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Added Value of an MSN Degree

Exploring the incremental earnings potential gained by earning an MSN degree

Written by Aaron Ball on June 22nd, 2012

This article is intended for nurses who currently hold a Bachelor’s degree and are considering returning to school to complete a Master’s degree of Science in Nursing. What we aim to uncover is the added value (measured in earnings) over a lifetime of work. Therefore the current value of having a Bachelor’s degree is not accounted for; we are only measuring the incremental earnings power that results directly from obtaining a Master’s degree. The math formulas used to compute these figures utilize the present value of money, average costs of Master’s level education and average future earnings for those who hold an MSN degree.

According to a study conducted by Liz Pulliam Weston published in MSN Money, the incremental earnings that can be expected as a result of obtaining a Masters of Science can be estimated at $136,873. While this number might seem impressive at first it should be noted that between the different degree levels the increase earned by transitioning from BSN to MSN is actually the smallest. Those who go from an Associates degree to a bachelor’s degree of Science can expect additional earnings of $283,286 over their working lifetime. This increase is approximately 208% higher than the additional earnings obtained by completing a BSN to MSN transition. The next step of going from an MSN degree to a PhD results in an extra $299,190 on average. This is about 220% higher than the increase seen by jumping from BSN to MSN. That being stated, the question becomes, is it worthwhile to invest the time and resources to go from a Bachelor’s degree to a Master’s degree while remaining in the sciences?

The answer will depend on a few key factors; the price of the education, the number of working years remaining and whether or not the individual plans to continue on to earn a PhD. The cost of Master’s level courses is usually fairly high, especially since the courses cannot be completed at a community college. If the individual opts for private education the costs can skyrocket and become nearly the same as the increased earnings that they can expect by completing the Master’s degree. Another factor to be considered is how many years the person plans on working after earning their Master’s, and if they plan to remain in the same field. If they transition into another field they might lose the benefits of their MSN degree. Also, if they only expect to work another 5-10 years there might not be enough time to recover the costs of the education. If the individual plans on using the MSN degree as a stepping stone to later earn a PhD in Science then the situation changes as the total potential payout increases drastically. These ideas should be carefully considered on an individual basis to make the best possible decision.

In conclusion, the MSN degree alone may or may not be justified by the high cost of Master’s level education. If the individual already holds a Bachelor’s degree they might be better served by remaining at their current degree level. Based on current economic conditions, costs of education, amount of time required to complete the degree program and the remaining number of years that person plans on working in the same sciences field the MSN degree track is not always the best choice for everyone (at least financially speaking).

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