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What Can You Do With an MSN?

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jan 22, 2024
A nurse standing next to a patient’s hospital bed with a tablet.

What Can You Do With an MSN?

One of the great things about the nursing profession is that it provides countless opportunities to shape patient outcomes, support medical personnel, and enact positive change within the health care landscape. While some of these opportunities are available to anyone with a nurse license and an undergraduate degree, others require a more advanced education.

As such, many nurses build upon their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Doing so helps cultivate a more sophisticated skill set, opens the door to a more competitive salary range, and potentially leads to positions of greater leadership and authority. The bottom line: If you’re wondering what you can do with an MSN, the answer is quite a lot.

What’s an MSN?

Before enrolling in an advanced degree program, knowing a little more about what that program entails is helpful. An MSN is a postgraduate degree, meaning that those who’ve already earned their undergraduate nursing degree and want to continue with more advanced training can obtain it. Having an MSN signifies a higher level of clinical skills, as well as nursing leadership competencies.

Some nurses pursue an MSN simply to increase their salary potential or to ascend into leadership roles such as chief nursing officer or unit manager in nursing. Others obtain their MSN on their way to earning a doctoral-level degree, perhaps with the intention of teaching or joining a hospital’s executive team. Others look to an MSN as a way to earn a credential in a specialized field of care, such as anesthesia or midwifery. 

What’s the MSN Salary Range?

One of the most common reasons to seek an advanced nursing degree is to increase earning potential. Ample evidence shows that nurses with an MSN will command higher salaries than those with a BSN, on average.

Consider recent data from Payscale. For those with a BSN, Payscale reports a median annual salary of approximately $92,000. For those with an MSN, Payscale reports a median annual salary of approximately $102,000; this is by no means a small distinction.

Several factors can affect the nurse salary range, above and beyond education level. Other important factors include geographic location specializations, additional certifications, and years of experience. 

What Can You Do With an MSN? 4 Career Options 

Earning an MSN can also create pathways toward several exciting, rewarding, and prestigious nursing positions, including roles that aren’t available to those with more basic nursing credentials. Consider just a few of the most noteworthy potential careers you can do with an MSN.

1. Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who obtained additional education and training to fulfill a more primary care role. NPs may perform such tasks as evaluating and diagnosing patients, designing and implementing treatment plans, and educating patients regarding disease prevention and wellness promotion. 

NPs are increasingly called upon to fill the gap left by the nationwide physician shortage, and in many states, they enjoy the autonomy to practice and prescribe independently. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for NPs is $121,610 as of May 2022.

2. Nurse Educator

Nursing students require tutelage in not only the classroom environment but also clinical care settings, allowing them to hone their skills in real-world patient interactions. The role of the nurse educator is to design and implement training courses for nursing students, while also serving in mentorship roles. 

Often, nurse educators work alongside their students in a clinical environment, ensuring safety for nurses and patients alike. For those interested in developing the next generation of nursing professionals, this MSN role may be highly rewarding. The BLS reports a median annual salary of $78,580 for nurse educators as of May 2022.

3. Unit Manager

Unit managers provide direct supervision and direction for nurses within a specific team or unit; this may be the entire unit of pediatric nurses or nurses who work in the ICU. Unit managers may also have a role in recruiting, hiring, and training new nurses. Payscale reports a median annual salary of approximately $66,590 for unit managers as of September 2023.

4. Chief Nursing Officer

The role of chief nursing officer (CNO) is a nurse leadership position. This executive-level role oversees all nursing activity within a hospital, health system, or large practice. The CNO’s responsibilities include everything from staffing to regulatory compliance, to the development of strategic nursing plans, to ensuring the highest standards of clinical care. Payscale reports a median annual salary of approximately $141,070 for CNOs as of October 2023.

Start an MSN Education Today

The MSN degree path can lead to an elevated set of skills, a more competitive salary range, and a wide range of professional opportunities. Those who embark on this advanced nursing degree path may position themselves to make an enduring impact within the nursing profession, through both direct patient care and high-level leadership.

Consider options to earn an advanced nursing degree now, specifically via The University of Tulsa MSN path. Explore the program today to find out more about the unique curriculum, designed to lay the foundation for long-lasting professional success.

Recommended Readings

A Nurse Educator’s Role in the Future of Nursing

The Most Important Leadership Skills for Nurses

MSN vs. DNP: Differences Between the Degrees


Incredible Health, “What Is an MSN Degree?”

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

Payscale, Average Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Salary

Payscale, Average Nurse Unit Manager Salary

Payscale, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

Payscale, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

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

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

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