Learn all about the different types of nursing degrees.
The right nursing degree can help set you up for a rewarding health care career. But you need to make sure you decide which nursing program path you want to take before you choose a degree. Researching your career will save you both time and education money and will guide you through the right nursing degree program for your individual career endeavors.
There are many different types of nursing degrees. Here’s a quick guide to choosing the nursing degree that’s right for you.
Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) Degree
This type of degree is the fastest way to enter the field of nursing. Licensed practical nursing degrees generally require only one year of study and training at a hospital, community college or technical vocational school. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work under the supervision of doctors and registered nurses and provide basic but essential nursing services:
- Taking vital signs
- Gathering patient health information
- Delivering injections
- Assisting patients
- Collecting lab samples. LPNs
Registered Nursing (RN) Degree
A registered nursing degree is your entry pass to the full range of opportunity in the nursing field. This type of degree will prepare you to earn your RN license, which is a basic qualification for most nursing jobs. Becoming an RN is also a prerequisite for most nursing specialties and advanced degrees.
There are three ways to pursue your RN education:
- You can earn a nursing diploma
- You can earn your associate’s degree
- You can complete a bachelor’s in nursing degree program
Nursing Diploma or Associate’s Degree
If you’re eager to become an RN as soon as possible, one of these two nursing degrees may be the right choice for you. You can always go back to school later to complete the requirements for a bachelor’s in nursing degree if you wish to advance further in your career.
- Nursing diploma programs are operated by hospitals. They allow you to learn about nursing while helping to deliver patient care, and they take two to three years to complete. Diploma programs often cooperate with community colleges where you are required to take certain core classes.
- Associate’s degrees in nursing are two-year programs offered by community colleges and some four-year institutions. They offer a faster and more cost-effective route to nursing education with a focus on technical nursing skills. Like a diploma program, an associate’s degree will prepare you for an entry-level nursing position delivering patient care in a hospital or other inpatient facility.
Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN) Degree
A Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree (BSN), is the most thorough preparation you can receive for a career as a registered nurse. This type of nursing degree is also a standard prerequisite if you want to continue your education to become an advanced practice nurse, such as a nurse practitioner (NP) or certified nurse midwife (CNM).
Accelerated BSN programs are available for nurses with previous education and experience. LPN-to-BSN programs allow LPNs to earn bachelor’s of nursing degrees in four academic semesters. RN-to-BSN bridge programs offer flexible scheduling to working nurses who already hold associate’s degrees or diplomas.
Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Degree
A Master’s of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) is a post-graduate program of study for nurses interested in going beyond the scope of RN practice. This type of nursing degree takes up to two years to complete and focuses on advanced nursing theory and practice. You will graduate with the skills to become an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN), which includes the following specialties:
- Nurse practitioner
- Certified nurse anesthetist
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Certified nurse midwife
A bachelor’s in nursing degree is a prerequisite for most MSN programs. You will also probably need to have an RN license, minimum GPA and GRE scores, and clinical experience in order to be accepted in a master’s in nursing degree program. This may sound like a lot of work and preparation, but it’s well worth it.
Depending on your career goals, you may also want to consider a joint nursing degree program. This type of program combines an MSN degree with another type of degree and allows you to complete both programs in less time than it would take to do each separately. A joint degree can make you very marketable for certain types of jobs. For example, an MSN/MBA combines a master’s degree in nursing with a master’s degree in business administration—ideal preparation for an executive management position in a hospital or other health care organization.
Doctoral Nursing Degree
Doctoral nursing degrees are four to six year post-graduate programs that prepare nurses for top-tier careers in health administration, clinical research or advanced clinical practice. Doctoral nursing degree options include the following:
- Doctor of Nursing (ND)
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
- Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc)
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The goal of all doctoral nursing programs is to prepare nurses to be leaders, whether they pursue research, clinical advancement, policy change, or organizational transformation.
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