What Can I Do with an Advanced Nursing Degree?
While nursing is a personally rewarding career, a pay raise would make it even more rewarding, wouldn't it? According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a significant difference in annual salaries between that which a nurse holding a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and what the holder of an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) or DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) grosses. While you may be seeking an advanced nursing degree for earning potential, you may also be wondering what you can do with that advanced degree once you've achieved it. If you haven't already decided where you want that graduate degree to take you, here are some career options you might want to consider.
When asked, most nurses will tell you that the one driving force behind getting an advanced nursing degree is having that greater level of autonomy they wouldn't have with an undergrad degree. Even a nurse holding a Master of Science in Nursing has greater autonomy than an RN with a BSN, but the ultimate level of autonomy for a nurse is that much-coveted DNP degree. Whether or not you choose to become a nurse practitioner, there are many positions you could hold that wouldn't necessarily be limited to working under, or in association with, a physician.
If it's autonomy you seek and want to pursue a career as a Nurse Practitioner, it would be in your best interest to understand the regulations in your state. That information can be found by contacting your State Board of Nursing but you might find it easier to talk to an admissions counselor at the university you plan on attending. Also, that counselor can tell you if their graduate programs meet the educational requirements in your state. Leading schools such as Wilkes University that offer online studies can also advise you on how a Wilkes DNP graduate program can prepare you for that autonomy you desire within your state's regulations. Bear in mind that levels of autonomy vary from state to state.
Why the Focus on a DNP?
If autonomy and earning potential are the motivating factors in seeking an advanced degree in nursing, holding a DNP best meets both requirements. Yes, an MSN can help you meet the educational requirements to work as a nurse practitioner, you will find greater autonomy with a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Any graduate degree can offer more lucrative salaries but they might not give you that driving ambition to reach total autonomy.
However, those are only two of the main reasons why you might want to focus on graduating with a Doctor of Nursing Practice. At this point in time, it is highly recommended that you investigate the benefits of having autonomy as a Nurse Practitioner. There is an extreme shortage of physicians across the board in literally every field of healthcare. From general practice to any number of specialties, there simply aren't enough doctors to meet the current needs. That need has escalated within the past couple of years due to the pandemic which has placed a huge burden on an already overburdened profession.
A Closer Look at a Growing List of Needs
Perhaps the best way to look at what you can do with an advanced nursing degree is to consider all those needs resulting from a critical shortage in healthcare professionals. There is a growing list of needs, not least of which is in the area of providers such as physicians and nurse practitioners. Yes, there is also a severe shortage of nurses but, without a sufficient number of doctors to be working under, they would need to be autonomous. So then, one of the primary needs in healthcare to be addressed is the need for providers for a growing list of patients requiring medical care.
Another of the most pressing needs in the medical arena today is the need for well-informed providers who are up on the latest technology and advances in the field of medicine. This particular focus has always been on the forefront of healthcare but, due to the deadly nature of SARS-CoV-19, the need for advanced technology and methodology has become increasingly evident.
A Look to the Future of Medicine
Of course, the current SARS-CoV-19 epidemic can't always be a grave area of concern in healthcare, but it has raised the question of how to fill the gaps the pandemic has left in its wake. As mentioned, there was already a severe shortage of healthcare workers prior to COVID, but that shortage has turned critical. The future of medicine hinges upon filling the void which is growing by the day.
Other career options opened with an advanced degree in nursing would be:
- Nursing Instructor
- Nursing in a Specialty Field
- Hospital Administration
- Public Health Administration
- Health Policy
Most of these career options are self-explanatory but the inclusion of a health policy nurse may leave you wondering just where this career path would take you. Actually, health policy nurses work within non-profits, healthcare institutions and government on all levels. This would include local, county, state and federal levels governments and in a much-needed advisory position.
If You Think You Can - You Can!
So then, what can you do with an advanced nursing degree? It depends on what you think you might want to do with your career going forward. Do you want to teach nursing students what you have gained experientially while introducing the latest in healthcare practice and technology? Perhaps you want to pursue an advanced degree in an area of specialization you are particularly interested in.
The point is, don't be reluctant to shoot for the stars when pursuing advanced nursing degrees. Yes, a lot has changed but recognizing those changes is the first step in giving you a solid foundation in advancing your career in whatever direction you intend to travel. With the availability of online graduate programs and a need for nurses, you can be assured of job security while you study for a graduate degree. Remember, it may take a lot of hard work but, if you think you can, you can!