Career Pathways & Education

Nursing Jobs Beyond the Bedside (Pt. 2): Advance Your Degree, Advance Your Career

The Trusted Team
February 16, 2021
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This event is the second of a series focusing on nursing careers beyond the bedside that are best acquired with advanced degrees. If you’ve considered going back to school for that MSN or DNP degree, Drs. Brooks and Thomas will help you think through grad school options and strategies on how you can shape your career with an advanced education.

Healthcare is not merely changing, it is being fundamentally transforming. This transformation is opening new career paths beyond traditional hospital roles. However, it can be confusing and daunting to understand the graduate school options that can help to open those new doors. 

Nurses often express frustration with how little formal guidance they receive on this important (and costly) investment in their career. The below recording and written summary will provide guidance on how you can make informed decisions about your own nursing career development.

Nurses, Let’s Talk About Graduate School

If you’re thinking about going back to graduate school to further your nursing career, there are a few things you should keep in mind and look into. 

Areas of interest

  • Career Anchors 
  • Self-Assessment

Professional & Personal

  • Work-life balance
  • Tenure in profession
  • Tenure in role

Financial Commitments & Eligibility

  • Financial aid eligibility
  • Available scholarships/grants/tuition benefits
  • GRE Scores

Benefits of Graduate School

Career Mobility

  • Every credential added increases options
  • Do you want to teach? 
  • Post-Masters, Post-Bachelors
  • Increase opportunities
  • Increase network

Attending graduate school introduces you to people who operate in more specialized areas, who can aid in your increased capacity to develop meaningful relationships that can assist with your ultimate healthcare career goals.


  • Private, public, profit, not-for-profit, government
  • Work-life balance
  • Total compensation
  • Resistance to change (individuals)
  • Allows for ability to generate multiple streams of income: consulting, service-based professional, coaching, mentoring

Nursing Degrees: Master’s vs. Doctoral Degrees

When it comes to both Master’s and Doctoral degrees, you have to consider which discipline is right for you. 

Here are some of the Master’s degree pathways and their resulting degrees:

  • Graduate College (MS)
  • College of Nursing (MSN)
  • College of Business (MBA, MHA)
  • College of Public Health (MPH, MHA)
  • College of Education (MSEd)

Here are some of the Doctoral degree pathways and their resulting degrees:

  • College of Allied Health (DSW, DCN, DPT, DSLP, DOT, DAud, PsyD)
  • Graduate College (PhD)
  • College of Nursing (DNP)
  • College of Pharmacy (PharmD)
  • College of Medicine (MD)
  • College of Business (DBA)
  • College of Education (EdD)
  • College of Law (JD)
  • College of Public Health (DrPH, DHA)

Some Differences to Note (PhD vs. DNP)


  • Who: research-focused
  • Knowledge: rigorous research and statistical analysis and methodologies 
  • Skillset: generalizable


  • Who: practice-focused graduates 
  • Knowledge: practice change, evidence translation, QI implementation
  • Skillset: transferable

Traditional Advanced Degree Careers in Nursing

There are a variety of advanced degree career options for nurses that already exist today. Below are a few example: 

  • Instructor of Clinical Nursing (MSN, DNP)
  • Healthcare Consultant (MSN, DNP)
  • Public Health Consultant (MSN, DNP, PhD)
  • Nursing Informaticist (MSN, DNP)
  • Nurse Practitioner (MSN, DNP)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (MSN, DNP)
  • Nurse Executive (MSN, DNP, PhD)
  • Clinical Trial Nurse (MSN, DNP)
  • Healthcare Systems Leadership (MSN, DNP, PhD)

The above careers span a variety of care settings and can be found on platforms such as LinkedIn, Professional Associations, Job Boards, Networking, Mentors, or even through word of mouth.

Non-Traditional Advanced Degree Careers

Here are some less traditional, and perhaps less common, advanced career paths for advanced degree nurses:

  • Vendors (MSN, DNP, PhD)
  • Architectural Firms (MSN, DNP, PhD)
  • Consulting (MSN, DNP, PhD)
  • Payers, Insurers (MSN, DNP, PhD)
  • Non-profits, NGOs (MSN, DNP, PhD)
  • Policy (MSN, DNP, PhD)
  • Entrepreneur  (MSN, DNP, PhD)
  • Technology Start-up (MSN, DNP, PhD)

Similarly, the actual care settings of these careers may vary. However, many of these opportunities can be found on LinkedIn, Professional Associations, Job Boards, Networking, Mentors, Incubators/Accelerator Job Boards, e-Newsletters, or through Private Equity and Venture Capital Firms.

Final Advice on Advanced Nursing Careers Away from the Bedside

When thinking about how to shape your role, you should ensure that your purpose drives your educational decision(s).

For example:

  • Hone in on your purpose, that should lead you! (Who are you? Who are your people? What’s your passion?)
  • Incorporate your overall nursing experience
  • Research the in and outs of what you want to do
  • Work in every role as a nurse you think you may like
  • Do your homework on grad school
  • Explore board-certification preparation
  • Use coursework to begin publishing and presenting
  • Find a mentor

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➡️ Part 3

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