Salaries for MSN-Educated Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) and More

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An acute physician shortage in virtually all parts of the country has been driving the demand for a larger pool of advanced clinicians skilled in health assessment, pathophysiology and pharmacology, as well as healthcare professionals in such nonclinical roles as administration, nursing education and informatics.

This has created new opportunities for RNs with their sights set on the greater autonomy, respect and earning potential that comes with earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

The Master of Science in Nursing is available with specialized areas of emphasis designed to prepare advanced clinical practitioners and nonclinical nursing professionals in several roles, all of which are associated with generous salaries:

  • Clinical Nursing Roles
    • Clinical Nurse Leaders
    • Advanced Practice Registered Nurses
      • Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)
      • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
      • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
      • Nurse practitioner (NP)
  • Non-Clinical Nursing Roles
    • Nurse Administrators
    • Nurse Informaticists
    • Nurse Educators

The Value of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Increasing Earning Potential

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce released a 2015 report, The Economic Value of Education, which details the value of earning an MSN.

The report found that nurses with graduate degrees like the MSN enjoyed a salary premium of $22,000—or 33 percent more than nurses with undergraduate degrees. It also found that college-educated nurses earned an average, annual salary of $66,000, while their graduate-prepared counterparts earned an average, annual salary of $88,000.

A similar Georgetown University report, From Hard Times to Better Times, compared the salaries of recent and experienced college graduates versus their graduate-prepared counterparts. During 2011-12, recent nursing graduates earned an average, annual salary of $50,000, while their experienced colleagues with the same degree earned an average, annual salary of $71,000. Those with graduate degrees, however, surpassed even experienced nurses with an annual, average salary of $88,000.

A September 2014 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) salary survey reflected the findings of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. According to the results of their salary survey:

  • Nurses with master’s degrees earned an average starting salary of $67,300 in 2014, an increase of 6.5 percent from the prior year.
  • Graduate-prepared nurses in the lowest 25th percentile earned $57,100 while those in the top 25th percentile earned $73,600.
  • The nursing master’s degree was among the top majors in 2014, with 19,200 new grad entrants.

Salaries for MSN-Educated Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN)

According to the 2015 National Nursing Workforce Study—a combined effort between the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers—nearly three-quarters of nurses surveyed were aware of new and emerging roles for nurses and the majority planned to seek a higher nursing degree.

In fact, the survey found that more than a third planned to pursue a master’s degree, with many considering a degree in advanced practice nursing. The National Nursing Workforce Study found that the number of nurses seeking to further their education so as to enter advanced practice shows the enormous appeal of gaining a greater level of autonomy and gaining access to opportunities to earn six-figure salaries:

Nurse Practitioners

According to a 2014 article published by the National Institute for Health Care Management, nurse practitioners provide high quality care and achieve high patient satisfaction. Combined with the fact that 20 states and the District of Columbia now grant nurse practitioners full independent practice authority and it’s no surprise that a number of studies project the NP workforce will nearly double by 2025.

A 2013 ADVANCE for NPs & PAs national salary survey revealed an average, annual salary of $98,817 for nurse practitioners in 2013, an increase from $93,082 in 2012 and $90,583 in 2011.

Recent statistics published by the Healthcare Financial Management Association found that nurse practitioners earned an even higher average salary of $107,000 in 2014-15, an increase from $106,000 in 2013-14.

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)

Clinical nurse specialists are change agents that use their clinical expertise to influence and develop policies that improve patient outcomes and the delivery of efficient healthcare.

Clinical nurse specialists ranked second on CNNMoney/Payscale’s annual list of Best Jobs in America, thanks to its median salary of $86,500 (and top tenth percentile pay of $126,000), its ten-year projected job growth of 26 percent, and its high level of job satisfaction.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)

U.S. News and World Report ranked the top jobs in the U.S. in 2016 based on a number of factors, including pay, work environment, work-life balance, and opportunities for advancement. Not surprisingly, nurse anesthetists ranked fourth on the list, boasting an annual, average salary of $158,900.

Nurse anesthetists continue to rank among the highest paid APRNs and are valued as cost-effective providers of high quality patient care. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that from 2014 to 2024 the number of nurse anesthetist jobs will increase by 19 percent nationwide.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM)

Certified nurse-midwives attended more than 320,000 births in 2013, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Their popularity continues to grow as they gain mainstream acceptance and respect as quality healthcare providers for women and newborns.

According to a 2015 Medscape Nurse Salary Report, certified nurse-midwives earned an average annual salary of $99,000. The American College of Nurse-Midwives reports that salaries for CNMs have increased nearly $10,000 since 2007.

Salaries for MSN-Educated Nurses in Non-Clinical Roles

A growing number of high-paying professional opportunities exist for MSN-prepared nurses in non-clinical areas like informatics, administration and nurse education:

Nurse Informaticists

Nurse informaticists analyze technologies to improve interprofessional collaboration, strategic planning, patient satisfaction, and patient outcomes.

According to the ADVANCE Healthcare Network for Nurses, these MSN-prepared nurses enjoy strong salaries as a result. The average, annual salary for nurse informaticists was $100,700 in 2014, an increase from $98,700 just three years prior.

Nurse Administrators

The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) conducted a survey in 2015 showing that nurse administrators consistently report a high rate of job satisfaction, advancement opportunities, and career diversity in nonclinical nursing leadership roles.

Most nurse administrators, including nurse managers and directors, earned between $80,000 and $160,000 in 2012 according to results from the 2015 AONE survey. Just 17 percent of nurse managers earned less than $80,000 during this time. The majority of nurse leaders earned similar salaries of between $80,000 and $130,000 per year, with just 14 percent earning less than $80,000.

What’s more is that more than half (58 percent) of all nurse administrators reported being awarded bonuses in addition to base salaries.

Nurse Educators

Faculty shortages at nursing schools across the country have contributed to a tremendous demand for graduates of MSN programs that emphasize nurse education. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of nurse educator jobs will increase by 35 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than most occupations.

According to the BLS, nurse educators nationwide earned an average, annual salary of $70,650, as of May 2014. Some of the top-employing industries for nurse educators during this time included:

  • Colleges/universities/professional schools
  • Junior colleges
  • Technical and trade schools
  • General medical and surgical hospitals

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