5 Career Path Options for Nurses with an MSN Degree

Working as a nurse is an incredibly demanding yet fulfilling role. Often seen as the more caring members of a healthcare team, nurses tend to be on the frontlines of healthcare, administering care directly to patients with empathy and kindness. Furthermore, the practical knowledge that they obtain throughout the course of their education and career is substantial.

That being said, not all nurses choose to continue to work in the more traditional roles given to registered nurses (RNs). Instead, they continue on after earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. An MSN degree makes and RN eligible to pursue more advanced jobs in the field of nursing that come with more responsibility and higher earning potential.

Prior to entering an MSN program, an RN must first gain a few years of experience working in healthcare. If they wish to specialize in a particular area of medicine, that experience should be relevant to that specialization. With firsthand experience and practical knowledge learned while on the job, an RN can become an excellent candidate for an MSN degree and, thus, bring his or her knowledge and experience to serve an even greater purpose in healthcare.

If you are thinking about earning your MSN degree, here are five career path options that would become available to you if you decide to do so.

1. Nurse Practitioner

The benefits of being a family nurse practitioner are multiple and varied. Not only can a nurse stand to make an impressive salary with a national average of around $110,000 a year, but there is a great deal of expected job growth in this area of medicine in the coming years. That level of job security and earning potential make for an enticing career path for many nurses.

The reasons that family nurse practitioners are in such high demand — a demand that shows no signs of slowing as a significant portion of the general population ages and people with chronic illnesses are living longer — has to do with the increased shortage of qualified healthcare practitioners. There is a shocking lack of physicians across the country, particularly in rural and remote areas of the country. For this reason, state boards have seen fit to allow nurse practitioners to act pretty much as independent family healthcare providers.

With the extensive knowledge that a nurse obtains through an accredited MSN program, he or she becomes more than capable to overseeing a patient’s healthcare. From understanding a patient’s medical history to diagnosing an illness or injury, the family nurse practitioner is trained and qualified to handle nearly every aspect of patient care. While there are some restrictions in place regarding prescribing certain medication, most states have very few restrictions on family nurse practitioners.

It is important to note that more and more states are seeing fit to raise the minimum level of education for family nurse practitioners who practice independently of a physician to that of doctorate level. That being said, the title of family nurse practitioner is still attainable through an MSN degree and a nurse can take on a variety of leadership and higher responsibility roles within the world of healthcare on the merit of an MSN alone.

2. Clinical Nurse Researcher

The research side of the world of medicine is one that is incredibly fascinating and critical to the ability of healthcare providers to administer the absolute best care to patients possible. As science and medicine continue to develop through the use of technology and the hard work of clinical researchers, better patient outcomes and cures to previously incurable illnesses can be achieved.

An RN who wishes to work in clinical research should be highly organized and capable of working with meticulous detail. Communication is a key skill, making an MSN degree an ideal level of education based on the fact that such degree programs place an emphasis on the development of communication and critical thinking skills.

Some clinical research nurses are based in a lab while others work directly with patients who are participating in clinical studies. Such patients, although acting as participants voluntarily need to be overseen and monitored meticulously by experienced clinical research nurses in order to make sure that all is going well with a study and to look out for and record any side effects or results of a course of treatment.

Ultimately, if you wish to work on the forefront of healthcare research and make contributions to the development of medicine, working as a clinical nurse researcher is an ideal job to consider.

3. Nursing Informatics Specialist

The link between healthcare and technology is something that cannot be ignored. Technology has found a vast amount of applications in the medical world and is constantly finding more. From medical devices to the use of computing technology to aid in producing more positive patient outcomes, there is so much in healthcare that can now be accomplished via the proper application of technological advancements.

If you are intrigued by the manner in which computing can be applied to the field of medicine, a career as a nursing informatics specialist might be the right choice for you. In such a role, you would be working with information technology to advance innovations in healthcare that can lead to better patient outcomes.

One reason this area of nursing has become so appealing in recent years has to do with the predicted job outlook that it possesses. While technology has already solidified its place in the world of medicine, that relationship is only expected to grow as time progresses. More and more medical facilities are going to be implementing computing technology in order to better track and facilitate improved patient care.

At this point in time, most, if not all, healthcare providers utilize an electronic health records (EHR) system to store and access medical records. However, such systems are only increasing in sophistication and application. This means that healthcare providers are now seeking out experienced individuals who are well versed in both healthcare and information technology. This is a role that nurses with a knack for computer science are particularly suited for.

4. Nurse Educator

As aspiring nurses enter nursing school, they are expected to learn as much as possible in order to be best prepared to work in healthcare in direct care roles. The best way to be prepared for such roles is to learn from those who have been there before and who have done the job successfully. This is why a great number of RNs choose to return to the world of academia as nurse educators.

As a nurse educator, a nurse is committing to help guide and prepare the next generation of nurses. Since there continues to be a shortage of qualified healthcare staff across the country, it is important that nurses are as prepared as they can be for the demands of the job as soon as they have graduated from their nursing school program. This is why it is so important that nurses with experience agree to take their knowledge and know-how to the classroom to instruct future nurses.

There is no better teacher than experience. This is why nursing school involves clinical hours in addition to coursework in the classroom. That being said, as students, there is only so much that those in nursing school can do during their clinical hours. However, if they are being taught by a qualified RN with years of experience that can be passed along to their students, the chances that those students will be better prepared for a job in healthcare can be increased.

5. Legal Nurse Consultant

One of the amazing things about earning an MSN degree is that it opens up a more diverse array of career path options. In other words, with the experience and expertise that you obtain throughout your years as an RN and during your MSN degree program, you become qualified to act as a nursing expert in other industries that involve some crossover into the world of medicine. For instance, there are certain ways an experienced and knowledgeable nurse can be helpful to law enforcement and attorneys in legal matters.

As legal nurse consultant, you would be able to weigh in and give your expert opinion on cases pertaining to malpractice as well as issues within the legal side of healthcare. Since the government’s involvement in healthcare has been a hot topic for some time, qualified and expert nurses who can give firsthand insight into the ways in which government involvement either negatively or positively affects patient outcomes are in high demand.

Some nurses even opt to earn a law degree in addition to their MSN so as to obtain knowledge pertaining to legal jargon and the legal systems in place in the United States. The combination of a law degree, an MSN degree, and years of experience as an RN, can make a nurse a valuable asset to the legal system.