Postgraduate Pathways: Is a Post-Master’s Certificate Best for You?

postgraduate nursing certificates
postgraduate nursing certificates

Are you wondering whether a postgraduate nursing certificate is right for you? You’re in good company.

Many MSN-prepared nurses ask the same question before enrolling in a post-master’s certificate program.

This blog will help you explore the fundamentals of postgraduate nursing certificates. Discover what they are and why APRN and non-APRN nurses alike decide to pursue them.

You’ll also learn about three of today's top online postgraduate certificates and how they prepare you for the most coveted roles in nursing.


postgraduate nursing certificate

What's a Postgraduate Certificate?

A postgraduate certificate is a credential available to people with a master’s degree or doctorate. The curricula focus on developing specific skills or expertise in a professional specialty.

In nursing, post-master’s certificate programs help MSN- or doctorally-prepared nurses build on their clinical skills and nursing knowledge.

There are multiple concentration areas to choose from, including nursing education, leadership, and informatics, as well as those that prepare you for APRN licensure informatics.

Depending on the concentration, you can typically complete a postgraduate nursing certificate in six months to two years.


consider postgraduate nursing certificate

Why Should I Consider a Postgraduate Certificate in Nursing?

Nurses with master's degrees have many motivators for earning a postgraduate nursing certificate. This section will explain two of the most common: to advance their nursing education and enter a new nursing discipline.

1. Advance Your Nursing Education

Becoming an RN is an important milestone. But the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) believes it’s just the first step in nursing preparation.

AACN advocates for nurses to strive for higher levels of education throughout their careers. By doing so, nurses can enhance their ability to deliver high-quality care.

If you already have an MSN, completing a postgraduate certificate will advance your graduate-level nursing education. You’ll gain new competencies and opportunities for career advancement.

According to AACN, nurses educated at the graduate level can have a broader impact on the design and implementation of healthcare. They can also earn higher salaries, which follow nurse leadership positions.

2. Enter a New Nursing Discipline

The desire to enter a new field of nursing is another reason why MSN-prepared nurses earn postgraduate certificates.

Like many professionals, nurses may wish to change roles during their careers. Completing a postgraduate nursing certificate can help you do just that.

Consider these scenarios:

  • A women’s health nurse practitioner observes that patients and their families need additional care. They want to broaden their competencies so that they can treat individuals of all ages and genders.
  • A licensed RN who serves as a healthcare administrator wants to provide direct patient care again but in a more independent role.
  • A clinical nurse specialist aspires to enter nursing education to teach the next generation of nurses.

In each case above, a postgraduate nursing certificate would qualify the nurse to transition to another discipline. They would develop the necessary knowledge and skills and prepare for licensure.


top postgraduate nursing certificates

Three Top Postgraduate Nursing Certificates

Spring Arbor University (SAU) Online offers three postgraduate certificate pathways. They're designed for nurses who hold an MSN with or without APRN licensure.

The programs will equip you with specialized knowledge for these in-demand advanced nursing professions:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Educator

As a graduate, you'll be prepared to start a new chapter in nursing care. You can expand your nursing role while meeting the growing need for highly skilled nursing leaders in advanced practice nursing and nursing education.

The following sections of the blog will outline the postgraduate certificate pathways for nurses at SAU Online.


family nurse practitioner

Postgraduate Certificate Pathway #1: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Do you want to expand your scope of practice and grow your professional autonomy?

Consider Spring Arbor’s online Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing – FNP. It will supply you with the clinical knowledge and skills needed to become an FNP.

The program has two tracks:

  • NP to FNP: For MSN-prepared NPs who want to deepen their knowledge and clinical expertise
  • Non-NP to FNP: For MSN-prepared nurses looking to develop competence for the FNP role

What's an FNP?

A family nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse with specialized knowledge and skills in family health.

Approximately 67% of NPs in the U.S. are certified FNPs. That makes family health the most popular NP specialty in the nation.

What distinguishes FNPs from other NPs? FNPs have a broad scope of practice. They treat patients of all ages, from birth onwards.

FNPs provide a variety of healthcare services, including:

  • Treatment of serious illnesses
  • Education on disease prevention
  • Health promotion

On a typical workday, an FNP might see an average of 18 patients. They maintain patient records, perform physical exams, interpret diagnostic tests, create treatment plans and much more.


benefits becoming fnp

What Are the Benefits of Becoming an FNP?

A notable benefit of the FNP role is an extensive scope of practice. With it comes excellent career opportunities and higher earnings than RNs.

1. Broader Scope of Practice

Unlike other types of NPs, FNPs serve a range of patients.

