Medical students study medicine to prepare for a career in the medical field. Medical students have multiple academic options to choose from once they decide on their career path. They can pursue in-person studies at a college or university or complete their studies through an online course.

There are multiple academic paths medical students can consider. While some may opt to become doctors or medical scientists, others may be aspiring physician assistants (PAs) or nurse practitioners (NPs). The best programs ensure students acquire the skills and knowledge required for their chosen career path.

MSN Degree

Medical students can earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree through online studies by enrolling in an accredited MSN program. Direct entry MSN programs include the core courses required for aspiring nurse practitioners. Applicants must have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree and be a licensed registered nurse (RN) with at least one year of clinical experience. Aspiring NPs can opt to pursue a specialty, such as becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP), adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, or a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). NPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). These highly trained medical professionals must have a master’s degree and a nursing license. They’re qualified to provide primary care to their patients. Those who become FNPs or adult-gerontology NPs may assess patients, order medical tests, evaluate test results, diagnose patients, and determine how to treat their patients. They can prescribe medication and refer patients to specialists when required. In addition to the MSN degree coursework, aspiring NPs must also complete a practicum and obtain clinical experience to graduate.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual income for NPs in the United States was $109,820 in 2019. One of the reasons entering an MSN degree program is an excellent option for medical students is because the BLS projects jobs for nurse practitioners will grow by 52 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Physician Assistant Master’s Degree

Medical doctors may spend between 10 and 14 years studying to become a licensed medical doctor. Individuals interested in a medical career who do not want to accrue ten years of student loans can opt to become a physician’s assistant instead. Admission requirements for physician assistant MSN programs include a bachelor’s degree and clinical experience. It’s common for undergraduate nursing students to pursue this path. RNs, paramedics, and EMTs may also return to school to earn their MSN in physician assistant studies. It takes two years of full-time studies to earn an MSN degree. Physician assistants must also be licensed. Like NPs, PAs examine patients, order medical tests, diagnose and treat patients, and prescribe medication.

The BLS expects job opportunities for PAs to grow by 31 percent from 2019 to 2029. In 2019, PAs in the United States took home a median annual income of $112,260.

Supplemental Courses

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Medical students can benefit from supplemental training. Project management professionals (PMPs) manage projects. They plan projects, assign tasks, direct staff, and oversee the entire project from start to finish. They’re responsible for maintaining a budget and ensuring projects stay on budget. Medical students can register for online PMP certification classes that ensure graduates have the skills and knowledge needed to be effective PMPs. Medical students who plan to pursue a career as a medical scientist or a healthcare administrator will benefit from earning PMP certification because it demonstrates they can initiate and oversee projects.

The BLS reports that medical and health service managers took him median annual incomes of $100,980 in 2019, while medical scientists earned median salaries of $88,790 the same year. The BLS indicates that medical and health services managers can expect to see jobs increase by 32 percent from 2019 to 2019, while medical scientists’ jobs will grow by six percent during the same 10-year period.

Although there are multiple program options for medical students, some of the best programs equip medical students with the requirements to work as NPs, PAs, and PMPs. The high demand for qualified NPs, PAs, and medical health and services managers ensures people who graduate from MSN degree or PMP certification programs will be equipped with the knowledge and work experience required to find employment in their chosen medical field.