MSN vs BSN Jobs – Should I Get a BSN or MSN?

by | Sep 6, 2022 | Featured | 0 comments

To succeed in the healthcare field, you must constantly learn new skills and improve your level of education. As a nurse, it will help you to take advantage of many different opportunities. But first, you need to figure out which nursing specialties you should choose because there are hundreds of nursing programs available. Many wonder if they should get a BSN or an MSN. Let’s look at MSN and BSN jobs so you can make an informed decision on which degree is best for you.

Whether it’s a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, both require significant investment in both time and resources. Read on to discover which degree program might be the right fit for you, depending on your nursing background and professional goals.

MSN vs BSN Jobs - Should I Get a BSN or MSN?

What Is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing?

A BSN is an undergraduate degree focusing on clinical practice. This can help you gain valuable nursing experience before pursuing further study and allows you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, which enables you to practice as a registered nurse upon passing (provided you have graduated from an accredited school as well). 

The BSN degree consists of four years of classes, which include varying amounts of required clinical hours. The average amount of clinical hours can be in the range of 300-700 hours total. Students learn theoretical concepts through lectures, tutorials, and seminars, but hands-on training with patients occurs during supervised practice.

Nurses who have a BSN degree and active RN license can work as registered nurses in various areas such as:

  • Acute care staff nurse positions at hospitals in many specialties (ICU, med-surg, emergency department, operating room, women’s health, labor, and delivery, etc.)
  • Outpatient clinic staff positions
  • Inpatient and outpatient behavioral health
  • Community Nursing
  • School Nursing
  • Hospice care
  • Home Health
  • Immunization clinics
  • … and many more

With a BSN and active RN license, there are many opportunities for direct and non-direct patient care jobs.

There is another option to work as an entry-level registered nurse, and that is the Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), which can be completed at a community college in as little as two (rigorous) years. While this degree does enable the graduate to work as an RN, they will not have a completed undergraduate degree. Therefore, if an ADN-prepared nurse would like to advance into more leadership positions, the individual would need to complete their undergraduate degree (BSN) to be able to do so. 

What Is a Master of Science in Nursing?

An MSN is a graduate degree in nursing. Before, you used to need a BSN to be able to work towards an MSN. However, today there are new educational opportunities that enable you to go straight to an MSN option and skip the BSN step. 

MSN programs provide advanced training and education and enable the graduate to be immediately qualified for roles that require additional responsibility.

Examples of these roles include:

  • Nurse manager
  • Nurse educator
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Informatics nurse
  • Various administrative roles within hospitals

Additionally, you can also receive additional training to be an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), which would enable you to work as a Nurse Practitioner (NP), provided you graduate and pass appropriate board examinations. 

Important note: If you want to become an NP, you may want to seriously consider a Doctorate of Nursing Practice Program (DNP), as many hospitals and employers are preferring this credential for their NPs.

It is important to note that not every nurse with an MSN can function as an NP. For example, I have my MSN in nursing education. I am not an APRN because I didn’t complete coursework for that specialty, and did not sit for boards. However, my degree does qualify me as a nurse educator. 

BSN vs. MSN: What’s right for me?

This question comes down to what your long-term professional goals are. If you desire to stay in a direct-care position or are not exactly sure what you want to do, a BSN may be the route.

However, if you’re looking to move into leadership positions, get promotions, and move up the clinical ladder, getting the MSN degree may be more advantageous. BSN-prepared nurses will often work at the bedside, providing care directly to patients. MSN-prepared nurses often work in leadership positions where they are in a position to coordinate the care provided to patients in a variety of ways. 

If you decide you’d like to become a Nurse Practitioner, then you must complete an MSN that has an APRN track that will ensure you can sit for boards. The NP will provide care directly to patients by way of ordering medications, completing full histories and physicals (H&Ps), performing advanced procedures, and more.

For example, the MSN-prepared RN who is working as an NP may place the order for the medication, while the BSN-prepared nurse will administer the medication. The MSN-prepared nurse manager of the unit would be the leader directly responsible for all of the BSN and ADN-prepared nurses on the unit. Further, the MSN-prepared nurse educator likely helped develop the medication administration policy and ensured the nurses on the unit are safely complying with it in practice.

Both the MSN and BSN programs offer courses in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, health assessment, mental health counseling, nutrition, disease prevention, family care, community health, ethics, leadership, research, public policy, and administration. Naturally, the courses specific to the MSN degree will be more challenging and rigorous, as they will be graduate-level courses.

