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Is An MSN or DNP Right For You?

Posted by Megan Maryott Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2017

MSN v. DNP for your next degree“Should I go on to earn the next degree?”

This is a question you’ve likely asked yourself multiple times. But as healthcare evolves, the question nurses will confront isn’t if they should earn a degree, but which degree they should earn.

Two options stand out above all others: the Master of Science in Nursing and the Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Let’s get one thing straight: both are fantastic options for career advancement. But it’s the specifics of each degree that will make the largest difference.

The following are the main points to consider when you make the decision between MSN or DNP.

Seek Out Your Passion

The degree you choose ultimately depends on your career ambitions. So the first question you need to ask yourself is: what am I hoping to get out of this degree?

Expand your salary? Increase your specialization options? Try something new but with the option to return to bedside care later? Or maybe you still appreciate providing care but love the thought of developing your skills even further.

In such examples, you would probably want to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). Luckily, you can go directly from BSN to APRN in one program.

The idea of reaching the top of one’s field is an appealing one, and it’s precisely why many APRNs with a master’s degree are electing to finish out their education careers with a DNP. The Doctorate is a terminal degree, with the student truly becoming a leader in their field. There are absolutely no doors that remain closed for the DNP-equipped nurse.

So why not go straight to the DNP from the start?

Going Beyond Direct Care

Many others may opt for their next degree because they want to expand their pursuits outside the realm of direct patient care. If you fit this category, then a Master’s degree is probably your best option.

Here’s why: Master’s degrees allow you to remain within the healthcare realm and deeply involved in nursing but also give you the option to expand your scope of work to wherever you see fit.

At Nebraska Methodist College, our Master’s degrees represent pursuits that go well beyond care. The nurse educator track provides nursing professionals with the skills they’ll need to teach the next generation of nurses. The executive track educates nurses on how to successfully take on upper level leadership positions at any number of healthcare institutions. And our informatics track shows nurses how to harness data to improve the patient and healthcare experiences at the population level.

All of these roles provide opportunities for the student to continue to provide care if they so choose, but these degrees allow graduates to positively impact patient healthcare outcomes in a different manner.

The Money Factor

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: money.

Cost plays a big factor for many when choosing to pursue an advanced degree in nursing. In most cases, the overall price of a Master’s degree will be less than that of a Doctorate.  However, the greater cost of the Doctorate could very well be offset by the higher salary expectations that go hand in hand with a terminal degree. So while you may pay more for a doctoral degree, that debt could be outweighed over time by what you make over successive years as a doctor.

Other mitigating circumstances will also likely apply. If your job is paying for you to go to school, that could influence the degree you seek. At the Methodist Health System, we have something called the Academy program that pays for MHS nurses to earn their BSNs and MSNs. However, that program does not apply to DNP candidates at this time.

Similar systems are at work at health institutions everywhere, so don’t hesitate to see what assistance is available to you at your workplace.

The Choice Is Yours

After reading this blog, hopefully you’re a little more enlightened than you were prior. You may still have questions, but that’s okay; after all, that’s what admissions reps are for.

Whatever you decide, we hope you ultimately follow your heart. An upper level education is a great opportunity no matter your path, so just make sure the path is something that feels right.

You’ll make an excellent leader, whether there’s a Dr. in front of your name or not.

Not sure which MSN track is for you? Find out here.

BSN to DNP- Family Nurse Practitioner Degree Guide

Topics: nurse education, nursing

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