5 Satisfying MSN Careers Nurse Leaders Should Consider

split screen of nurse leaders working in different healthcare environments

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 College, 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 College Master of Science in Nursing program offers two MSN specialization paths: Nursing Leadership and Administration, and Nursing Education.

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 next generation of nurses. On top of the advanced knowledge of pharmacology, pathophysiology and patient assessment found in both MSN tracks, they’ll gain knowledge of curriculum design and teaching strategies.

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 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.

"We need to get more nurses into education, or we'll have no one else to teach"

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 371,500 new registered nursing jobs will be created between 2018 and 2028.1 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 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:

  • Transforming the Experience of Learning
  • Curriculum Design and Program Evaluation
  • Innovative Teaching and Assessment Strategies
  • Scholarship of Teaching

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 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 Administration and Leadership specialization may be right fit for them. The combination of your clinical experience and this additional training is what will give you the ability to understand and influence policy and budget.

"These are leaders who want to transform their healthcare institutions, shape policy and understand the big-picture budget better."

“They 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 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, you’ll 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:

  • The Art of Leadership
  • The Business Side of Nursing
  • The Science of Nurse Administration
  • Leading the Future of Healthcare

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 to 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 and with tons 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.

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 College, are you ready to learn more? Get the important details from our article, “10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rasmussen College MSN Program.”

1Bureau of Labor Statistcs, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Most New Jobs 2018 – 2028 [accessed December, 2019] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm BLS 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.

Kirsten Slyter

Kirsten is a Content Writer at Collegis Education where she enjoys researching and writing on behalf of Rasmussen College. 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 College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College 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 College 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 College is a regionally accredited private college.

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