Nurse in scrubs

What You Can Do With a Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Degree

Learn the Value of a Master’s Degree in Nursing

Nurse in scrubs

Registered nurses (RNs) are an invaluable part of the healthcare industry, and with a Master’s in Nursing degree (MSN), those same nurses can do even more. The MSN can expand your nursing education and experience through additional skills training and specialization. This training can lead to greater job opportunities and responsibilities. Nurses who pursue their master’s degree can take on management roles or become certified nurse practitioners.

If you’re interested in higher nursing education, continue reading to learn about the various paths you can follow to earn your MSN degree and some of the exciting career opportunities it can open up.

List of Master’s Degrees in Nursing

If you’re interested in pursuing an MSN degree, there are typically five types of master’s in nursing programs you may find when doing your research:

  • Direct Entry MSN – This program exists for students who have a four-year bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and begins with entry-level nursing coursework.
  • RN-to-MSN – Nurses with a two-year nursing degree (or diploma RN) but who do not have a bachelor’s degree in nursing can pursue this program to earn their MSN. The coursework takes an average of three years of full-time study.
  • ADN-to-MSN – This approach is similar to an RN-to-MSN but requires an associates degree in nursing (ADN) and does not accept diploma RNs.
  • BSN-to-MSN – For nurses who have already have a bachelor’s degree, the BSN-to-MSN program helps nurses achieve their masters in an average of two years. This program can also include specialization, such as a nurse practitioner program.
  • Bridge RN-to-MSN – This program is designed for nurses with a two-year degree and a non-nursing four-year bachelor’s degree.

Master’s in Nursing Requirements

Student study group

The requirements for beginning an MSN degree can vary according to a student’s background. For Direct Entry MSN students, most schools require:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
  • A minimum GPA (usually 3.0)
  • Letters of recommendation—academic and professional
  • An application essay
  • Current resume
  • GRE scores

Many schools also require prerequisite classes, which often include:

  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Statistics

For students already registered as nurses and actively working in the medical field, the requirements typically include:

  • A current U.S. RN license in good standing
  • An Associate Degree or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
  • A current resume
  • An application essay
  • Academic transcript
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Any awards, presentations, publications, memberships, or other work of note

How To Get A Master’s In Nursing Without A BSN

One of the most commonly asked questions about the Master’s in Nursing Degree is “can you get an MSN without a BSN?” Yes, absolutely. In fact, you can earn an MSN degree even if you have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field.

While a BSN program is the most common first step towards earning an MSN, it’s not a requirement. Students interested in pursuing an MSN without a BSN can do so through the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing—which requires a four-year bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and begins with entry-level nursing training.

How Much Does It Cost to Become an MSN?

The costs of earning your MSN degree vary according to school, state, or program in which you enroll. The national average cost for a BSN-to-MSN program is around $36,000—with schools charging anywhere from $17,000 (in-state tuition) to $66,000.

Scholarships, in-state benefits, and other forms of financial aid may also be available and can significantly reduce the overall cost of your master’s degree.

What You Learn During Your Master’s In Nursing Program

An MSN program builds on entry-level RN training to equip students with a broad range of higher skills. While courses will vary from school to school, some of the most common MSN courses include:

  • Management techniques
  • Organizational leadership
  • Pathopharmacology
  • Information Management
  • Nursing Science
  • Health care policy and ethics
  • Advanced biology

Master’s in Nursing Salary: How Much Do MSN Nurses Make?

If you’re not sure whether or not you should get your master’s in nursing, the average MSN salary can certainly warm you up to the idea. According to Ziprecruiter.com, the nationwide average salary for a nurse with an MSN degree is $103,046 per year (or $50 per hour).

Salaries will vary state by state, and pursuing a specialty within an MSN degree (such as nurse practitioner or a master’s in nursing administration) can increase the salary average.

Master’s in Nursing Specialties

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Nursing?

Nurse with a baby

There are numerous career opportunities available to MSN degree holders. Master’s in nursing jobs can range from jobs in anesthetics to mental health to family medicine depending on your chosen MSN specialty.

Here are six of the most common uses of an MSN degree.

