Put Your Degree to Work: 20 Healthcare Careers with a Masters of Nursing

If you’re thinking about obtaining a Master’s in Nursing (MSN) degree, perhaps a few high-paying careers might pique your interest in this upwardly-mobile educational move. Nurses with an MSN degree have more doors open to them, especially with a physician shortage. The nurse who holds a master’s degree can go beyond caring for people — that nurse also can diagnose issues, treat patients, educate other nurses and communities, share preventive care, and manage staffs and offices. The ability to take on more responsibility also means a higher salary. The following career paths contain links to more information about that job title, as well as educational necessities and some pay options.

  1. Military Nurse and EducatorAdvanced Practice Nurses (APN) or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) work with other health care providers to offer high quality health care to patients. Their care isn’t limited to the healthcare environment; advanced practice nurses will also often maintain a relationship with patients through phone calls as well as outpatient visits when necessary. Their roles vary, depending upon specialty, and some of those roles are listed below.
  2. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) can administer anesthesia during surgery and often work as part of a team of anesthesiologists. CRNAs enjoy excellent job stability and high demand for their services. Once licensed as an RN, one must have at least one year of nursing experience before gaining admission into a graduate nurse anesthetist graduate program, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). The AANA lists the average salary for CRNAs as $160,000 annually.
  3. Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) who have specialized education and training in both nursing and midwifery. CNMs, in most states, are required to possess a minimum of a graduate degree such as the MSN. CNMs, depending on which state they are licensed to practice, can provide medical care to women from puberty through menopause, including care for their newborn (neonatology), antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum and nonsurgical gynecological care.
  4. Nurse Practitioners (NPs) have completed graduate-level education and can treat both physical and/or mental conditions through comprehensive history taking, physical exams, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests. NPs can then diagnose the disease and provide appropriate treatment for the patients, including prescribing medications; however, in the United States, because the profession is state-regulated, care provided by NPs varies widely. There is much more demand today for NPs because of the physician shortage.
  5. Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) jobs may be found in public health clinics, social service centers, hospitals, prisons, or in large medical practices. PMHNPs diagnose, conduct therapy, and prescribe medications for patients who have psychiatric disorders, medical mental conditions or substance abuse problems.
  6. Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are responsible and accountable for diagnosis and treatment of health/illness states, disease management, health promotion, and prevention of illness and risk behaviors among individuals, families, groups, and communities. They hold either a master’s or doctoral degree.
  7. Nurse Educators are responsible for preparing and mentoring current and future generations of nurses. Nurse educators are prepared at the master’s or doctoral level and practice as faculty in colleges, universities, hospital-based schools of nursing or technical schools, or as staff development educators in health care facilities.
  8. Nurse researchers are scientists who study health, illness, and health care. Like any scientist, they identify research questions, design and conduct scientific studies, collect and analyze data, and report their findings. Many researchers teach in academic or clinical settings, and often write articles and research reports for nursing, medical, and other professional journals and publications.
  9. VA NurseDirector of Nursing (DON) is an RN who holds a senior nursing management position in an organization and often holds executive titles like Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), Chief Nurse Executive, or Vice-President of Nursing. They typically report to the CEO or COO. The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) is the national organization of nurses who design, facilitate and manage care, and they provide resources for nurses who enter this field.
  10. Nurse Managers perform leadership functions of governance and decision-making within organizations employing nurses. Management positions increasingly require candidates to hold an advanced degree in nursing.
  11. Certified Legal Nurse Consultants are RNs who use existing expertise as a healthcare professional plus specialized CLNC training to consult on medical-related cases. Attorneys use this level of cost-effective expertise for reviewing medical records and understanding the terminology and subtleties of the healthcare system.
  12. Military Nurses come from all walks of life, and can serve in a variety of roles. They are nurse soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, flight nurses, and also work in temporary or fixed facilities or hospitals. They work as nurse practitioners, educators, administrators and informatics specialists.
  13. Nurse Ethicists help to define standards and practices for nurses. Recently, the ethics of nursing has also shifted more towards the nurse’s obligation to respect the human rights of the patient and this is reflected in a number of professional codes for nurses.
  14. Forensic Nurses are nurses with specialized training in forensic evidence collection, criminal procedures, legal testimony expertise, and become the liaison between the medical profession and the criminal justice system. Forensic Nursing was officially recognized by the American Association of Nurses in 1996, and since that time the field has grown.
  15. Patient Advocates act as a support structure and, if legally contracted to do so, may act as a liaison between a patient and their Health Care Provider(s). Most health care professionals see themselves as advocates for their patients; however, their time and scope are limited by their job function. As of early 2012, dozens of universities and organizations offer educational opportunities for those wishing to provide patient advocacy services.
  16. Missionary Nurses can use their expertise to advocate their religious beliefs. As the Global Ministries of Missionary Nurses, Inc. states, “It’s not about being popular nor getting a high paying salary. It’s all about service to humanity, sacrificially and wholeheartedly, with an aim to alleviate suffering, giving hope and care.”
  17. Travel Nurses typically select from one to several recruitment agencies to act as an intermediary between the traveler and hospitals or other potential employers. The nurse can range from the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) up, and job offerings depend upon the level of expertise required. Salaries also range widely, depending upon job, location, and facility.
  18. School NurseSchool Nurses play a critical role in our education system, yet less than half of the public schools in the U.S. today have a full-time nurse on staff. School nurses are also vital front-line defense during epidemics: “It was a call to the New York City Department of Health from Mary Pappas, an experienced high school nurse who was alarmed by the number of sick students she was seeing, that alerted authorities that H1N1 had arrived.”
  19. Correctional Nurses hold a wide range of responsibilities, including roles as security, ER nurse, primary care nurse, and critical care nurse. The range of issues also is wide, including patients who are diabetic, hypertensive or Hepatitis positive. While LPNs are qualified for many positions within correctional facilities, a wider range of educational and hands-on experiences can contribute to an administrative role.
  20. Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist is the nurse in charge of an intensive care unit or a trauma center or perhaps a triage unit in an emergency room. This specialty often leads to training RNs in the treatment of serious illness or injury and in the use of treatment technology found in acute care settings.
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