What Are the Advantages of a BSN Degree?

A Bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN) prepares students to enter the nursing profession on a very practical level. The BSN program provides graduates with basic medical terminology, patient care skills, pathophysiology, professional ethics, and more.

Graduates are prepared to work in various settings, including hospital settings, clinical settings, schools, long-term care facilities, and home health agencies.

In addition to earning a salary, nurses receive excellent benefits such as paid vacation, health insurance, retirement plans, and sometimes even tuition assistance, along with other perks.

What Are the Advantages of an MSN Degree?

The MSN degree enables the graduate to work in leadership positions, which often means better hours and better pay. 

Depending on the program you select, you may also be able to work as an NP.

With an MSN, you can function as a nurse educator at a hospital or an associate professor at a college or university. (Some may require a DNP or Ph.D. to teach, however.)

Further, if you’re not interested in working as an NP but still want to provide direct care like the BSN-prepared nurses, you absolutely can! Your additional credentials as an MSN-prepared nurse would enable you to negotiate for a higher pay scale and move up the clinical ladder. 

What Can You Do With a BSN RN Degree?

Many nurses start out with their BSN as means to start working sooner. Lately, it’s becoming increasingly common for healthcare facilities to require BSN degrees for the RNs that they hire. While an associate degree (ADN) will cover the education and training you need to pass your NCLEX exam and work as an RN, a BSN dives deeper by building on the concepts from the associate degree and taking your skills and education to the next level. This is where online programs such as the RN to BSN program from Oklahoma City University come into play. 

There are many benefits to getting your BSN. As mentioned, being an RN with a BSN has two visible advantages to being an ADN RN:

  • Higher pay
  • Expanded job opportunities

Hospitals want to hire more BSN-prepared nurses, so having that BSN would give the applicant an edge over any ADN-prepared nurses applying for the same position. While hospitals may hire ADN-prepared nurses, many are requiring those nurses to go back to school and obtain their BSN within a certain amount of time before signing a job contract. 

But there are other benefits too. Things such as: 

  • Preparedness – as a higher education graduate, you are ready to deal with patients more effectively in many areas. This has a positive impact on patients, too. Studies show that each 10% increase in BSN nurses leads to a 7% decline in mortality after common surgery. 
  • Leadership roles – a BSN degree opens doors to leadership roles, including nurse unit managing positions that come with higher pay and better hours. You may be able to work in a leadership role while you work on your MSN, rather than waiting to be done with it before applying!
  • Specialty nursing – getting your BSN degree may enable you to secure jobs in more high acuity areas
  • A path to progression – to stand a better chance of securing an Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN) job, with a salary closing in on six figures, you need to get a BSN to apply for those programs
  • It’s becoming a requirement. Because of the improved results in outcomes for BSN nurses, New York passed a law in 2017 that requires all licensed nurses to obtain a bachelor’s degree within ten years of initial licensure.

After graduating with an RN degree, you can apply for positions in various areas of healthcare ranging from private duty home care to hospital medicine. As a registered nurse, you’ll be responsible for performing duties like taking vital signs, administering medications, monitoring therapy, and providing emotional support.

What Can You Do With an MSN Degree?

After graduation, many BSN-prepared nurses will work for a little while and then go back to school to get their BSN to MSN online. (I actually got my MSN in nursing education all online in 2018!)  

So, what kind of jobs can you get with an MSN? 

What Jobs Can You Get with a BSN vs MSN Degree?

There are different positions for a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in nurse practitioner. 

A few jobs for registered nurses with BSN:

  • Med-Surg nurse
  • Pediatric nurse
  • ICU nurse
  • Labor and delivery nurse
  • Hospice nurse
  • Emergency department nurse
  • Home health nurse

While there are different MSN specialties (education, leadership, care coordination, and more) there is a lot you can do with the degree. A few examples include:

  • Nursing instructor
  • Clinical nurse educator
  • Unit-specific nurse educator
  • Full or part-time nursing faculty
  • Nurse manager
  • Care Coordinator
  • Outcomes coordinator
  • Nurse administrator
  • Health manager
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Advanced Nurse Practitioner – as long as they don’t require a DNP!
    • Certified Nurse Anesthetist
    • Certified Nurse Midwife
    • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Family Nurse Practitioner

As you can tell, there are many doors that open up professionally with an MSN. While the BSN graduate cannot do anything the MSN-prepared nurse does, the MSN-prepared nurse can do everything the BSN-prepared nurse does if he or she so chooses to do so.  

