Why More RNs Are Pursuing an Advanced Degree Than Ever Before

Why More RNs Are Pursuing an Advanced Degree Than Ever Before

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Nursing is a rewarding career, and for many years, that is precisely what kept nurses from even considering pursuing an advanced level of education. After all, they were trained in inpatient care, and that’s just what they saw themselves doing for the rest of their working lives. However, pursuing an advanced degree in the field of nursing does not mean you will need to give up that close connection with patients and the sense of gratification you feel at the end of every day.


As a matter of fact, some higher-level graduate degrees enable you to develop an even closer connection to your patients. It actually all depends on how you envision your future. Have you ever stopped to consider what an advanced degree might mean for your ability to care for your patients, and indeed, what it might mean for your career as well?

The Greatest Obstacle Overcome

One of the main reasons many nurses didn’t pursue an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) or a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) was time and cost. In the past, nurses seeking a graduate level degree would need to physically attend classes on campus, and the cost of graduate programs was more than they could handle if it meant taking time off work. The inability to participate in on-campus courses was the most significant obstacle overcome.

The advent of online nursing programs made it possible for working nurses to study at their own pace and time at much less the cost of attending classes on campus. Without going into the many reasons why online graduate programs cost less than traditional college courses, it can be summed up in saying that, for universities, the overhead is reduced while outreach is expanded. If you are considering advancing your career with a graduate degree, it helps to know that you will not need to make significant changes in your life while pursuing an MSN or DNP.

Filling a Void in Healthcare

It is no surprise that there is a shortage of healthcare professionals across the board. Yes, there is a shortage of nurses, but there is also a shortage of literally every other profession in the field. From CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) to Specialist Physicians and everything in between, tens of thousands of positions need to be filled. In fact, globally, that number was estimated to be 65 million, many of which were in developing nations, but the pandemic has significantly added to that number.

Sadly, it’s a matter of supply and demand. Perhaps it is essential to see this in terms of what the COVID pandemic had brought about since early 2020 when the virus first reached the pandemic stage. Not only are millions of people in the United States alone seeking medical care, but healthcare workers are also being stricken with this highly contagious disease that has long-lasting consequences. In other words, there is a greater demand for healthcare services but fewer healthcare professionals to provide that which is needed.

A Desire to Excel in Your Field

Setting aside the shortage of nurses for just a moment, let’s look at why so many RNs seek a graduate degree. Have you ever noticed that the more you learn, the more you realize there is yet to master? This is one of the reasons a significant number of RNs pursue that Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. A desire to advance in their level of education isn’t always spurred by a wish to move on the professional ladder as much as it is about keeping up with the latest advances in medicine and technology. Dedicated nurses seek to offer the best patient care possible. It’s the very core of what drove them to the field of nursing in the first place.

There is nothing worse than knowing there is more you can be doing for your patients, but your level of expertise isn’t far reaching enough to give them a higher level of care. The only way to be introduced to some of these newer innovations is to further their education. With this in mind, it makes sense to begin working toward an advanced degree. Every day something new is being introduced in healthcare, and this is how nurses keep up with more unique and better ways to provide patient care in keeping with modern medicine.

A Newly Discovered Interest in a Nursing Specialty

Many nurses begin their careers with no special interest in one particular nursing field. It isn’t uncommon to find a nurse who has developed a desire to work with babies; for example, they realize that the neonatal ward would be most rewarding. However, neonatal nursing is a specialty within nursing. To have the background to work with premature babies that require special care, it is necessary to get advanced training in that field.

In fact, there are many specialties within nursing. Some of the most in-demand nursing specialties include:

  • Pediatrics
  • Geriatrics
  • Obstetrics
  • Surgical Nursing
  • Midwifery
  • Occupational Health

And, those are just examples of some of the highly specialized fields within the broader scope of nursing. If you have found that you are especially drawn to one specialty, it may just be time to consider advancing your career. As mentioned above, new advances are being introduced to healthcare by the day, so hospitals and specialists often require a nursing staff that has kept up with these advances.

A Greater Level of Autonomy

Some nurses are taking advanced levels of education because they desire a greater level of autonomy. As an RN working in the profession, you know that, for the most part, you are instrumental in diagnoses attributed to doctors, day in and day out. This is particularly the case with nurses working in hospitals. Whether the hospitalist charting a diagnosis and recommended treatment plan, a specialist, or even the patient’s doctor, they rely on your observations.

With a greater level of autonomy, such as that you would achieve as a Nurse Practitioner, you would be able to diagnose and prescribe treatments based on your extensive experience as a nurse. This is something many nurses lament over time and why they want to be the one calling the shots, no pun intended. This is another of the most common reasons why RNs pursue an advanced degree in nursing. It does give them a greater level of autonomy.

A Desire to Bring Experience to the Classroom

Most nurse educators have spent years working in the field. They may or may not have pursued a specialty, but the one unique thing they bring to the classroom is an experience in inpatient care. It’s one thing to learn a profession from a textbook but another thing altogether to have actual experience in your field. This is why it is most often a prerequisite for teaching nursing in post-secondary education.

Other professions may not have this requirement of educators, but nursing is a patient facing industry that requires years of hands-on experience. Nursing, on any level, is all about giving patients the best care possible, and this is why teachers and professors need to bring that human element into the classroom.

It Isn’t Always About Money.

So many professions seek to advance in their careers because those advancements bring along a much-desired salary hike. In nursing, that higher pay grade is excellent, but nurses often do not get that advanced degree. As mentioned above, many nurses simply want to pursue a degree that will enable them to work within a field that interests them.

As with any profession, you can expect a higher salary. This may also be the motivating force behind achieving a graduate degree in nursing. After all, who wouldn’t like an almost immediate pay rise? In, 2020 the median annual income for Registered Nurses was $75,330. Once you’ve taken that BS in Nursing to an MSN, they list the average annual income as $117,600 for specializations such as Midwifery, Nurse Practitioners, or Nurse Anesthetists.

What Is Your Bottom Line?

In the end, it’s all about your personal goals – your bottom line. You may not be after a higher salary, but that’s a nice perk, isn’t it? Perhaps you want to work in a specialty within nursing, or maybe you want to help raise up a new generation of tech savvy nurses. The way to advance in your career is to set a goal before pursuing an advanced degree.

Because you are about to embark on a whole new journey in nursing, it is essential to know what drives you. That means knowing what it is you hope to accomplish. It means having clear-cut goals. That advanced degree is just around the corner once you know which direction you are headed in, and that’s the bottom line.

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