In recent years, there’s been an increase in job options for nurses, particularly those with advanced degrees like an MSN. Whether you’re looking to make a career pivot or want to develop a different set of skills, there are many job roles for nurses that don’t involve a clinical setting.
Because they often require an MSN degree, non-clinical jobs can have more opportunities for advancement and a higher salary potential. And nurses often find that there’s a greater work-life balance with non-clinical work as these jobs often have more predictable schedules and can be less emotionally taxing. And a better work-life balance may reduce burnout, which is a common problem in nursing. But beyond the schedule perks, many nurses enjoy the challenges and new skills that non-clinical nursing careers provide. Whether you have an interest in business, IT, or public policy, there’s likely a nursing career that emphasizes those skills. If you’re ready to learn more, the following five careers are a good sample of non-clinical jobs available to MSN graduates.
Executive Nurse Leader
An executive nurse leader (sometimes called a nurse executive or Chief Nursing Officer) is someone who leads a team of nurses, usually in a large hospital or clinic. While the executive nurse leader isn’t patient-facing, past clinical experience plays an important part in their role. Nurse leaders know the demands of the position as well as the needs of patients, putting them in a unique position when it comes to decision-making. This clinical knowledge is important because executive nurse leaders are often responsible for budgeting, hiring, creating policy, and ensuring their staff has what they need to do their jobs. Beyond their administrative duties, nurse executives serve as role models and leaders for the nursing and non-nursing staff in their departments.
An MSN degree is required for most, if not all, nurse executive positions. In addition to an advanced degree, many roles require candidates to obtain a professional credential in nurse leadership. The two most common are the Nurse Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC) and Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certified (NEA-BC), both offered by the American Nurse Credential Center (ANCC).
If you’re looking to get space from the clinical side of nursing, you may want to consider teaching. Certified Nurse Educators (CNE) teach in a number of settings including undergraduate and graduate programs as well as technical schools and hospitals. Nurse educators use their deep clinical knowledge to prepare the next generation of nurses for careers in healthcare. In addition to practical experience, nurse educators should also be comfortable with public speaking and have good communication skills. Nurse educators can expect to present topics to students (in-person or virtually) as well as correspond through emails and provide feedback on coursework. Some nurse educators are professors in BSN, MSN, or DNP programs while others mentor and teach best practices to registered nurses as part of professional development. Depending on the program, nurse educators may be able to teach remotely – offering a degree of flexibility that is very uncommon in clinical positions.
Nurse educators should have at least an MSN degree, but many professors at the college level hold a Doctor of Nursing Practice, the highest credential in the field. There is also a professional certification for Certified Nurse Educators (CNE).
This field blends clinical knowledge with internet technology to analyze systems and improve patient care. Nursing informatics may be an appealing career if you have an interest in technology or enjoy working with data. For example, nearly all medical groups now use Electronic Health Records (EHR) and nurse informaticists help to ensure the data is collected and accessed effectively. Nurse informaticists may also analyze and identify areas within the healthcare system that can be improved, whether that’s through patient care or cost savings.
Other popular nursing informatics careers include roles in public health (collecting and disseminating vital statistics and biosurveillance data) and the ever-increasing field of telemedicine. Most recently during the Covid-19 pandemic, nursing informaticists played integral roles in collecting data on wastewater surveillance and vaccine uptake. Many nurses in this field have MSN in Informatics degrees, but there is also a professional Informatics Nursing Certification available.
Healthcare lobbyists are professionals who advocate ideas to lawmakers in hopes of influencing policy, both locally and nationally. Lobbying can include things like increasing services (e.g. funding for the new pediatric RSV vaccine) or changing policies related to federal programs such as Medicare/Medicaid. Nurses are well positioned to become lobbyists thanks to their clinical knowledge and experience – they know how public policy and laws can ultimately affect patient care and the everyday operations of healthcare organizations. You don’t have to be a nurse to become a healthcare lobbyist, but expertise in the industry gives nurses credibility. And advanced degrees such as an MSN or DNP can increase that credibility, leading to more career opportunities and a higher salary.
Healthcare lobbying is a growing industry, with expenditures rising 70% over the past two decades. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations will continue to lobby for policies that benefit them and their patients, so if you’re looking for a career with growth potential, lobbying is worth a look.
Occupational Health Nurse
If you’re interested in the intersection of healthcare and business, a career in occupational health may be an option for you. According to the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), “the practice focuses on promotion and restoration of health, prevention of illness and injury, and protection from work-related and environmental hazards.” Occupational health nurses work as consultants, educators, and case managers for a myriad of industries such as the corporate world, manufacturing, government entities, and more. Nurses in this role may lead employee safety training, run audits on workplace hazards, or ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. Many occupational health nurses hold an MSN degree, but because this career is focused on the business world, a dual MSN-MBA degree would also be advantageous. In addition, professional credentialing from the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) is available.