7 Satisfying MSN Careers Nurse Leaders Should Consider

 Split panel image showing two nurses working in different leadership roles.

You’ve been working as a nurse for a while. You see yourself as a leader in your unit, and you’re willing to take that next step to become an even better one.

You know that a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can expand your knowledge base and potentially lead to additional career opportunities. But you’re still curious about the types of nursing jobs you can qualify for with an MSN. 

To help answer that, we asked Joan Rich, vice president of Nursing at Rasmussen University, to provide more information.

What can you do with a master’s degree in nursing?

Graduate-level nursing degrees can open the door to quite a few career paths, depending on their focus areas. Some focus more on preparing nurses for advanced direct care roles with broadened scopes of practice, while others supplement nurses’ patient care abilities with specialized administrative and training skills.

The Rasmussen University Master of Science in Nursing program offers three MSN specialization paths: Nursing Leadership and AdministrationNursing Education, and Healthcare Technology, Simulation and Informatics. Rasmussen University also offers one MSN nurse practitioner : Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP).

Nursing Leadership and Administration students focus more on the business side of nursing and healthcare, developing the leadership, management and administration skills they’ll need to transform healthcare in their workplace.

The Nursing Education track is for those who are passionate about educating the current and next generation of nurses. On top of the advanced knowledge of pharmacology, pathophysiology and patient assessment found in all MSN tracks, they’ll gain knowledge of curriculum design and teaching strategies.

The Healthcare Technology, Simulation and Informatics track is for those seeking to supplement their patient care skills with an advanced knowledge of the technologies used to drive change in healthcare.

The PMHNP specialization is best for RNs who want to continue to care for patients as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). This program provides the academic training needed to assess, diagnose and create treatment plans for patients dealing with mental health disorders.

What can you do with an MSN: Careers in Nursing Education

“Really, all nurses are educators,” Rich says.

You know this from experience—nurses are often the point person for educating patients and families on medical conditions, new medications and upcoming procedures. If you find teaching patients rewarding, it’s easy to imagine how gratifying teaching student and current nurses could be. The Nursing Education MSN specialization can help prepare you with both advanced nursing knowledge and the skills needed to be an effective educator.

If you’re considering embarking on this track, you’ll be happy to hear that nurse educators are in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 276,800 new registered nursing jobs will be created between 2020 and 2030.1 These nurses don’t appear out of thin air—they’ll need educators to help train the next generation of nurses in order to meet this demand.

“Nationally, we’re short nurse educators,” says Rich. “We need to get more nurses into education, or we’ll have no one else to teach.” 

If you’re passionate about lifelong learning and educating the current and next generation of nurses, nursing education could be the right fit for you.

So what can you expect to learn? In addition to core courses, you’ll take the following courses for your education specialization:

  • The Role of the Nurse Educator
  • Curriculum Design and Program Evaluation
  • Nursing Education in the Classroom
  • Nursing Education in the Clinical Setting

If those classes sound like they’ll lead you where you want to go, let’s take deeper dive at some of those nursing education job titles they could prepare you for.

1. Nurse educator

Nurse educators generally work in an academic setting at the collegiate level playing a pivotal role in preparing student nurses for their futures. Nurse educators typically serve as a member of the faculty at a college or university. In order to maintain their high level of clinical expertise, many nurse educators teach part-time while working full-time in a hospital, clinic or specialty center.

Nurse educators are responsible for designing, teaching and evaluating nursing curriculum and courses. They engage in scholarly work and participate in professional associations for nurses and nursing education.

With all that responsibility, nurse educators must be experienced clinical nurses with advanced education. At a minimum that means earning an MSN to get started—and you may want to consider advancing your education even further from here for a strictly academic career.

Teaching isn’t easy though. Unlike a standard nursing role, you don’t get to leave work behind when you’re off the job site. Teaching often means answering emails whenever your students need you and it may not be as financially lucrative as other nursing positions—so dedication to this important role is key.

“You really have to have a passion for educating the next generation of nurses,” says Rich.

2. Clinical Director of Education

Unlike nurse educators, directors of education work in the clinical setting—nearly every clinic or hospital has one. Sometimes called clinical educators or directors of clinical education, you’ll find one in nearly every clinic or hospital, especially those with robust clinical and residency programs.

