May 24, 2024

Types of Master's in Nursing (MSN) Degrees | Salary 2024

Are you considering getting your master's in nursing? A Master of Science in Nursing degree can open the doorway to more opportunities for you as a nurse, from leadership positions to advanced clinical roles, as well as a higher salary! 

If you've been thinking about advancing your degree, now's the time! Read on to explore all the different types of master's degrees in nursing and specialty paths you can take.

Types of Master's in Nursing Degrees

There are several types of master's degrees in nursing: Advanced practice registered nurse MSN degrees prepare a registered nurse for an advanced clinical role. Other types of MSN degrees focus on preparing nurses for non-clinical roles such as public health or nursing informatics.

  • APRN Masters Degrees

    • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
    • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
    • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
  • MSN Degree Specializations

    • Public Health
    • Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)
    • Nurse Educator
    • Nursing Informatics
    • Nurse Administrator or Executive
    • Nurse Researcher
  • Dual Master’s Degrees

    • MSN/MBA
    • MSN/MPH 
    • MSN/MHA
    • MSN/MPA 
  • Healthcare Administration Master's Degrees

    • Master's of Healthcare Administration (MHA)
    • MBA in Healthcare Management

Nurse Practitioner (NP) -- $126,260/year

Nurse practitioner programs prepare nurses to work as advanced practice registered nurses in the specialty area of their choosing such as an aesthetic nurse practitionerpsychiatric nurse practitioner,  or family nurse practitioner

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

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

  • Program Length: 2-6 years, depending on specialty, full-time vs. part-time
  • Program Cost: $20,000 - $150,000
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes, with in-person clinical requirement
  • Expected Salary: $126,260 (BLS)

>> Show Me Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Nurse Practitioner Specialties & Avg Salaries

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) -- $94,545/year

Clinical nurse specialist programs are specifically designed to prepare nurses to assume an APRN role but focus more on patient safety and research than actually treating patients. 

The goal of a CNS is to serve as a clinical expert in one specialty field, such as geriatrics or acute care, while working closely with staff, other healthcare providers, and patients to provide optimal outcomes. They strive to improve healthcare through evidence-based practice at the individual patient and systems levels. 

  • Program Length: 2-4 years
  • Program Cost: $40,000 - $120,000
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes, with in-person clinical requirement 
  • Expected Salary: $94,545 (ZipRecruiter)

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) -- $129,650/year

Certified nurse-midwife programs educate nurses on how to safely care for women during labor, delivery, and the prenatal period. Classes focus solely on women’s health, and clinical courses allow students to learn how to care for these types of patients. 

CNMs are practitioners who provide complete pre- and postnatal care, labor and delivery services, and women’s health care. They can work in an office setting, at a hospital or birth center, or in private practices. 

  • Program Length: 2 - 5 years
  • Program Cost: $12,000 - $90,000
  • Are Online Options Available?Yes, with in-person clinical requirement 
  • Expected Salary: $129,650 (BLS)

>> Show Me Online Nurse Midwifery Programs

Public Health -- $71,886/year

Public Health programs have tracks 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 and provide nursing interventions like disease prevention and health promotion.

  • Program Length: 1 - 2 years
  • Program Cost: $5,000 - $20,000
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes
  • Expected Salary: $71,886 (Indeed)

>> Show Me Online Public Health Programs

Nurse Educator -- $80,780/year

Nurse education MSN programs focus on advanced nursing knowledge and how to teach. Classes focus on educating students on how to prepare the next generation. 

As a Nurse Educator, you will be responsible for educating nurses at the clinical and classroom levels. Nurse educators can conduct research, present at conferences, consult, publish academic pieces, and work to stay current on healthcare developments in the nursing profession.

  • Program Length:  1- 2 years
  • Program Cost: $10,000 - $50,000
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes, with in-person clinical requirement 
  • Expected Salary: $80,780 (BLS)

>> Show Me Online Nurse Educator Programs

Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) -- $89,949/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.

Clinical Nurse Leaders collaborate with other healthcare team members, acting as liaisons between caregivers, patients, and administrators to improve outcomes and redesign the care environment to provide improved quality of care.

  • Program Length: 1 - 2 years
  • Program Cost: $5,000 - $20,000
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes
  • Expected Salary: $89,949 (ZipRecruiter)

Nursing Informatics -- $84,433/year

Nursing informatics programs focus on teaching nurses about electronic systems, databases, and communications technologies. The MSN courses will educate you on how to utilize these programs, so even if you aren’t the most computer savvy at the start of the program, you will be upon graduation. 

Informatics nurses work at the intersection between technology and nursing. They consult on new technology systems, analyze and build data systems to reach healthcare goals, and write computer programs. 

