Nurses work in one of the world’s most exciting and fulfilling industries–a field that is constantly growing and changing, and puts the health and welfare of thousands of people in the expert hands of specialized individuals. Nurses are life savers, care givers, and friends to their patients. A standard bachelor’s degree is often the turn key that gets these young and ambitious individuals into the world of nursing, but there are also higher level degrees available in nursing, which many choose to pursue. This may be a great option for many, but how can you be sure if this is the right decision for you?

First, understand that a master’s degree in nursing does not automatically mean a higher salary. If you obtain your higher level degree but no not pursue career development, you will remain in the same position, earning the same salary for carrying out the same responsibilities. Even if you do pursue new career options with your master’s degree, you might not earn more money. Some positions that require a master’s degree actually pay less than some veteran nurses with bachelor’s degrees earn. A master’s degree is not an automatic ticket for higher pay.

Of course, while a master’s degree does not guarantee a higher salary, it does open up many new career options. Nurses who are interested in advancing their careers are most often required to obtain master’s degrees. Positions in supervising and managing nurses can be paths to greater career options or fulfilling careers themselves, and a higher level degree is the key to getting into these positions. Administrative positions and specialized nursing care will also open up to those who hold master’s degrees, depending on their particular specialties. If you aspire to become more than a nurse, taking your education to the next level will get you there.

There are some who pursue education simply for education’s sake, and this is as valid a reason to pursue a master’s degree as any other. The medical world is constantly changing and advancing as new technologies and medicines develop and make their way into hospitals. Continuing your education has the fantastic benefit of keeping you tuned in with the latest developments in the industry and the latest trends in healthcare. If you have a hunger for knowledge and a passion for learning, fulfilling your desires may be enough to justify the time and money needed for a master’s degree in nursing.

Be sure to take these factors into account when making the difficult decision about higher education in your career as a nurse. Programs for accelerated nursing degrees may allow you to obtain your desired degree faster, but the investment will still be significant. The worst thing you can do is go into a pursuit like this without a plan. If you have a specific goal in mind, pursuing your master’s degree will definitely be worth it. Otherwise, avoid tiring yourself by running in place, and wait until you have a plan developed.