Why Earn an MSN?

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Non-Nursing Bachelor’s Degree Required

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You want to make the change to a nursing career, but you’re not sure which pathway to choose. It’s understandable—colleges and universities are offering more program options than ever for career changers interested in nursing. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can choose to:

  • Earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN or ASN)
  • Enter an accelerated or “second-degree” nursing bachelor’s program (BSN or ABSN)
  • Earn a Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (also known as an “entry-level” MSN or “alternative-entry” MSN)

All of these programs offer bachelor’s degree graduates like you the opportunity to enter the nursing profession, and all of them take somewhere between 18–30 months to complete, depending on the program you choose and the prerequisite requirements.

We believe there are distinct advantages to beginning your career with an MSN instead of an ABSN, however. Below, learn more about the benefits of earning a Master of Science in Nursing to start your career as a registered nurse.

Advanced Skills and Potential for Progression

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate-level degree. Unlike an ABSN, a master’s program offers students advanced preparation in:

  • Direct patient care
  • Community and public health nursing
  • Leadership and administration skills
  • Evaluating nursing research and applying it in practice
  • Acting as an advocate for patients
  • Legal and ethical considerations for nurses

Entering the profession with advanced knowledge sets you up for progression in your career. As an MSN-prepared nurse, you will have the knowledge and skills you need to pursue management roles after gaining experience.

You will also have established the educational foundation you need to pursue post-master’s certification courses or enter a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. Advancing your education beyond MSN level can equip you to become a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or other specialist advanced-practice nurse.

Improved Outcomes for Patients

Earning your MSN instead of an accelerated BSN can also set you up to provide higher-quality care for the patients you serve. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) fact sheet, “The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice”, multiple studies over the last 30 years have shown that raising the education level of nurses to BSN or higher is associated with better outcomes for patients.

These improved outcomes include:

  • Reduced patient deaths
  • Lower risk of serious complications such as deep-vein thrombosis
  • Fewer patient readmissions
  • Shorter hospital stays overall

The AACN fact sheet also notes that nurses with more advanced degrees demonstrate stronger non-clinical professional competencies, such as communication and critical thinking. These skills can have a positive impact on how effectively healthcare teams collaborate.

Increased Earning Potential for MSN Nurses

Nursing salaries vary according to the local job market. However, average salaries reported to Payscale.com suggest that MSN-qualified nurses have the potential to earn more than BSN-qualified nurses. In March 2023, the average reported salaries for each degree were approximately:

  • $91,000 for Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates[1]
  • $100,000 for Master of Science in Nursing graduates[2]

MSN graduates may be able to enhance their earning potential further by pursuing certification in a specialty area. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salaries for MSN-qualified specialty nurses in May 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, were as follows:

  • Nurse practitioners: $120,680[3]
  • Nurse anesthetists: $195,610[4]
  • Nurse midwives: $112,830[5]

Note that earning your MSN does not guarantee employment or salary. However, your potential earning power is greatly enhanced when you enter the profession with a graduate degree.

Access to Graduate Financial Aid

Affordability is always a major consideration when continuing your education. It is difficult to determine the average national cost of an MSN because of how widely tuition varies from school to school, but you can probably expect an MSN degree to cost almost as much as a bachelor’s degree because of the advanced level of the material.

Financial aid is available to qualifying students, however. And, because an MSN is a graduate-level degree, you may be able to borrow more to finance it than you would if you pursued an accelerated BSN as a second degree.

This is because the federal government places borrowing limits for each level of education. If you used loans from the U.S. government to pay for your first bachelor’s degree, you may be close to those borrowing limits.

This could mean that earning an ABSN as a second degree would require you to pay more out of pocket. Pursuing a graduate degree can raise the amount you can take out in loans, allowing you to spread the cost of your education.

Stand Out in the Job Market

Finally, beginning your nursing career with a Direct Entry MSN program is likely to help you be more competitive with employers. The Journal of Nursing Regulation’s 2020 Nursing Workforce Survey reported that 65.2% of nurses in 2020 held a bachelor’s degree as their highest credential, while only 3.6% had MSN degrees.

Your MSN sends a signal to employers that you are capable of high-level academic and clinical work, and also shows that you are committed to excel in the profession.

With North Park University, you can earn your Direct Entry MSN in as few as 20 months. Spending a few extra months earning your master’s (as compared to completing an accelerated BSN program) can result in greatly enhanced prospects for employment and career progression—as well as preparing you to serve your patients at a higher level of care.