While a career as a registered nurse (RN) is one of the most respected and rewarding jobs a medical professional can have, other nursing jobs are in demand and offer even more opportunities for advancement and further skills. Gaining an advanced degree and certification can lead to jobs with different duties, higher pay, and a lot of room for future advancement.

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No matter where a nurse is in their nursing career, earning more qualifications can be a welcome change and help fill the need for more highly qualified healthcare providers.

Primary care providers are in short supply

The demand for primary care providers is on the rise. Over the past decade, more people have been able to get health insurance coverage so medical care is not the financial burden it once was. When care is more affordable, people are more likely to use it in theory.

Many people are under the assumption that when they are assigned a primary care provider, they are automatically accepted into the practice and can get an appointment with ease. The truth, however, is that it can take months to get an initial appointment with a care provider. Booking an urgent visit can still take more time than is acceptable for patients in dire need of medical attention.

Waiting so long for appointments does not encourage patients to get the preventative care they need. They are unaware that after the initial appointment, providers will schedule preventative visits well in advance.

More qualifications and education mean big rewards

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of nurses and other medical professionals left the medical world to pursue other careers. This drop has exacerbated the already apparent shortage of workers and future medical leaders.

Furthermore, many nurses, especially those in higher level positions, are reaching retirement age. As a result, there are tons of opportunities for nurses that are willing to go the extra mile and earn an advanced degree. Once qualified, nurses could benefit from many of the following.

Earn more per hour

While RNs make a good wage compared to some other top occupations in the country, earning an advanced degree can substantially increase their salary. In fact, becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) can increase a nurse’s salary by $30,000 per year or more. This is a very substantial increase for the amount of time and money it takes to earn an advanced degree. Over a decade, that is an incredible $300,000 or more in added income not counting any promotions or salary increases received along the way!

Enjoy working in more locations

With an advanced nursing degree, nurses have so many career opportunities that they can almost have their pick of what state or region they work in. Nurses who have considered relocating can rest assured that they can likely find a great position wherever they want to go.

Take on new challenges

Doing the same exact tasks within a role for a long time can start to be a little less exciting and challenging. By moving on to a higher-level position, nurses can enjoy a welcome change of pace and a varied workday. Advancing to a higher-level position also places nurses to more easily pursue an administrative or teaching role, if they wish to do so at a later time.

More positions are available

Earning an advanced degree allows nurses to qualify for more positions throughout the country. More job opportunities make it easier for nurses to find a position that they are truly happy with and is a good fit for their skill level.

Degree options

The degree a nurse should pursue must align with their current education, experience level, and long-term career goals. Here are a few factors they should consider and questions to ask themselves.

Budget and time requirements

Some degrees take longer than others and cost more too. While these degrees may be worth the investment, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right choice for every nurse. That being said, a lot of programs allow students to complete their studies part-time if full-time is not an option. Sure, it takes longer to get the degree, but it is far better than not working towards one at all. An extra six to 12 months is not a lot of time when it comes to pursuing dreams and goals.

As far as cost goes, there are many financial aid packages, scholarships, and payment plans that can help struggling nurses cover the cost of education and expand their earning power.

Clinical settings vs administrative and teaching positions

Some degree programs are designed for those that intend on being active on the floor of a medical facility. This may mean a managerial role, such as charge nurse at a hospital or being a floor manager of a specific hospital department. 

Other programs are designed with a greater emphasis on administrative or research positions. The higher the level of education a nurse has, the more likely it is that they will be strongly considered for any higher-level position in a clinical, administrative, or university level setting.

Desired career progression

There is demand for nurses and healthcare professionals at all levels. So, where a nurse wants to be and their ultimate goal is largely up to their interests, how hard they wish to work, and how comfortable they are leading and managing others. Any nurse that feels unsure can always earn multiple advanced degrees and gain certifications throughout their career as they discover what it is they truly enjoy doing and want to pursue further.


Many medical professionals have an area of medicine that they are most interested in. If a nurse wants to enter a specialized area of medicine, then they need a degree program with a curriculum that will allow for the chosen specialization.

