The field of nursing offers endless opportunities for those who are drawn to the healthcare profession. As technology and patient populations evolve, nurses are increasingly the face of high-quality care for patients across all health settings. Because of the increased reliance on nursing expertise, nursing has become a complex and varied field with more and more opportunities to advance into specialized or leadership positions.
The evolution in the field means increased incentive for all nurses to continue their education at the graduate level, either through a master’s or doctoral program or through a specialized certification program in addition to a master’s degree.
Why Nurses Get Graduate Degrees
Most nurses who get a graduate degree in nursing do so because they want access to greater opportunity. While it can be tough to contemplate going back to school if you are already working as a nurse, the long-term options that are available to someone with a BSN vs. an MSN vs. a DNP are very different.
BSN: Nurses with a BSN are eligible for all entry-level nursing roles across areas of specialty. With time and experience, nurses with a BSN may become eligible for nursing roles with increased responsibility like charge nurse or care coordinator, but their options for career growth are more limited.
MSN: Nurses with an MSN are eligible for certification in a wide range of leadership and specialized nursing roles like clinical nurse leader or advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP). The degree allows nurses to move out of generalized nursing care and into jobs with more ownership and focus.
DNP: Nurses with a DNP have the highest possible degree for clinical nursing. Nurses with a DNP are eligible for all leadership roles and ARNP certifications as well as for roles in research, administration, and policy. In some states, a DNP qualifies you for unrestricted practice autonomy as a nurse practitioner.
A Nursing Graduate Degree Could Prepare You to Work in These Kinds of Roles
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical Nurse Leader
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists
Certified Nurse Midwives
Health Policy Nurse
Family Nurse Practitioner
Public Health Nurse
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner