How Much Can You Earn with a Master’s Degree in Nursing?
Earning your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can help you advance your nursing career by opening the door to higher-paying jobs. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many nursing roles that require an MSN—such as Nurse Anesthetists—have an average annual salary of well over $100,000. This is a considerable increase over Registered Nurse salaries—an average $77,460 per year—that typically require a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
MSN degrees can prepare you for a variety of roles, from highly specialized jobs like certified nurse midwife to more general administrative roles like clinical nurse leader. An MSN can also prepare you to work with your broader community in roles such as public health nurses, advocating for policies that make your community healthier.
Regardless of the path you take, an MSN is a smart choice when you’re ready to take your nursing career to the next level. Plus, you can expect to be rewarded with a higher earning potential. An authored 2019 compensation report compiled for Medscape, a medical information site, found that the jump from a BSN to an MSN brings an approximate 9% increase in earnings.
Aside from the ability to command a larger salary, earning your MSN can also be a great way to build career stability, according to Michelle Paul, RN, BSN, a content specialist at Clipboard Health, a nurse staffing agency.
“Many nurses working in an MSN position are working jobs with low turnover rates, meaning they stay in those positions longer,” says Paul.
What’s the Highest Earning Potential?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average annual salaries of jobs that require a Master of Science in Nursing. Check out the chart below for a fast look at a few of those jobs and their corresponding salaries, then keep reading for an in-depth look at some of these and other exciting—and potentially lucrative—roles.
Even with an MSN, your salary can vary widely. A nurse anesthetist, for example, can make upwards of $180,000 per year, while a certified nurse educator teaching at a college or university may make around $80,000.
Of course, what you earn depends on other factors as well, including your work environment and where you live.
Your Salary Depends on Which Career Path You Take
Nurses who go on to earn their master’s degree can hold a number of high-level nursing jobs. Some pay more than others, but the majority generally offer six-figure salaries.
Most MSN-level jobs fall into one of three categories:
Below is a sampling of MSN-level jobs and their average annual salaries in each of these three categories.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Salaries
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are nurses who are specially trained for high-level roles, such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists. Nurses in these roles are in high demand and command upper-level salaries to go with them.
To note, some advanced nursing careers are also changing requirements to practice. Nurse anesthetist and CNS roles are upgrading to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from an MSN over the coming decade, so your education path will be as commanding as the salary you earn.
All Clinical Nurse Specialists will need to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) for entry into the field beginning in 2030, while Nurse Anesthetists will need a DNP beginning in 2025.
Popular APRN nursing jobs include:
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Job Recap: Nurse anesthetists are advanced nurse practitioners who are responsible for administering general anesthesia for surgeries and medical procedures. As a nurse anesthetist, you’ll work with surgeons, dentists, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare practitioners to monitor patient vital signs during anesthesia and oversee patient recovery. You’ll have the option of working in a variety of healthcare environments, from hospitals and surgeons’ practices to military, veteran, and maternity care units.
Salary: As a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), you can expect to earn an annual average salary of $181,040, according to the BLS, depending on your work environment and location.
Degree Path: In order to become a CRNA, you’ll need to earn your MSN in Nurse Anesthesia. New standards being implemented by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), however, will require that all CRNAs earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) beginning in 2025. Because of this, you’ll want to check with your program and prospective employers to see what degree qualifications you’ll need if you’re beginning your educational path now.
Certified Nurse Practitioner
Job Recap: Certified nurse practitioners (CNP) are mid-level practitioner RNs: nurses with less training than a physician but more than an RN with a bachelor’s degree. CNPs can work independently—they can diagnose patients, manage treatment, and prescribe medication—or as part of a comprehensive healthcare team to diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medication, and interpret diagnostic and laboratory testing. Depending on state regulations, CNPs may work in private practice or under the supervision of physicians. As a CNP, you’ll assess patient needs, formulate treatment plans, and promote disease prevention within the community.
Salary: According to 2019 BLS data, CNPs can expect to earn an average annual salary of $111,840.
Degree Path: A master’s degree is enough to become a CNP, but earning your doctorate can open more doors for career advancement and a higher salary. Twenty-two states plus the District of Columbia grant NPs full-practice authority, which allows them to work independently, under the regulatory oversight of the state’s nursing board.