While healthcare jobs are in high demand, it is important for nurses to consider how competitive positions in a chosen specialization are and how in demand they are. For example, if a nurse has two areas that they are very interested in, then from a professional and career standpoint they may want to pick the one that is in higher demand or easier to get a position in. Adult-gerontology and FNP jobs are more plentiful than neonatal care roles, for example.

Moving from an MSN degree to a DNP

With so many qualifications to choose from, many nurses may ask why get a DNP? A Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is the highest level of nursing degree that a nurse can achieve. The University of Indianapolis offers a DNP degree program that can be completed part-time online. This is a great opportunity for nurses who need to maintain their current workload while studying or cannot relocate to attend the university. New changes to educational requirements in the future may mean that NPs need to work towards a DNP degree for employment. 

Any nurse that does not have an MSN degree but wants to pursue a DNP will be glad to know that admissions requirements are simple. Nurses need a Bachelor’s in Science Nursing (BSN) and an unencumbered RN license in addition to two years of experience. This means many nurses can get their DNP sooner rather than later and be on their way to an even brighter future full of opportunities.

With a DNP degree, nurses will be involved with the following.

Providing advanced clinical care

A DNP can choose to pursue a variety of specialties that allow them to practice in almost any clinical setting. For example, a nurse may decide that they would like to dedicate time to adult-gerontology care. This is a very in-demand specialization due to the large number of aging adults in the US. With more people living longer than ever before, there are many patients living with chronic conditions for decades of their lives. This means they need highly qualified medical professionals to help them manage and prevent these conditions from progressing quickly.

Other specializations include neonatal, FNP, acute care, and more. The opportunities for different certification are truly vast with a DNP.

Practicing telemedicine

The usage and availability of telehealth or virtual medicine has increased a lot over the years. Conducting some basic appointments and check-ins via virtual doctor visits can save patients and doctors a lot of time. Telehealth can also help reduce the cost of healthcare for patients.

Many medical practices use telehealth for some appointments. Hospitals, medical clinics, and specialists all use telehealth regularly. Conducting these types of appointments, where possible, makes it easier for doctors and nurses to treat more patients.

Administrative and managerial roles

DNPs may find themselves managing entire healthcare facilities and departments. They may be in charge of helping manage nursing homes, urgent care clinics, and more. Duties can vary widely based on the position. Some management jobs may be related to working with patients while some roles may mean more working from an office or an organization. Implementing new polices and helping mentor and train are often part of any managerial or administrative role.

Education and teaching

DNPs may decide to take on part-time or full-time teaching roles. This could involve teaching an occasional training seminar or class at a medical facility or it could mean teaching college level classes on a regular schedule. DNPs are often preceptors for aspiring nursing students completing their clinical rotations.

There are many certifications that nurses at all levels take classes to acquire. A nurse with a specific interest who wants to teach may be able to supplement their income by teaching outside of their regular position. At the very least, the willingness and qualifications to teach can help make DNPs a more attractive job candidate.

Writing and research

DNPs are qualified to write a variety of medical materials. Textbooks and other educational materials are good examples of job opportunities.

Plenty of DNPs also become involved in research opportunities. Nurses who love the science of medicine and want to help expand the medical knowledge available, will find that research is a great job to pursue. Some research opportunities are available within the university and collegiate system. However, a lot of medical research is conducted in conjunction with medical supply companies or within the pharmaceutical industry. DNPs interested in full-time research with high-paying roles will do well to look for research positions at medical and pharmaceutical companies.


Pursuing an advanced degree and qualifications allows nurses to have more job opportunities and the chance to explore the areas of medicine they are most passionate about.

Advanced degrees also make it easier for mid-career nurses to move into roles that offer a more standard work schedule as well as managerial and senior-level administrative roles. This is important because so many senior-level nurses have retired or are reaching retirement age which means there is a need for nurses that are willing to advance and fill these roles.

Online degree programs make it easier for nurses to advance their careers while working in the healthcare field. Programs can be completed online with the addition of real-world clinical placements. Some advanced degree programs require as many as 1,000 clinical hours to graduate and qualify for licensure tests. With 1,000 clinical hours under their belts, nurses will be ready to jump back in and really make a difference to the lives of patients and healthcare as an industry.