Nursing Career Advancement: Exploring Your Options
In the field of healthcare, you can begin working in a variety of entry-level positions as a nursing professional with just a bachelor’s degree and appropriate state licensure. However, at some point during your career you may decide that you want to return to school.
Earning an advanced nursing degree can come with many benefits and can allow you to pursue higher-level positions within a healthcare organization and teach you leadership skills and specialized knowledge in the nursing field. Keep reading to learn about why you should advance your nursing career and how to earn your advanced nursing degree.
Why Should You Advance Your Nursing Career?
Perhaps you've already earned your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and are a registered nurse (RN). However, now that you have experience in the nursing field, maybe you want to explore your options for advancing your nursing career.
There are many reasons to advance your nursing career. You may want to advance your role, aiming for a leadership position in the field. Or you may want to increase your salary, looking for a way to receive higher compensation for your work. Whatever your ultimate goal may be, advancing your nursing career can come with many benefits, including the following:
Earned Nursing Leadership Position
If you are considering advancing your nursing career, this most likely means that you are ready to put in the work toward your professional development and pursue a nursing leadership position or a specialized position.
For example, an RN could go on to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), which has opportunities for nursing leadership and specialization. There are four specializations of APRNs:
- Certified nurse practitioner
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Certified nurse midwife
- Certified registered nurse anesthetist
Additionally, as an APRN you can choose to specialize further if you feel called to work with a specific patient population or in a specific setting, such as pediatrics or mental health. You could also choose to pursue a management or executive nursing leadership role, such as a nurse manager or nurse educator.
Another common reason nurses choose to advance their career is for the increased salary. As of May 2021, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners have a median annual wage of $123,780, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 By comparison, registered nurses have a median annual wage of $75,330 as of May 2020.2
While earning potential can vary based on your healthcare organization and your specialty, higher positions such as that of a nurse practitioner generally see a larger compensation than a role such as an RN. These roles are tasked with greater responsibility, which is reflected in the salary.
Advanced Nursing Skills and Knowledge
By advancing your nursing career, you will learn valuable skills and knowledge that can help you reach professional success. Graduate degree programs teach students in-depth nursing knowledge. Some of these topics include:
- Leadership, policy and advocacy
- Systems, safety and quality
- Health promotion and disease prevention
- Analytical foundations for practice, ethics and professional role
- Translation research and population health
In addition to advancing your nursing knowledge, you will also learn about evidence-based theories and put those theories into practice in order to advance the field and improve patient care and outcomes for all organizations.
High Job Satisfaction
In a leadership position that comes with more responsibilities, you will likely find high job satisfaction. You can truly find your calling serving a specific patient population as a specialized APRN, for example. Setting a goal of reaching that higher-level position and achieving it can help you to feel a sense of personal and professional accomplishment from knowing that you are doing what you love and helping people while you do it.
You could also find satisfaction in a management or educator position. As a leader in your field, you will be teaching aspiring nurses to provide high-quality patient care and acting as a role model. Knowing that you are making a difference not only in the lives of patients but in the lives of your co-workers can also help you find a sense of satisfaction and success.
How To Advance Your Nursing Career
While there are several ways to advance your nursing career, one of the most popular paths is to return to school and earn an advanced nursing degree. If you already possess a BSN degree, earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree would be a beneficial next step. Additionally, there are many options within an MSN degree program if you decide early on what specialty you would like to pursue.
For example, if you decide that you want to pursue career advancement in public health and disease prevention, you could earn an MSN in Public Health. Public health nursing is the practice of identifying and assessing health issues that impact various groups and populations within a community. In this role, while you may not directly provide patient care, you can make a difference knowing that you are working to better the health of entire communities as a public health nurse.
This degree can help you expand your foundational nursing knowledge and additionally advance your knowledge into the specialization that you want to pursue. So, before choosing an MSN degree program, make sure you look into all your options and choose the program that you think would best help you to achieve your personal and professional goals.
Many advanced nursing roles require at least an MSN degree, and some even require a doctoral degree. For nursing, this would be either a PhD in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Perhaps, you also consider earning a doctor of education degree such as EdD Degree in Healthcare Administration where you will be equipped to work in a variety of settings. Earning a doctoral degree can help you reach the top of your field professionally.
Careers for Those With an Advanced Nursing Degree
After earning an advanced nursing degree, there are many career paths you could pursue. A popular path is that of an APRN, especially if you are interested in direct patient care. However, there are many other careers that need highly qualified nursing professionals, including the following:
The role of a nurse executive is a high-level leadership position that many nurses strive toward. These professionals are administrators and managers who collaborate with other nursing professionals to ensure a healthcare organization runs smoothly and efficiently. Some specific tasks include:
- Developing and managing a hospital’s budget
- Creating healthcare policies
- Designing and managing standards of patient care
- Connecting professionals to educational resources as needed
Nursing Care Coordinator
A nursing care coordinator is a role that focuses on patient care and quality of care. However, instead of directly providing care, these professionals collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure a seamless continuity of care as patients transition between environments.
For example, a nursing care coordinator would ensure that a patient receives correct care after being transferred to a different hospital or long-term care facility. Alternatively, a patient may be discharged to complete their recovery at home. No matter the environment, a nursing care coordinator is responsible for ensuring that the patient receives the care and support they need.
Another career you could pursue as a highly qualified nursing professional is that of a nursing educator. These professionals work in an academic or clinical setting teaching aspiring nurses. As a nurse educator, you will find yourself designing curriculum, grading papers, delivering classroom, lab, or clinical instruction and acting as a role model to your students. In fact, some universities offer specialized nursing educational leadership degrees tailored to this career path.
Grand Canyon University aims to provide an exceptional academic experience for every student. If you would like more information about GCU’s healthcare and nursing degrees, including the Master of Science in Nursing with an emphasis in Public Health, visit GCU’s College of Nursing and Healthcare Professions or click on the Request More Information button at the top of this page.
1The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners as of May 2021. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, and accept employment from, determines salary not only based on education, but also individual characteristics and skills and fit to that organization (among other categories) against a pool of candidates.
2The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), Registered Nurses as of May 2020. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Registered Nurses. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.
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