Certified Nurse Midwife
Job Recap: Certified nurse midwives (CNM) work independently or as part of a healthcare team to coordinate all aspects of the birthing process, from gynecological and prenatal care through delivery, family planning, and postpartum wellness care. CNMs may work as part of a team with OB/GYNs, physicians, and hospital staff to deliver babies safely and naturally and monitor newborns and their mothers after childbirth. As a CNM, you may also provide general aspects of women’s healthcare, including assisting with routine OB/GYN checkups.
Salary: BLS data shows the average annual salary for a CNM is $108,810.
Degree Path: CNMs working in the United States need to earn at least an MSN with a focus in Nurse-Midwifery. Passing the American Midwifery Certification Board’s Certified Nurse Midwife exam can also expand your opportunities since you’ll be licensed to practice in all 50 states and American territories.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Job Recap: CNSs are leadership-oriented nurses who may work as direct care providers or in a variety of healthcare settings to treat and manage conditions within a specific specialization such as oncology, gerontology, or pediatrics. As a CNS, you’ll use your knowledge of diseases and treatments to diagnose patients and formulate both patient-specific and population-based treatment programs. You may also work with pharmacists to prescribe medications or serve as patient advocates in healthcare settings.
Salary: The BLS groups clinical nurse specialist salaries with registered nurse salaries. RN pay ranges from an average of $77,460 a year to the top 10% earning $111,220.
Degree Path: While a master’s is currently sufficient, new regulations by the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists call for all CNSs to earn a DNP for entry into the field beginning in 2030. Earning additional training in specialties like population, setting, or disease subspecialties can help you advance your career and earn more annually.
MSN Generalist Salaries
Generalist roles allow you to work directly with patients, but with a broader scope of practice than a BSN allows. As a nurse with a master’s degree, you can take on more responsibilities and work more independently. You can also take on leadership roles, guiding other nurses in your unit as they care for patients. If you want to increase your clinical skills and take on more responsibility, a generalist role might be what you’re looking for.
Clinical Nurse Leader
Job Recap: The clinical nurse leader is a fairly new role developed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in collaboration with an array of leaders from the practice environment. CNLs are highly skilled nurses who work with healthcare team members to improve the safety and quality of patient outcomes. Nurses working in this field can expect to work collaboratively with doctors, nursing staff, EMTs, and pharmacists to continually challenge and improve healthcare processes and systems in a variety of care environments. As a clinical nurse leader, you’ll operate as a liaison between healthcare team members to implement long-term solutions for patient care.
Salary: According to BLS data from 2018, clinical nurse leaders, which fall under “other health service managers,” can expect to earn an average annual salary of $113,730, with the top 10% of CNLs commanding as much as $182,600 per year. Your salary will depend on factors like higher education credentials, employer, and years of experience in the field.
Degree Path: You’ll need to earn your MSN degree, then pass the AACN’s Clinical Nurse Leader certification examination before you can begin work as a clinical nurse leader.
Non-Clinical MSN Specialist Jobs and Salaries
There are plenty of behind-the-scenes and leadership-type jobs for nurses with a master’s degree that don’t involve working directly with patients in a clinical setting. In these positions, you’ll work to train and educate aspiring nurses or help guide caregivers from an administrative standpoint. If you want to use your nursing skills and MSN education to make changes in your facility or community, a non-clinical role could be a good fit for you.
Certified Nurse Educator
Job Recap: Certified nurse educators (CNE) are advanced nursing educators who focus on training healthcare workers on topics related to a specific healthcare focus or area of nursing specialty. CNEs may work in college classroom settings or in a variety of healthcare settings to train workers and help implement evidence-based practices within the nursing profession. As a CNE, you may serve as a staff development officer, administrative nurse faculty member, or continuing education specialist, depending on your experience, qualifications, and work environment. You may be asked to play a leadership role within your healthcare academic community, speak at nursing conferences, or participate in grant writing and peer review processes.
Salary: The BLS reports that CNEs and other postsecondary nursing instructors can expect to earn an annual salary of around $83,000, although that number can vary widely depending on where you work. CNEs in hospitals and medical/surgical units may earn a salary as high as $121,000, for example, while educators at colleges and universities can expect a lower salary—around $83,000.
Degree Path: You’ll need your MSN degree with a focus in Nursing Education. You may be able to advance your career if you earn your nurse educator certificate through the National League for Nursing.