They’re responsible for rolling out education to all the different disciplines they have students or residents in—this can include current and student nurses, interns, residents, medical students and student medical assistants. This often means developing training around topics like clinical skills, processes, policies and other topics. They work with clinical mangers to determine what kind of education is needed and implement the highest standards of care within the training.

If you’d like to learn more about the details of this role, check out our article, “What Does a Clinical Educator Do? A look at the Nurses Guiding the Next Generation.”

What can you do with an MSN: Careers in Nursing Leadership and Administration

For the ambitious nurses who are driven to transform their workplaces, a Nursing Leadership and Administration specialization may be the right fit. The combination of their clinical experience and this additional training is what will give students the ability to understand and influence policy and budget.

“Students may be wonderful bedside nurses, which is certainly something we need, but we also need the additional critical thinking abilities of graduate-level nurses,” Rich says. “These nurses are leaders who want to transform their healthcare institutions, shape policy and understand the big-picture budget better.”

On the Nursing Leadership and Administration track, students will gain the business savvy you’ll need to understand and influence healthcare change at a higher level, manage your unit more effectively and apply to executive positions within healthcare.

In addition to core courses, you’ll find the following topics covered in the Nursing Leadership and Administration specialization path:

  • Advanced Nursing Leadership
  • Meaningful Communication and Collaboration
  • Leadership and Management in Advanced Nursing Practice
  • The Business Side of Nursing

So where could this blend of hands-on nursing skills and administrative know-how take you? Let’s take a look at the job positions this specialization path aims to prepare you for:

1. Nurse manager

Nurse managers straddle the worlds of both staff and management. Though they work daily with bedside nurses, many of their duties are managerial. They motivate staff, lead meetings, oversee recruitment, scheduling and the budget. These nursing professionals are the leaders willing to advocate for all nurses while mentoring and empowering their staff. Leadership ability is key for these roles—they’re the ones staff nurses turn to in order to work through conflicts and must be a steadying force during emergencies or other turbulent situations. They also provide support to all their staff and the patients and their families in their unit.

You’ll find a nurse management position wherever there is a staff of nurses—from hospitals to doctor’s offices and specialty clinics. Nurse management positions typically require years of hands-on nursing experience and a Bachelor’s degree at a minimum. That said, an MSN can help demonstrate you have the drive and skills to handle the additional managerial and administrative duties of this role.

If you’re able to balance administration duties while still playing a crucial role in the work of bedside nurses, you’ll make a strong a nurse manager.

2. Director of nursing

Within the hierarchy of a hospital or health system, a director of nursing typically reports to the chief nursing officer and oversees an even larger share of administrative duties as they lead and assist staff nursing management teams.

This means their work tends to focus on “big picture” topics within a facility’s day to day nursing work. This can include overseeing regulatory compliance, budgeting, staff training and educational requirements, maintaining inventory and implementing infection control measures. It should be noted that these duties can vary depending on the size and nature of the healthcare facility. This position may also be called a director of nursing services or a director of patient care services.

A director of nursing must be a leader with a great deal of compassion and professionalism. They can communicate clearly and easily to help the team become more unified and effective. As you might expect, this position typically requires nursing management experience.

3. Chief nursing officer

Chief nursing officers represent nurses at the executive level, advising executives and other institutional leaders on best nursing practices, nursing wages and budgets. They also manage relationships between physicians and nurses while overseeing compliance with government regulations and internal hospital policies.

They work for hospitals or entire health systems. Since there’s usually just one position per hospital or health system, competition for the position among nursing administration can be fierce. Working as a chief nursing officer is an ambitious goal that will require extensive effective management experience—likely at a director level—and the academic qualifications to match.

What can you do with an MSN: Careers in Healthcare Technology, Simulation and Informatics

Technology is rapidly transforming how nurses learn about, track and adapt to the needs of their patients. This specialization allows MSN students to focus their attention on the systems and skills needed to further the nursing profession with emerging technologies like virtual simulations, healthcare informatics systems and more.

This specialization track includes the following courses:

  • Healthcare Technology
  • Simulation in Healthcare
  • Informatics in Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Integrating Technology

This technology-focused specialization path can help prepare you for roles like:

1. Nursing informatics specialist

Technology is obviously capable of creating powerful tools for healthcare providers, but a tool is only as effective as the people using it! That’s where nursing informatics specialists come into play. These nursing professionals draw on their patient care background to help with the design, development and implementation of technology systems used by healthcare providers. 

