What Can You Do with a Master in Nursing?

Many nursing jobs require more responsibility, and therefore, more education. Earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) may lead to competitive compensation and more autonomy with patients. This type of degree is also ideal for those who wish to take on leadership or management roles or pursue licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

Possible Careers for Nursing with an MSN Degree

There are lots of career opportunities available to nurses with an MSN degree. These are roles that require additional education due to the leadership and advanced patient care that is required. 

Through these programs, MSN graduates will increase their clinical knowledge and develop important skills like good attention to detail, critical thinking, problem-solving and communication. 

By earning an on-campus or online accredited master’s in nursing program, nursing professionals open the doors to a variety of MSN careers in clinical and administrative roles. These roles are referred to as advanced nursing careers, and they include nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives.

It may be a great time to consider this career, with a job growth rate of 26% projected through 2028 for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists.

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Earn a Master of Science in Nursing online from Simmons University.

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Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner encompasses many advanced nursing career opportunities. In addition to earning a graduate degree, nurse practitioners must also maintain a license through an approved licensing body, such as a state licensing board or approved national organization.

Because they have completed a nurse practitioner (NP) program, nurse practitioners tend to earn a higher salary than RNs with an undergraduate degree. Nurse practitioners had a median salary of $109,820 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) In comparison, registered nurses earned a median salary of $73,300

Nurse practitioners are also in demand. Projected job growth rate for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists is 26%, compared to 12% for registered nurses.

Job responsibilities of a nurse practitioner may be similar to a physician. A nurse practitioner may oversee primary patient care, diagnose and treat acute and chronic issues, and prescribe medications in some cases. Nurse practitioners can also specialize in other fields, such as primary care for families, women’s health, acute care and mental health.


Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Nurses who wish to specialize in care for families, from children to older adults, may become a family nurse practitioner (FNP). FNPs educate families on developing healthy habits and disease prevention. They can also diagnose, treat and manage symptoms. Because the FNPs focus on the care of patients in varying age groups, they tend to fall under general care providers.

FNPs are a type of APRN and require an MSN and active nursing license. There are many FNP programs to help you prepare for board certification and for a career as an FNP.


Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

Nurses who would like to focus exclusively on women’s health may become a women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP). A WHNP offers primary care for women in all stages of life, typically beginning in adolescence. Services may include gynecological, prenatal and postnatal, and preventive care, along with diagnosis and management of acute or chronic illnesses.

WHNPs typically need a master’s degree with a women’s health specialization, and many states require these practitioners to work under physician supervision.


Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)

Nurse practitioners who specialize in acute care focus on the short-term care of a patient, either through recovery of an injury or another routine health issue, and may become acute care nurse practitioners (ACNP). Due to standards in education and certification for NPs, ACNPs must specialize in adult-gerontology or pediatrics. 

Acute care nurse practitioners (ACNP) typically work in emergency rooms or hospital settings and perform a wide range of duties, such as developing treatment plans, performing intubation and prescribing medications. 

ACNPs may typically complete an ACNP program with a focus on adult-gerontology or pediatric acute care.


Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

Nurses who wish to specialize in mental health may become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). This type of nurse practitioner provides holistic health care tailored to patients with mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

Some PMHNPs may be sole practitioners. However, certain states may require these nursing professionals to work under the supervision of a physician. PMHNPs may be employed by hospitals, mental health facilities or correctional facilities, among other practices.
PMHNPs must complete an on-campus or online nurse practitioner program with a specialization in psychiatric and mental health.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

A nursing professional who specializes in women’s reproductive health, including prenatal care, childbirth and postnatal care, may want to become a certified nurse midwife (CNM). Although many people associate nurse midwives with home births, CNMs also work in hospitals, outpatient care centers and private practices, according to the BLS.

A BSN or similar degree is required to become a nurse midwife, but an MSN or higher is required to become a CNM. Explore certified nurse midwifery (CNM) program options.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are responsible for the administration of anesthesia and other medications to patients. They also monitor patients’ response to anesthesia. CRNAs often work in hospital settings or outpatient surgical clinics and work with physicians, surgeons and other health care professionals to provide care.

CRNAs must earn a national certification and hold at minimum a master’s degree in nursing with a focus on nurse anesthesia, though some states or hospitals may require a doctorate.

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators use their advanced knowledge, skills and nursing experience to educate current and future nursing professionals. Nurse educators typically have years of clinical experience but work as teachers and professors in a classroom setting, usually at a hospital or university.

While educators may oversee students’ clinical experience, typically they are not providing direct patient care. This is different from other advanced nursing roles. To become a nurse educator, individuals must be licensed and earn an MSN degree, a Ph.D. in nursing or a DNP in Nursing.

Information on this page was retrieved in June 2020.