  • Program Length: 1 - 2 years
  • Program Cost: $5,000 - $20,000
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes
  • Expected Salary: $84,433 (Payscale)

>> Show Me Nursing Informatics Programs

Nurse Administrator or Executive -- $110,680/year

Nurse Administrator/Executive/Leadership programs prepare nurses to manage a team of other nurses and/or healthcare members. 

Courses within the nurse administration program focus on advanced nursing knowledge and executive leadership. You can expect to take courses focused on management, leadership, and budget planning. 

A nurse administrator, sometimes referred to as a nurse manager or executive, may serve as a unit manager or in more expanded leadership roles. Additional advanced certifications for nurse administrators and Executives are available as well. 

  • Program Length: 1 - 2 years
  • Program Cost: $10,000 - $35,000
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes
  • Expected Salary: $110,680 (BLS)

>> Show Me Online Nursing Leadership Programs

Nurse Researcher -- $81,500/year

Nurse researcher programs teach nurses to perform, assess, analyze, and provide recommendations based on research.

Research nurses develop and implement studies to investigate and provide information on new medications, vaccinations, and medical procedures. 

  • Program Length: 1 - 2 years
  • Program Cost: $5,000 - $20,000
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes
  • Expected Salary: $81,500 (Payscale)

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 

>> Show Me Online MSN Dual Degree Programs

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:

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 on 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.

Types of Master's in Nursing Degree Programs

Now that we've explored degree and specialization options for nurses wanting to earn a Master of Science in Nursing, let's discuss the different MSN program types.

Depending on where you're starting out, there are a lot of different ways to earn your MSN.

1. BSN to MSN Programs

  • Who is it right for? RNs that already have a BSN
  • Program Cost: $5,000 - $100,000
  • Are there online options? Yes, with in-person clinical requirements

If you're an RN who already holds a bachelor of science in nursing, this is the route for you. In a BSN to MSN program, you can continue directly from your undergraduate degree into an MSN program or choose to work with your undergraduate degree while pursuing your MSN.

>> Show Me BSN-to-MSN Programs

2. RN to MSN Bridge Program

  • Who is it right for? RNs who have an ADN or Diploma 
  • Program Cost: $10,000 - $180,000
  • Are there online options? Yes, with in-person clinical requirements

If you have your Associate’s Degree in Nursing, or if you have a diploma RN, you can either earn your BSN and then apply to an MSN program, OR you can earn both your BSN and MSN at the same time, known as an RN-to-MSN bridge program.

These typically allow RNs to earn their MSN about a year sooner than the traditional route. The shortest RN to MSN online program is about 14 months long.

>> Show Me Online MSN Programs

3.) Direct-Entry Master's Degree

  • Who is it right for? Those with a non-nursing bachelor's degree
  • Program Cost: $30,000 - $100,000
  • Are there online options? Yes, with in-person clinical requirements

If you have a bachelor’s degree in a different field, this type of program is designed for you. Rather than having to start from scratch and earn another bachelor's degree, direct-entry MSN programs allow you to jump right into your MSN degree. Perfect for any aspiring nurses who know they want to work as an APRN or other master's educated level nurse.

4.) Dual Master's Degree Programs

  • Who is it right for? Nurses who want advanced leadership or healthcare administration roles
  • Program Cost: $30,000 - $80,000
  • Are there online options? Yes

If you know that you want to one day become a hospital CEO or a Chief Nursing Officer, you may want to consider a dual master's degree in nursing program. With these, you can earn an MSN at the same time as you earn a more leadership-focused degree like an MSN/MBA or an MSN/MHA -- Master's in Healthcare Administration. You can also earn an MSN/MPH if you want your career to take a public health route. 

>> Show Me Online MSN Dual Degree Programs

Why Should You Get a Master's Degree in Nursing?

MSN programs prepare Registered Nurses to 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.

Youtube video


  • Which nursing master’s degree is best? 

    • If you want to advance your career clinically, an NP will be the best route. For teaching or administrative positions, an MSN will probably be best.
  • What is a master of nursing degree? 

    • A Master of Nursing Degree (MSN) is a non-clinical graduate-level degree that can prepare a nurse for a leadership or educational position. 
  • Can I get my MSN without my BSN? 

    • Yes. Many schools offer direct RN-MSN programs.
  • How many years is a master’s in nursing? 

    • It takes 2-3 years to earn a master’s in nursing.
  • Do MSN nurses get paid more than BSN nurses? 

    • An MSN-prepared nurse with a specialty role, such as a nurse manager or nurse educator, may make more than a BSN-prepared nurse. 
  • Do hospitals pay for your MSN? 

    • Some hospitals do offer tuition reimbursement or assistance for MSN degrees. 

Find Nursing Programs

The Ultimate List of Master's Degrees in Nursing

Go to the top of page