The registered nurse (RN) commonly enters the occupation by completing an associate degree or bachelor’s degree program. Individuals then must complete a national licensing examination in order to obtain a nursing license. However, if you want to obtain job security or even build your own clientele, a master’s degree in nursing, or MSN, is the way to go. The implications of receiving an MSN go beyond patient care. Education in leadership, research, and understanding the current political framework of the medical system allows an MSN to accomplish more in the field of nursing. Additionally, nurses with an MSN degree now are replacing general practitioners in the health field. Learn more about why every RN should pursue an MSN degree.
Why You Should Choose an MSN
If you want to excel in nursing, the MSN can open those doors for you. The following reasons to pursue an MSN include focuses on career, salary, and future options for your career. Links lead to organizations or information that focuses on a career or salary objective.
- Nursing Administration: A nurse administrator, at the basic level, is called a head nurse. He or she will supervise staff nurses, recommend policy and structural changes and assist in the implementation of changes. While some facilities allow nurse administrators with bachelor’s degrees, Those with a master’s degree will have more possibilities to engage in the supervision of nurses and programs.
- Nurse Practitioner: Nurse practitioners (NPs) are RNs who are prepared, through advanced education and clinical training, to provide preventive and acute health-care services to individuals of all ages. Today, most NPs complete graduate-level education that leads to a master’s degree. They work independently and collaboratively on the health-care team.
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist: Without an MSN, this nurse cannot provide anesthetics to patients in collaboration with surgeons, dentists, or childbirth procedures. In the U.S., a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has acquired graduate-level education and board certification in anesthesia.
- Certified Nurse Midwives: In the U.S., a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) is an APRN who provides primary health care to women, prenatal care, labor and delivery care, care after birth, gynecological exams, and many other care taking procedures necessary for women’s health.
- Clinical Nurse Specialists: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is an APRN who has earned a master’s or doctoral degree. The CNS is responsible and accountable for diagnosis and treatment of health/illness states, disease management, health promotion, and prevention of illness and risk behaviors among individuals, families, groups, and communities.
- Nurse Educator: A nurse educator is a nurse who teaches and prepares licensed practical nurses (LPN) and registered nurses (RN) for entry into practice positions. The type of degree they are required to hold is dependent upon the state’s Nurse Practice Act, the regulatory agencies that define the practice of nursing, including nursing education requirements.
Education, Advancement, and Salary
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses hold a master’s degree in a particular focus area and provide one-on-one patient care services similar to those a physician would perform. While APRNs don’t earn what doctors do, the ability to practice medicine as well as perform preventive care and diagnostics can be rewarding.
- Average annual salaries for registered nurses were $62,450 in May 2008. Most RNs often move to other settings or are promoted to positions with more responsibility. However, the income listed below for other positions with a master’s degree have options to earn much more money.
- The Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) averages about $90,000 per year.
- The Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) can earn an annual average salary of over $150,000. The only way to make more money is to become a Chief Nurse Anesthetist, which requires a master’s degree in nursing from an accredited school of nursing, and professional certification, and at least 7 years of experience.
- A Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) can make over $90,000 [PDF] average salary per year. A number of variables can affect salaries including: type of practice setting, geographic part of the country, urban or rural location, benefits packages offered with salary, hours worked per week, and type of care provided.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) can average a little over $85,000 per year. Clinical nurse specialists provide direct patient care and expert consultations in one of many nursing specialties, such as psychiatric-mental health.
Benefits and Incentives
The ongoing nursing shortage can provide extremely advantageous opportunities for nurses earning a higher degree and for nursing students preparing to enter the workforce. Many health facilities are now offering incentive programs to entice the best nurses to their workforces. Don’t hesitate to learn about what your school or future employer might offer to MSN graduates.
- Recruitment bonuses ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 now are offered to nurses and to employees to help fill nursing positions. For example, Providence Alaska Medical Center employees have been offered $10,000 bonuses for helping to recruit new operating-room nurses as part of a statewide effort by its operators to fill specialized nursing positions.
- Professional incentives, such as bonuses and recognition, may be offered to nurses who go the limit, such as this article about certification.
- Physician shortages, more than nurse shortages, affect the MSN recipient. The ability for a health facility to offer NP practice in lieu of general practitioner care can up the ante for jobs in this arena.
- Loan forgiveness still reigns for nursing programs. The programs go in cycles. The Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program is closed for 2012, but the NHSC Loan Repayment Program (LRP) application cycle is now open.
How to Accomplish Your Goals
One way to accomplish any advanced nursing goal is to pursue an RN to MSN degree. In order for an RN to achieve an MSN and become an APRN, most programs require a master’s program lasting approximately two years following the Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) degree. Some programs require at least one to two years of clinical experience as an RN for admission. Many programs combine the BSN and MSN degree for the nurse to graduate with two degrees together.
If you feel this career path is for you, you also can take on the studies in an online RN to MSN program. An RN to MSN specifically is a degree designed for registered nurses who may or may not have already completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing, so this path may be a great one for anyone who wants to combine those degrees in a shorter amount of time. RN-MSN programs aren’t all the same, so doing some research into the requirements and costs of different programs will benefit any RN who is looking into returning to school.