FNPs can treat the entire family. They’re trained to provide direct care to individuals across the lifespan, from infants and adolescents to adults and seniors.

As a result, FNPs often see patients throughout their lives. They can form meaningful relationships and observe changes throughout human development.

FNPs also address a variety of clinical needs. Acute illness, chronic illness, and injuries that fall under primary care are all part of the practice scope.

Finally, FNPs are able to treat patients from diverse backgrounds.

Approximately 79 million Americans live in areas with a shortage of primary care practitioners. Residents of these medically underserved areas are often homeless or low-income.

As primary care providers, FNPs make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. They can deliver high-quality primary care where it’s needed most, helping patients improve their health and prevent disease.


fnp career opportunities

2. Excellent Career Opportunities

FNPs have exceptional career opportunities. That's partly because of the burgeoning need for preventative and primary care.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment of nurse practitioners to rise by 28% between 2018 and 2028. This figure is six times higher than the national average.

FNPs also benefit from the ability to work in several settings, including:

  • Primary care: FNPs can work anywhere that primary care is offered, such as urgent care clinics, community health centers, healthcare systems and universities.
  • Private practice: In some states, FNPs can open and operate a private practice independently. Other states allow FNPs to work in private practice under the supervision of another healthcare provider.
  • Medically underserved areas: The demand for FNPs is particularly high in places with a shortage of medical professionals, such as inner cities and rural communities. These areas need approximately 14,500 primary care health professionals to fill the gap.

3. High Earning Potential

Thanks to a broad scope of practice and workplace flexibility, FNPs can earn considerably more than nurses without a postgraduate education.

The average salary of FNPs is approximately 38% higher than RNs ($94,474 versus $64,446).

Their median earnings are even higher. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, full-time FNPs take home a median total income of $114,000.


postgraduate fnp certificate

How Will a Postgraduate Certificate Help Me Become an FNP?

SAU's online postgraduate certificate for aspiring FNPs provides learning experiences centered on care across each stage of the lifespan.

As a student, you will:

  • Explore the transformative effect of compassion and caring on facilitating healthy behavioral changes.
  • Apply the knowledge, skills and competencies essential to the holistic health management of childbearing women and their families.
  • Emphasize the promotion of well-being and resiliency among family units.
  • Learn the care needs of antepartum women and those with health pattern variations that may result in at-risk pregnancies.
  • Attain the necessary knowledge to provide evidence-based, primary health care to infants and children.

Clinical experiences in primary care are also a vital part of the curriculum. NP to FNP candidates will complete 250 hours, and non-NP to FNP students will complete 625 hours.

You can earn your online postgraduate FNP certificate in eight months or less. Then, you'll be ready to take the FNP licensure exam.

Later in this blog, you'll learn about our graduates' outstanding licensure pass rate.


adult gerontology

Postgraduate Certificate Pathway #2: Adult-Gerontology

SAU’s online Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing – Adult-Gerontology is designed for MSN-prepared nurses who want to provide primary care to older patients.

This non-NP to NP pathway will supply you with the skills to become an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP).

What's an AGPCNP?

AGPCNPs provide primary care to patients aged 13 and above, including adolescents, adults and the elderly.

They assess, diagnose and plan for all primary care needs. These include conditions such as abdominal pain, urinary tract infections and acute upper respiratory illness.

AGPCNPs primarily work in hospital inpatient units or outpatient clinics. Another top practice setting is private physician practice.

Wherever they choose to work, AGPCNPs are busy. The average daily caseload of a full-time AGPCNP is 15 patients.


benefits becoming agpcnp

What Are the Benefits of Becoming an AGPCNP?

As advanced nursing professionals, AGPCNPs enjoy more autonomy and higher earnings than RNs. They also benefit from robust career opportunities.

1. Professional Autonomy

A postgraduate certificate program for AGPCNPs will equip you with advanced training and specialized knowledge. As a result, you’ll enjoy more professional independence than RNs when you graduate.

All NPs, including AGPCNPs, are qualified to:

  • Lead interdisciplinary health care teams
  • Conduct research and apply their findings to practice
  • Order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests
  • Diagnose and treat health conditions
  • Prescribe medications and treatments
  • Educate patients on disease prevention

AGPCNPs can also open and operate a private practice in certain states.

2. High Earning Potential

Earning a post-master's certificate and becoming an AGPCNP will also position you for a substantial salary.

