Nursing is a rewarding career with several graduate degrees for nurses and paths to increase your clinical knowledge and possibly boost your salary. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) projects that we’ll face a nursing shortage as baby boomers retire from the field,1 making nursing an ideal career to pursue. Advanced nursing degrees may also give nurses better job options and leverage to negotiate their salaries.
Whether you have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or are currently pursuing one, it can be advantageous to continue your education and earn a master’s in nursing. Here, we list 10 role specialties, potential salaries and more.
Table of Contents:
- Role Specialties for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
- Role Specialties for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)
- Master’s Degrees for Healthcare Administration
There are a variety of options when pursuing your MSN, including specialized roles. Adding a nursing role specialty to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program allows you to work toward a rewarding career and higher salary.
1. Nursing Informatics
Nursing informatics is a cross between nursing and technology. The medical field uses several technologies to help patients who regularly receive care. Nursing informatics teaches you to consult on new technologies and analyze data to reach healthcare goals. Nursing informatics also prepares you to make data-based decisions.2
2. Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)
With a clinical nurse leader (CNL) certification, you will work alongside other healthcare professionals to improve patient clinical care and outcomes. A CNL paves the way for leadership and management roles within nursing. A CNL’s duties might include finding ways to reduce nurse turnover rates, protecting patient health and safety and staying informed on the latest healthcare research.
3. Nurse Researcher
Do you enjoy research? Consider an engaging career as a nurse researcher. Nurse researchers assess and analyze research data and provide recommendations based on the findings.
4. Public Health
Nurses who work in public health help communities adopt better health practices and partner with state and local governments to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. For example, during the height of COVID-19, public health nurses played a critical role.3 This career path teaches you to analyze outcomes and advocate for public health goals for different communities.
5. Nurse Educator
If you’re passionate about nursing and love empowering others with knowledge, you may want to become a nurse educator. In this role, you will teach the next generation of nurses in classrooms and provide continuing education to licensed nurses in a clinical setting. A nursing education specialty combines nursing and teaching. In this role, you may present at conferences and consult with healthcare organizations. This path also requires you to stay up to date on the latest healthcare research.
6. Nurse Administrator or Executive
A nurse administrator or nurse executive is a promising leadership position for those who earn an MSN. You can gain additional training and certification to advance your career. There are various leadership positions within a healthcare organization you can work toward, such as a manager of a unit.
There are different levels of nursing, and becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) allows you to gain a critical skill set and assist a specific population, including geriatric, pediatric and mental health patients. To become an APRN, you’ll typically need an MSN. Then, there are many roles you can pursue.
7. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) often assumes leadership roles and serves as a specialist at healthcare facilities. A CNS may work in acute care, geriatrics or another area. A CNS’ responsibilities include treatment, research and staff management.4
8. Nurse Practitioner (NP)
Nurse practitioner (NP) is a role that can open doors within many healthcare settings. NPs work with a range of populations and diagnose and treat patients and also prescribe medications.5
9. Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
If you want to be a part of the birthing process, consider a role as a certified nurse midwife (CNM). CNMs work with families during pregnancy as well as the postnatal period. Depending on the state, CNMs may work in hospitals, OB/GYN clinics, birthing centers, and more.6
10. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) often have one of the highest nursing salaries. A CRNA’s position is crucial, as they administer and monitor medications for patients undergoing surgery who require anesthesia.7 CRNAs work at hospitals and surgical clinics and in oral surgery.
With an advanced nursing degree, you can work in healthcare administration. In this role, your work is more behind the scenes and oversees the day-to-day operations of healthcare facilities.
11. Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Healthcare Management
If you’re business-focused, earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA). MBA graduates have the potential to command high salaries, with roles such as Medical and Health Services Managers reporting a 2022 median pay exceeding $100,000 per year.8 Additionally, an MBA may open doors to diverse career paths, including medical device or pharmaceutical sales opportunities.
12. Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)
With a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), pursue a variety of leadership roles in healthcare. You may work in healthcare operations management, data-driven healthcare and health policy. You can also work for health insurance companies or as a risk and insurance consultant.9
Four Paths to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
There are multiple paths to receive an MSN. Below, we list four common paths so you can choose the one that fits your lifestyle
1. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) to MSN Bridge Programs
Associate degree graduates who want to work toward an MSN have two options. They can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and then an MSN.
