It strikes me that many students and nurses do not seem to know about the "other" masters degree options for nurses. Everyone seems to want to be a nurse practitioner these days. Now, that's great news for the primary care provider shortage, but we need nurses with masters degrees who can work in other positions and have other skill sets.
Let's review the other masters degrees in nursing. Nearest and dearest to my own heart is Nursing Education. Remember that really cool clinical instructor you had in your entry-level nursing program --that could be you! Do you like precepting new hires? Are you the person on your unit who unofficially keeps everyone up-to-date on the latest evidence? Do you really enjoy patient teaching, whether in the hospital or community setting? Do you just like to teach? Nursing education is the right masters for you. Skills learned in a nursing education masters cannot be learned on the job. Curriculum writing and program development are skills that are best learned through formal instruction. Teaching skills come naturally to some, but can always be enhanced and developed. Believe it or not, writing good test questions is a skill you need to learn.
If you want to work in Global Health, a nursing education masters will serve you well because a lot of what you will do when working for a non-governmental organization (NGO) involves teaching and capacity building for nurses and other healthcare workers. If you really want a powerful masters degree to work in the Global Health arena, try a dual MSN-MPH where the MSN focuses on education and the MPH on global health. My own NYU is the only university in the country to offer that joint degree option.
So maybe teaching isn't your thing. Ever consider Informatics? Nurses with IT skills are highly sought after. In fact, the US healthcare system needs 50,000 additional IT professionals, so why not be one of them? With the push toward electronic medical records, nurses are ideal people to facilitate implementation of new EMRs. Their sense of "what works" for documentation is also helpful for designing programs that capture what nurses do. Data management skills developed in informatics programs are also critical these days. People who have skills to sort and filter information are going to be critical for health systems operations in the decades to come. Informatics can also be a good way to blend teaching, implementation, and technology. Think about how cool it would be to develop technology or applications to make nurses' workloads easier and improve patient outcomes. All of these things you can do with a masters in nursing Informatics.
For the second part of this post, I will discuss nursing administration, policy, and clinical nurse leader programs. For whatever program you choose, make sure you select one accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to ensure you are getting a quality degree.