An advanced practice nurse pauses during a busy hospital shift.

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Nursing?


Nurses have always played a significant role in health care, and as they acquire more education and move into advanced positions, their contributions to health care efficiency and effectiveness multiply. For example, an article published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies Advances in 2021 concluded that nurse practitioners (NPs) positively affect:

  • Clinical outcomes
  • Patient satisfaction
  • The control of chronic disease
  • The cost-effectiveness of care

The NP role is only one of many advanced roles in nursing, however. Equipped with a master’s degree, nurses have a wide range of options. What can you do with a master’s in nursing? The answer to that question reveals a list of diverse career paths and opportunities to demonstrate nursing leadership.

Nurses who may be finishing a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program and considering graduate school or nurses who are already enrolled in an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program can benefit from learning more about advanced nursing roles with an MSN.

Advance in a Clinical Role

Nurses with a passion for clinical work can move into an advanced clinical role, such as advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). As the National Council of State Boards of Nursing explains, APRNs can be NPs, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), or certified nurse-midwives (CNMs).

Nurse Practitioner

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners describes the NP role as providing acute, primary, and specialty health care to patients of any age. NPs become certified in areas such as family, gerontology, neonatal, pediatric, psychiatric, or women’s health care. Their responsibilities include the following:

  • Assessing patients
  • Ordering and interpreting tests
  • Forming diagnoses
  • Creating and managing treatment plans

NPs’ holistic approach emphasizes the promotion of health, prevention of disease, and health education.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology, CRNAs provide anesthetics to patients in any practice setting. They also:

  • Educate and counsel patients
  • Prvide pain management services
  • Provide sedation for palliative care

More than 80% of the anesthesia providers in rural counties are CRNAs.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Becoming a CNS is a great example of what individuals who earn a master’s in nursing can do. The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists describes a CNS as an expert clinician who specializes in an area defined by one of the following:

  • Patient population
  • Health care setting
  • Medical subspecialty or disease
  • Category of health care
  • Type of health problem

A CNS performs responsibilities such as diagnosing patients, administering treatments, and managing patient conditions. They’re also active in:

  • Implementing nursing practice changes
  • Promoting evidence-based health care
  • Ensuring that health care organizations follow best practices for nursing

Certified Nurse-Midwife

CNMs deliver babies, but they also do much more. According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, CNMs also offer services such as sexual and reproductive health care and gynecologic health care.

Their responsibilities include the following:

  • Assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients
  • Ordering and interpreting tests
  • Promoting health and disease prevention
  • Providing counseling and wellness education services

CNMs can work in settings such as ambulatory care centers, private medical offices, hospitals, and birth centers.

Move Into the Executive Ranks

For nurses who have a desire to move into executive roles, becoming a chief nursing officer (CNO) or a medical and health services manager are good options for careers with a master’s in nursing.

Chief Nursing Officer

A CNO is responsible for the entire nursing practice of a health care organization, according to the ANA Enterprise (an organization formed by the American Nurses Association, American Nurses Credentialing Center, and American Nurses Foundation). CNOs work with both health care organization management and nursing staff, performing responsibilities such as:

  • Developing strategy related to nursing practice
  • Performing financial and budgeting duties
  • Overseeing health care quality and safety
  • Promoting patient and staff engagement

Individuals can strengthen their credentials for the CNO position by earning the Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certified (NEA-BC), which the American Nurses Credentialing Center offers.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Becoming a medical and health services manager is also a good career option. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) describes medical and health services managers as being responsible for managing an entire health care facility, a unit within a health care facility, or a medical practice. Medical and health services managers have responsibilities such as:

  • Managing finances
  • Developing budgets
  • Strengthening the quality of health care
  • Improving organizational efficiency

Medical and health services managers can supplement their credentials by earning certifications such as the Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP) or Certified Specialist Physician Practice Management (CSPPM), both credentials from the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

Fill a Role in Education or Technology

Positions in education or technology are also career options for individuals with a master’s in nursing. For example, nurses can work as nurse educators or informatics nurse specialists.

Nurse Educator

According to the ANA Enterprise, nurse educators instruct and mentor a health care organization’s new nursing staff; they can also serve as nursing school faculty members. Teaching in both informal and classroom settings, nurse educators are responsible for providing instruction on subjects such as patient care strategies or using specialized equipment.

Particularly for nurse educators in academic settings, earning certifications such as the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) or Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNEcl) from the National League of Nursing is beneficial.

Informatics Nurse Specialist

As in many other fields, informatics has entered the nursing profession. Becoming an informatics nurse specialist is among the career options for individuals who earn an MSN and also have an interest in information technology. As employment website Indeed explains, informatics nurse specialists perform responsibilities such as:

  • Planning and implementing automated systems for health care organizations
  • Communicating information about nursing practice to systems designers
  • Training nurses to use health care technology

Informatics nurse specialists can earn their Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Advancing on the Nursing Career Path

What you can do with a master’s in nursing encompasses numerous opportunities to make a lasting difference in health care. Individuals who are interested in advanced nursing can explore Norwich University’s online MSN program to learn about how the program can help them pursue their ambitions. Offering NP, health care system leadership, and nursing education concentrations, as well as post-master’s certificates, the program can position students for career advancement. Start expanding your career horizons today.


Recommended Readings

Nurse Leadership Qualities for Your Future Career

Prescriptive Authority for Nurse Practitioners

Why Become a Nurse Practitioner?



The Effectiveness of the Role of Advanced Nurse Practitioners Compared to Physician-Led or Usual Care: A Systematic Review, International Journal of Nursing Studies Advances

APRNs in the U.S., National Council of State Boards of Nursing

All About NPs, American Association of Nurse Practitioners

What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?, American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Standards of Practice for Nurse Practitioners, American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Become a CRNA, American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists Fact Sheet, American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology

Scope of Nurse Anesthesia Practice, American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology

What Is a CNS?, National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists

About the Midwifery Profession, American College of Nurse-Midwives


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