What are the best types of masters degree in nursing? Not all MSN specializations are not all created equal. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of taking particular kinds of MSN programs, both in terms of how tough the study program is and how hard it’s likely to be to reach your personal goals in a nursing career.
According to government statistics (BLS.gov), the job growth outlook for registered nurses between now and 2024 will be 16% — much higher than average for U.S. careers. Employment growth for “advanced” practice nurses such as nurse anesthetists, forensic nurse specialists, nurse educators is expected to be even greater – 31% by 2024 (BLS.gov).
List of schools offering advanced nursing degrees (Sponsored Schools):
Accelerated BSN to MSN
MS in Nursing
MS – DNP Path, Doctor of Nursing Practice
View more degree programs
MSN Nursing – Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Master of Science in Nursing – Informatics
Master of Science in Nursing – Leadership & Management
View more Walden degree programs
MS Nursing – Public Health
DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice
MS Nursing – Leadership Health Care Systems, Bridge Degree
MS Nursing – Nursing Education
Doctor of Nursing Practice – Educational Leadership
View more Grand Canyon degree programs
Types of Nursing Master’s Degrees By Difficulty and Benefits
Here’s our ranking of popular types MSNs, based on a look at the difficulty of finishing the degree program, the number and type of career opportunitues each can bring, and the potential salary benefits.
1) Nurse Practitioner Degrees:
Choosing a exact NP degree you want is critical, because different types of nurse practitioners do very different things. Degree types:
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Midwifery & Women’s Health
Nurse practitioner degree programs are relatively demanding, in part because an NP has a high level of responsibility for the patient’s well-being, often without a great deal of supervision by a doctor. Clinical hours requirements tend to be higher than in some other nursing programs, which can make it hard for the student to keep up with homework, and hard to continue working even part time during parts of the degree program. For all these reasons, nurse practitioner degree programs, either online or in a campus setting, can take anywhere from 2 – 4 years to complete.
Nurse practitioners are generally the highest paid specialists in the nursing profession. According to Ziprecrecruiter, the average NP today earns over $108,000. But they also enjoy some unique career benefits. They can operate their own clinics in most states (only a few states require NPs to have some level of supervision by a doctor) and they can prescribe medications. As a result, they have opportunities to view patient’s holistically and develop stronger relationships with the people they treat than typical bedside nurses.
Although NPs can earn strong salaries, there are expenses involved in their practice. In many states they’re required to buy their own professional insurance, which can cost thousands of dollars per year. Nurse anesthetist may be required to buy malpractice insurance, which is so costly it can counterbalance the high earnings potential in the specialty.
If you aspire to be a nurse anesthetist, be aware that in the long term, you will likely be required to have a doctorate degree to practice in most states. The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, has stated that any by 2022, any student accepted into an accredited Nurse Anesthesia Doctor of Nursing Practice program must earn a doctorate degree
2) Nurse Educator Degrees
Types of degrees: Masters in Nursing Education, General Master’s In Nursing
Difficulty: Moderate to High
A degree that can qualify you for a variety of management positions, but which is broadly focused on developing your ability to mentor and teach other nurses. Some nurses with this degree may move out of patient care completely to teach at nursing schools. Typically, an MSN in nursing education takes two years to complete.
Benefits: Low at first; Moderate over long run
Virtually every hospital in America has a need for nurse educators to train young RNs and LPNs in patient care procedures. That means the chances that you will find employement with a degree of this type are relatively high. The average salary they earn, according to Ziprecruiter, is just above $75,000. A key benefit of this career is that it can land you in a job where you have more regular work hours and a floor nurse. You might even get some opportunities to work from home. But the challenge is that your move into education may be a slow on. Many hospitals will expect you to continue doing regular nursing as you gradually transition into education, and it may take a long time for you to realize a significant increase in salary.
3) Nursing Leadership MSN
Although the length of MSN programs in administration and/or leadership is the same as other master’s degrees, this specialty requires you to expand your knowledge base into many areas far removed from your nursing expertise and experience. To become a nurse administrator, you need to study finance, compliance, human resources, corporate reporting and a host of other skills that may be very new and challenging to you.
Benefit: Potentially High
Nurse administrators earn an average salary of about $72,000. According to Ziprecruiter, but the highest achievers in the specialty can earn over $160,000 or even more according to the American Organization of Nurse Executives
Note: Be aware that, because nursing administration is an executive function, many employers require that you have at least five years of nursing experience, and have worked for at least a year in a management job before they’ll hire you.
