Salary and career expectations for nurses with a Master of Science in Nursing in 2015

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A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can expand your career opportunities, allow you to work more independently and increase your earning potential.

Possible Career Paths

There is a broad range of career options available to a nurse with an MSN degree, including leadership positions such as department manager, director of nursing or health administrator.

To obtain a position in this field, consider a focus on administrative health with your MSN.

Salary Outlook

The projected growth rate for positions as a health care professional, coupled with competitive salaries, earned nurse practitioners the number 2 spot on U.S.News and World Report for “Best Jobs of 2015.”

Ultimately, an MSN can make a tremendous difference in career options. At the higher end of the pay scale, a six-figure salary is not unusual at the corporate level. Pay will be affected by experience, geography and practice area, but on average, a nurse practitioner with an MSN will make $92,670 annually.


(Average salary figures from Pay Scale)

Career Expectations

While there is a large number of specializations to choose from, a few have proven most popular due to a combination of job outlook and salary range.

Nurse Practitioners

One of the most popular careers for nurses with an MSN is nurse practitioner, with the related specialty of family nurse practitioner (FNP).

Nurse practitioners provide primary care with a focus on prevention, wellness and education.

A large number of FNPs go on to work in smaller clinics or doctor’s offices. Expect to have a lot of interaction with patients ranging from the very young to the elderly. An FNP’s responsibilities include:

  • Assessing patients’ medical records and history
  • Discussing and analyzing symptoms
  • Treating illness
  • Administering treatment and prescribing medication.

In addition to a high level of on-the-job autonomy, nurse practitioners have a lot of flexibility in terms of the states looking to employ them at a competitive wage, with the top annual income hitting above $100,000.

The top-paying states and the annual mean wage for nurse practitioners according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics are:

  • Hawaii — $115,870
  • Alaska — $115,670
  • California — $115,460
  • Oregon — $111,160
  • Massachusetts — $107,230.

The average annual wage tends to dip slightly for states with the highest concentration of jobs; however, it still remains competitive in the $90,000 range.

Nurse Administrators

The role of a nurse administrator is incredibly broad and dynamic, and is a popular path for nurses who are interested in expanding their career options. Nurse administrator encompasses a number of titles that are all related to management, supervisory and executive positions, including:

  • Nurse Manager
  • Nurse Administrator
  • Nursing Supervisor
  • Director of Nursing
  • Vice President of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer.

Salary can range greatly across these supervisory roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2012, the median annual wage for nurses in medical and health service manager roles was $88,580. However, at the lower end of the spectrum, wages fell to $53,940 — typically due to some of these roles only requiring a bachelor’s degree — and, at the highest end, rose to $150,560 for administrators holding an MSN.

As demand for nurses continues to rise, the demand for managers is increasing, as well. From 2012–2022, employment in these fields is expected to grow 23 percent. As the population continues to age and demand for health care workers and facilities increases, management roles will become of increasing value.

In 2012, 39 percent of health and service managers were employed in hospitals including state, local and private facilities. An additional 26 percent worked in ambulatory health care services, 11 percent in nursing and residential care facilities and 8 percent in government.

As these numbers indicate, there is a wide range of potential employment options related to nursing administration — options likely to continue to grow.

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In short, an MSN is a viable path toward advancement. Whether you have a BSN and would like to take coursework that explores the administrative side of hospital operations or you have an MSN in health care administration and would prefer to specialize as an FNP, our courses will prepare you to do more with what you already know.

Regardless of the specific route you take, the world of higher education in nursing is exciting and dynamic. An MSN-FNP or MSN in nursing administration will open doors to greater possibilities that will dramatically transform your future career options.