Career Tips

The diverse career opportunities available to MSN graduates

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Education is an important part of life for most people and can help us learn the skills needed to navigate daily life. It is also crucial for helping us achieve our career goals and this is certainly true for anyone who is thinking of becoming a nurse. As you can imagine, it is only possible to work as a registered nurse in healthcare once you have obtained the relevant qualifications. This serves to protect patient safety and means nurses have the right knowledge to deliver the best care.

Education plays a pivotal role when qualified nurses are looking to progress in their careers. By pursuing additional education in the form of postgraduate degrees, working nurses are able to pick up advanced skills and new qualifications to expand their career horizons.

In this article, we review how nurses can access this kind of education and the diverse career opportunities that postgraduate degrees provide.

How do nurses obtain a postgraduate degree for career growth?

Postgraduate degrees are advanced courses which qualified nurses can study after they have already earned their bachelor’s degree in nursing. The best way to obtain a postgraduate degree in the sector is to look for universities that deliver excellent graduate outcomes, high-caliber teaching and postgraduate programs that give your career a real boost.

BSN to MSN programs are a popular choice with this in mind and the Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Practitioner online course available through reputable institutions such as Wilkes University illustrate why. Covering topics such as advanced nursing research, health policy and politics, and diagnostic reasoning, this program provides the skills and knowledge to advance any nurse’s career. Providing a choice of concentrations, nurses can choose to specialize as a family, adult-gerontology primary care or psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner. A qualification like this one opens a whole new world of exciting opportunities in the industry.

What career opportunities can a postgraduate degree in nursing provide?

Although we have looked at how to gain a postgraduate degree in nursing and noted how it can help to open up exciting new career progressions, looking in more detail at some specific roles it could make available is worthwhile. This not only shows people looking to further their nursing education what is possible in career terms afterwards, but also helps them to start thinking about where they will head next.

Below are some of the most interesting roles that obtaining a postgraduate degree in nursing can make possible:

Family nurse practitioner

One of the main types of roles a postgraduate degree in nursing can lead to involves specialized practice areas. As the name implies, these roles are focused on specific niches within nursing where expert knowledge is required. These roles can also involve more responsibility and autonomy, which is why higher-level education is needed to access them.

The role of family nurse practitioner (FNP) is a good example and a popular career progression for postgraduate students in nursing. This role involves providing direct primary care to patients of all ages in hospitals, private clinics and community health centers.

Common tasks for FNPs to carry out each day include patient assessments, ordering and analyzing diagnostic tests, prescribing medications and helping patients to manage ongoing medical conditions. This is a good role to think about moving into if you like caring for entire families and enjoy following a patient’s medical journey throughout their life. It is also a role that can provide competitive salaries and a good level of autonomy in some states.

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner

This is another specialized role in nursing that relevant postgraduate degrees can open up, and it is in more demand than ever in the modern age. This becomes clear when you learn that 1 in 5 US adults experience mental health issues every year and this figure is expected to rise.

People in this role are crucial for providing expert help to patients who are suffering from conditions such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse. It is a wise career move if you enjoy helping people who are at their lowest and if you take satisfaction from seeing a patient you have supported overcome their problems.

As there is a large element of cross-team work in this role, it is also ideal if you like collaborating with colleagues within healthcare. Common tasks for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners include conducting mental health assessments, diagnosing mental health illnesses, creating treatment plans and coordinating services with other healthcare departments.

Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner

Although an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) is often believed to focus only on elderly patients, the role can provide medical assistance to those aged 13 and over. The main goal of primary care in adult gerontology is improving patients’ overall health and preventing illness.

Much of this role involves educating patients on living healthier and managing any ongoing conditions. As this type of nursing role does involve its fair share of older patients, the management of ongoing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can make up much of the work. Nurses in this advanced role also conduct wellness visits, refer patients to specialists where needed, update medical histories and order diagnostic tests.

This specialized nursing role is a good one to target for those who enjoy working with older patients and having an impact on their overall health. With an aging population to look after, this is also a role that is in high demand and offers good career prospects. If you want to move into this position, gaining a postgraduate degree is one of the best career tips to follow.

Nurse informatics officer

Specialized roles that can become available to nurses with postgraduate degrees are not only confined to the nurse practitioner niche. Although these might be some of the most popular, there are other career options on the table.

