If you are contemplating going to graduate school for nursing, you might wonder how significant the benefits of having a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) are. With your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, you are already qualified to work as a registered nurse (RN) and even advance to nurse leadership roles such as patient care director, lead charge nurse, nursing supervisor and chief nursing officer. However, only once you attain your MSN degree can you become a nurse practitioner or other kind of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). The many benefits of APRN positions include a large salary increase, rapidly growing career opportunities and increased autonomy when it comes to providing patient care.
Earning your MSN degree can raise your income by tens of thousands of dollars, potentially to the six-figure range. The median salary for registered nurses is $70,000, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. The five percent of RNs who work for the government enjoy a somewhat higher median wage of $75,900. Another industry that pays a higher wage is hospitals, which employ 61 percent of all registered nurses and pay a median salary of $72,070.
When you attain your MSN degree and become an APRN, your earning potential increases substantially. APRNs as a whole earn a median salary of $110,930, the BLS reported. Nurse anesthetists, who administer drugs used to relieve pain or induce unconsciousness for the purpose of medical procedures, are the highest paid APRNs. Their median wage is $165,120. Next most lucrative is nurse practitioner, with a median wage of $103,880. Nurse midwives, who deliver babies, earn a median salary of $100,590 per year.
As with RNs, APRNs often find that the industry in which they work plays a part in their salary potential. Among the industries employing the most APRNs, hospitals pay the most, with a median wage of $117,850, while outpatient care centers pay a median salary of $112,940.
All of the top industries for employing APRNs have a six-figure median salary.
Jobs Growing Twice as Fast
Healthcare is a growing industry. While the overall job growth rate for all occupations is just seven percent, opportunities for health diagnosing and treating practitioners are expected to rise by 16 percent over a decade. Registered nurses enjoy much faster than average 15 percent job growth rate that fits this trend.
For APRNs, the job outlook is even more positive. The BLS predicts opportunities for APRNs to increase by 31 percent over the same time period. Nurse practitioners will see the biggest gains, with an estimated 36 percent rate of growth, or 56,100 new jobs. An estimated 21 percent job growth rate will increase the number of nurse midwives from 6,500 to 7,800. Nurse anesthetists will see the least growth but still enjoy a faster than average growth rate of 16 percent, which should add another 6,800 new jobs.
About 46 percent of APRNs work for doctor’s offices, 28 percent for hospitals, eight percent for outpatient care centers, four percent for educational services and 3 percent for the offices of other health practitioners.
For most APRNs, the benefits of earning your master’s degree in nursing aren’t all about the money or the plentiful career opportunities. Becoming a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist or nurse midwife allows the most truly dedicated nurses to provide patient care in new ways and to fill roles they couldn’t fill before. If you have ever wished you could do more to help a patient, the increased autonomy that comes with the MSN degree is an important benefit for you to consider.
Depending on the laws of your state, attaining your MSN degree and passing a national certification test to become an APRN may qualify you to independently perform physical exams and diagnostic tests. You may have the authority to write prescriptions and order treatments on your own, whereas these tasks generally fall under the domain of doctors. In fact, some nurse practitioners fill the role of primary care providers. In more than 20 states, nurse practitioners have full practice authority, which means that they don’t need a doctor’s supervision to practice.
With a primary care physician shortage affecting tens of millions of Americans, having highly educated nurse practitioners able to fill the gaps in access to primary care is advantageous.