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Career Pathways with an MSN Degree

Student with a graduation cap smiling and throwing glitter at the camera.

If you are interested in advancing your career and improving patient outcomes, consider a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Learn the steps needed to earn an MSN degree and explore the wide range of nursing leadership and specialty nursing career paths available to MSN graduates.

You are drawn to nursing because you want to make a difference and positively impact the lives of patients. Whether you are interested in taking on a leadership position or pursuing a high-paying nursing specialty, an MSN degree can help take your passion for patient care to the next level.

Steps to Earning an MSN

While admission processes vary per school and program, MSN applicants are generally required to:

  • Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Maintain a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0
  • Have a valid registered nurse (RN) license

To help you decide if an MSN is right for you, here are a few answers to common questions about becoming a nurse and pursuing an advanced degree in nursing.

How do I become a registered nurse?

Many people who pursue an MSN degree have working experience as an RN in a clinical setting. The steps to becoming an RN include:

  • Earn an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), a diploma in nursing, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BS/BSN)
  • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)-RN

How much do registered nurses make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median annual income for registered nurses (RNs) is $73,300. The job market for RNs is also growing considerably faster than most other occupations, with a projected growth rate of 12 percent from 2018 to 2028.

How long does it take to complete an MSN?

Typically, full-time students can complete their Masters of Science in Nursing degree within two years. Part-time students generally take between 3-5 years to complete the program.

What are the MSN career paths?

With an MSN degree, you will have a wide range of career possibilities to choose from, both clinical and non-clinical. Keep reading to explore three primary MSN career paths, including leadership, nursing informatics, and practices across the continuum of care.

Career Paths with an MSN: Leadership & Administration

For nurses who are driven to inspire others and bring meaningful change to the workplace, a career in nursing leadership or administration may be the ideal path for you. An MSN with an emphasis in leadership will prepare you to develop responsible financial plans, effectively manage teams, and embrace the challenges and opportunities facing the healthcare industry.

Careers for MSN leadership graduates include:

  • Coordinator
  • Educator
  • Manager
  • Supervisor
  • Specialist
  • Director

Career Paths with an MSN: Nursing Informatics

Nursing informatics is an in-demand nursing specialty that integrates nursing science, information management, and data analytics to enhance healthcare processes and improve patient care. With a graduate degree in nursing informatics, you will leverage technology to empower direct care clinicians, reduce cost, and pave the way for the future of healthcare.

Careers for MSN nursing informatics graduates include:

  • Informatics Leader
  • Specialist
  • Project Director
  • Health Services Manager
  • Consultant

Career Paths with an MSN: Roles Across the Care Continuum

As our country faces a national nursing shortage, graduates with an MSN are in high demand and quickly fill positions across the care continuum. From acute care positions such as emergency care and intensive care to non-clinical roles such as working with local leaders to better serve underprivileged communities, an MSN degree will help you make a lasting impact in the lives of others.

Careers for MSN care continuum graduates include:

  • Traditional Acute Care Roles
  • Non-Traditional Industry Roles
  • Care Management, Case Management
  • Quality & Safety, Risk Management
  • Populations & Practice Focus
  • Health Policy & Advocacy