One of the more interesting to consider moving into is the role of a nursing informatics officer. This role involves analyzing electronic healthcare data to improve patient care levels. Nurses who move into this role must be savvy with the latest technologies and IT systems used in nursing.

If you enjoy working with data and computers, then it is a good career option to consider. With the increasing adoption of data analysis and technology within nursing, this is also a role that is likely to experience increasing demand in the future.

Certified nurse midwife

Another specialized role open to those with qualifications such as a Master’s in Nursing is certified nurse midwife (CNM). This position is ideal if you enjoy helping women navigate pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period successfully. CNMs provide independent primary care provision in this area and help women of all ages.

This advanced nursing position can also involve giving female patients advice around family planning and provide gynecological services. This can be a very satisfying advanced career choice for nurses, especially when you follow a patient all the way through a safe pregnancy. It also offers the chance to work as part of a close team in maternity units and the chance for continued professional development.

Nurse educator

Although specialized practice roles such as those above are great career options once a postgraduate nursing degree has been obtained, academic positions are also worth considering. For nurses who have earned their MSN, making the move from a clinical setting to academia might be tempting.

One role that stands out with this in mind is nurse educator. This career choice involves working in an educational institution to train the next generation of nurses. Common duties include conducting classes, holding seminars, creating lesson plans, marking coursework and attending departmental meetings.

Along with a competitive salary and the chance to work in a more relaxed setting, this role also has the benefit of office hours and a decent amount of annual leave each year. Many nurse educators find the best thing about the role is the chance to pass their knowledge on and inspire the next generation of nurses.

Nurse researcher

If conducting classes and dealing directly with students is not your thing but you are still interested in moving into academia in your nursing career, the role of a nurse researcher is an interesting option to consider. Offering the same chance to work in an academic setting with office hours, it involves nurses using their knowledge to research new developments in the sector.

Nurse researchers can assist in the creation of new medications, new treatments and better patient care. If you have a desire to leave a legacy in nursing and make a real impact on how it develops, the role of a nurse researcher is a good option to consider.

Specific tasks within this role include preparing research studies, conducting research trials, writing academic papers for publication and keeping up to date with the latest news in nursing.

Clinical nurse leader

Studying for a Master of Science in Nursing is also a great way to access leadership roles in the sector post-graduation. These kinds of positions are normally out of reach for those who do not have an advanced degree on their resume, and this means postgraduate degrees are the best way to access them.

The leadership role of a clinical nurse leader is a very good example of this and represents an exciting way to advance your career. In addition to providing effective leadership for nursing teams, this role also focuses on risk assessment, quality of care, implementation of best nursing practices and care coordination.

Clinical nurse leaders also provide pastoral support for their team and attend meetings when necessary. This is a good career option if you like leading people and enjoy the fast-paced nature that taking charge in a clinical setting involves.

Nurse administrator

Another interesting career opportunity for postgraduate-educated nurses to consider is the role of a nurse administrator. This role is ideal if you enjoy working in admin and have a real eye for detail. It is also a good option if you enjoy working with a range of people and like supervising staff.

Nurse administrators typically ensure all relevant regulations and policies are followed within a facility. The role can also include conducting performance reviews, developing training programs and other non-clinical tasks.

This is a very important role within all healthcare settings and is not only in-demand but also means you have real freedom in where you can work. It is a non-clinical role, which is ideal if you want to step away from the front line of primary care.

Director of nursing

If moving into a leadership role in nursing is your ultimate career goal, gaining a postgraduate degree can open up Director of Nursing jobs to you. This is one of the top leadership positions in the sector and includes high status and the chance to really affect how nursing is managed in your facility on a wider scale. As an executive position, it is also a good choice if you wish to move away from front-line nursing and spend more of your time in the office.

As you might expect, the main responsibility of this role is to oversee all nursing operations in a medical facility. This can involve hiring new staff, designing new processes to deliver better care, managing budgets, strategic planning around nursing goals in a facility and attending high-level meetings with other executives.

Career opportunities for nurses with postgraduate degrees

Although the above sets out only a few of the possibilities available to nurses with a postgraduate qualification, it shows how impactful further study can be for career progression in the sector. This is especially true for registered nurses who might be ready to move on in their professional life and make that next career step.

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