How much can you make with an online master’s degree in nursing?

BY Sydney LakeAugust 12, 2022, 5:44 PM
A nurse with the Medical Reserve Corps vaccinates a man for monkeypox at a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health walk-up vaccination site, in August 2022. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz–MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News/Getty Images)

As baby boomers continue to age, the demand for health care services continues to grow. Among the top in-demand health care jobs is nursing, research by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing shows. In fact, employment of registered nurses (RNs) by the turn of the next decade is projected to increase by 9%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2030, there will be a projected 3.35 million nurses employed in the U.S.

In the U.S., the median salary for a registered nurse in 2021 was $77,600; these are nursing roles that typically require just a bachelor’s degree in the field, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports show. For nurses looking to expand their career options—and salary trajectories, however, earning a master’s degree in nursing can be the way to go.

To become a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or nurse midwife, you typically need to earn a master’s degree in one of the advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) roles, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Nurse practitioners, by comparison, earned median salaries of $123,780 in 2021. After earning a master’s degree, which can be done online, graduates must follow licensing and certification requirements of the state in which they plan to practice.

Overall, earning a master’s degree in nursing online can “transform one’s career trajectory” and allow students to “continue with family and work obligations while advancing their education and career, as well as their socioeconomic status,” Lisa Haddad and Bernita Armstrong of East Tennessee State University (ETSU) College of Nursing, tell Fortune. Haddad serves as the associate dean of graduate programs, and Armstrong is the director of DNP, MSN, BSN-DNP, and certificate programs at the school. Fortune ranks ETSU as having the No. 9 online master’s in nursing program in the U.S.

What a nurse practitioner does

The scope of the role of a nurse practitioner varies state-to-state—and can even vary between practices and hospitals. Generally speaking, though, nurse practitioners can work up to their limit of training, including diagnosing and treating patients as well as prescribing medications. They can also order lab work and interpret medical testing. 

There’s been recent support for nurse practitioners to practice via telehealth as well, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). A poll conducted by Morning Consult released in April shows 82% of patients support allowing nurse practitioners to “practice to the full extent of their education and clinical training, including through telehealth.”

“The results of this survey come as no surprise, given the high-quality health care NPs deliver—in person and via telehealth—and the high degree of trust patients place in NPs,” AANP president April N. Kapu said in a statement.

Online master’s in nursing salaries

At ETSU, online master’s in nursing students choose from one of four concentrations: family nurse practitioner (FNP), psychiatric–mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), nursing administration, and nursing education. 

Each of these concentrations focuses on different nursing skill sets, and can see different salary trajectories, Haddad and Armstrong say. All of these concentrations, however, result in average salaries that nearly meet or exceed the six-figure salary mark.

Family nurse practitioners, who can diagnose and manage acute, chronic, and complex health problems, earn average salaries of about $105,500, according to Haddad and Armstrong. These NPs can also work in health promotion, disease prevention, health education, and counseling. 

Psychiatric–mental health nurse practitioners have even higher salary trajectories than FNPs, with average salaries of more than $139,000. These nurses manage mental health care and can prescribe medications and offer therapy services.

Students who study nursing education or nursing administration make nearly six-figure salaries. The nursing education concentration prepares registered nurses to teach nursing students, and make about $90,000 per year, according to Haddad and Armstrong. By comparison, students who go into nursing administration make average salaries of $98,000 and can take on a variety of nursing leadership roles.

See how the schools you’re considering fared in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s degree programs in nursingcomputer sciencecybersecuritypsychology, public healthbusiness analytics, and data science, as well as the best doctorate in education programs, and part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.