I was recently accepted into a master’s program. I’ve been weighing the possibility for some time, and everything seemed to come together for the fall application deadline. I took one class over the summer as a non-degree student, and when I decided to sign up for two more classes for the fall semester, I figured it was time to make the official decision to apply. As of last week, I am an official graduate student. Crazy!
I’ve always been interested in pursuing a higher degree. In fact, my original plan after undergraduate graduation was to head immediately into a BSN-PhD program, where I could focus on nursing research in an academic environment.
My senior year of college was spent applying to PhD in Nursing programs, and I traveled to several institutions to interview and tour. Once I made my graduate school decision, I thought I was set for the next 5 years: en route to my doctorate. That was definitely not my course, though.
I felt altogether overwhelmed during the summer after college and before graduate school. I had just completed something incredibly hard – nursing school is no mean feat. And I had arduously studied for the NCLEX, another hurdle on the journey. I was having an extremely difficult time wrapping my head around starting a rigorous program that would be years long. To say it bluntly, I cracked under the thought. Looking back on it now, I think it makes sense that it was simply too much in such a short time.
After talking with some of my mentors, I said no to the PhD program. I needed a break from school. Instead, I chose to use the RN license to explore outpatient specialty clinics, and fell in love with the science of allergy and immunology. It was invigorating to be free of exams, papers, and tests, and to enjoy what I had worked so hard to achieve.
However, it only took about two years until I was on the lookout for a nursing research job. I just love the research environment, and to my surprise, I found a clinical nurse research role that seemed to check all my boxes. This is a huge undercurrent propelling me towards gaining a higher degree in research, and why I am now enrolled in a Master’s of Clinical Science program. I want to be an influence within the research field as a nurse: a world that is so heavily dominated by pharmacists and doctors.
Why would a nurse consider graduate school? What are some of my reasons, and potentially reasons for other nurses to pursue a higher degree?
1. Further specialization in a field you enjoy:
I love research, and gaining a master’s degree in research allows me to hone in that specific topic. I want to be able to contribute to the field, and gaining knowledge and skill will only enhance my ability to contribute to research. In general, earning a master’s degree is an opportunity to delve even deeper into topics that were only broadly covered in BSN/RN programs.
2. More opportunities for the future:
A master’s degree can also widen the potential for mobility, either laterally (to another position) or upward (to a leadership role). Nurses are needed in every medicine setting, and earning a master’s degree will allow nurses to broaden their reach even more.
3. Earning potential:
This might not apply for every higher degree program, but nurses who pursue programs such as nurse anesthetist or nurse practitioner can dramatically increase earning potential after passing certification exams. Many nurses seek more autonomy and responsibility that is often associated with higher degrees and higher earnings.
4. You’ll learn a lot along the way:
The end goal is always on one’s mind, but it’s a process to gain the final degree. There will be many assignments to finish and tests to take, but there will also be major accomplishments, memorable professors, networking opportunities, and internships that will shape you as you pursue your higher degree. You’ll learn about what makes you thrive and what makes you die a little inside. All that is helpful for the future.
5. Fill a need:
As I said before, being an RN is a wonderful career. However, there is a plethora of opportunities for nurses with higher degrees in research and practice. They can help shape the future of medicine with the help of more education.
6. Personal fulfillment:
It may seem daunting at first, but going after a higher degree can build self-confidence and personal fulfillment. It can give your life direction, and perhaps add towards building a meaningful career. It is an incredible achievement that requires diligence and excellence, and it is something to be proud of.
If you are considering graduate school, each person’s timing is different. At first, I thought I should go right after college, but it turns out, that wasn’t what was best for me. I’m entering this master’s program with a calm confidence, ready to learn and excited for what’s to come. Three years ago, I wasn’t ready to start higher education, and that’s fine if you aren’t ready now, either. I’m ready now, though, so here I go!