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What Types Of Nursing Degrees Are There?

The demand for nursing is increasing, making it one of the most competitive sectors in the United States. As a result, the registered nurse (RN) workforce is expected to grow by nearly 300,000 in the next decade, making this a very promising career and turning a nursing degree into a sound educational investment.

Nursing Degrees

There are several ways to become a nurse and opportunities that exist at every level of the educational ladder. The type of nursing degree that is right for you will depend on your desired professional outcome, as well as the amount of time and work that you're willing to invest in achieving that outcome.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

  • Completion Time: 4 to 12 Weeks
  • Average Salary: $30,830 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Job Opportunity: Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Where You Can Work: Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities, Schools, Home Health, Clinics.

To become a Certified Nursing Assistant, you must finish a state-approved CNA certification program, the requirements for which can vary from state to state. 

Programs often blend classroom learning with on-the-job training before culminating with a competency exam. After students have successfully completed their exam, they will be placed on a state registry and can use their newfound status to acquire work in nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities.

Certified Nursing Assistants typically work under the supervision of medical professionals, including registered nurses. They learn on the job and may be responsible for a variety of different roles, including attending to the needs of patients, monitoring medications, assessing liquid and food intake, and helping patients with their bathing and eating needs.

Over 1.5 million Americans are certified as CNAs every year and that number is climbing. At the same time, job opportunities are also increasing and there are many roles available for CNAs.

Licensed Practical Nurse / Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)

  • Completion Time: 1 Year
  • Average Salary: $48,820 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Job Opportunity: Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Where You Can Work: Hospitals (Maternity Wards, Emergency Rooms) and other facilities.

An LPN certification is one of the best ways to get your nursing career off the ground. It takes a year to complete and could lead to a career in which you earn in excess of $48,000 a year.

A large number of nurses begin as LPNs before moving on to other nursing degrees and taking their careers to the next level. They typically work alongside physicians and registered nurses and there are opportunities for a number of professions and degrees.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

  • Completion Time: 2 Years
  • Job Opportunity: Registered Nurse
  • Where You Can Work: Nursing Care Facilities, Doctors' Office, Emergency Rooms.

It takes two years to become a registered nurse (RN) via an ADN nursing degree. 

Registered nurses are in high demand and can work in a variety of healthcare settings.

As a registered nurse, you can specialize in a variety of different areas of care, including those related to neonatal care, oncology, and pediatrics.

An Associate Degree in Nursing is also known as an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN).

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

  • Completion Time: 4 Years
  • Average Salary: $75,330 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Job Opportunity: Registered Nurse
  • Where You Can Work: Operation Rooms, Oncology Departments, Outpatient Facilities, Admin Departments, Intensive Care Units.

A Bachelor's degree is the standard for nursing in the United States and is sought by many employers, including hospitals. 

Registered nurses can expect to earn much more with a Bachelor's degree than without one, and it can also lead to further educational opportunities and nursing degrees.

It takes four years to complete a Bachelor's degree and at the end of the process, you can expect to earn an average salary of $75,330, with opportunities to work in a variety of healthcare settings, including specialist departments of hospitals.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

  • Completion Time: 1 to 4 Years
  • Job Opportunity: Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
  • Where You Can Work: A number of roles, including FNP, NNP, PMHNP, and more.

A Master’s of Science in Nursing can take anywhere from 1 to 4 years to complete, depending on the student's existing degree. Applicants to MSN programs must possess an RN license and a Bachelor's degree.

An MSN prepares nurses for advanced roles within the nursing profession, including nurse practitioners and nurse educators. As a result, they generally earn much higher salaries and are assigned more demanding responsibilities.

The main specialties open to nurses studying for a master's degree include:

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

A nurse practitioner is someone who is educated at a master's level or greater. They are more qualified than registered nurses and deal with more complex roles. NPs typically specialize in a specific field of nursing but can also become Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs), in which case they will see patients of all ages and with a variety of disorders, diseases, and health complaints.

Advanced nursing degrees are essential for anyone hoping to study as a nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioners are in high demand right now and that is expected to increase by as much as 50% within the next decade. As a result, while completing an MSN nursing degree is time-consuming and difficult, it's usually worth it in the long run.

Nurse Educator (NE)

Nurse educators help to equip the nursing workforce with the knowledge and skills that they need to properly care for their patients.

Nurse educators are an important part of nursing education. They know how to convey essential information to nursing students and have good people skills and impeccable teaching skills, as well as an advanced understanding of modern nursing practices.

Nurse Administration and Nurse Leadership

Nursing leaders perform more of an administrative role, dealing with the technological and operational side of nursing and performing a variety of different management roles within hospitals, nursing units, and other healthcare settings.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

  • Completion Time: 3 to 4 Years
  • Job Opportunity: Healthcare Executive
  • Where You Can Work: Nurse Management and Administration, as well as all APRN positions

A Doctor of Nursing is the most advanced of all nursing degrees and caters to nurses who want to become the best that they can be. It is available in many different specialisms, including those related to pediatrics and psychiatric health.

Nurses who complete a DNP can start thinking about roles in nursing administration, APRNs, and nurse management.

FAQs about the Types of Nursing Degrees

If you still have a few questions about the types of nursing degrees and the ones that you should study for, take a look at the following FAQs.

How To Choose The Right Nursing Degree Or Certification

To find the right program for you, think about the following steps:

  • What do you want from a nursing program? What is your ultimate goal and where do you want to be 1, 2, 5, and even 10 years from now?
  • Focus on the specialties. There are many specialties available to nurses and the nursing programs that you take at the beginning of your career will determine which ones you can enter at a later date.
  • Consider the school. Where is it located, what will campus life be like, how much time will you spend learning and how much will you spend in an educational setting?
  • Don't rush in. Take your time to think about the many different options at your disposal. Don't simply opt for the one that you think will pay the most money or can be acquired in the shortest amount of time.

One of the great ironies of education (and life) is that you're forced to make a life-changing and career-defining decision at a time when you don't really know what you want to do or who you want to be. But by spending some time contemplating the decision, looking at your options, and chasing a passion as opposed to a paycheck, there's less chance you'll live to regret it.

What Is The Best Degree For Nursing?

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the degree that many employers look for and one that provides graduates with some of the best opportunities. 

What Is The Lowest Degree In Nursing?

A CNA is the lowest degree in the nursing profession. It's arguably the easiest to acquire and will also introduce students to the field, allowing them to gain some knowledge and experience before taking things further.

What Is The Highest Degree In Nursing?

A doctoral degree is the highest degree in nursing. It takes a lot of study and preparation, but it also delivers the most advanced nursing education and ensures that you're ready for all practical challenges.

Summary: Types of Nursing Degrees

As you can see, there are many options available to students embarking upon a nursing career. The options that work best for you will ultimately depend on the amount of time that you want to commit to your studies and the specialty that you want to focus on.

Check out the degree programs available to you, pay attention to the average salary and study requirements, and choose wisely! The decisions that you make today as a student will ultimately impact all of your nursing career and determine the path that you take in life.

find nursing schools near you

find nursing schools near you