The salary range of all AGNPs is between $73,000 and $109,000, with an average of $90,102. Meanwhile, the mean annual wage of RNs is approximately 33% less ($64,446).


agpcnp career prospects

3. Strong Career Prospects

AGNPs are in high demand, which means you’ll benefit from strong career prospects.

One reason is the growing population of aging adults.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in five Americans will reach retirement age (65 or over) by 2030. It will be the first time that older people outnumber children in the nation’s history.

This shift in demographics will add pressure to the healthcare system. The country will need more primary care providers, such as AGPCNPs, to care for older adults.

Similar to FNPs, another factor in the demand for AGNPs is the lack of primary care doctors. By 2032, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a deficit of between 21,100 and 55,200.

Two factors will cause the shortfall, according to the AAMC:

  • The supply of primary care doctors will not meet the demand of the growing aging population.
  • One-third of active doctors will reach retirement age in the next decade.

These conditions have created extraordinary career opportunities for AGNPs. Because they’re trained to provide high-quality, cost-effective, and patient-centered care, they can address the need for primary care providers.


postgraduate agpcnp certificate

How Will a Postgraduate Certificate Help Me Become an AGPCNP?

The online Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing – Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner will help you learn essential competencies and methodologies. Graduates are prepared to deliver comprehensive primary care to adolescents, adults, seniors and geriatric patients.

In the eight-month program, you will:

  • Gain knowledge of gerontology concepts and how they meet the older adult's biological, psychosocial, mental and spiritual needs.
  • Understand what goes into the management of chronic disease and the complex care needs of elderly individuals.
  • Learn how to arrange and evaluate care for health-compromised clients through case management and interdisciplinary collaboration.


nurse educator

Postgraduate Pathway #3: Nurse Educator

Do you want to inspire and teach the next generation of nurses? SAU Online offers a Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing – Nurse Educator for MSN-prepared nurses.

You'll develop advanced skills for a career in education, including teaching, learning, assessment and clinical evaluation.

What's a Nurse Educator?

Nurse educators are RNs who provide clinical education to aspiring or practicing nurses. They instruct in university classrooms and labs as well as clinical settings.

The role of a nurse educator also involves:

  • Assessing and evaluating student learning
  • Designing curriculum and evaluating program outcomes
  • Serving as a nursing leader who helps shape the future for nursing education and practice

Many nurse educators become instructors or professors. Those with significant experience can also ascend to leadership roles, such as a nursing school dean or nursing program director.

Others choose to provide professional development outside of academia or work for organizations such as pharmaceutical companies and hospital systems to provide patient education


postgraduate nurse educator certificate

How Will a Postgraduate Certificate Help Me Become a Nurse Educator?

In as soon as one year, SAU Online will help you become competent in teaching, curriculum development and clinical evaluation. You’ll also gain practical experience through an immersive internship.

You'll learn how to:

  • Create effective lesson plans, advance your teaching skills and oversee clinical practices.
  • Strategically plan steps for needs-assessment, behavioral objectives, instructional design and delivery for non-traditional learners.
  • Advocate for vulnerable populations by partnering with the media.
  • Develop grants to improve the quality of care.

As a graduate, you’ll be ready to make a difference in the lives of patients and nurses.


benefits becoming nurse educator

What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Nurse Educator?

Earning a postgraduate certificate to enter nursing education comes with several benefits. You’ll have strong job prospects, more career opportunities and high job satisfaction.

1. Strong Job Prospects

The demand for nurse educators is increasing. For the 2018–19 academic year, 872 nursing schools reported over 1,700 faculty vacancies.

AACN points to the following factors:

  • Faculty age: According to a 2016-17 AACN report, the average age of faculty with a master’s degree was approximately 54. An older nursing faculty has a limited number of active years.
  • Retirement: One-third of the current nursing faculty is expected to retire by 2025.
  • Nursing school enrollment: Fewer students are enrolling in nursing school. This is partly because nursing schools don’t have the resources, including faculty, to accept all qualified candidates.

As a result, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of nursing instructors will grow by 20% between 2018 and 2028. That’s quadruple the national average.


more career opportunities

2. More Career Opportunities

Completing a postgraduate certificate in nursing education will boost your career opportunities. Nurse educators are prepared to work in academic as well as clinical settings.

Nurse educators in academia work at colleges or universities. They can educate students directly, as instructors or professors, or indirectly as nursing school administrators.

You can expect to make a desirable salary in academia. The following are the average annual wages for nurse educator positions.

Position Average Salary
Dean of Nursing $116,596
Associate Dean of Nursing $87,023
Nurse Educator $75,695
Professor of Nursing $70,318
Assistant Professor of Nursing $63,143


According to the National League of Nursing, nurse educator salaries increase based on the level of education taught. For example, nurse educators employed by research universities earn more than those at colleges that offer only associate’s and/or bachelor’s degrees.

