Pros & Cons of a Master's in Nursing

There are many positive reasons to continue your education, and this is especially true in the nursing field. If you want to weigh the positives against the negatives for earning a master's degree in nursing, this article can help.

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A master's degree in nursing (MSN) is a common degree for those who want to study specific areas of nursing or advance in their field. If you'd like to learn more about the pros and cons of earning an MSN degree, read on.

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Pros of Earning an MSN

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is often the terminal degree for nurses. To decide if earning a master's in nursing is for you, consider the pros below.

Better Career Opportunities

Earning an MSN can help open the door to more career possibilities, like that as a nurse practitioner or in academia or management. For instance, clinical nurse specialists (CNS) and nursing managers must have a master's degree. If you want to teach health education at the secondary school level, a master's degree is one step toward teacher certification. Should you choose to stay an RN, you can become specialized in a specific department through your studies in your MSN program and subsequent certification, which may qualify you for more nursing job opportunities.

Better Outlook

When comparing registered nurses and nurse practitioners, we can see that the job outlook numbers are both higher than typical, but NPs still have a better outlook. Health educators at the secondary level and medical service managers also have positive outlooks.

Position 2016 Employment 2026 Projected Employment Positive Change 2016-2026
Registered Nurse 2,955,200 3,393,200 15%
Nurse Practitioner 155,500 211,600 36%
Health Educators 61,000 69,900 14%
Medical and Health Service Manager 352,200 424,300 20%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Higher Pay

Depending on the medical department in which you wish to work, you'll find pay fluctuates greatly for RNs and NPs. This is also true depending on the state and metropolitan area in which you want to work. In general, RNs in 2017 made an average salary of $73,550, according to the BLS. However, the BLS states that NPs made an average of $107,480, while medical and health service managers also had good income in 2017, with an average of $111,680.

Skip Your BSN

Many colleges offer associate's to master's (ADN-to-MSN) degree programs. These programs train students how to become nurse practitioners right after earning their LPN licensure. Some programs even provide the opportunity for you to earn your BSN while earning your MSN. These programs tend to be bridge programs that skip over the need for RN certification. However, many MSN programs require students to already be licensed RNs for admission, so be sure to check with your university's requirements.

Cons of Earning an MSN

There are not many reasons that earning a master's degree in nursing would be a bad thing. In fact, the reasons in this 'cons' list really are only negatives if you do not intend to advance your career beyond a registered nurse. Take a look at these negatives now to see if they sway your decision.

Not Necessary for RNs

Registered nurses, as mentioned before, can be licensed with an associate's degree. This means that if you wish to remain an RN, an MSN degree is not necessary. As an RN, although you can spend time studying more department-specific information in master's degree programs, this can also be done in post-baccalaureate certificate programs.

More Debt

Pursuing an advanced degree in nursing will add more debt to your final student loan tally. Rather than earning a bachelor's in four years or less, you'll be adding on another 1-2 years of tuition, books, fees, materials, and possibly room and board costs. These costs can add up quickly, and there is no guarantee that you can earn a scholarship to cover costs. However, if you choose to advance your licensure as a nurse practitioner, your pay will be higher than as an RN.

Deciding whether to continue your nursing education with an advanced degree really depends on what you want for your career. If you want to advance your career to become a nurse practitioner, health educator, medical manager, or other similar career, you'll need to earn at least a master's degree.

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