How to Advance in the Nursing Field

Many nurses do not take the necessary steps to continue their education and advance in the nursing field. It is estimated that less than 1% of all nurses have a doctorate. If you aspire to move up the nursing career ladder or even if you have not given it much thought before, there are multiple benefits to getting an advanced degree.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in nursing is a natural step after a bachelor’s degree. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) usually requires you to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree first. You may also need to have a registered nurse (RN) license, meet minimum GPA or GRE score requirements and have clinical experience to get into a master’s program.

The master’s degree is considered graduate-level work, so you will have to earn it in a state, private, non-profit or for-profit college. Most have part-time and full-time options. As you explore the options, consider making a simple spreadsheet to store information about potential schools.

Although every degree will have a specialized plan, the typical minimum number of credit hours required to graduate ranges from 30 to 50. This means it can take one to two years to earn a master’s degree.

In addition, you may need to complete field work and internships. Hours you spend working in the field are usually necessary for both non-clinical and clinical programs. For example, some programs have a minimum of 500 clinical hours.

Doctorate Degree

After earning a master’s degree, you may want to pursue a doctorate. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest degree level you can reach and prepares you for leadership roles.

Most DNP programs require you to have an MSN degree first. Some programs may allow you to enter with a BSN degree and complete the program by earning both an MSN and DNP at the same time, but these programs tend to be longer.

Admission requirements for a DNP program vary by program and institution. Some DNP programs offer BSN-to-DNP track options that allow you to achieve both an MSN and DNP at the completion of the program. The DNP focuses on the leadership and administrative side of healthcare.

Most doctorate programs are focused on independent study and research, so there is some flexibility in your scheduling. Some nurses continue to work part-time or full-time as they pursue their degrees. Many programs require up to 1,000 hours of practice or more.

Other Courses

You can pursue other continuing education courses or attend workshops, conferences and seminars to stay updated on new trends or technology in nursing. Your study options include full-time, part-time and online work. Getting an online degree or taking courses online can help you achieve greater success in your nursing career.

You want to make sure that the program where you study is accredited, so you have transferable credits if you want to pursue a higher degree, change schools or impress employers. Accreditation shows that the program has quality standards. You also want to pick courses that fit your interests and are not a repetition of things you already know.

Benefits of Advanced Studies

Getting an advanced degree in nursing opens the door to many new roles and career opportunities. You will have access to more specialist and leadership positions, such as clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioner, clinical trial nurse, psychiatry and mental health nurse, nurse researcher and legal nurse analyst. Consider making a pros and cons list as you explore all of the possible positions.

Another benefit of advanced studies is being given more responsibility in your current role. You will be seen as more prepared to take on additional duties. Having extra degrees can make your career path more stable since you will be viewed as an overachiever and less likely to be fired.

Many students share that they get personal fulfillment from pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate. They feel a sense of accomplishment that they have obtained something so few achieve. They also report learning more than those who stopped at a bachelor’s since being in a school environment forces you to study compared to learning independently.

One of the biggest benefits of an advanced nursing degree is a higher salary. A nurse with a bachelor’s degree tends to earn between $40,000 and $80,000 a year. A nurse with a master’s degree may earn between $60,000 and $90,000 per year or more. A nurse with a doctorate can earn $100,000 to $180,000 a year.

Pursuing an advanced degree in nursing is not an easy choice since it will take time, money and effort. You will have to prioritize getting an education for several years to get a master’s or a doctorate. However, there are multiple benefits to advancing your studies and learning more.