Licensing and Careers

Licensure for Registered Nurses (RN)

The first three semesters of the MGH Institute School of Nursing Direct-Entry Master of Science program prepare you to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), which you must pass to become licensed and to work as a registered nurse (RN) – as well as to continue in the master's program. Licensing is done by state boards of nursing, and RNs are required to renew their licenses on a periodic basis.

NCLEX Pass Rates*


National MS




















* Source: The Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services: 

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Licensure for Nurse Practitioners

There is no advanced practice licensure examination that parallels the NCLEX-RN. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) recommends the use of APN certification examinations as a basis for state licensure and board certification decisions.

In the U.S., nurse practitioners are licensed by the state in which they practice, and have national certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Nurse practitioners also have national certification through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP); and for nurse practitioners in Women's Health, through the National Certification Corporation (NCC).

After completing your advanced practice course of study in the Direct-Entry Master of Science, you are prepared to take the certification examination for your chosen specialty as a nurse practitioner. Read more about the difference between licensure and certification.

As an advanced practice nurse you are required to renew both your registered nurse's license and your advanced practice nursing specialty certification with state boards on a regular basis. Each state has its own authorization process for advanced practice nurses – see those for Massachusetts as an example.

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Career Opportunities for Advanced Practice Nurses with a Master of Science

Advanced practice nurse (APN) is an umbrella term that refers to registered nurses prepared at the master's level or higher with specialized education. An APN can be a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or nurse midwife. APNs can deliver as much as 80% of the primary and preventative health care services traditionally provided by primary care physicians, including having prescription privileges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Possessing an in-depth knowledge of one or more specialty areas, APNs care for patients in a variety of settings that include acute care, critical care, intermediate care, long-term care, ambulatory care, and home care.

Two-thirds of all APNs are NPs, most of whom hold a Master's degree. NPs are well trained at examining patients, ordering and interpreting diagnostic studies, diagnosing and treating disease, as well as working in research and case management roles.

An advanced practice nurse still gives all of the time and attention that they can to a patient, but will have more training to handle more complicated issues. 

Nursing Shortage

Due to the continuing nursing shortage in the U.S., registered nurses are in great demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook for NPs:

  • Employment of nurse practitioners is expected to grow 34 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations (which is 11%) and highest of the three types of advanced practice nurses.
  • Advanced practice nurses are projected to generate 47,600 new jobs during that period, among the largest number of new jobs for any occupation.

All  advanced practice specialties – nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and nurse anesthetists – will be in high demand, particularly in medically underserved areas such as inner cities and rural areas. Growth will occur because of an increase in the demand for healthcare services. Several factors, including healthcare legislation and the resulting newly insured, an increased emphasis on preventative care, and the large, aging baby-boom population will contribute to this demand.

Earnings for Nurse Practitioners

According to the 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, median annual earnings of nurse practitioners was $98,190.

  • The middle 50 percent earned between $84,860 and $117,020
  • The lowest 10 percent earned $70,540
  • The highest 10 percent earned 135,830

US News & World Report ranked nurse practitioner as the sixth best job in America.

Many employers offer flexible work schedules, childcare, educational benefits, and bonuses.

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Working Conditions for APNs

Most advanced practice nurses work in well-lighted, comfortable health care facilities. Advanced practice nurses work in hospitals, physicians' offices, home care settings, nursing homes for the elderly, occupational settings, and public health settings (schools, government and private agencies, clinics, and retirement communities). See Advanced Practice Nurses Roles for a more in-depth discussion.

Many nurses say they chose nursing in part because of the scheduling flexibility that enables them both to pursue a career and have a family.

In settings that require round-the-clock care, nurses are needed to work days, evenings and nights. The profession can be physically and emotionally demanding, depending on the environment.

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Nursing Career Resources

The MGH Institute provides Career Services for students and alumni.

Below are links to other Web sites that provide valuable information on nursing careers.

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN): With a resource section on nursing shortages 
  • Campus RN: Career information, news about nursing, job search, and more
  • Registered Nurse: Very comprehensive guide to nursing education and nursing career information
  • Sigma Theta Tau: International Honors Society for Nursing: Great source for leadership opportunities; excellent Career Map for new and current nurses. MGH Institute has its own chapter of the Society, Upsilon Lambda.
  • National Health Service Corps (NHSC): For more than three decades, the National Health Service Corps has been recruiting caring health professionals to serve in rural areas where the closest clinic could be miles away, and in inner-city neighborhoods, where economic and cultural barriers prevent people from seeking and receiving the health care they deserve.

    NHSC delivers a workforce of caring and culturally sensitive clinicians dedicated to serving the underserved. Through a combination of programs, including an educational loan repayment program, and a scholarship program, NHSC deploys a cadre of primary care clinicians who are motivated by an extraordinary desire to serve, along with a commitment to improve the health of underserved communities.

    For more information about National Health Service Corps opportunities, contact Associate Professor Patricia Reidy.

    Read Shana Kaplan's (Class of 2009) blog on her experience at the Tennessee Primary Care Association through the NHSC's summer SEARCH program.

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