How Much Can You Earn with a Master’s Degree in Nursing?

msn working in hospital

What you can earn as a practicing nurse with a master’s degree depends on the exact type of career you seek. From your job title to the patient population you work with, there are many decisions you’ll need to make when considering a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and prospective career.

To get a better idea of the salary you might expect with an MSN, it’s important to break down the different jobs you could choose to pursue. Whether you’re interested in working with expectant mothers or taking on education or administrative roles, an advanced nursing position can provide you with a healthy salary and rewarding career.

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Jobs for Nurses with MSN Degrees

nurse graphic

If you strive to work beyond an entry-level nursing role, then earning a master’s degree could be a smart choice for your career. Most often, someone who’s interested in pursuing an MSN looks to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). APRNs are highly specialized nurses who are skilled in managing many levels of patient care, from diagnosis to treatment. When training to become an APRN, you’ll need to choose 1 of 4 recognized specialties under which to practice:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse midwife

From there, APRNs might choose to seek out additional concentrations that allow them to work with more specific populations and conditions. While this list is by no means comprehensive, these subspecialties might include:

But there are other roles for nurses holding MSN degrees as well. These might include nurse case managers, nurse administrators, nurse informaticists, and nurse educators. Keep reading to get a more detailed look at the career opportunities that could be available to those who have an MSN.

APRN – nurse practitioner (NP)

Nurse practitioners work above registered nurses (RNs) to conduct physical exams, order laboratory tests, diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication, and develop treatment plans to manage and improve a patient’s health.

Your exact responsibilities as an NP will vary depending on your state, facility, and the sub-specialty of your choosing.

Most often, the sub-specialty of an NP is focused on a particular patient population, such as women, infants, or the elderly. Some NPs work independently, while others are required to receive supervision from a doctor. 

APRN – clinical nurse specialist (CNS)

Similar to an NP, a clinical nurse specialist often provides patient diagnosis and treatment plans within their selected sub-specialty.

Unlike NPs, however, specialties tend to cover a broader range of options that may include patient population, medical setting, type of care, or specific disease.

A CNS might also take on certain administrative duties, oversee the planning of daily patient care, work with colleagues on new research, or ensure that clinical policies, protocols, and nursing regulations are being followed within the facility where they work.

APRN – certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)

From ERs to dental offices, a certified registered nurse anesthetist can find employment in a variety of medical facilities.

CRNAs administer anesthesia to patients, monitor their vital signs during procedures, and oversee their progress through recovery.

CRNAs work with a variety of populations and must have extensive knowledge on the drugs they handle and how they impact patients differently.

APRN – certified nurse midwife (CNM)

A certified nurse midwife might work independently or within a larger healthcare team.

They offer support and care throughout a woman’s pregnancy, provide assistance in the birthing process, and oversee postpartum care for both the mother and infant.

One of the most important jobs that a CNM takes on is educating their patients. Expecting mothers will have many questions, especially if they’re pregnant for the first time, and it’s the CNM’s responsibility to answer these questions professionally.

Nurse case manager

Nurse case managers are registered nurses who coordinate the overall care of patients both in and out of medical facilities. They work to connect their patients with resources that can guide them through their recovery process.

Because nurse case managers work with patients throughout their injury or illness, they often act as one of their biggest advocates, ensuring that patients receive cost-effective treatment plans and understand what’s happening throughout the entire process.

Nurse leader or administrator

Nurse leaders and administrators take on managerial roles in which they plan, direct, and monitor the delivery of healthcare.

They oversee staff hiring, scheduling, training, and development. There are a variety of leadership opportunities available for nurse administrators ranging from middle- to executive-level positions:

  • Clinical nurse leader
  • Charge nurse or nurse shift supervisor
  • Nurse manager
  • Director of nursing
  • Chief nursing officer

Nurse informaticist

If you’re interested in facilitating the efficiency of the nursing profession, but aren’t interested in direct patient contact, a career as a nurse informaticist could be for you.

Rather than providing patient care, nurse informaticists oversee the tools and processes that nurses use on a daily basis.

