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Three rewarding careers for a nurse with an MSN

Date: November 29, 2016

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) opens doors for a nurse to pursue a number of additional career options within the health care field. Not only does an advanced degree set a professional apart from the competition when applying for promotions and management positions, but it also is a requirement for many advanced practice nursing roles. Many of these careers offer increased independence, opportunities for professional growth and salary perks that make them very appealing for registered nurses (RNs) looking for the next step in their career.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for advanced practice nurses is expected to increase by 31 percent between 2014 and 2024, opening a number of new opportunities for nursing professionals who are looking to advance in the workplace. Three career choices in particular that are included in this growing profession are nurse practitioner, nurse administrator and nurse educator.

1. Nurse practitioner

While RNs play an integral role in the medical field, there are certain responsibilities in treating patients that are limited to physicians. However, in the current age of health care reform, nurses are being called upon to take increasing responsibility in patient care, which is particularly true of nurse practitioners (NPs). NPs are educated to provide primary care as mid-level providers, including conducting physical assessments, diagnosing acute and chronic conditions, and prescribing treatments and medications.

There are many areas within the health care system where these professionals are increasingly taking on the responsibilities of mid-level providers. In fact, many clinics, such as those at retailers like CVS and Walmart or on university campuses, are now using NPs to provide primary care for patients who seek their services.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), salaries for NPs are on the rise. The organization reported in 2015, that the average annual income for NPs was $108,643. This figure represented a 10 percent increase from the average of $98,760 reported in 2011. “Their care is safe and effective, with outcomes that are equivalent to those of physicians, and their commitment to primary care has expanded health care access,” said AANP President Cindy Cooke in a statement regarding the organization’s salary report.

The minimum educational degree required is an MSN–NP. In addition, students must pass the National Certification Exam in their chosen specialty practice area in order to practice as a certified NP.

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2. Nurse Administrator

Nurse administrators are responsible for supervising nursing staff. This role blends typical nursing duties with administrative and managerial work, although, as the Houston Chronicle explained, a nurse administrator typically will interact less with patients compared to the nurses who report to them, focusing instead on team management. That is not to say, however, that tangible nursing experience is not required — it is, in fact, essential. Nurse administrators invariably have lengthy nursing careers on their resume and in most cases will have completed an MSN degree.

Typical duties in this rewarding career include:

  • Recruiting and training new nurses.
  • Creating staff schedules.
  • Ensuring that all nursing staff comply with organization policies and best practices.
  • Monitoring nursing staff to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
  • Assisting nurses with procedures and treating patients when necessary.
  • Acting as a liaison between nursing staff and medical practice executives.
  • Working on the department budget.
  • Ensuring that patients and families receive the highest level of care possible.

This role is ideal for nursing professionals with a knack for organization and leadership. As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, administrators and managers in the health care field earn an average national salary of around $94,500 per year. It is possible, however, to take home more than this figure, contingent on the institution, amount of experience and length of tenure. The source also noted that an MSN degree usually is preferred by employers.

3. Nurse Educator

Nursing professionals in the education field use their experiences to teach future nurses. Nurse educators teach in an array of settings, including universities, hospitals, clinics and other institutions of higher learning, and will assist students in acquiring both nursing knowledge, skills and attitudes. A nurse educator interacts with students in the classroom and in the clinical area. Nurse educators also are involved in the generation of new nursing knowledge through research.

Nurse educators need to be able to display empathy, compassion, strong leadership skills and patience. Teaching the next generation of nurses can be a challenging undertaking, and it requires professionals who have a strong desire to mentor and help students become the very best nurses.

To qualify for this role, candidates must have at least an MSN degree, though some institutions may prefer a doctorate degree. In terms of salary, the career website Payscale reported that nurse educators earn almost $72,000 a year on average nationwide. With that said, compensation approaching six figures is not uncommon, especially for individuals with more experience.