How Much Time Does a BSN vs. MSN Take?

The time required to complete each program depends on the nursing school you attend and the course load assigned for each subject. Oklahoma City University just launched a new online nursing program including an RN-BSN and MSN program.

A few details about the RN-BSN program:

  • Complete in as few as 2 semesters, over 12 months
  • 2 starts per year (Fall and Spring)
  • ACEN accreditation
  • No admissions prerequisites
  • No waitlist
  • Designed by nurses, for nurses

Details about the MSN program:

  • 100% Online
  • No GRE
  • Complete in as few as 5 semesters
  • RN-MSN in as few as 6 semesters
  • 3 starts per year (fall, spring, summer)
  • Choose a leadership or education specialization
  • ACEN accredited
  • No admissions prerequisites, no waitlist

The difference between these lengths comes down to the amount of classwork, time, and money. Naturally, obtaining an MSN degree will require more resources overall, but it does open up more job opportunities sooner.

The average salaries for BSN vs. MSN Jobs

Both degree options offer different levels of income. Naturally, because the MSN-prepared nurse has a graduate degree and therefore more education, they can command a higher salary. 

The Average Salary for BSN Jobs

According to payscale, the median salary for a BSN degree holder is $51-92K. This large variation depends on where you live and years of experience. Nurses working in rural Iowa will make substantially less than those working in Los Angeles, California. Further, nurses who are fresh out of college will make less than the seasoned veteran BSN-prepared nurse, 15 years into their career. 

The Average Salary for MSN Jobs

According to payscale, the average salary for an MSN degree holder is $98K+. Again, this really varies based upon where you live in the country and the role you have. Those who are CRNAs can earn over $200K annually, while nurse educators may only earn $60K. 

Essential Things to Consider When Choosing a Nursing Program

Contemplating the advantages and disadvantages of seeking a bachelor’s or master’s nursing degree can help you make the best decision about where you’d like to go.

The time commitment and program costs are essential things to consider when deciding what major to pursue. Salary differences play a role, too, as the MSN typically offers higher starting pay than its BSN counterpart.

You should also assume career longevity. A BSN is generally considered a career stepping stone for nurses, as it can be the catalyst for obtaining a graduate degree later down the line. 

A BSN does not necessarily guarantee job stability, but many employers prefer candidates who hold this credential. On the contrary, MSNs usually offer more significant opportunities for career advancement, which means there could be more money in your paycheck down the road.

Choosing a degree with the flexibility is another factor to consider. Some schools offer a dual-degree option that allows students to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in just four years, others are partially in person or completely online, and some are completely in person! There are even some competency based programs that take previous experience into consideration, as well as self-paced models that permit you to go as slowly or as quickly as you’d like. What’s important is knowing how you learn so you can set yourself up for success, being as efficient as possible with your time.

Final Thoughts on MSN Jobs and BSN Jobs

After reading this complete guide, you have to decide whether the BSN or MSN is right for you. Both are valuable degrees, it’s all about finding the perfect fit.

To find out more about Oklahoma City University’s online degree programs and to get started for the spring semester, check them out here:

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do MSN Educated Nurses Make More Than BSN-Holders?

Yes, they often do. While there may be BSN-prepared nurses out there earning a great income, generally speaking, MSN-prepared nurses not only make more money but also have a better career trajectory and more opportunities for higher-paying roles. (Often with better hours!)

What Can an MSN Do That a BSN Cannot?

MSNs can work in leadership and administrative roles, like education and management. Some can work as Nurse Practitioners (provided they have the specialty certification required for practice). While you may occasionally see BSN-prepared nurses in the education and management space, often they are working towards their MSN simultaneously as a job stipulation and are the exception and not the rule.

Is a BSN to MSN Program Hard?

BSN to MSN programs are a doable challenge. If you passed nursing school, you can absolutely get through a graduate program. Plus – there’s no NCLEX to worry about at the end!

What Is the Difference Between a BSN and MSN?

A BSN degree is an undergraduate degree, while an MSN is a graduate degree. An MSN is more advanced, and enables the graduate to work in a greater variety of roles and therefore increased pay. BSN-prepared nurses often work in roles where they provide nursing care directly to patients, while MSN-prepared nurses often work in roles that coordinate that care in different administrative capacities, or educate nurses on how to care for their patients.

Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.

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