Nurse Career Advancement with an MSN Degree

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With all the career options available, a Direct-Entry MSN degree at Marquette can help you pursue nurse career advancement goals. Learn some career advancement tips to help you succeed, including exploring various specialties, finding a mentor, job networking, and becoming a lifetime learner.

dark blue scrubs nurse with folder

Deciding to pursue a nursing degree is the first step in your nursing journey. Your gathered experiences during clinical courses and after graduation can help you determine which career path you want to take. Knowing the options and the outcomes of pursuing different types of nursing degrees will build your confidence in choosing which nursing program to enter. Elevating your education is the first of many nurse career advancement steps you can take.

At Marquette University, you can earn your Second-Degree Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in 19–21 months and enter the field as a licensed nursing professional. But first, learn more about what an MSN degree is and if it is the right nurse career path for you.

Nursing Career Path Options

There are numerous types of nursing positions, each requiring different levels of education and certification. However, when beginning your nursing journey, you may not know your area of interest or what degree is required. In short, you can earn four types of degrees in nursing: associate, bachelor, master, and doctorate.

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) has the advantage of being a shorter program (generally two years). ADN graduates are eligible for licensure as Registered Nurses (RNs) and can work in hospitals and clinical settings. However, these types of nurses often encounter career limitations.

nursing student studying

Most hospitals now look for RNs who have attained a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, as these programs of study equip nurses with more foundational knowledge and clinical experience than a typical associate degree. RNs with at least a BSN degree have greater flexibility to work in specialized departments and earn additional certifications.

An MSN degree opens up even more opportunities in nursing. Nurses that begin their careers with an MSN degree are able to advance their careers to specialized roles such as nurse practitioner or nurse educator through shorter Certificate programs rather than having to complete another full graduate degree.

The highest degree a nurse can receive is at the doctoral level: Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing. Doctoral-level nursing degrees emphasize research, innovation, and continuous advancement of the nursing profession and its role in quality healthcare.

midwife touching pregnant woman's stomach

Learn more about how to become a nurse midwife at Marquette.

Why Choose a Direct-Entry MSN

Many students make the decision to pursue a career in nursing after they have already completed a baccalaureate degree in a different, non-nursing specialty. If you are one of those students, you will need to complete a second degree that addresses your required, pre-licensure, nursing education. You could choose to complete an Associate or Bachelor’s degree in nursing, but through Marquette’s DEMSN program, you can build off your previously completed non-nursing baccalaureate degree and start your career as a nurse with the advantage of graduate-level preparation.

Career Advancement Tips

Choosing an advanced nursing degree will greatly boost career opportunities; however, you can take several other steps early on to help you along the way. Here are a few career advancement tips to apply on your nursing journey.

Marquette nursing student putting on gloves

1. Explore Specialties

If you are passionate about working with children, fighting cancer, providing comfort to those near death, or bringing life into the world, you may want to consider specialization. Nurses that specialize develop advanced expertise in a certain area, allowing them to better serve specific patient populations or healthcare sectors.

A great starting point is applying yourself during clinical courses. During your clinical rotations, you will be exposed to various nursing specialties as you help treat patients and work alongside nurses. You can discover what speaks to you. Ask those nurses questions about how they arrived in their current positions and what it takes to get there. Keep in mind that many specialties require an MSN degree and additional certification.

2. Practice Networking

Even with the ever-increasing need for qualified nurses in the workforce, finding a job can be challenging. Possessing strong networking skills can make this endeavor much easier.

Make sure to initiate conversations with your instructors and other nurses during simulation labs and clinicals. Recent graduates often find themselves with jobs lined up if they made a good impression at the hospital where they completed their clinicals. You may be surprised at how far you will go if you are intentional about meeting people and finding connections.

3. Find Mentors

Experienced mentors can make a significant difference in helping you achieve your career goals. Build connections with veteran nurses willing to support you in your journey. Ask them questions about what path they took. Looking back, would they have done anything differently? What changes have they observed or experienced since they began? Which approaches do they recommend for you to obtain your career goals?

Not only will this insight help you avoid the wrong paths, but these professionals can support and encourage you to achieve your dreams. Each nurse has a “why” that keeps them going when things get difficult. Their knowledge and experience will be unique and can help you become a more well-rounded nurse.

4. Never Stop Learning

The best veteran nurses are lifetime learners. Such learners recognize how the world and developments in medicine change, and they adapt. The best way to advance your career is to continue your learning journey. Whether you pursue a new specialization or certification or stay current on the latest nursing skills and techniques, emphasizing learning can maximize your ability to provide the best possible care to your patients.

nursing students reading textbooks

Why Choose Marquette University

Because Marquette’s program allows you to earn an MSN in 19–21 months without a BSN prerequisite, it provides the perfect path to advancing your career without dedicating another four years to a new degree.

This program of study is made possible by combining online or in-person coursework with on-campus clinical simulation and clinical courses at top healthcare facilities in Southeastern Wisconsin and the Chicago area. The curriculum provides you with rigorous, pre-licensure nursing education as well as graduate-level coursework and rigor, justifying the conferral of the MSN degree upon completion. If you meet the eligibility requirements and have earned a previous non-nursing bachelor’s degree, we would love to be a part of your nurse career advancement journey.

Contact us today to speak with an admissions adviser who will help you create a plan for admittance into the Marquette MSN program.