If you’ve already earned your Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in nursing, you may be wondering if it’s your time to double down on your education in pursuit of a Master’s degree. There are plenty of reasons to earn an MSN, but how can you be sure? Let’s explore several aspects of this important professional and educational decision.
Where are you going?
When considering another degree, assess where you are; the nursing process begins with assessment, so this should come naturally to you as a prudent initial step.
As you take a clear-eyed look at your nursing career and where you are in the present moment, the logical next step is to consider where you’re going.
There are plenty of people who may say that you “should” get a Master’s, but their opinion may not be grounded in awareness of what you actually want. Perhaps they believe they know what’s best for you, but the fact remains that only you can make that final decision, and it needs to come from a place of honest self-auditing of your aspirations and goals.
In examining your career trajectory, consider where you would like to be in both the mid- and long-term. As you project into the future, do you feel a sense of clarity? Is there an inner knowing that your path is opening up before you and you know what should naturally come next, or are you feeling doubtful and fretful? If you have doubts, you’re not alone, and there are places to turn for support.
Ask and you shall receive
When considering making an investment of time, resources, and money into a Master’s program, you want to choose wisely. If you’re having a hard time making that choice on your own, turn to experienced professionals for advice.
Let’s say that you’re thinking about pursuing a Master’s of Nursing Informatics; you have good facility with computers, you feel no qualms with moving away from the bedside, and you’re reading the writing on the wall in terms of the exponential growth of technology in healthcare. In order to make this important choice, you can seek counsel from the following individuals:
- A trusted and experienced colleague or mentor who knows you well
- An academic adviser at a graduate school that interests you
- Individuals who actually work in nursing informatics
- Current students and former graduates from the informatics program you’re considering
- Others to whom you feel inspired to turn
An academic adviser can introduce you to current and former students in the program; they may also connect you with professors, mentors, and preceptors who can paint a clear picture of what you can expect from the program and after you graduate.
Using LinkedIn, your various professional networks, and other platforms, you can reach out to individuals working in healthcare IT and request an informational interview; people like to talk about what they do (especially if they love it), and are often willing to wax poetic about the joys and challenges of their work.
Do your due diligence
If you’re going to pursue an MSN or other degree, know what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line and enroll in classes. Due diligence means truly understanding what will be involved and what you will get out of it.
You don’t want to earn a Master’s just because you think you should or someone recommended that you do; you want to earn a Master’s degree because it will help you take your nursing career to the next level in a way that would be impossible otherwise.
Talk to those who truly know the field and who can speak from the inside. Ask for advice from trusted individuals who can speak from a nonjudgmental and open-minded place about the choices arrayed before you.
Make clear-eyed, sober choices about your career and your graduate education, and you likely can’t go wrong. An MSN can surely take you places; assess where you want to go, and then find the educational vehicle that can get you there.
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, consultant, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. He can be found at NurseKeith.com.
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