate with your MSN and know right away you want to be in pediatrics, and that’s fine. But you may not actually know for sure right away where you want to work. If you are not as positive where you want to work and with which population, maybe choose a more generalized specialty. Later on, you can specialize further if you choose.
#5 Many Online MSN Programs To Choose From
Last but not least, earning your MSN today has never been easier. You have so many online master’s in nursing programs that you can select. So, you have the ability to continue to work as a nurse, while you go to school to become an advanced practice nurse.
Some of the online MSN programs include:
- George Washington University: This program is designed for nursing professionals with a BSN who want to earn their MSN online who want to ba primary care NP, family NP, nurse leader or manager, or nurse midwife.
- Johns Hopkins University: This outstanding online MSN is designed for students who either have a bachelor’s degree in nursing or in another field. For those who are new to nursing, this program will have you earn your BSN degree and your RN designation in the first two years. Then you will continue with the program to earn your MSN.
- Benedictine University: This two year program has curriculum that aligns with the standards that have been specified by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, which stresses organization and systems leadership; informatics; health care technology; advocacy; collaboration, evidence based practice and quality improvement.
- Liberty University: This highly regarded program offers you the chance to be a nurse practitioner, nurse educator or administrator. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or CCNE. Graduates of this program will develop the essential clinical skills for advanced practice nursing as well as teaching, research and scholarship skills.
- Maryville University: This is one of US News and World Report’s ‘Top Overperforming’ Schools. This online university offers a standard MSN option for those who already have a BSN in nursing. The program also has a unique BSN to DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) program where you can earn your MSN and DNP at the same time.
- Georgetown University This elite online MSN program has specializations for adult gerontology/acute care nurse practitioner, family NP, nurse midwifery and women’s health, and women’s health NP.