They work to ensure that the technological resources are functioning properly and when necessary, make adjustments, implement strategies, or introduce new software systems that increase the efficiency of healthcare.

Nurse educator

Nurse educators combine the fields of nursing and education by providing the next generation of nursing students with the knowledge they need to succeed. Although nurse educators focus on teaching, they all have hands-on experience in the field.

By using this experience, nurse educators design curriculum and class assignments to teach their students the necessary skills for the job.

Although you may find work as a nurse educator with an MSN, those who are interested in teaching at the university-level might need to earn a doctoral degree.

MSN Salary

dollar sign icons representing salary data

The career possibilities discussed above can all be achieved by earning an MSN, but the salary you might expect to earn will vary depending on the path you choose. It’s also important to note that salary information is a general guideline and not a guarantee. A wide range of factors will impact your projected earnings including:

  • Your past experience
  • Your level of seniority
  • Your chosen sub-specialty
  • The facility, state, and city in which you work

Nurse practitioner salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that NPs across the country earn an average annual wage of $107,480, or $51.68 an hour. While that may already sound like a nice chunk of change, the top 10% of NPs earn a salary of more than $145,000 per year.

NP salary by workplace

As any kind of nurse, where you work has such a dramatic impact on what you can earn that it’s worth exploring. Use the chart below to compare the salaries of NPs by setting.

Workplace TypeAverage Annual Salary
Dentist Office$117,270
General or Surgical Hospital$111,850
Outpatient Care Center$111,690
Specialty Hospital$111,100
Physicians’ Office$105,730
College, University, and Professional School$100,040

NP salary by state and city

After graduating, many nursing professionals move to locations that have the most job opportunities for their area of expertise. Although there are many factors that impact where you choose to begin or continue your career, salary can be among the most important.

For nurse practitioners, the top-paying state is California, with an average annual salary of $126,770. Following closely behind are Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

Unsurprisingly, living in a metropolitan area can also contribute to a higher salary. In and around the following 5 locations, you could expect to see wages greater than the national average:

Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
Palm Bay, FL$164,180
San Francisco, CA$151,660
Spokane, WA$150,040
Alexandria, LA$144,010
Salem, MA$142,730

Clinical nurse specialist salary

The BLS doesn’t track salary data specifically for clinical nurse specialists. However, given the similarities between the responsibilities of an NP and a CNS, you can use the nurse practitioner data as a general guideline.

Nurse anesthetist salary

If you’re looking to enter one of the highest paid nursing positions, an MSN with a focus in anesthesia could help get you there. According to the BLS, CRNAs earn an average annual salary of $169,450, or $81.47 an hour, with the top 10% making more than $200,000 per year.

While the high pay attracts many diverse professionals to the field, keep in mind that the liability for CRNAs is incredibly high, and the responsibilities should not be taken lightly. Some nurse anesthetists may need to purchase their own malpractice insurance policies, which can run thousands of dollars a year.

CRNA salary by workplace

As with all nursing positions, the setting in which you work affects the salary you might expect to earn. Use the chart below to compare average salaries by facility.

Workplace TypeAverage Annual Salary
Outpatient Care Center$194,440
General or Surgical Hospital$184,590
Specialty Hospital$178,920
Physicians’ Office$162,430
College, University, and Professional School$148,210

CRNA salary by state and city

Perhaps surprisingly, the 2 top-paying states for nurse anesthetists are Montana and Wyoming, each with an average salary of more than $250,000 a year. California comes in third, followed by Oregon and Iowa.

The following metropolitan areas each report annual average salaries of more than $200,000:

Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
San Francisco, CA$243,390
Providence, RI$238,030
San Diego, CA$237,960
Oakland, CA$230,290
Spokane, WA$227,700

Nurse midwife salary

The BLS lists the average annual salary for certified nurse midwives as $103,640, or $49.83 an hour. While, in general, these positions make less than other APRNs, they may have one of the highest rates of job satisfaction as they get to work with excited expectant mothers and help bring new life into the world.

CNM salary by workplace

The chart below compares CNM salaries by popular job setting.

