There’s a lot to like about a career in nursing. Some practitioners find improving patients’ health as a registered nurse (RN) is rewarding enough that they devote decades to this occupation. But there are even more career paths out there, especially if you’re looking to further your education.
While you’ve been thinking about completing an advanced nursing degree, you want to make sure it can help you work toward something that truly interests you. What can you do with a master’s in nursing, exactly? You might be surprised at the amount of variety among the positions that could await.
Begin exploring some of your options right now. You might just discover a role that’s perfect for your future in nursing.
What can you do with a Master’s in Nursing? 5 Career paths to consider
Nurses work as educators, administrators, healthcare providers and much more. If there’s a particular part of the job that already appeals to you, keep that in mind as you peruse some potential career paths that can become available with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
1. Advanced practice registered nurse
Perhaps you recognize that clinical practice is what you’re meant to do. If so, it might be wise to think about becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) outlines four primary paths you can pursue as an APRN.
Nurse practitioners are master’s- or doctoral-qualified providers who treat a wide range of health conditions, either autonomously or under the supervision of a physician. Nurse practitioners can further specialize and become certified to achieve numerous roles, including:
- Family nurse practitioner
- Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
- Acute care nurse practitioner
- Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner
- Pediatric nurse practitioner
- Neonatal nurse practitioner
- Women’s health nurse practitioner
- School nurse practitioner
Clinical Nurse Specialists are expert clinicians and typically have in-depth knowledge of a particular population or condition. They prioritize evidence-based practice and often help educate fellow nurses to improve patient care. Yes, clinical nurse specialists make diagnoses and treat patients, but they also play an important managerial role.
Nurse Anesthetists administer anesthesia and related medications to patients. They also monitor individuals during and after surgery. These APRNs work with patients from all different backgrounds, so good bedside manner is a must.
Nurse-Midwives are APRNs who are known most for specializing in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum treatment. But they also focus on other aspects of women’s reproductive health, such as preventive measures, and may even work with their patients’ male partners in some cases.
For most APRN positions, you must complete an appropriately accredited MSN program that includes coursework in your desired specialty. Upon earning your degree, you’ll need to gain relevant experience and pass the corresponding certification exam.
Regardless of which role appeals to your interests, rest assured that your future job prospects look good. The median annual salary for APRNs in 2018 was $113,930. And employment of advanced practice registered nurses is projected to grow 26 percent through 2028, which is much faster than the rate for all occupations.
2. Nurse administrator
If you’re looking to take on more of a leadership role, becoming a nurse administrator could be a good fit. These professionals may oversee the entire nursing department at a healthcare facility, often leveraging their knowledge and experience from clinical practice. Typical duties include conducting performance reviews, attending meetings and designing training procedures.
On top of managing staff, nurse administrators are ultimately responsible for maintaining standards that promote optimal patient outcomes. They must evaluate and establish nursing policies, ensure all regulatory requirements are met and act as a liaison between numerous departments.
Nurse administrators typically need substantial experience as a registered nurse as well as an MSN degree. While additional credentials aren’t required, some employers prefer to see candidates who have obtained certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Organization for Nursing Leadership.
3. Nurse educator
As you worked toward becoming an RN, there were probably a number of nursing instructors who you found to be particularly impactful. Maybe you’re beginning to think you could similarly make a difference for tomorrow’s providers as a nurse educator. Specific responsibilities depend on the role, but nurse educators often instruct in classrooms and labs at nursing schools or at teaching hospitals to help students build their clinical skills. They may also help with curriculum development and conduct research.
Nurse educators typically need at least a master’s degree. It’s also useful to set yourself apart by obtaining one or more specialty certifications.
In 2018, these instructors earned a median annual salary of $73,490. Employment of nurse educators is projected to grow 11 percent through 2028.
4. Nurse informaticist
Nursing informatics is a discipline that helps connect clinical practice with information and analytical sciences to identify and communicate information that aims to improve patient outcomes. Informatics nurses work to develop communication and information technologies like electronic medical records (EMRs). They also address feedback on any new systems and help train staff.
While some nurses are able to break into informatics with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree is typically preferred. Advanced education is especially important if you’re looking to one day hold an executive role. Certification, either through the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) or the ANCC, can also help you stand out among candidates.
Nurse informaticists earned a median annual salary of $88,740 in 2018. Employment of nursing informatics professionals is also projected to grow between 7 and 10 percent through 2028.
5. Research nurse
Nurses who work in research play an important role in providing new insight into existing procedures and emerging treatments. They may specialize in studying diseases, creating or improving medications, and more. Many research nurses also design and conduct clinical trials. While these professionals focus primarily on carrying out research, they’re still responsible for providing care to patients who may be involved.
Most nurses in this field need at least a master’s degree, and it’s important to focus on coursework that covers statistics and research methods. As with other nursing professionals, research nurses often seek credentials beyond standard licensure to become more competitive. Certifications are offered through the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) and the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP).
The median annual salary for clinical research coordinators, a group that includes nurses involved in clinical research, in 2018 was $123,860. Employment of these professionals over the next decade is projected to be an average rate.
Make your next move in nursing
Registered nurses can pursue several different roles without obtaining another degree. But what can you do with a Master’s in Nursing that isn’t attainable with your current education? Clearly, this advanced degree opens up an even wider array of options.
If you’re beginning to think about pursuing an MSN, there are probably a few criteria that you’re looking for in a program. Perhaps you need to balance school and work, for example. You’ll be pleased to know that MSN programs like the one at Midway University afford plenty of flexibility by offering online coursework. Learn more about how you could advance your career by visiting our Master of Science in Nursing program page.