Executive Nurse Leader
Job Recap: Executive nurse leaders (ENL) work as business executives at healthcare and nursing organizations, taking on leadership and communication roles related to the spectrum of patient care. ENLs encourage collaboration among healthcare staff and work to develop shared operational visions at their healthcare facility. As an ENL, you’ll facilitate conflict resolution in your work environment, train incoming healthcare staff, and build relationships with other healthcare administrators and practitioners in your community.
Salary: According to the BLS, executive nurse leaders and other health service managers can expect to earn an average annual salary of $113,730. The top 10% of workers in this field can command salaries as high as $182,600 per year. Since salary data in this field is not broken down by employer type, you’ll want to contact prospective employers or consult with colleges in your field to see what you can expect to earn in different work environments.
Degree Path: In order to become an executive nurse leader, you’ll need to earn your Master of Science in Nursing degree with a Nurse Executive Leader concentration. You can also earn additional credentials through the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, like your Certified in Executive Nursing Practice certificate, which can show employers that you are recognized as an executive in the health care community.
Job Recap: Genetics nurses work with patients who have been diagnosed with—or are seeking information about—a genetic condition. In this role, you’ll perform genetic screenings on patients who want genetic testing before trying to conceive a child and counsel patients about the risks of their inherited genes. For example, patients might seek the guidance of a genetics nurse if there has been a history of cancer in their family. The genetics nurse can help them assess their risk and make a plan to lower that risk.
Salary: Genetics nurses with an MSN are known as advanced practice nurses in genetics (APNG). The BLS doesn’t track data for genetics nurses specifically, though it does group them in with their RN salary average figure ($77,460). Data for the similar field of genetic counselors shows that they made an average annual wage of $81,880 as of 2019. Genetics counselors who work in medical laboratories make the most, earning an average of $94,290 in 2019.
Degree Path: While an RN can become a genetics nurse with a BSN degree, their job prospects are typically limited to work in a genetics lab or cancer center. MSN degree holders will find that that a master’s degree will give them a more in-depth education in the complex and growing field of genetics, earn the APNG credential—and open the door for a higher salary.
Job Recap: Nurse administrators are leaders in their fields. As a nurse administrator, you’ll manage staff, oversee budgets, and implement policies. You’ll also be responsible for communication between the nursing department and other departments in your facility. Nurse administrator job titles include clinical nurse leader, director of nursing, and chief nursing officer.
Salary: The BLS doesn’t track data for nurse administrators, but data shows that all medical and health services managers earn an average of $115,160. This depends on the type of administrative role you hold, however. Online sources report that chief nursing officers, for example, may see around a 5% salary bump.
Degree Path: After obtaining a master’s program, a nurse administrator must be certified as a Nurse Executive through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Nurse Informatics Specialist
Job Recap: Nursing informatics is a blend of nursing and computer science. If you’re good with technology and enjoy working with systems like electronic medical records (EMR), you might enjoy working in nurse informatics. Nursing informaticists work to implement new systems to make care more efficient. They also often teach nursing and other staff on how to use new technology or programs. According to a 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the majority of nurse informatics specialists—around 68%—work for hospitals or health systems.
Salary: Earnings for this field are comparable to computer systems analysts, which average $96,160 per year, according to the BLS. While nurses with lower-level degrees can work as nurse informaticists, their salary will not be nearly as high as those who hold an MSN or higher.
Degree Path: After you get your MSN, you can earn certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). In fact, the ANCC’s Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC) is often required by employers. While nurses with BSN and ADN degrees can work as nurse informaticists, their salary will not be nearly as high as those who hold an MSN or higher.
Public Health Nurse
Job Recap: Public health nurses focus their efforts on the health and wellness of their community. They work to educate people on health issues and safety concerns. They might host community workshops or work to encourage communities to adopt policies that benefit public health. For example, public health nurses might teach the dangers of not wearing a seat belt, or on the importance of quitting smoking. They can also provide direct health services by setting up screenings for common health issues such as high blood pressure. As a public health nurse who has earned an MSN, you can also take on community leadership roles; perhaps working with your local government to educate officials on policies that encourage public health, or advocate for positive changes in your community.
Salary: The BLS doesn’t track data for public health nurses. However, as a public health nurse with an MSN, you can expect your salary to be similar to nurse practitioners. The BLS reports that nurse practitioners make an average of $115,800 per year.