Nurse leaders manage everything from staff scheduling to organization of computer records and medical data processing. Additionally, a degree in this specialty can lead to a management position in the drug industry or other type of business connected to health care. It’s one of the broader masters of arts or science in nursing degrees, and can help enable a wonderfully wide range of career possibilities.
Nursing Administration MSNs prepare you to do somewhat similar jobs to nursing leaders. For grads who choose to remain in the hospital setting, an administration or leadership to leadership degree can lead to a job as director of nursing administration, a job that’s likely to involve little direct patient care but which requires a great deal of organizational work that may include creating business plans and working to solve problems with the business managers of a hospital. The most senior position one can usually aim for this type of training is “chief nurse executive.”
4) Nursing Informatics
Nursing informatics is a relatively new specialty that involves working with information systems, electronic patient records, computer interfaces for doctors and nurses and other IT and tech fields. You need to have an aptitude for working with computers, and familiarity with coding helps. If you fit that profile. informatics it can be an interesting and ever-evolving career that will take you almost completely out of direct patient care. The specialty that can provide opportunities everywhere from a part time side job entering codes for insurance coverage from a home computer to helping a large hospital create a new data management system to administer patient care, drug administration and more. The intensive growth in electronic medical records has boosted the demand for informatics specialists who can help organize information and get it into a format that’s understandable to clinicians, insurors and business people in the health field.
Because data and computer systems are so important to hospitals today, the experts who know how to work on them can be well paid, According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the average salary for a Nurse Informaticists was an impressive $100,717 in 2014
5) Public Health Nursing
While the academic component of this type of degree is on a par with other nursing msn’s, there’s a key advantage in most programs. Public health masters programs often have no clinical hours requirement because this is not, strictly speaking, a direct patient care specialty.
Public health nurse specialists tend to work outside of hospitals in settings where they can affect, or in some cases run, programs that affect the community. It’s a unique specialty that can result in you working in a public health department, community center, a school, clinic or even a correctional facility. Postgrad degrees in this specialty generally include more training in social sciences than other master of arts degrees in nursing. Public health specialists also focus on coming up with ways to prevent diseases in the community, rather and only treating them after they have arisen.
Public health nurse salaries in the U.S. average about $62,000 per year — on the low end of what nursing master’s holders can hope to earn. But there are most subtle benefits to this specialty. Public health nurses work to solve big problems that can have a major effect on everyone. They do research and set up progams to help vulnerable populations improve their health, and may work with government officials on finding the best ways to control epidemics such as the current coronavirus outbreak. This work can provide a level of job satisfaction that’s unique in nursing.
Can You Get Your MSN Without A BSN?
A number of schools now offer “bridge” degrees that do, in fact allow an experienced RN to get a master’s degree without stopping to spend two full years in a bachelor’s program. These RN to MSN degrees can be extremely helpful to RNs who haven’t taken a nursing bachelor degree program, but who would like to find the quickest path possible to a advanced nursing.
Acceptance requirements vary a great deal from one school to another for RN to MSN Programs. Most schools offering the degree will insist that you have at least two years field experience in nursing and at least an associate’s degree. Other degree programs are designed for nurses who have a bachelor degree in an non-nursing specialty.
An RN to MSN degree can help the RN enter the same fields as any other MSN holder (These programs are also sometimes called simply “BSN to Masters in Nursing” online degrees). Career options can include becoming a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse manager or nurse midwife. A very few schools also over ADN to Masters Programs online that can allow you to make the leap from an associate’s to a post grad degree without going to school for a bachelors degree in between.
Here are some nursing career and salary statistics by specialty:
|Nursing Job||Median Salary||Jobs U.S.||Growth Thru 2024|
|Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Practitioners & Nurse Midwives||$107,460||170,400||31%|
|LPNs and Licensed Vocational Nurses||$44,090||719,900||16%|
|Nursing Assistants & Orderlies||$26,590||1,545,200||17%|
Sources: BLS.gov – RNs, BLS.gov – advanced care nurses, BLS.gov – LPNs, BLS.gov – nursing assistants
Requirements to Apply to Online Nursing Masters Programs
Nurses who want to move into advanced practice or nursing administration generally get a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree. To qualify for this type of postgraduate degree, you generally need to have completed an undergraduate degree in nursing or a field that relates to nursing. In some cases, it’s possible to be admitted to a master’s program in nursing if you are in the process of getting your undergrad nursing degree.
Master degree nursing programs and doctorate degrees are available in many specialties.
Learn about fast track options to nursing with direct entry MSNs.