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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Why Should A Nurse Further Her Degree?

A reader asked over at Nurse Zone.

Dear Stephanie,

I graduated from an ADN program three years ago, and have been working as an RN in the pediatric unit since graduation. I've gone back and forth as to whether it would be worth it to pursue an advanced degree in nursing. Many seasoned nurses I've worked with have told me the hourly pay differential between an RN with an ADN, BSN or MSN is minuscule at best and sometimes nonexistent depending on the facility. If this is the case, can you tell me what the advantages would be for me to obtain an advanced degree in nursing? Thanks Stephanie,

- Elka

Stephanie Thibeault, RN, BSN and author responded:

Hi Elka,

This is an excellent question, and one that is often asked. Initially, there is very little difference in pay for diploma nurses, those with an ADN or a BSN. For new graduates, there is also little difference in job opportunities available. Many nurses wonder why, then, would it be worthwhile to pursue advanced degrees in nursing. The answer lies in taking a longer outlook—looking ahead to the changes coming to the profession of nursing, as well as the direction you would like to take to develop your career.

The profession of nursing is continuously evolving, along with all health care professions. Take physical therapists, for example. Ten years ago, physical therapy required a bachelor's degree for entry-level licensure. That changed to a master's degree soon thereafter, and a Ph.D. is now being phased in as the entry-level educational requirement. The educational requirements for registered nurses are also changing. Many employers, such as the Veteran's Administration, are now hiring RNs with a BSN or higher exclusively. When nursing adopts the BSN as its entry-level educational requirement, those with a nursing diploma or associate degree will be grandfathered in, but job opportunities may significantly decrease.

What are the advantages for you to obtain an advanced degree?

* Expanded career options: Obtaining your BSN, MSN or even Ph.D. in nursing opens the door to more career opportunities. Nurse educators, case managers, public health and community nurses, research nurses and nurses in management positions are often required to have a BSN at minimum. The BSN allows for increased responsibility, career progression and greater career choices.
* Expanded practice or specialization options: Obtaining board certification in many specialties in nursing often requires a BSN. Advanced practice nursing career options, such as licensure as a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist, requires an MSN at minimum.
* Increased income: While entry-level RNs begin with roughly the same pay level regardless of educational level, an advanced degree can lead to increased responsibility, credibility and career options. These, in turn, lead to a higher income.

I hope this information has been helpful, Elka. With so many employers now offering tuition reimbursement for advanced education, and with a phenomenal increase in the number of accelerated degree programs tailored to working professionals, continuing your education is more affordable and flexible than ever. I wish you the best in your nursing career and advanced educational pursuits!

I absolutely agree with Stephanie regarding advancing your degree. We cannot afford to become complacent with our education in the medical field. Things are changing too fast and we must advance our profession as well.