2. BSN to MSN Programs
If you have a RN license, you can enroll in a BSN to MSN program. This allows you to continue your education and expand your credentials through an MSN program.
3. Dual Master’s Degree Programs
There are many specialties within nursing. A dual master’s degree is a great way to work toward a high-level career in healthcare management. There are several dual master’s degree in nursing programs, such as an MSN/MBA for the business-focused, and others like MSN/MHA for those who want to work in healthcare administration.10
4. Direct-Entry Master’s Degree Programs
Direct-entry master’s programs are for those coming from a different field who don’t want to start from the beginning and earn a BSN. Apply for a direct-entry program to earn an MSN.
Earning an MSN is exciting and prepares you for a rewarding career in nursing. Below, we answer some of the most common questions about pursuing an MSN.
How Long Do Masters of Nursing Programs Take?
The time it takes to complete masters of nursing programs varies depending on the program and other factors. On average, earning your MSN can take two to four years.*Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, traditional vs. accelerated pathways, credits transferred and other factors.
Are All Master’s Nursing Programs the Same?
There are different types of master’s in nursing and several role specialties. There are graduate degrees for nurses, dual master’s programs and specialized programs for areas such as public health and education.
Which Master’s Program for Nursing Pays the Most?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse anesthetists typically make the most compared to other nursing fields.11
Should I Pursue an FNP or DNP?
You can become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) or pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and both have pros and cons. While a DNP program gives you more flexibility, it requires more time to receive a doctoral-level degree.
What Is a Master’s in Nursing Called?
A master’s in nursing is a graduate degree formally called a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). The MSN degree is a program that offers practicing nurses the education and expertise that is likely to lead to expanded career opportunities. An MSN prepares nurses for practice at the advanced level.
Pursue a Graduate Nursing Program Today
If you’re ready to pursue a career in nursing, the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) School of Nursing offers a supportive, flexible and personalized graduate school experience. We offer different paths to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
To advance within a thriving profession, apply today.
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “Nursing Shortage Fact Sheet,” American Association of Colleges of Nursing, last modified October 2022, https://www.aacnnursing.org/news-data/fact-sheets/nursing-shortage.
- Cathy Menkiena, MBA, BSN, RN-BC, “The Three Essential Responsibilities of a Nurse Informaticist,” Health Catalyst, last modified February 2021, https://www.healthcatalyst.com/insights/nurse-informaticist-3-essential-responsibilities.
- Int J Community Based Nurs Midwifery, “The Roles of Community Health Nurses’ in Covid-19 Management in Indonesia: A Qualitative Study,” National Library of Medicine, last modified April 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8957658/.
- Jenny Sweigard, MD, “What Is a Clinical Nurse Specialist,” Verywell Health, last modified June 2022, https://www.verywellhealth.com/clinical-nurse-specialist-5323860.
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Standards of Practice for Nurse Practitioners,” American Association of Nurse Practitioners, last modified 2022, https://www.aanp.org/advocacy/advocacy-resource/position-statements/standards-of-practice-for-nurse-practitioners.
- WebMD Editorial Contributors, “What Is a Nurse-Midwife?” WebMD, last modified October 2021, https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-nurse-midwife.
- UnaSource Surgery Center, “Facts About Crna Education & What a Nurse Anesthetist Does During Surgeries,” UnaSource Surgery Center, https://www.unasourcesurgery.com/crna-education-nurse-anesthetist-during-surgeries/.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Medical and Health Services Managers,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified September 2023, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm.
- Sheryl Grey, “Earning A Master’s In Healthcare Administration: Here’s What You Should Know,” Forbes Advisor, last modified July 2023, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/education/healthcare-administration-masters-degree/.
- Nursing License Map, “Dual Nursing Degree Programs,” Nursing License Map, last modified January 2022, https://nursinglicensemap.com/nursing-degrees/masters-in-nursing/dual-degree/.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “29-1151 Nurse Anesthetists,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified May 2022, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291151.htm.