You want the best for your patients — that's why you went into nursing, after all! You know that to provide excellent nursing care, it is vital that you stay up to date. Like many professions, nurses are often required to continue their education to maintain their license or certifications. You can do this through continuing education, or you can accomplish two things at once and pursue a Master of Science in Nursing degree. An MSN may help you earn a higher salary and open doors to a new career. It may also provide you with deeper knowledge in a specific area of nursing and a sense of personal satisfaction.
What Is an MSN?
An MS in Nursing or MSN is a master's level nursing degree that helps nurses advance their clinical skills and knowledge, perhaps to improve direct patient care, obtain or retain a leadership position, or to become a nurse educator. Nurses who complete their MSN degrees report economic, social, emotional and professional benefits that would have been difficult to achieve, or even unattainable, without an MSN.
What are Some Benefits of an MSN?
There are many benefits to earning an MSN and here are just a few.
Higher Pay: Earning an MSN degree can significantly increase your salary and potential income throughout your career. MSN holders earn $94,000 per year on average, according to nationwide PayScale data as of June 2020. Consider the increase from the average pay for nurses who hold an associate degree ($69,000 per year) and those with a bachelor's degree ($84,000 per year). Keep in mind that pay will vary based on experience and geographical area. In addition, salaries for MSN holders will also vary by role — educator, administrator, or APRN.
As more Baby Boomer nurses retire, the next nursing generation needs to be prepared for nationwide nursing shortages, including the roles that require an MSN. This is compounded by the fact that the nursing faculty shortage is limiting student capacity.
Due to an aging population, certain specialties are seeing an increase in demand. Adult gerontology and oncology are just two of those specialties. Additionally, regional gaps in staffing (particularly in rural areas) will increase demand for nurses and drive up annual pay, particularly those with higher education.
Leadership Roles: Many leadership positions, particularly at Magnet facilities, only consider nurses with MSN degrees. If you are already in a management position, your employer may require you to complete a master's degree within a certain time frame. Or you may simply want to make yourself more marketable. An MSN degree focuses not only on clinical and assessment techniques, but the leadership and management skills necessary to lead an effective team. Additionally, you will learn the communication skills necessary to maintain an efficient and healthy work environment that fosters outstanding patient care.
Many nurses find it fulfilling to be in a leadership or educator role where they are better situated to effect and implement change in their institution or community. If you have ideas for how to improve your current workplace's patient care, processes or procedures, obtaining an MSN may empower you to create that change.
Nurse Specialties: If there is a specific patient population or area of care that you feel passionate about, an MSN degree can help open doors toward a fulfilling specialty career. There are a variety of positions that often require nurses to have MSN degrees:
- Nurse supervisor, administrator, director, or manager
- Nurse educator or clinical educator
- Nursing instructor or faculty
- Utilization or risk management
- Quality improvement or performance improvement
- Nursing informatics
- Industry (pharmaceutical) – medical science liaison, clinical nurse educator
Personal Fulfillment: Pursuing your MS in Nursing degree may help you achieve your dream job and gain self-confidence, not to mention more respect from your colleagues. You may also feel a sense of pride in completing your master's program — after all, only 9.3% of Americans hold a master's degree. Pushing yourself to obtain an MSN can definitely bring you a sense of accomplishment, both professionally and personally.
Additionally, nurses with MSN degrees are often called upon to mentor the next generation of nurses. New nurses may feel overwhelmed and underprepared for their new role and responsibilities. A mentor can help these nurses gain confidence, hone their skills and find their place in the diverse field of nursing. Many nurse mentors find this process incredibly rewarding and enjoy fostering the career development of other nurses.
Some RNs love working at the bedside and worry that an MSN may take them away from that direct patient care. More hospitals, particularly in urban areas, want MSN nurses in patient care for their expertise and knowledge of evidence-based practice and performance improvement.
A career in nursing means a commitment to lifelong learning. Programs like the online Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Southern Maine (USM) focus on critical thinking and problem-solving skills so that you are better able to assess patient populations and healthcare systems, translate evidence into practice to improve outcomes, and educate future nurses.
In addition, completion of USM's MS in Nursing – Nursing Education online program prepares RNs for NLN Nurse Educator Certification eligibility.
Learn more about USM's online MS in Nursing – Nursing Education program.
Sources:PayScale: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree
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