What Can You Do with an MSN?

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The nursing field will grow dramatically over the next decade, with jobs for nurse practitioners (NPs) growing by an astonishing 52%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). An aging population and the large number of medical professionals approaching retirement are contributing to this demand.

What can you do with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree? Nurses who want to augment their skills should consider enrolling in an MSN degree online. Not only does it confer personal advantages, such as expanded career opportunities and the potential for higher salaries; nurses with specialized expertise will form a medical workforce that’s better prepared for the future of healthcare.

A smiling nurse practitioner.

Benefits of an MSN Degree

Earning an MSN degree gives nurses the opportunity to develop professionally, gain specialized knowledge, and increase their income thanks to better job prospects. Other advantages of earning an MSN include:

  • Access to leadership or administrative roles
  • Opportunities for teaching and mentoring
  • Potentially more flexible, less strenuous working hours
  • More influence over decisions in their organizations

MSN Degree Specializations

In addition to the MSN core curriculum, which develops students’ knowledge of evidence-based practice, healthcare policy, and pharmacotherapeutics, MSN programs often provide students with the opportunity to specialize. Different types of patients require different types of care, and some MSN programs allow future nurse practitioners to focus on a specific area of medicine or on a certain population, such as children, older adults, or people with mental illnesses.

NPs will play a particularly important part in the future of healthcare in the U.S., which will see a deficit of 139,000 physicians by 2033, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. Highly skilled NPs will be able to mitigate this crisis.

MSN Concentrations

Maryville University offers five specializations within its MSN program: gerontology acute care, gerontology primary care, family medicine, pediatric medicine, and psychiatric care.

All tracks include practicums to give students real-life experience, and all coursework is regularly updated to align with industry changes.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)

The U.S. population will confront major healthcare issues as baby boomers age. This concentration prepares nurses to care for adults, especially older adults, with acute healthcare needs, focusing on areas such as oncology, cardiovascular health, emergency care, and intensive care. AGACNP students take courses in diagnosis and management of serious conditions affecting adults.

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)

For students who aim to become primary care nurse practitioners for adults, this specialization teaches theory and practice of general adult and geriatric medicine.

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Family nurse practitioners are not just a stopgap solution to the worsening shortage of doctors in the U.S. — they offer a permanent viable alternative to the traditional physician. Students on this track prepare to treat patients of any age and take courses in adult medicine, gerontology, and pediatrics.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

For future NPs who wish to specialize in caring for children, this concentration provides a program in pediatric assessment and diagnosis as well as a course in promoting health for young populations.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the nation’s mental health crisis, and psychiatric service providers, including those with MSNs, will fill a dire care gap in the coming years. A PMHNP educates nurses in psychopharmacology and psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.

Opportunities with an MSN Degree

Many MSN graduates go on to become nurse practitioners of the types already outlined. NPs fill an important medical need. This career is also personally and financially rewarding, with the median 2021 salary for nurse practitioners at $120,680, according to the BLS.

However, the nurse practitioner path is not the only thing that graduates can do with an MSN. Other MSN career opportunities include jobs in leadership, research, administration, and more. Some examples:

Director of Nursing

A director of nursing supervises the nursing staff of a hospital, clinic, or other healthcare facility. They oversee the hiring and training of new staff, develop policies, ensure efficiency in communication and scheduling, and perform other tasks essential to the long-term smooth operation of a healthcare institution.

Median salary: The median annual salary for directors of nursing was approximately $94,000 as of July 2022, according to Payscale.

Nurse Manager

A nurse manager provides a connection between the administrative and patient-facing sides of healthcare. While directors of nursing hold leadership roles and develop long-term strategies, nurse managers are in charge of the more day-to-day organizational aspects of running a healthcare facility. Nurse managers often have an MSN degree, but they may also attain this position with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and extensive work experience.

Average salary: Nursing managers’ median annual salary in August 2022 was about $85,000, according to Payscale.

Infection Control Nurse

Infection control nurses carry out an extremely important function in hospitals, clinics, and other facilities: ensuring that infection doesn’t spread in these settings. They help other medical staff manage infection risk and work to keep patients from contracting new diseases in the hospital. Clearly, this role is crucial during a pandemic.

Infection control nurses don’t necessarily need an MSN, but the degree nonetheless offers extra preparation and opens the door to greater job prospects.

Average salary: Infection control nurses’ median annual salary was about $75,000 in July 2022, according to Payscale.

The ROI of an MSN Degree

There is a considerable difference in income when comparing MSN vs. BSN degree salaries. The median annual salary of RNs (who often have a BSN) in 2021 was $77,600, according to the BLS. As the median nurse practitioner salary in 2021 was about $43,000 higher than the median RN salary, and the median salaries of some administrative roles, like director of nursing and nurse manager, are also significantly higher, MSN programs clearly offer the potential for higher wages.

Even in positions that are open to RNs and BSN-holders, such as that of an infection control nurse, more experienced and educated MSN graduates can generally command higher salaries.

Advance Your Nursing Career with an Online MSN from Maryville University

A viable healthcare future in the U.S. will depend on skilled nurse practitioners and other nursing specialists. Moreover, these professionals will be in high demand, giving them leverage to enjoy a range of rewarding careers. Maryville University offers flexible options to earn various advanced nursing degrees and credentials, including bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and certificate programs. Learn how you can enhance your career while improving your job satisfaction and earning potential with an MSN degree online.

Recommended Reading

Senior Healthcare and the Rise of Chronic Illness

Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: Alternate Paths to Mental Treatment

MSN vs. RN: Taking the Next Step in Nursing Degrees


Association of American Medical Colleges, “U.S. Physician Shortage Growing”

Indeed, “6 Jobs You Can Get with a Master’s Degree in Nursing”

Indeed, “20 Benefits of Earning a Master’s Degree in Nursing”

Payscale, Average Director, Nursing Salary

Payscale, Average Nurse Infection Control Salary

Payscale, Average Nurse Manager Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic, Registered Nurses