December 2, 2020

The Ultimate List of Masters Degrees in Nursing

Have you listed out your goals and resolutions for 2021 yet? Does one of them include going back to school? A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can open the doorway to more opportunities and MSN-prepared nurses earn an average salary of $94,333 per year! That's more than 20K higher than a Registered Nurse. 

Read on to explore all the different paths you can take with an MSN or explore some of our featured online programs below:

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Capella University

Capella’s online RN-to-BSN degree is an accredited program designed for working nurses. Thousands of nurses have completed their BSN program with FlexPath, that allows you to control your pace and set your own deadlines. With FlexPath, you can complete your RN-to-BSN program in 9 months and under $10,000. Fastest 25% of students. Cost varies by pace, transfer credits, other factors. Fees apply.

RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Capella for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

The Ultimate List of Masters Degrees for Nurses

APRN Master’s Degrees

Advanced Practice MSN degrees prepare a Registered Nurse for an advanced clinical role. To become an APRN nurse, in addition to earning an MSN degree, you'll also need to pass a certifying exam in your chosen specialty field.

Nurses who earn a Certified Master’s Degree will use the credential “C” with their title, i.e. a Certified Family Nurse Practitioner will be an FNP-C and a Certified Nurse Midwife will be a CNM.

These degrees generally take 2-3 years to complete and include clinical hours as well as classroom coursework. 

Nurse Practitioner (NP) -- $115K/year

Nurse Practitioners work to provide advanced care to different patient populations; they can independently assess, diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication.

Salary: The average Nurse Practitioner salary is $115,800, but salaries vary by specialty, as well as other factors like location, years of experience, and where you work.

Specialties: Much like a doctor can specialize in virtually any type of medical care, an NP can choose a specialty track with the corresponding certification to become an expert in his or her field.

Some courses will allow you to specialize in your chosen field through your degree program, while others will have you become a general practitioner, and then take an additional certification course to specialize. 

>> Show Me Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Nurse Practitioner Specialties & Avg Salaries

Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) -- $104K/year

Clinical Nurse Leaders (CNLs) deliver and supervise bedside care and work with other team members to assess and improve clinical care. After earning your MSN, it’s recommended that nurses also become certified through the Commission on Nurse Certification as a CNL.

Salary: According to ZipRecruiter, Clinical Nurse Leaders earn an average annual salary of $104,107.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) -- $90K/year

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) serve as a clinical expert in one specialty field, such as geriatrics or acute care. A CNS can provide care and act in more of a consulting role for advanced practice.

Salary: Payscale reports an average salary of $90,303 for CNSs. 

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) -- $181K/year

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists assess patients before administering anesthesia, monitor and adjust medication flow during the time the patient is under anesthesia, and provide post-anesthesia recovery. CRNAs can work in a variety of settings, from the hospital to surgical clinics and may work in a medical or oral surgeon field. 

Salary: One of the highest-paid APRN roles, CRNAs earn an average annual salary of $181,040, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics as of 2019.

>> Show Me CRNA Programs

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) -- $108K/year

Certified Nurse-Midwives are practitioners who provide complete pre and post-natal care, along with labor and delivery services and women’s health care. CNMs can work in an office setting, at a hospital or birth center, or in private practices. 

Salary: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for Certified Nurse-Midwives is $108,810 as of May 2019.

>> Show Me Online Nurse Midwifery Programs

Types of Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degrees

The following MSN tracks are commonly offered at many different schools across the nation, although there may be specialty course programs available at select schools as well.

Public Health -- $67K/year

With a Public Health degree, a nurse may pursue a track that is focused on broad public health goals, such as healthcare policy, population or community health. A Public Health Nurse may complete population studies, perform research, analyze outcomes, and provide education and advocacy for public health goals. They may work at the state or local level on infectious diseases, disease prevention, and health promotion. 

Salary: According to, the average salary for Public Health Nurses is $67,290 per year or $28.88/hr.

Nurse Educator -- $77K/year

As a Nurse Educator, you will be responsible for educating the next generation of nurses, both at the clinical and classroom levels. Nurse educators can conduct research, present at conferences, consult, and publish academic pieces to continually keep up-to-date on healthcare developments in the nursing profession.

Nurse educators can work in a variety of settings and may have some flexibility to their schedules as well. If you are interested in becoming a nurse educator at the collegiate level, you should be prepared to continue to earn your doctorate degree as well. 

Salary: According to the BLS, the median annual salary for nurse educators in post-secondary universities is $77,360. 

Nursing Informatics -- $100K/year

In this role, nurses work in an intersection between technology and nursing. An Informatics nurse could do things like consult on new technology systems, analyze and build data systems to reach healthcare goals or write computer programs.  

Salary: The HIMSS 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, found that 46% of respondents earn base salaries of more than $100,000 each year.

>> Show Me Online MSN Programs

Nurse Administrator or Executive -- $115K/year

This track—also known as Nurse Leadership—prepares a nurse to manage a team of other nurses and/or healthcare members. A Nurse Administrator, sometimes referred to as a nurse manager or executive, may serve as a unit manager, for instance, or in even more expanded leadership roles. Additional advanced certification for Nurse Administrators and Executives are available as well. 

Salary: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for medical and health services managers is $115,160 as of 2019.

Nurse Researcher -- $72K/year

Are you fascinated by studies? A Nurse Researcher role might be right for you—in this track, nurses learn to perform, assess, analyze, and provide recommendations based on research. 

Salary: reports that Research Nurses earn an annual average salary of $72,055.

>> Show Me Online MSN Programs

Dual Master’s Degrees

You can also choose to pursue a dual degree to earn both your MSN and a concentration in another specialty. For example, according to the AACN 120 dual MSN degrees are available in the following specialties nationwide:

  • MSN/MBA — to combine nursing with business
  • MSN/MPH — a nursing degree with a public health degree (MSN/MPH)
  • MSN/MHA — nursing and health administration
  • MSN/MPA — nursing and public administration 

Healthcare Administration Master's Degrees for Nurses

In addition to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, nurses looking to pursue a master's degree also have the option of going the healthcare administration route. For nurses looking to move beyond the bedside or go into an administration or leadership role, this can be an excellent path to take. 

The two primary healthcare administration master's degrees are:

  1. Masters of Healthcare Administration (MHA)
  2. Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in Healthcare Management

An MBA in Healthcare Management focuses on general business leadership as well as healthcare administration while a Master's in Healthcare Administration (MHA) focuses on topics specific to healthcare like understanding healthcare operations and functioning in a leadership role at an executive level. 

Earning an MBA or MHA are both excellent options; however, an MBA has a broader focus in the curriculum. An MBA in Healthcare Administration allows individuals to gain a better understanding of general business and financial practices rather than those specific to healthcare.

Why Should You Get an MSN?

MSN programs prepare a Registered Nurse to better serve their patients from a holistic perspective. Graduate-level nursing courses will cover topics such as ethics, public health, leadership, healthcare practice, and clinical skills.

One of the major benefits of an MSN degree is that not only does it offer more advancement opportunities and earning potential, but it also allows you to specialize in a role and/or patient population that interests you the most.

For instance, you can choose to specialize in a clinical specialty track as a Nurse Practitioner or choose a more administrative role, such as a Nurse Educator or Nurse Researcher.

Want to learn more about what types of MSN degrees are available? Here is a list of some of the many different specializations in Master Degrees in Nursing that you can pursue.

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