With health care costs increasing at astronomical rates, the availability of affordable care has dwindled. Highly qualified and specially educated nurses have been shown to offer a higher quality of care at more reasonable costs. These types of nurses are needed now more than ever before.
Obtaining your Masters in Nursing or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a great opportunity for current registered nurses (RNs) to advance their careers in nursing and acquire a high level of qualification and education. An MSN may allow nurses to pursue careers such as nurse educator clinical nurse leader (CLN), health policy expert (HPE), or a nurse administrator. Additionally, a Masters in Nursing currently allows RNs to acquire the knowledge, skills, and expertise required to become an advanced practice nurse (APN) which includes further specializations such as nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), nurse anesthetist (CRNA), and nurse-midwife (CNM).
Consider earning your master’s in nursing not only for the professional benefits but also for the reason that motivates most people to become nurses in the first place: to help others in need. With a higher level of specialization and increased education, you will be better equipped to help effect positive change in the health care system.
Why Should I Earn a Master’s in Nursing Degree?
With such a wide variety of options available to nurses pursuing higher education, it is important to carefully consider which path is right for you. The many benefits associated with a master’s in nursing include:
- Acquiring the skills and knowledge that will allow you to become a highly educated, highly qualified nurse
- Gaining the qualifications to meet the requirements for many different nursing specialties and licenses
- Greatly increasing your chances of being hired at the hospital of your choice
- Likely enjoying a greater amount of job security and a higher nursing salary
It has never been a better time to earn a master’s in nursing degree. Given the current trends in population growth and the aging baby boomer generation, advanced practice nurses are in especially high demand. A primary care physician shortage of more than 20,000 is predicted by 2020, and nurse practitioners can help fill this gap in primary care. Nurse practitioners have many of the same capabilities as physicians, including prescriptive authority, and they are able to run their own private practices and serve those who may otherwise lack access to primary care. The demand for nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives and certified registered nurse anesthetists is predicted to grow 31 percent between 2012–2022 — a sign that advanced practice nurses are needed and that jobs are plentiful and secure.
Master’s in Nursing Specialties
Master’s in nursing programs offer a wide variety of specialties for nurses. There are four main specialties for advanced practice nurses, including clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse-midwives, certified registered nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners. Becoming a clinical nurse specialist allows significant flexibility in the type of work a nurse can perform. Clinical nurse specialists specialize in one particular area of care, whether it is oncology, cardiology or another area, and they have the opportunity to become an expert in a particular area of nursing that they are passionate about. Clinical nurse specialists are also often charged with reviewing the quality of care provided by a hospital unit, and a CNS-related specialization give students the opportunity to pursue a management path as well. Students who are passionate about women’s health and want to educate and counsel patients going through the biggest physical changes in their lives may want to consider the role of certified nurse-midwives. For those with strong high attention to detail and the ability to handle high levels of stress, becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist is a great choice, with an average annual salary of more than $150,000. Finally, for those who value autonomy, transitioning into the role of a nurse practitioner is a popular option. Nurse practitioners often run their own private practices and make most of their own decisions about the acute and primary care given to their patients. No matter which path you choose, all of these nursing roles require excellent communication skills, sound judgment and a passion for caring for others.
Master’s in Nursing Salary
There is a strong financial incentive to earn a master’s in nursing as well. Nurse practitioners make more than $80,000 on average in every state and have the potential to make six figures depending on their specialty. Clinical nurse specialists make more than $70,000 a year on average, and certified nurse-midwives have an average salary of $89,000. As mentioned above, certified registered nurse anesthetists make more than $150,000 annually. With the average LPN making $41,000 and the average RN making $65,000, earning a master’s in nursing can result in a significant pay increase.
Master’s in Nursing Programs
Many MSN programs require applicants to have their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), though there are also many RN to MSN programs available that allow registered nurses to earn an advanced degree without having to earn a BSN first. Applicants must be certified as RNs and must also have a minimum of two years of clinical experience. Aspiring certified nurse-midwives must have some clinical experience within the obstetric specialty. Oftentimes, schools have prior coursework requirements such as statistics and health assessment. Each program you apply to will outline any additional requirements expected of applicants.
Curriculum and Coursework
Nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist programs are often around two years in length and include content in physical assessment, pharmacology and physiology and pathophysiology in addition to other coursework specific to your specialty. Certified nurse-midwife programs have the same main three coursework requirements in addition to a variety of women’s health subjects. This program takes two years to complete. Certified registered nurse anesthetist programs teach pharmacology, anatomy, and physiology and pathophysiology and have an additional focus on chemistry, biochemistry, clinical research and the technology used in the field. These programs may be two years but can often be three-year programs. To learn more about specific coursework for each specialty, check out our specialty pages.
The practicum gives nurses the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field through clinical placements. Practicum requirements vary greatly from specialty to specialty. Nurse practitioners have the smallest requirement of 500-600 hours. Slightly more rigorous is the clinical nurse specialist program, requiring more than 600 clinical hours. Certified nurse-midwife programs require upwards of 1,000 hours, and certified registered nurse anesthetist programs require 2,500 hours and the administering of 800 anesthetics.
Online Master’s in Nursing Programs
No matter what specialty you wish to pursue with a master’s in nursing program, an online program is a great, flexible option for those who do not have a high-quality on-campus program nearby and do not wish to move to earn a degree. Some top-tier universities offer MSN programs with live online classes so that students can fully engage and get the most out of their program. These programs also have excellent placement services that allow you to complete your practicum hours from wherever you are.
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