Outside of academia, nurse educators provide continuing education in clinical settings. They develop, deliver and evaluate professional development training for practicing nurses.

Nurse educators are also hired in the private sector to provide their unique expertise, where common tasks include:

  • Instructing patients on how to use a particular medication or medical device
  • Peer-to-peer education and consultation to RNs and other healthcare staff
  • Enhancing patient care outcomes and clinical nursing practice

Here are the average earnings for nurse educators in clinical settings:

Position Average Salary
Nursing Education Director $127,875
Nursing Program Director $87,429
Clinical Educator $76,406



high job satisfaction

3. High Job Satisfaction

Like their clinical counterparts, nurses working in education benefit from the ability to enrich others' lives. It can be rewarding to support aspiring nurses and help them develop confidence and knowledge.

According to a recent study by the TIAA Institute, most full-time faculty are satisfied with their jobs:

  • They’re content with the institution and/or department in which they work.
  • The majority see their interactions with students and teaching in a positive light.
  • They believe they have the agency to spark change.

Satisfaction is also high among nurse educators specifically. In a study published in the Journal of Professional Nursing, the most satisfied nurse educators reported:

  • Ample promotion opportunities
  • High salary
  • Feelings of empowerment
  • A clear understanding of their role


spring arbor university

Why Should I Consider Spring Arbor University for a Postgraduate Nursing Certificate?

SAU isn’t the only university that offers online postgraduate certificates in nursing. But it stands out for providing educational excellence within a Christ-honoring and supportive online community.

How Does SAU Online Accommodate Working Nurses?

SAU’s online postgraduate certificate programs are uniquely designed for working nurses. The unique and convenient course structure allows candidates to earn a post-master's certificate in 18 months or less.

SAU Online offers:

  • Multiple intakes a year – get started when it’s feasible for you.
  • One seven-week course at a time – enjoy a week off between courses.
  • Flexible login times – complete your assignments on your own schedule.
  • A built-in student support structure – get assistance throughout your journey.

What Credentials Does SAU Hold?

Spring Arbor University is ranked on a national and regional level for its academic quality and value.

Here are some of the rankings and accolades that the university has received:

  • Accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Regional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission
  • National ranking among the best Midwest universities by U.S. News & World Report
  • Recognition as one of the best online colleges in Michigan by

Since SAU’s beginning in 1873, the university has taken a novel approach to education.Our programs focus on the acquisition of knowledge as well as personal transformation. We help students evolve as people of wisdom by moving beyond knowledge acquisition to knowledge application.

As a student in our postgraduate nursing certificate programs, you’ll receive outstanding, hands-on learning opportunities. They will enable you to implement your knowledge while solving real-world problems.

This approach has helped thousands of SAU graduates pass their nursing licensure exams. First-time test-takers have achieved an 88% pass rate (higher than the national average), while 100% of graduates have passed on their second attempt.


spring arbor university postgraduate nursing certificates

How Will Spring Arbor Support My Postgraduate Studies?

As a postgraduate nursing student at SAU Online, you’ll be supported every step of the way.

Support Resources

Our instructors and staff know exactly what it’s like to be an online learner. They're caring and committed to providing students with a personal learning experience.

You’ll also get support from a dedicated student success coach and a team of career development advisors.

Small Class Sizes

SAU intentionally created its online learning community to foster collaboration and connection.

Our online students are willing and eager to learn. With small class sizes, students can fully engage with their peers and professors.

Faith-Driven Philosophy

We're committed to supporting Christian spiritual development for all students, including those in online programs. Our online postgraduate nursing certificates follow a faith-based educational philosophy.

The curricula consider Christian perspectives in nursing practice and value spiritual growth. Each course integrates faith and learning issues. In addition, students are invited to connect with the University Chaplin for spiritual direction and support.

Take the First Step on Your Postgraduate Pathway

SAU's online nursing certificates provide MSN-prepared nurses with specialized knowledge to impact the future of healthcare. Are you ready to take the next step in your career?


Learn more about Spring Arbor’s online Post-Master’s Certificates.


Read more of Spring Arbor University's top nursing blog posts below:

1. Advantages of Being a Nurse Practitioner

2. DNP Benefits: 5 Reasons to Earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice

3. What Can You Do With an MSN in Nursing Education?

4. Best Nurse Practitioner Qualities

5. 4 Problems Nurses Face in the Hospital