4 MSN Career Paths

A master of science in nursing (MSN) degree is a graduate degree you can pursue after earning your bachelor’s degree. Applicants to MSN programs must have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree and be a licensed registered nurse. MSN programs also require applicants to have one year of practical nursing experience, ensuring that students have the practical skills and knowledge needed to succeed in an MSN program.

Once you’ve completed your MSN degree coursework and practicum, you can opt to continue your studies to earn a doctor of nursing or another doctoral degree, such as a doctor of physical therapy degree, before entering your chosen career field. You can also pursue several careers as soon as you graduate from your MSN program, including the career options explored here.

1. Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)

MSN degree programs equip students with the credentials required to become APRNs. APRNs include nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists.

You can prepare for this career path by registering for a master’s degree in nursing program that offers the appropriate specialty for your career goals. You may complete a family nurse practitioner specialty, an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner specialty, or a psychiatric mental-health specialty. Studies for family nurse practitioners include courses covering the nurse practitioner’s role in primary care and the family nurse practitioner’s role working with families and children. Aspiring APRNs can choose to register for an in-person or online program to earn their MSN degree. MSN programs also include clinical experience requirements to ensure you have practical experience providing patient care.

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Nurse practitioners are primary care providers who treat patients throughout their lifetime. Those who specialize as family nurse practitioners treat patients of all ages, while those who complete an adult gerontology primary care specialty treat adolescents and adults. Nurse-midwives may provide prenatal care, deliver babies, and perform gynecological exams. Nurse anesthetists are qualified to administer anesthesia to patients. They give patients anesthesia before surgical procedures, administer local anesthesia before medical procedures, and use medication to treat patients for their pain.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that nurse practitioners will see job opportunities grow by 52 percent between 2019 and 2029. The BLS reported the 1019 median annual incomes for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists were $109,820, $105,030, and $1174,790.

2. Nurse Educator

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Nurse educators can assume many different roles. Post-secondary nursing instructors teach post-secondary courses for students pursuing their bachelor of science in nursing or master of science in nursing degrees. Although some colleges and universities will require post-secondary nursing instructors to have a doctor of nursing or physical therapy degree, some institutions will hire applicants with an MSN degree and practical experience.

Nurse educators may also teach a variety of courses, including how to use medical equipment. A company may hire a nurse educator to teach employees how to use a full face respirator. These gas masks protect your eyes and airways from exposure to harmful substances, including dust, gasoline, and lead. Using gas masks protects employees’ health. Companies in several fields, including those specializing in lead paint removal, construction, pest control, and mining, can benefit from providing gas masks to their employees.

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Nurse educators may also work as health educators. Health educators focus on public health. They prepare and teach classes designed to inform the public about several health topics. They may also teach courses to other healthcare professionals.

The BLS reported the 2019 median income for post-secondary nursing instructors and was $74,600, while health educators earned median salaries of $55,220.

3. Administrator

MSN degree holders are qualified to become medical and health services managers or insurance advisors. Medical and health services managers include clinical managers, health information managers, and nursing home administrators. Their duties vary based on the specific role they fill, but their primary objective is to ensure healthcare services are delivered effectively. Clinical managers oversee specific medical departments, such as physical therapy or surgical departments. Health information managers focus on securing patient records, while nursing home administrators establish budgets, hire staff, and create operational protocols for their nursing home.

Insurance advisors can help develop insurance plans and review claims to determine if an insurance company should approve them. For example, a patient who has a spinal cord injury (SCI) may be referred to a physical therapist who works with one of the world’s top bionics companies. Bionics companies create robot exoskeletons that support patients while they’re receiving physical therapy. These exoskeletons can enable patients in wheelchairs to stand and move their legs. This prevents their muscles from decaying and can help patients rebuild their strength after their injury. An insurance advisor may review the patient’s medical files before approving their claim.

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Medical and health services managers took home median annual incomes of $100,980 in 2019, per the BLS. The BLS projects job opportunities for these professionals will increase by 32 percent between 2019 and 2029.

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Legal nurse consultants review medical records and perform research for legal cases. A personal injury attorney may hire a legal nurse consultant to provide background research before negotiating a settlement with an insurance company or the person responsible for their client’s injuries. They may also use the information provided by the legal nurse consultant to strengthen their legal case. Legal nurse consultants may also work on criminal, medical malpractice, and birth injury cases. Their responsibilities may include testifying in court.

Legal nurse consultants typically work on contracts, and their salaries vary based on the nature and frequency of the contracts.

There are multiple career options for individuals with an MSN degree. Career options include being an APRN, a nurse educator, an administrator, or a legal nurse consultant.

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