Degree Path: While entry-level public health nurse jobs require only a BSN, many public health nurses will complete an MSN with an emphasis on public health; especially if they are interested in leadership roles or research.
Your Salary Depends on Where You Work
One of the biggest draws of a nursing degree is the wide availability of jobs. With a master’s, your door to a fulfilling and lucrative career opens even wider. Below is a sampling of a few MSN-level careers along with the types of places you’ll be able to work—and the salaries you can earn.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Some of the most common work environments and salaries for CRNAs include:
Certified Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners work in a variety of environments—and their pay varies:
Certified Nurse Midwife
Some of the most common work environments and annual salaries for midwives include:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Registered Nurse figures, 2019
Your Salary Depends on Where You Live
As with any job, where you live often depends on how much money you will make. This is true for advanced level nurses as well. Check out the range in salaries according to geography for a few of the most popular MSN-level careers.
The Top Paying States for Nurse Anesthetists are:
The Top Paying States for Nurse Practitioners are:
The Top Paying States for Nurse Midwives are:
Can I Earn Even More with Joint Degrees?
Joint degrees blend your MSN with a degree in another field. Many universities offer them as joint programs. Using your joint degree can help you gain leadership roles and apply your nursing skills in a new way. Some common joint options include:
Joint MSN/MPH (MSN with Master of Public Health)
What is it? A joint Master of Public Health/Master of Science in Nursing (MPH-MSN) dual degree lets you build your knowledge of public health along with your clinical nursing skills.
What can I earn? You can gain a role in healthcare management with this degree. BLS data reports that healthcare managers earn an average annual salary of $113,730.
Is it for you? The MPH-MSN dual degree is designed for nurses who wish to enhance their knowledge and skills in public health, as well as their clinical expertise. Your program will likely focus on leadership and management, but also help you gain knowledge of the health concerns of specific populations. You might take courses specifically on health issues for limited income women, for example.
Joint MSN/MBA (MSN with a Master of Business Administration—often called the Nurse Executive Program)
What is it? An MSN/MBA program allows you to earn an MBA alongside your MSN. You can use this joint degree to help manage the daily operations, long term planning, or even publicity of a health care organization.
What can I earn? Most people who earn this joint degree take on a healthcare executive role. Healthcare executives make an average of $100,980 per year, according to the BLS, but that can be considerable higher depending on the size of the hospital or agency, as well as years of experience and your geographical location.
Is it for you? Earning this joint degree will prepare you for nursing leadership roles, such as nurse executives or nurse administrators.
Joint MSN/MHA (MSN with Master of Healthcare Administration)
What is it? Earning a Master of Healthcare Administration alongside your MSN can prepare you for roles such as director of nursing or healthcare manager. You’ll gain in-depth knowledge of healthcare administration with this degree, including legal, financial, and ethical concerns.
What can I earn? Generally, the BLS classifies nursing leadership roles under medical and health services managers. In 2019, professionals in these roles earned an average of $113,730.
Is it for you? You can use this knowledge in nursing leadership roles, managing staff, implementing policies, and more.
Does it Matter How an MSN is Earned?
Similarly, it doesn’t matter if your program was completed as a two-year traditional MSN or a bridge program—that won’t affect your pay.
What are the Opportunities to Increase My Earnings?
As outlined above, the leap from your RN license to earning your MSN is usually worth it financially.
If you’ve earned your MSN and have been working as an advanced practice nurse for a while, you may want to consider a doctorate. A DNP will prepare you for executive and managerial level leadership roles. An aging population and growing global health issues mean more nurses with advanced degrees will be needed. A jump from a master’s degree to a doctorate could mean additional earnings per year.
If you’re happy with your master’s degree but still looking for a bump in pay, consider adding some specialty certifications to your resume. You’ll be more attractive to employers and will be able to command a higher salary.
There’s Always Overtime
Opportunities for nurses to work overtime are plentiful across the board. A 2019 Medscape APRN Compensation Report shows that 46% of APRNs worked some amount of overtime. About half worked between one and five hours each week, while 14% regularly worked more than 10 hours of overtime weekly.
The overtime was entirely voluntary for 60% of APRNs, according to the report, but will definitely make an impact on your take-home pay. Just be mindful of managing potential burnout. It’s your job, but you want to make sure you have a life, too.