The day-to-day details of this role will vary depending on the needs of the healthcare system, but in an informatics specialist role you may find yourself training nursing staff on how to best use electronic health records systems. Or you may focus your time on assisting with the design of technology systems to help ensure they’re a practical fit for meeting the needs of all stakeholders. Informatics specialists may also have the opportunity to use the data gathered through these healthcare technology systems to inform plans or initiatives to improve patient care and overall efficiency.

2. Nursing simulation coordinator

Healthcare simulation technologies and labs play an important role in the training and education of nurses. Nursing simulation coordinators are typically employed by either educational institutions or healthcare facilities that use simulated lab resources to train and educate healthcare workers. Professionals in this role are tasked with overseeing and managing the needs of a simulation lab.

This can include ensuring equipment is maintained and in good working order, overseeing software and hardware updates, maintaining lab inventory, and coordinating the set up and preparation of simulated lab scenarios. Depending on the facility, you may work with multiple departments to coordinate and plan for their simulation training needs.

What can you do with an MSN: APRN Careers

For caring registered nurses interested in staying in a clinical role but wanting to take their autonomy and scope of practice to the next level, a career as an APRN may be the right fit. APRNs include a wide variety of nursing roles including:

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA)
  • Nurse practitioners (NP)
  • Certified nurse-midwives (CNM)
  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)

While APRNs can chose to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in the specialty of their choice, an MSN is the most common form of entry-level education. We’ll start by focusing on NPs.

1. Nurse practitioner (NP)

This clinical track allows students to hone their assessment skills, learn to diagnose patients and create treatment in the specialty of their choice. While further certifications are available, nurse practitioners get their education by earning either an MSN or DNP degree in the specialty they want to work in. NP degrees are available with specializations in acute care, pediatrics, women’s health, family medicine, psychiatric mental health care, among several others. The variety of degrees that NPs can achieve means they work in nearly any healthcare setting, such as hospitals to clinics or out in the field in emergency medical services or flight nursing.

Just like Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree nurses are drawn to different areas in medicine, NPs might find that their personality and interests match up well with a particular specialty. Nurses who love the intensity of emergency and focus best in a fast-paced environment might find themselves interested in an NP program focused on acute care.

On the other hand, psychiatric-mental health NPs (PMHNPs) are particularly interested in behavior and mental health. They are usually compassionate, attentive and creative. Such nurses may find themselves drawn to a PMHNP program, like the .

NPs can further specialize by achieving various certifications and gaining experience in the field of their choice.

Take your passion to the next level

Now that you have a clearer idea of what you could do with a Master of Science in Nursing degree from Rasmussen University, are you ready to learn more? Our article, “10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rasmussen University MSN Program” will give you an in-depth preview of what to expect.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Most New Jobs [accessed November 2021] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

2Tuition for MBA, MHRM, MHA, and MSN programs is $155 per credit ($125 per credit for MPH). MSN Nurse practitioner specializations are excluded from this pricing. Students in all programs must maintain continuous enrollment to remain eligible for the tuition pricing of $155/$125 per credit. A student who withdraws and re-enrolls will be required to pay the tuition price offered at the time of their re-enrollment. Students who receive the tuition price of $155/$125 per credit cannot use any additional discounts, grants and/or scholarships. If a student needs to retake one or more courses in the degree program, the total cost of the program will exceed $10,000. Program cost breakdown: $7,440 in tuition + $2,460 in fees = $9,900 in program cost ($7,000 in tuition + $2,870 in fees = $9,870 in program cost for MPH). Nurse practitioner programs are 28 core MSN credits at $155 per credit and 41 nurse practitioner specialization credits for $865 per credit. Program availability varies by campus and state; please see the Rasmussen University Catalog for details.

About the author

Kirsten Slyter

Kirsten is a Content Writer at Collegis Education where she enjoys researching and writing on behalf of Rasmussen University. She understands the difference that education can make and hopes to inspire readers at every stage of their education journey.


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This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen University to support its educational programs. Rasmussen University may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen University does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

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