Advanced education has become a priority for today's nurses. Whereas many nurses once did not pursue credentials beyond a diploma or associate degree of nursing (ASN), they now regularly seeks a bachelor's or master's degree, usually with the overarching goal of becoming more qualified for senior-level positions.
From ASN to BSN to MSN
In 2010, the National Academy of Medicine recommended that 80 percent of U.S. nurses have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) by 2020 (only half of nurses had a BSN at the time). Before that announcement, the transition toward a more educated nursing workforce was already well underway.
For example, the portion of first-time passers of the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) increased from only 36 percent in 2001 to more than 43 percent in 2014, according to statistics gathered by Health Affairs. Over that same period, the corresponding shares for diploma and ASN holders among NCLEX takers actually dropped.
But why stop at a BSN? Although the degree is widely recognized and serves as excellent preparation for the delivery of high-quality care, on its own it is not sufficient for many of the most prominent and rapidly growing professions in nursing. Enter the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
Why should you earn an MSN?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has published positive outlooks for most nursing fields, but few are as sunny as the one for nurse anesthetists, midwives and practitioners, who are expected to see a 31 percent expansion in employment between 2014 and 2024. That growth rate is far beyond the average for all professions.
These nurses are sometimes categorized as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). They have MSNs, which provide the necessary background in anatomy, pharmacology and other sciences as well as clinical practices and concepts. They also possess RN licensure.
The credentials of a practicing APRN open the doors to leadership roles, especially now that physicians are in short supply across the U.S. In many states, it is legal for nurse practitioners to diagnose, treat and prescribe medications to patients, making them de facto doctors.
With the MD shortage expected to be as high as 104,900 by 2030 – according to an IHS Markit report prepared for the Association of American Medical Colleges – nurse practitioners will be in high demand. Even the combination of BSN and an MSN offers a more straightforward path to a top-tier healthcare career than the many years that would have to be spent in medical school and residencies to be a traditional physician.
"Nurse practitioners will be in high demand in the coming years."
In this context, it's easy to see why APRN positions are growing so rapidly in the BLS projections. Earning an MSN is an essential step on the journey to generally stable and high-paying jobs.
Earn your MSN at a Gwynedd Mercy University
Gwynedd Mercy University offers a comprehensive set of degree options for nurses. From our online RN-to-BSN completion track to our specialized MSN programs, we help you get the credentials you need to pursue the positions you want.
Our MSN options include specializations for nurse practitioners ( adult gerontology or pediatrics), nurse educators and clinical nurse specialists (adult gerontology). You must be a registered, licensed nurse to be admitted to these programs, which will provide extensive background in research, core courses and 500 hours of practice.
Visit the main nursing page today for an overview of the available paths. From there, you can also contact a counselor for additional information on the MSN and other programs.