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Nurse Advancement Opportunities for RNs

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Mar 25, 2024
A Nurse Meeting With Other Professionals in a Conference Room.

Nurse Advancement Opportunities for RNs

Registered nurses (RNs) fill a dynamic role in health care. Their versatility is part of what makes them indispensable. RNs can choose to focus their practice on advancement opportunities, and some may decide to specialize or pursue an advanced nursing degree.

Experienced RNs seeking professional growth or nursing students making plans for their future education and careers should know about the available nurse advancement opportunities and how to make them happen.

Why RNs May Want to Advance Their Careers

RNs may want to earn an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and advance their nursing careers for many reasons. Below are some of the reasons.

Higher Salaries

One of the most common reasons that RNs seek to advance their careers is the potential for a higher salary. The aggregate compensation site Payscale reports that while a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree holder earns an average annual salary of $94,000, the average annual salary for an MSN degree holder is $103,000. MSN degree holders can also earn higher salaries by following a few different career paths, including the following:

  • Pursuing additional nursing certifications
  • Specializing in a specific field
  • Moving into a management role
  • Earning an advanced nursing degree

Roles with higher salaries may also have associated benefits, such as bonuses, overtime, and more paid time off.

More Focused Work

The variety of responsibilities that RNs have helps them gain a broad range of experience. At some point, however, they may want to focus on an area. RNs may find that they want to work with a specific patient population, have a knack for a specific type of care, or that their leadership skills are suited for management. Focusing on one specific talent can help RNs reach their full career potential.

Increased Job Satisfaction

Whether seeking more focused work or an entirely new nursing experience, RNs need to follow their own path. That may mean educating nursing students, working in administration, or performing research. Whatever it is, finding a niche can lead to increased job satisfaction.

Potential Advancement Opportunities for Nurses

Every nurse can choose a unique path to advancement. That said, RNs may follow some common career paths if they choose to earn an MSN and advance their careers. Here are a few of the nurse advancement opportunities that RNs can pursue.

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators prepare nurses for the health care workforce. They prepare lesson plans, instruct nursing students, and administer examinations. This may take place in the classroom or lab settings. Senior educators also serve in administrative and mentorship roles.

Research Nurse

Clinical trials are essential to medicine and health care, and research nurses are indispensable to these research studies. A research nurse balances patient care and assists researchers in evaluating the safety and efficacy of new drugs or medical devices. Other standard research nurse duties include the following:

  • Monitoring patient reactions to drugs and medical devices
  • Logging and recording patient care data
  • Functioning as an intermediary between researchers and patients

Experienced research nurses develop clinical trial protocols and create study reports.

Nurse Manager

Most health care institutions employ nurse managers to carry out their administrative and management responsibilities. Typical duties include managing staff schedules, training new nurses, and developing policies and procedures. A nurse manager may also be responsible for floor and ward management, assigning nursing teams to groups of patients.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical nurse specialists, similar to nursing supervisors, tend to have administrative and managerial responsibilities. However, clinical nurse specialists occupy a higher-level position. Clinical nurse specialists oversee patient care and supervise the care provided by other nurses. They also work closely with patients and their families while participating in diagnosis and creating treatment plans. Some research activities may be among the responsibilities of a clinical nurse specialist.

Nurse Informatics Specialist

RNs interested in data and informatics can become informatics specialists. Nurse informatics specialists are responsible for managing and optimizing the technological elements of health care facilities. This can include managing data and electronic health records (EHRs), streamlining electronic processes, and training staff on new technologies. 

RN to MSN: The Pathway to Nurse Advancement Opportunities

These are just a few of the potential nurse advancement opportunities. There are many more, and they all share one thing in common — an MSN degree helps RNs advance their careers.

The University of Tulsa’s RN to MSN program provides a pathway for motivated RNs to reach their career goals. Whether your calling is leadership, research, consulting, or another exciting opportunity, this eight-week online course is for you.

The RN to MSN program offers four specialty tracks:

  • Leadership and Innovation
  • Education and Elevation
  • Public Health Global Vision
  • Information and Analytics

Each track builds on your RN degree to help you realize the nursing career of your dreams. All you need to do to get started is visit The University of Tulsa’s RN to MSN program page to learn more.

Recommended Readings

What Does a Charge Nurse Do?

How to Become a Chief Nursing Officer

International Travel Nursing: How to Work Abroad as a Nurse


American Nurses Association, How to Become a Research Nurse

American Nurses Association, Nursing Career Pathways

Cureus, “The Vital Role of Career Pathways in Nursing: A Key to Growth and Retention”

Indeed, “How to Become an Informatics Nurse Specialist in 5 Steps”

Indeed, “12 Master of Nursing Jobs You Can Pursue With an MSN Degree”

NursingCenter, “5 Ways to Advance Your Nursing Career

Payscale, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

Payscale, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

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