Is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Worth It?

Learn about the pros and cons, salary expectations, and career outlook of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Education

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Pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a significant step in your nursing career. However, determining whether an MSN is worth it requires careful consideration of your professional and personal goals.

If your goal is to pursue advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) roles, such as certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), certified nurse-midwife (CNM), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), and nurse practitioner (NP), then completing an MSN is undoubtedly worth it as it's required for those careers.

For those considering an MSN program, read more to learn about the pros and cons of the degree, different specializations, salary expectations, and more.

What Is an MSN?

An MSN is a 1-3 year-long graduate-level nursing degree that offers specialized training and advanced coursework in various nursing settings, allowing nurses to develop expertise in their area of preference. 

Upon completion of the MSN, graduates can progress their careers in leadership positions, research, education, or specialize in other nursing roles.

The scope of practice an MSN-educated nurse will have depends on the State they reside in, as the nursing board or licensing body should set the scope in each region. 

Enrollment in an MSN Program

To enroll in an MSN program:

  • Research accredited degrees that align with your goals. Consider factors such as program reputation, location, and specialization options.
  • Next, meet the admission requirements, typically requiring a valid RN license, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), and additional requirements.
  • Choose the type of MSN program that suits your educational background, such as direct entry, BSN to MSN, RN to MSN, or ADN to MSN.
  • Prepare application materials, including transcripts, recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose.
  • Submit your application and application fee, attend interviews if required, and await the admission decision.
  • Once accepted, review the offer, and enroll according to the program's instructions.

Remember to research and compare programs to make an informed decision that propels your nursing career forward.

Related: 10 Best Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs in 2023

Direct-Entry MSN

  • Qualifications: Designed for individuals who have a bachelor's degree in a field unrelated to nursing and want to pursue a career in nursing.
  • Duration: 2-3 years


  • Qualifications: May require candidates to hold a valid RN license and complete a BSN program. Some programs may require a minimum GPA and professional work experience.
  • Duration: 1-2 years


  • Qualifications: An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Diploma in Nursing with a valid RN license.
  • Duration: Usually takes about 3 years to complete.


  • Qualifications: Are designed for RNs who hold an ADN and have a valid RN license.
  •  Duration: Generally, it takes about 2-3 years to complete.

Prerequisites for each degree will vary, but most schools require courses in anatomy, physiology, Microbiology, statistics, and liberal arts.

MSN Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall employment for CRNAs, CNMs, and NPs is projected to grow 40% from 2021 to 2031. The demand for APRNs is expected to continue due to the aging population, the shortage of primary care providers, and the need for cost-effective care.

MSN Career Specialties

Specialization allows nurses to develop expertise and knowledge in a specific area, enabling them to provide specialized care and significantly impact their chosen field.

The following is a list of jobs that an MSN-educated nurse can obtain, depending on what area they specialize in, and what their role entails.

Nursing Specialty Job Description
Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) FNPs provide primary healthcare to individuals of all ages, from infants to the elderly, in various settings such as clinics, private practices, and community health centers.
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) AGNPs provide healthcare to adult and elderly populations, focusing on preventive care, chronic disease management, and promoting healthy aging.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) PNPs specialize in delivering healthcare services to infants, children, and adolescents. They provide wellness checks, immunizations, developmental screenings, and manage pediatric illnesses.
Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) WHNPs focus on women's reproductive health and provide care across the lifespan, including prenatal and postnatal care, family planning, gynecological exams, and menopause management.
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) PMHNPs specialize in mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals with psychiatric disorders or mental health conditions.
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) CNMs specialize in providing care to women throughout their lifespans, including prenatal, childbirth, and postpartum care. They also offer gynecological services, family planning, and reproductive healthcare. CNMs work in hospitals, birthing centers, and clinics or may even have independent practices.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) CRNAs are advanced practice nurses who administer anesthesia during surgical and medical procedures. They are crucial in managing patients' pain and monitoring vital signs throughout the procedure. CRNAs collaborate with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals in hospitals, surgical centers, and emergency settings.
Nurse Educator

MSN graduates interested in teaching and sharing their knowledge can become nurse educators. They work in academic institutions, nursing schools, and healthcare organizations, training the next generation of nurses and facilitating professional development for practicing nurses.

MSN Salary Expectations

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage of RNs is $89,010. Moreover, the average salary of an MSN is $123,780 for positions as a CNM, CRNA, and NP.


  • Mean Hourly Wage: $59.94
  • Mean Annual Wage: $124,680


  • Mean Hourly Wage: $58.87
  • Mean Annual Wage: $122,450


  • Mean Hourly Wage: $98.93
  • Mean Annual Wage: $205,770

The BLS includes CNS salaries with RNs.

Pros of an MSN

  • Expanded Career Opportunities: An MSN degree opens a wide range of advanced practice and leadership roles.
  • Increased Earning Potential: Nurses with an MSN degree generally earn higher salaries than those with a BSN.
  • Specialization and Advanced Knowledge: MSN programs offer various specialization options, allowing nurses to gain in-depth knowledge and expertise in specific areas of healthcare.
  • Autonomy and Responsibility: With an MSN degree, nurses can take on more autonomy and responsibility in patient care.
  •  Impact on Patient Outcomes: Through advanced education and specialized training, MSN-prepared nurses are equipped with the skills to improve patient outcomes, promote preventive care, and provide evidence-based practice in their respective roles.

Cons of an MSN

  • Time and Financial Commitment: Pursuing an MSN degree requires significant time and money. It may take several years to complete the program, and tuition costs can be substantial.
  • Work-Life Balance Challenges: Balancing the demands of work, family, and study can be challenging, especially for those pursuing an MSN while working full-time.
  • Licensure and Certification Requirements: Some advanced nursing roles require additional licensure or certification beyond the MSN degree. These requirements may involve passing national certification exams and fulfilling continuing education obligations.
  • Limited Flexibility in Specialization: Choosing a specialization during the MSN program can provide focus and career advancement opportunities. However, it may limit flexibility for nurses who wish to explore different practice areas or change specialties later in their careers.
  • Saturated Job Markets: While demand for advanced practice nurses is growing, specific geographic areas or specialty fields may have a saturated job market. Researching the job prospects in your desired location and specialization is essential to ensure ample opportunities.


Q: Is an MSN better than a DNP?

A: When it comes to choosing an MSN or DNP, it depends on what your career goals and plans are. The best option for nurses who want to continue working in a clinical setting with hands-on patient care should stick to completing an MSN. In contrast, nurses that would like to work in academia or research may find that the DNP option is a better fit.

Related: Nursing School Length By Degree and Program Types

Q: Can I work while I pursue an MSN?

A: Most MSN programs are full-time commitments and do not advise students to work while completing them. However, the beauty of nursing is that work schedules are flexible. If you can find a part-time or casual position, you may be able to work while completing your education.

Q: How much does an MSN program cost?

A: The MSN program cost varies depending on the program and the school. In general, the cost of the MSN program tends to be around $15000 to $60288.

Editorial Team / Admin

Julia Liou has 3 years experience as a RN and specializes in Postpartum/Public Health.

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