If you have an undergraduate degree in nursing or will soon graduate with one, you may be ready to think about earning your master’s of science in nursing (MSN). It takes a little less than 2 years of full-time study to earn an MSN. MSN graduates enjoy a variety of advantages, which include the following points.

1. Increased Specialization

While undergraduate nursing degrees are adequate for general nursing jobs, obtaining a master’s of science in nursing give you the ability to work in leadership positions. You may work as an educator or in an executive position for a health organization. A master’s degree is required to work as a clinical nurse specialist, a nurse practitioner or a nurse midwife. Some MSN graduates may contribute in other ways such as writing textbooks and other books about nursing. Overall, the main job of a nurse with an MSN is to lead and educate people instead of simply caring for them.

2. Larger Salary

According to Jacksonville University, a nurse that has acquired a master’s of science in nursing can earn a much higher salary than a nurse with a BSN degree. Many MSN graduates become nursing directors in health care facilities. For nursing directors, the BLS reported an average annual salary higher than $115,000. Some graduates become educators in universities or hospitals. For educators, the average annual salary is closer to $80,000 but can exceed $100,000 in specialty hospitals. For students who are worried about accruing large loan balances during a master’s program, the MSN degree is a good choice because of more job opportunities after graduation and higher salary averages.

3. Higher Demand

Since there is a shortage of doctors across the country, the demand for nurse practitioners and nurses with higher degrees is growing. Nurse practitioners are able to conduct basic checkups and routine exams or procedures, which makes it possible for physicians to address complex matters in busy health facilities. Although this may sound like hard work for nurses and aspiring nurse practitioners, the good news is that experts in several influential health organizations are pushing for similar pay scales for nurse practitioners and doctors.

4. Better Marketability

Some positions may require either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in nursing (please see: What Can I Do With a Masters Degree in Nursing?). These jobs are often ideal for recent graduates. However, most companies are more likely to hire a candidate who has recently earned a master’s of science in nursing than one who has recently earned their bachelor’s of science in nursing. MSN graduates make the company’s profile look better and give them a candidate with a wider range of capabilities. For this reason, recent graduates of MSN programs may be hired over BSN graduates who already have some work experience. With a master’s degree, you also have a better chance of your resume being noticed when there are many applicants for a job.

5. Easier Process

Earning a master’s degree is easier than it was in the past. Students used to have to study only on campus and adhere to strict schedules. Many classes in a master’s program are completed online today. Students have more flexibility in their schedules. However, MSN students must also complete some hands-on activities, which are supervised by instructors or approved health professionals in health care facilities. If you already have a job, you may also qualify for tuition reimbursement or special tuition payment programs offered by your current employer.

If you desire to become an educator, a director, a practitioner or another professional in a leadership position, you should plan on getting a master’s of science in nursing. Most schools require you to take the GRE, obtain reference letters and write essays. Your first step will be finding the right MSN program for your particular goals.