#1 – Surgical Nurse Practitioner

  • What They Do: The primary responsibility of a surgical nurse practitioner (SNP) is the preparation of patients before surgery and immediate aftercare. SNPs may also assist the surgical teams during surgeries.
  • How to Become One: Surgical nurse practitioners require a master’s in nursing degree with a focus in surgical science.
  • Best Matches: Nurses who can work under pressure, time constraints, and are able to problem-solve on their feet. This job is best suited for nurses with strong organizational, teamwork, and dexterity skills.
  • What They Make: Surgical nurse practitioners make an average salary of $105,500 per year (Salary.com).

#2 – Nurse Midwife

  • What They Do: The primary responsibility of a nurse midwife is the care of women during pregnancy, during childbirth, and immediately following childbirth. Nurse Midwives often take the lead in child delivery and may work in hospital settings or at their patients’ homes.
  • How to Become One: Nurse midwives require a master’s in nursing degree with a focus in nursing midwifery.
  • Best Matches: Nurses who can work under pressure, time constraints, and are able to problem-solve on their feet. This job is best suited for nurses with excellent patient handling skills, a calming bedside manner, and a love of children.
  • What They Make: Nurse midwives make an average salary of $103,770 per year with a job outlook of 26% growth (BLS).

#3 – General Nurse Practitioner

  • What They Do: The primary responsibility of a general nurse practitioner is to diagnose and treat sick or injured patients, usually within a hospital or clinical setting. Unlike RNs, nurse practitioners have the authority to prescribe medication and perform complex tests on patients.
  • How to Become One: Nurse practitioners require a master’s in nursing degree, experience in a hospital or clinical setting, and a successful board examination and licensing exam.
  • Best Matches: Nurse practitioner is an excellent fit for nurses familiar with patient care in a hospital setting but who desire greater responsibility and input. An nurse practitioner must be organized, highly ethical, patient, and able to make tough decisions under pressure.
  • What They Make: Nurse practitioners make an average salary of $107,030 per year with a job outlook of 26% growth (BLS).

#4 – Nurse Anesthetist  

  • What They Do: The primary responsibility of a nurse anesthetist is to support a hospital surgical team by administering anesthesia to patients during surgery. They are also responsible for monitoring a patient’s condition during procedures.
  • How to Become One: Nurse anesthetists require a master’s in nursing degree, licensure, field experience, and a successful board examination.
  • Best Matches: Nurse anesthetists must be observant, pay close attention to detail, able to problem-solve under pressure, and be able to observe live surgeries. The work environment is high pressure, with long hours and unpredictable shifts.
  • What They Make: Nurse anesthetists make an average salary of $157,140 per year with a job outlook of 26% growth (BLS).

#5 – Mental Health Nurse Practitioner           

  • What They Do: The primary responsibility of a mental health nurse practitioner (MHNP) is to diagnose and treat patients who suffer from mental illnesses. MHNPs may work in a hospital, clinic, or private practice setting, and can prescribe medications and perform complicated tests on patients.
  • How to Become One: Mental health nurse practitioners require a master’s in nursing degree with special emphasis in psychology and mental health. A successful state board examination is required before licensing.
  • Best Matches: Mental health nurse practitioners work with a wide variety of patients, some of whom may exhibit difficult behavior due to their mental illness. This means that MHNPs must be patient, compassionate, and highly interested in psychology and mental health pharmaceuticals.
  • What They Make: NAs make an average salary of $106,160 per year (BLS).

#6 – Head Nurse / Director of Nursing 

  • What They Do: The primary responsibility of a director of nursing (or head nurse) is to oversee the nursing staff of a hospital or clinic. This includes setting schedules, settling conflicts, managing a payroll and expense budget, and training/promoting employees.
  • How to Become One: Head nurses require a master’s in nursing degree as well as a substantial amount of work experience as a registered nurse.
  • Best Matches: A director of nursing is responsible for keeping a staff of nurses working at high efficiency and as a strong team. This requires a strong leader who is patient, assertive, and organized with excellent communication skills.
  • What They Make: A head nurse makes an average salary of $147,535 per year (Salary.com).

The Value of a Master’s in Nursing Degree

Nurse caring for a newborn

The value of a master’s in nursing degree is undeniable, with the possibility of a six-figure salary and a wide variety of specialties. More importantly, an MSN graduate has the opportunity to make a significant difference within his or her healthcare environment and lend a bigger hand in patient care.

If you’re interested in pursuing a master’s in nursing degree or accelerated nursing program, Eagle Gate College can help! Contact us today for more information on how you can begin your journey to becoming a health care professional.