Nursing Articles RN to MSN - Career Benefits and Education Options

A nurse in many cases holds a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). The implications of an RN receiving an MSN go beyond patient care. Their education in leadership, research, and understanding the current political framework of the medical system allows an MSN to achieve greatness in the field of nursing.

Changing Course - RN to MSN

There are major differences between an RN and MSN. The education attained by an MSN opens the doors to learning the field of medicine that is similar to the work of a medical physician.

An MSN may choose one of many different nursing roles. They may be a Nurse Practitioner who diagnose and treat patients, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist who provide anesthetics to patients in collaboration with surgeons, dentists, or childbirth procedures. Next we have Certified Nurse Midwives who provides primary health care to women, prenatal care, labor and delivery care, care after birth, gynecological exams, and many other care taking procedures necessary for women's health. Lastly, there is the Clinical Nurse Specialists who specialize in education, research, consulting, case management, and leadership.

National Implications of MSN

Managed care, Medicare, Medicaid, and hospital reimbursement issues are all realities of the current health care system. Many new nurses are unfamiliar with the national crisis occurring each day; a cloud of financial and political challenges that are within the medical system.

For an RN who seeks to make a difference in the current structure of our political system, they will be motivated to receive an MSN. An MSN degree offers the opportunity to deal with these issues head-on.

As medical costs continue to increase astronomically, the challenge is to cut costs wherever possible. Studies show that the U.S. could save up to $8.75 billion annually if MSN's were used in place of physicians (Thomson Petersons). Advanced practicing nurses with MSN's will be at the frontline to save money and treat patients, to diagnose and replace the role of the physician.

In addition, MSN nurses such as clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, midwives, and anesthetists, are in high demand, for the medically underserved areas of both rural and urban settings to serve as lower-cost primary care providers (U.S. Department of Labor). In rural settings in particular, there may be fewer physicians available and the MSN will replace the duties of the absent physician unless the patient requires the use of hospital facilities or advanced medical care.

Education, Admission Requirements, and Salary

In order for an RN to achieve an MSN and become an advanced practice registered nurse, most programs require a masters program lasting approximately 2 years following the Bachelor of Science Nursing degree. Some programs require at least 1 to 2 years of clinical experience as an RN for admission. In 2004, there were 329 master's programs for nurse practitioners, 218 for clinical nurse specialists, 92 for nurse anesthetists, and 45 for nurse midwives (U.S. Department of Labor). Many programs combine the BSN and MSN degree for the nurse to graduate with two degrees together.

The education includes both classroom learning and clinical requirements. Admissions usually require scores taken from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT). In addition, college transcripts, letters of recommendation, and essays, are usually required.

MSN's generally receive a higher salary than BSN's and RN's. The average salary for a RN/BSN is between $43,000 and $63,000. The average salary for a Nurse Practitioner, for instance, is approximately $66,000 and can go up to $90,000 if the nurse owns their own practice.


An RN who is becoming an MSN has much to ponder for the field they are about to enter. It is no longer about just becoming a practitioner. Many RN's become outstanding clinicians; however the doors are open to make a difference in the current financial, political, and health care system. Their training is in leadership, research, clinical learning, and communication skills. This is a formula for success in the dynamic field of nursing.

Copyright 2006 Michael V. Gruber, MPH

About the Author

Michael V. Gruber, MPH is a contributing author to My Nursing Degree Online, providing articles and resources for nurses looking for continuing education online. Find more information about becoming a Home Health Care Nurse at:

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