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Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) salaries vary widely depending on specialty, geographic location, and workplace setting. MSN graduates can specialize in one of three primary areas: nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or nurse practitioner, with each specialty having its own unique salary potential. Additionally, geographic location and workplace setting can significantly impact MSN salaries, with wages varying between hospitals, private practices, and educational settings.

This page will explore how these factors can impact MSN salaries and provide insights for nurses navigating the complex landscape of MSN salary expectations.

MSN Pay by Specialty

A Master’s degree in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate-level degree that can help registered nurses (RNs) advance their nursing career and become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). By obtaining a Master’s degree, RNs can gain the advanced knowledge and skills to provide more specialized patient care, prescribe medication, diagnose illnesses, and offer treatments.

After earning their Master’s degree in nursing and passing a national exam in their chosen specialty, APRNs have the authority to practice independently and prescribe medications in most states.

APRNs have three main specialty options: nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and nurse practitioner.

Nurse Anesthetist

A nurse anesthetist specializes in administering anesthesia to patients. They work closely with physicians, dentists, and other healthcare professionals to provide anesthesia during surgeries and other medical procedures. They also monitor patients’ vital signs and manage their pain during and after the procedure. In 2021, the median salary for nurse anesthetists was $195,610.

Nurse Midwife

A nurse midwife specializes in providing care to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. They also provide gynecological care, family planning, and reproductive counseling. Nurse midwives typically work in hospitals, birthing centers, and private practices. The median salary for nurse midwives in 2021 was $112,830.

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner provides primary and specialty care to patients of all ages. In addition, they can diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions, prescribe medications, and order and interpret diagnostic tests. Nurse practitioners often work in hospitals, clinics, private practices, and nursing homes. In 2021, the median salary for nurse practitioners was $120,680.

MSN Pay by Location

Location is another significant factor affecting the pay of individuals who hold an MSN. Salaries for MSN holders can vary widely depending on the geographic location of the job. In some areas, there may be a high demand for APRNs and a shortage of qualified candidates, leading to higher salaries. In contrast, job competition may intensify in other regions, resulting in lower wages.

The cost of living in a particular area can also affect the pay of MSN holders. For example, cities or regions with a higher cost of living, such as New York City, San Francisco, or Boston, may offer higher salaries to compensate for the higher expenses. Similarly, areas with lower living costs, such as rural communities, may offer lower wages.

The following tables illustrate the top-paying states for APRNs practicing as nurse anesthetists, midwives, and practitioners.

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists earn the highest salary in Connecticut, where the average annual salary for this profession is $276,540. This is followed by New Jersey, with an average salary of $263,850, and Illinois, with an average salary of $250,280. West Virginia also offers high salaries for nurse anesthetists, with an average annual salary of $247,650.

State Annual Mean Wage
Connecticut $276,540
New Jersey $263,850
Illinois $250,280
West Virginia $247,650

Nurse Midwife

The highest annual salaries for nurse midwives are found in West Virginia, with an average yearly salary of $163,190. Utah follows closely behind with an average salary of $143,890, while California offers an average salary of $137,070. Massachusetts and New York round out the list of top-paying states for nurse midwives, with average annual salaries of $129,360 and $126,170, respectively.

State Annual Mean Wage
West Virginia $163,190
Utah $143,890
California $137,070
Massachusetts $129,360
New York $126,170

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners can expect the highest salaries in California, where the average annual salary for this profession is $151,830. New Jersey follows closely behind, with an average salary of $137,010, while New York offers an average salary of $133,940. Washington and Massachusetts also offer high salaries for nurse practitioners, with average annual salaries of $130,840 and $129,540, respectively.

State Annual Mean Wage
California $151,830
New Jersey $137,010
New York $133,940
Washington $130,840
Massachusetts $129,540

MSN Pay by Workplace Setting

The pay of individuals who hold an MSN degree can vary significantly based on the workplace setting in which they practice. This fluctuation in pay is because different types of healthcare organizations have varying financial resources, patient populations, and reimbursement models that affect their ability to offer competitive salaries.

Hospitals and outpatient care centers are among the highest-paying workplace settings for MSN holders. In 2021, APRNs who worked in these settings saw a median salary of $128,190. Hospitals and outpatient clinics tend to have larger budgets and offer more comprehensive benefits packages, such as health insurance and retirement plans, which can increase the overall compensation of MSN holders. Additionally, hospitals often employ APRNs in specialties such as acute care, where they can earn higher salaries due to the complexity and understanding of the patient cases.

On the other hand, MSN holders who work in private practice may earn slightly lower salaries compared to those working in hospitals. Private practices typically have fewer financial resources and may rely on a fee-for-service model limiting how much they can pay healthcare professionals. The median salary for APRNs working in private practice was $121,280 for physicians’ offices and $104,790 for offices of other health practitioners.

Lastly, APRNs who work in educational settings may experience the lowest median salary. Academic institutions typically have limited budgets for compensation and benefits, especially compared to hospitals and private practices. Therefore, APRNs working in educational settings may have fewer opportunities for salary negotiation or advancement. In 2021, the median salary for APRNs in educational services was $102,680.

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