How Can You Help Your Career With An Advanced Degree in Nursing

advanced careers in nursing

Nursing is one of the most dynamic and rapidly growing careers today. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment is expected to grow by 19% between the years 2012-22. This projected rate of growth is much higher than the average rate of growth (11%) and essentially means that over 526,800 new job openings will become available during this period.

As with any profession experiencing a surge in employment opportunities, competition is expected to be fierce. With so many available candidates for the job, what can you offer which is different from all the rest? In other words, what do you have, by way of education, credentials, and skills, which set you apart from other applicants? An advanced degree in nursing can help increase your career prospects in the field markedly. With advanced qualifications, you’ll have the opportunity to choose from a much wider pool of jobs. To put it simply, more education opens doors to not only more, but better opportunities. A nurse who has received an advanced degree qualification may provide direct patient care, teach aspiring nurses, impact public policy, conduct research in the field, consult with major corporations and lead changes in health care systems.

Individuals with advanced qualifications are highly sought after in the health care profession due to the emergence of a wide range of new roles. The health care profession is constantly evolving and adapting to the growing needs of an increasingly aging population. To meet these needs, a number of highly qualified nurses are needed in specialized practice areas, and to fill management and leadership roles.
An advanced degree in nursing can open doors to roles such as:

  • Advanced Care Specialist Hematology Nurse
  • HIV/AIDS Nurse
  • Legal Nurse Consultant
  • Managed Care Nurse
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Administrator
  • Nurse Manager
  • Nurse Attorney
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Researcher
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Occupational Health Nurse
  • Health Care Administrator
  • Pain Management Nurse

Step one: What do you want from your career?

When considering whether or not to pursue an advanced degree, it is important to have clear career objectives in mind. Ask yourself earnestly: what is it that I want from my career? What do I want to achieve? What are my strengths and weaknesses?

After having spent a few years gaining practical experience in the field, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of what aspects of the profession appeal to you, what you find you’re good at, and what you may want to explore further. This will help you make an informed decision about which advanced degree is the right option for you to pursue.

Master’s and doctoral programs in the field prepare individuals for a wide range of roles and positions in administration, teaching, research, direct patient care, and informatics.

The direction you want to explore will determine which degree is the right one for you to enroll in.

What are the benefits of earning an advanced degree?

When it comes to earning an advanced degree in nursing, the advantages are numerous. Listed below are just a few of the more common ones. The opportunity for specialization An advanced nursing degree gives you the opportunity to specialize in a particular aspect of nursing. For instance, you may take a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), who provides primary, preventive, and specialty care to patients in a number of different settings. Part of the training for these roles involves learning the knowledge and skills required in diagnosing and helping to treat common acute and chronic diseases, ordering diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, and performing minor procedures.

APRNs can be:

  1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs)
  2. Nurse Practitioners
  3. Certified Nurse Midwives
  4. Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)

The opportunity for better prospective salaries

According to BLS, in 2012, the annual median salary made by:

  • Registered nurses was $65,470
  • Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners was $96,460

It will increase your autonomy

Typically, a registered nurse (RN) requires a great deal of supervision. With an advanced degree such as an MSN, the nurse requires significantly less supervision. You will still be required to work for a physician, but by holding an advanced degree, you have demonstrated that you are capable of making certain important health care decisions by yourself.

Lengthen your career and make it more meaningful

A career in nursing can be very demanding. You will be required to work long hours in a variety of different health care settings, especially in the beginning of your career. The long hours spent on your feet can really take a toll on you. That’s why many nurses develop a number of back and leg problems and find it difficult to continue working as they grow older. With an advanced degree however, you can transition into administrative and managerial roles as you grow older. This will increase your working years in the profession.

More flexibility

Furthermore, MSN degree holders also benefit from more flexible schedules. Registered nurses have to work long shifts of often irregular hours. As an advanced degree holder, you have the option of working fewer hours, requesting hours which agree with your personal life, and therefore having the option of spending more time at home with your family.

More opportunities for advancement

As we’ve already touched upon, advanced degree holders benefit from a large range of career advancement opportunities. This can be in everything from teaching, research, management, administration, or specialized patient care.

Pave the way for doctoral studies

In order to become a leader in the field of nursing, you typically need to hold a Ph.D. or doctorate degree. By obtaining an MSN degree, you become one step closer to working your way towards this advanced qualification. This will allow you to teach at the university level, carry out groundbreaking research in the field, and contributing to the profession in a quantifiable way.

As you can see, an advanced degree in nursing can impact your nursing career in a number of positive ways. Not only will you have ample career advancement opportunities, but you’ll also be able to increase your flexibility and prolong your working years in the field.

Nursing is a profession which is changing rapidly. Furthermore, it is expected to grow. In order to keep up with the large number of applicants for jobs, it’s important to find ways to really set yourself apart from the competition. An advanced degree in nursing is an excellent place to start.


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