Workplace TypeAverage Annual Salary
Outpatient Care Center$123,150
General or Surgical Hospital $108,840
Physicians’ Office $103,270
College, University, and Professional School $98,800
Specialty Hospital$96,190

CNM salary by state and city

As with nurse practitioners, nurse midwives might expect to earn the highest salary in California, which boasts an average annual wage of $132,480. Taking the following top-paying spots are West Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

Though data is somewhat limited, the top 5 metro areas report above the national average include:

Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
San Francisco, CA$147,820
Oakland, CA$143,400
Worcester, MA$136,390
Los Angeles, CA$129,300
Charlotte, NC$122,250

Nurse case manager salary

The BLS doesn’t accumulate data specific to nurse case management. However, RNs, which a nurse case manager must be, are reported to earn an annual average wage of $73,550, or $35.36 per hour. PayScale also supports a salary in this general range, with the average listed to be around $70,000 a year.

Nurse leader or administrator salary

Across the various managerial levels available to nurse leaders and administrators, the annual salary is listed at $111,680, or $53.69 an hour. However, keep in mind that this is a board field that encompasses a number of different positions. A charge nurse might make closer to $70,000 a year, while high-level execs like chief nursing officers could bring in $120,000, if not substantially higher.

Nurse leader or administrator salary by workplace

Detailed in the chart below, the average annual salaries for healthcare managers and administrators vary wildly depending on the facility.

Workplace TypeAverage Annual Salary
Specialty Hospital$125,730
Medial or Diagnostic Lab$121,570
General or Surgical Hospital$120,540
Physicians’ Office$105,810
Outpatient Care Center$103,460
Home Health Care Service$99,220
Nursing Care Facility$92,750

Nurse leader or administrator salary by state and city

Managers and administrators across medical services make the most in the states of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island—all with average wages about $125,000 a year.

While California as a whole didn’t make the top 5 list for highest-paying states, 2 of the 5 best-paying metro areas can be found in the state. Others across the country include:

Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
San Francisco, CA$159,250
Vallejo, CA$153,680
Long Island, NY$151,660
Boston, MA$148,930
Bridgeport, CT$146,220

Nurse informaticist salary

There’s no salary information available for nurse informaticists through the BLS. However, in 2018, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society IMSS conducted a survey of nearly 900 health IT professionals across a variety of organizations. According to their findings, the average salary across the field is $109,610 per year.

Nurse educator salary

According to the BLS, nurse educators at the postsecondary level report earning an average annual salary of $77,360, though the degree you hold will impact the salary you might expect to earn. While nurse educator positions are available to those with MSN degrees, many universities only employ nursing teachers with doctorates.

Nurse educator salary by workplace

Nurse educators can work in a wide variety of settings, not just within colleges, universities, and professional schools. The most common settings that employ nurse educators offer differing salaries.

Workplace TypeAverage Annual Salary
Specialty Hospital$96,170
General or Surgical Hospital$89,390
College, University, and Professional School$79,640
Technical and Trade School$73,070
Junior College$71,790

Nurse educator salary by state and city

With average salaries all above $80,000 a year, New York, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, and Maryland are the top-paying states for nurse educators.

The following metropolitan areas all report average annual salaries above $94,000:

Metropolitan AreaAverage Annual Salary
Washington, D.C.$125,190
Camden, NJ$105,920
New York, NY$105,180
San Francisco, CA$103,680
Atlantic City, NJ$102,190

Nurse Demand & Job Growth

With access to healthcare growing and the average lifespan generally increasing, our need for trained professionals to join the medical field is growing at a rate high above the national average for other professions. In fact, employment for APRNs—specifically NPs, CRNAs, and CNMs—is expected to experience a growth of about 31%, compared to the national average of just 7% for all occupations.

Ready to Get Started?

With plenty of opportunities to use your education in a way that can make a positive impact on the lives of others, earning a Master of Science in Nursing is one of the best ways to grow your career options and your money-making potential. Whether you’re looking to begin a career or advance to a high-level role, use the Find Schools button to discover nursing programs that can help support your goals.

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