An MSN can serve as a route to a variety of career options for nurses. Usually, you will specialize in one nursing career field during your master’s program. Several of the most common careers for MSNs, including nurse practitioner, require professional certification in addition to the master’s degree. Career routes for MSNs generally fall into one of three categories: professional medical practice, education or management. The following nursing careers represent a popular job within each category.
Nurse practitioners work as “physician extenders,” performing many of the same routine tasks as medical doctors in a variety of clinical environments. In many states, nurse practitioners are able to independently diagnose and treat patients and prescribe medication. In other states, nurse practitioners work alongside a physician who oversees and approves these activities. In addition to holding at least a master’s degree, nurse practitioners hold certifications in their area of specialization. These certifications are acquired by passing an exam administered by a professional organization such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has proposed that a doctorate become the educational entry requirement for certification as an NP after 2015. In 2009, according to CNN Money, the median salary of an experienced NP was $85,200.
A nurse educator is responsible for preparing RNs to move into practice positions. Some nurse educators work in classroom contexts while others work in practice settings. Nurse educators working in an academic setting usually hold at least a master’s degree; most nurse educators working in tenure-track positions at a university level hold doctoral degrees. According to Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow, the average salary of a full-time nurse faculty member with a master’s degree was $49,000 during the 2002-2003 academic year. For faculty members with a doctorate, the average was $61,000.
Director of Nursing
The director of nursing at a long-term care institution is often responsible for the hiring and management of nurses, the creation and implementation of nursing policy and the facilitation of communication between physicians and the nursing staff. While state regulations vary, many employers require a master’s degree and generally require extensive work experience as a nurse, with many employers also requiring several years of supervisory experience. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009 the median salary for medical services managers—a category that includes nursing directors—was $81,850.