How the Affordable Care Act is Creating New Career Opportunities for Registered Nurses with a Master's Degree in NursingWhen the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law, it changed the lives of millions of uninsured Americans who previously couldn’t afford health insurance or were denied coverage due to pre-existing health problems.

At the same time, ACA has also changed the lives of registered nurses by giving them new incentives for earning a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) online or on campus.

The New Reality for Nurse Practitioners

If you’re a registered nurse with a BS in Nursing, you’re in an enviable position. Your skills are in high demand in a marketplace suffering from a growing shortage of nurses. Now, thanks to the ACA, you can take advantage of exciting new career opportunities with an online master’s degree in nursing.

The ACA provides new and expansive opportunities and responsibilities for nurse practitioners (NPs), also known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). NPs hold a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

In paradigm-shifting language, the Affordable Care Act states that the normal lines of responsibility between doctors and APRNs must be redrawn and barriers must be lifted in order to expand the roles of NPs in this new age of national healthcare.

There are several reasons for the ACA’s strong directive:

  • This new influx of 8- to 11-million newly insured patients in 2014 is adding to the heavy patient loads of primary care doctors across the country.*
  • Primary care practices are no longer concerned solely with acute care and chronic disease management. The ACA expands their responsibilities to include prevention, screening, wellness, and education.
  • Nearly 20% of Americans live in areas with a shortage of primary care doctors according to federal guidelines for patient-doctor ratios. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports there are currently approximately 6,100 designated Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas, many of which are in rural areas.
  • NPs have long argued that they are qualified to treat chronic illness and provide preventive services without a physician’s oversight, especially in healthcare settings such as primary care, pediatric care, and women’s health.
  • Currently in 19 states and the District of Columbia, NPs are allowed to practice independently of a physician. This growing trend reflects major changes that are being made in healthcare delivery as a result of the passage of the ACA.

Prepare for Your New Future With an Online Master’s Degree in Nursing

As an NP with a master’s degree in nursing, you can look forward to earning a full-time mean base salary of $91,310, with an average full-time NP total income of $98,760, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).§ Your new master’s degree allows you to provide a broad range of healthcare services, including:

  • Taking the patient's history, performing a physical exam, and ordering laboratory tests and procedures
  • Diagnosing, treating, and managing diseases
  • Writing prescriptions and coordinating referrals
  • Providing handouts on disease prevention and healthy lifestyles
  • Performing certain procedures

At Walden University, you can customize your online master’s degree in nursing by choosing one of six specializations to focus your degree: family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, leadership and management, nursing education, and nursing informatics.

Walden University, an accredited institution, has been serving the higher education needs of adult learners for 45 years. Today, more than 47,800 students from all 50 U.S. states and more than 150 countries are pursuing their bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral degrees, or certificates online at Walden.

Explore Walden University's online master’s degree in nursing program and specialized certification programs that fit your career goals. Earn your degree at a pace that fits your life and schedule.


*Sanger-Katz, Margo. (2014, October 26). Is the Affordable Care Act Working? The New York Times. Retrieved from

Shortage Designation: Health Professional Shortage Areas & Medically Underserved Areas/Populations. Health Resources and Services Administration. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from

Gillespie, Lisa. (2014, July 14). Nurse Practitioners Gain Flexibility with New State Law. Kaiser Health News. Retrieved from

§NP Fact Sheet (Updated 2014, January) American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Retrieved from