If you have decided to pursue a career in the field of nursing, you are probably wondering what types of nursing degrees you can get? By reviewing the information found below, you can obtain an answer to this question and several others that pertain to the field of nursing.
Types of Nursing Degrees
The healthcare industry employs over 3.1 million registered nurses in the US, making it the largest healthcare profession in the country. While most nurses work in hospitals, there are plenty of opportunities available in clinics, assisted living centers, nursing homes, schools, community agencies, and private home settings.
Always in demand, nursing is a recession-proof career choice expected to grow by 19 percent through 2022. There are numerous nursing degrees and certificates, with plenty of opportunities for advancement and specialization in different areas. There are three main points of entry when it comes to getting a degree in nursing:
You can attain many nursing degrees to make yourself a knowledgeable, marketable job candidate. Some of your options include:
Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
1. Associate of Science in Nursing
An Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) is a degree that takes roughly two to three years for completion. In America, this degree is typically offered at local community colleges or similar types of nursing schools. In some cases, four year colleges offer an ASN. Students who earn the ASN are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for licensure as a registered nurse.
Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)
An Associates Degree in Nursing takes between two to three years to complete. While some 4-year colleges offer an ADN, most are offered through nursing schools or community colleges. At the completion of the program, students are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and apply to be licensed as a Registered Nurse (RN).
Students seeking an ADN will take the usual core classes related to the field including anatomy, physiology, chemistry, psychology, microbiology, nutrition, and of course, nursing. Some programs also require participants to fulfill the ADN requirements by completing core math, English, history, or communications classes, among others.
An RN diploma differs from an ADN in that it is typically completed at a technical or vocational school or in a teaching hospital or nursing school. At one time in America, all nurses were awarded diplomas. Today, there are fewer hospital-based nursing schools than in the past, and most students opt for an ADN program. However, for those who want to learn hands-on while simultaneously completing their BSN degrees online, an RN diploma presents a practical option.
Like the ADN, students with an RN diploma can sit for the NCLEX-RN to become licensed as an RN. An important distinction between the ADN and RN diploma programs is that while both are pathways to obtaining RN licensure, graduates of ADN programs typically have more career options and higher pay rates.
Career Options for New RNs With an ADN or RN Diploma
Career options for new RNs are numerous, but here are just a few places you can likely find work with an RN diploma or ADN:
- Traveling nurse organizations
- Health care clinics and doctors’ offices
- Government and community agencies
- Nursing homes and assisted living centers
- Health insurance companies
2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a degree which involves studying the principles and science of nursing. This degree generally takes four years to complete and is granted by a university or similar school with accreditation. Although an individual is eligible to become a registered nurse after attaining an ASN, the BSN is advantageous in that it prepares the student to move beyond bedside care and into the world of nursing research, science, informatics, and leadership. Yet another advantage of the BSN is that it provides students with education in general subjects such as social sciences, humanities, and math. Finally, the BSN provides students with opportunities for career advancement in the form of administrative, consulting, teaching, and research positions. These options are not available for individuals who only hold an ASN.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
If you enjoy the healthcare field and plan to continue nursing, the next logical step on your educational path is obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. While it is not necessary to hold a BSN to work as an RN, you can significantly increase both your chances of advancement as well as your salary by earning your BSN.
A BSN is a typical four-year degree program. To earn a BSN, students undertake general courses as well as a nursing curriculum. Graduates who hold a BSN can typically expect to be eligible for a much wider range of career opportunities than those who hold an ADN. BSN graduates still need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for licensing as an RN if they do not hold this designation already.
Prospective students who already have a nursing diploma or an associate’s degree in nursing often opt to advance their careers by pursuing a BSN. In this case, a BSN can often be obtained in two years rather than four.
Career Options for Students With a BSN
RNs who hold a BSN often find themselves in supervisory and leadership positions, assisting with surgery, and playing bigger roles in the clinical setting. Many choose to move on to more specialized areas of nursing like:
- Critical Care
- Public Health
For more information about the best college to obtain your BSN, you’ll want to check out these articles:
- 25 Best Traditional BSN Degree Programs
- Top 10 Online Undergraduate Nursing Programs
- 10 Most Affordable BSN Degree Programs
- 10 Fastest Online BSN Degree Programs
3. Masters of Science in Nursing
A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a postgraduate degree that is considered to be an entry-level degree for nurse managers and educators. The degree can also prepare students to seek careers as health policy experts, nurse administrators, or clinical nurse leaders. The MSN also functions as the prerequisite for doctorate-level nursing degrees, and was once required in order to operate as a nurse practitioner or advanced practice registered nurse.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
The Master of Science in Nursing is an advanced level degree that prepares students to move into positions in leadership and education. Students pursuing an MSN can expect to take coursework in health policy, leadership, health systems, team supervision, healthcare ethics, quality improvement, and more. Depending on your previous education and level of experience, it typically takes about two years to complete.
On average, nurses who hold an MSN earn 48% more than those who hold a BSN. Earning your MSN allows you to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). This designation is a key element in moving to more prestigious positions in the health care industry.
Career Options for Students With an MSN
- Certified nurse practitioner
- Nurse midwife
- Nurse anesthetist
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Neonatal nurse practitioner
- Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
- Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
For information on the top schools to get an MSN you can check out these ranking articles:
- 25 Best Traditional MSN Degree Programs
- 15 Best Online MSN Degree Programs
- 10 Fastest Online MSN Degree Programs
- 10 Most Affordable Online MSN Degree Programs
4. Doctor of Nursing Practice
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a degree that places emphasis on the clinical dimension of disease processes. Coursework for this degree typically includes diagnosis and treatment of disease and advanced practice. The DNP is designed to prepare registered nurses to become independent primary care providers. Additionally, the DNP is designed to function as a parity degree with other types of health care doctorates such as medicine, dentistry, and psychology. Individuals who obtain the degree can work as a nurse practitioner (NP), certified nurse-midwife (CNM), clinical nurse specialists (CNS), and certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners can expect to earn about $96,460 annually. While about 52% of nurse anesthetist programs offer the DNP, the other 48% use the title “Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice” (DNAP) for their terminal degrees.
Related Resource: Health Informatics
If you are thinking about pursuing a career in nursing, you should know that doing so can be personally and professionally advantageous. By reviewing the information above, you can examine the types of nursing degrees available and determine which would best help you accomplish your vocational goals.