An Intro to What a Master's Degree in Nursing Can Do for You

Before you invest all of the time, money, and effort required to get a master’s degree in nursing, you probably want to know: Will a graduate nursing degree really pay off down the road?

An Advanced Degree Matters

Most experts say, “yes”—having an advanced degree in nursing is a good way to get ahead in the field and travel down a successful career path. Since graduate nursing programs allow you to focus on a nursing role (such as a nurse midwife or nurse anesthetist), you’ll be well prepared to land a good job in your specific area of interest. The extra training will also enable you to request a higher salary and take on greater leadership roles and promotions as your experience grows. In addition, the need for highly trained nurses continues to grow as the population ages and healthcare practices become more complex.

Types of Advanced Nursing Degrees

When exploring advanced nursing programs, there are several different designations for master’s degrees, according to each institution’s preference. The common ones include:

  • A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • Master of Nursing (MN)
  • Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA) with a concentration in nursing.

These degrees are comparable and will each provide you with the necessary education to sit for the licensing exam in the role for which you trained. Most master’s nursing programs take between a year-and-a-half to two years to complete on a full-time basis, although it may be somewhat longer for students who attend on a part-time basis.

In addition to regular master’s programs, an increasing number of colleges now offer accelerated master’s degree programs designed specifically for students who have completed a non-nursing bachelor’s or master’s degree. Sometimes called second-degree nursing programs, these options enable non-nurse graduates to get a graduate nursing degree and enter the profession in an accelerated timeframe. The programs typically take three years of full-time study to complete, with no breaks during summer or winter periods. They are demanding, so students are generally not able to work while they’re attending. Typically, the first year is devoted to basic nursing courses, with graduate and more specialized coursework and clinical experiences occurring during the second and third years.

Types of Advanced Nursing Jobs

Upon completing a graduate nursing program, you’ll be prepared for one of several roles, including:

  • Nurse practitioner: This position will allow you to handle a range of patient-care responsibilities, including many that have traditionally been fulfilled by a doctor. Nurse practitioners can specialize in many areas, from child and adolescent primary care to adult psychiatric care.

  • Clinical nurse specialist: This role offers a similar level of responsibility as the nurse practitioner, but the focus is usually in a specific area of nursing, such as public health or oncology.

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist: CRNAs may administer local and general anesthesia during surgery, as well as provide pain management in hospital, hospice, and outpatient settings.

  • Certified nurse midwife: Nurse-midwives provide prenatal and postnatal care, as well as deliver babies in hospitals, birth centers, and military settings. They are able to practice independently or as part of a team with other midwives or obstetricians and nurse practitioners.

  • Nurse administrator: This role enables nurses to fulfill management and operational responsibilities in a variety of healthcare settings, from hospitals to community health systems to nursing homes.

Prospective graduate nurses should note that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has recommended that the required degree shift from master’s to doctoral for students entering programs in 2015 for the four Advanced Practice Registered Nurse roles (Certified Nurse Midwife, Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist). You can find more information here.

Sources:

Advanced Practice. (n.d.). National Student Nurses Association. Retrieved July 31, 2014, from NSNA

Master's Education in Nursing and Areas of Practice. (n.d.). American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Retrieved July 31, 2014, from AACN

Master's Nursing Programs. (n.d.). American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Retrieved July 29, 2014, from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/education-resources/msn-article What Kind of Careers Can You Do with an MSN? (n.d.). The Web Nurse. Retrieved July 29, 2014, from AACN

What You Need to Know About an MSN Degree. (n.d.). MSN Degree. Retrieved July 29, 2014, from MSN Degree