Thinking about entering the nursing field? Choosing the right nursing degree is important so that you can have a rewarding career in health care. You should choose the type of nursing degree you want to pursue before you start a nursing program. By researching your career you will save energy, time and money.
There are 6 types of nursing degrees to choose from. Below are descriptions of the 6, which will help you narrow down which nursing degree you should pursue.
1- Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) Degree
A licensed practical nursing (LPN) degree is by far the easiest and fastest way to enter the nursing field. This degree requires one year of school and training in a hospital setting. Usually you can find programs at community colleges or at vocational schools. LPN’s are required to work under the eyes of doctors and registered nurses. They can provide basic, but important nursing services such as:
- Taking vital signs
- Gathering patient health information
- Delivering injections
- Assisting patients
- Collecting lab samples
2- Registered Nursing (RN) Degree
A Registered Nursing Degree otherwise known as an RN is the basic entry-level nursing degree. This degree provides better job options in the nursing field. By studying for a RN degree, you will be prepared to earn your RN license. This license will qualify you for basic nursing jobs. This degree is also the base for higher education in the nursing field.
Here are the 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
Any of these nursing degrees will enable you to take the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for an RN license.
3- Nursing Diploma or Associate’s Degree
If you absolutely cannot wait to enter the nursing field then you have two options. This will give you the foundation to go back later and complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which will help you further your career.
- Many hospitals offer what is called a nursing diploma program. This program provides students the opportunity to learn hands on by caring for patients while also taking core courses at a local community college. The hospital and community college team up to offer this program, which can be completed in two to three years.
- An Associate degree in nursing is offered at community colleges and can be completed in two years. Students often transfer to a 4 year university after competing their 2 year program at the community college. This is a faster and cheaper way to ultimately get a 4 year bachelors degree in nursing. Similar to a diploma program, an associate degree will prepare you for basic entry-level nursing positions. Jobs for associate degree holders include delivering patient care at hospitals or other inpatient facilities.
4- Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN) Degree
A Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) , is the most comprehensive education you can receive for a career as a registered nurse. This is also a mandatory stepping stool if you wish to pursue a higher degree in the nursing field. Advanced degrees include nurse practitioner(NP) or certified nurse midwife (CNM).
Accelerated degrees are also available for nurses who have prior education and experience. An LPN-to-BSN program provides LPN’s the ability to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing in just four academic semesters. RN-to-BSN programs offer a bit more of a flexible schedule for those who are already working in the nursing field and who already have a diploma or an associate degree in nursing.
5- Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Degree
A Masters of Science in Nursing is a graduate degree program for nurses who are interested in higher level studies and who want to learn more than the basics of RN practice. This degree takes a maximum of two years. Its primary focus is on advanced nursing practices and theories. Post graduation you’ll have the skills and opportunity to become an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN). Some specialties for an APN include:
- Nurse practitioner
- Certified nurse anesthegist
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Certified nurse midwife
In order to qualify for a masters program you must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an RN license, a certain qualifying GPA, good GRE scores and clinical experience. This is a lot of work, but necessary to meet the requirements to get admitted into an MSN program.
You may also want to look into joint degree programs when doing your MSN degree. A masters in nursing can be combined with an MBA. This degree can land you jobs in executive management in hospitals or other health care organizations (i.e. health care insurance companies). By combining the degrees you would be able to finish them both in less time than it would take to get the degrees separately.
6- Doctoral Nursing Degree
A doctorate in nursing can take between four to six years after you have completed a graduate program. A doctorate prepares nurses for top of the line careers in the health administration, clinical research and advanced clinical practice fields. Some Doctoral nursing degree options include:
- Doctor of Nursing (ND)
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
- Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc)
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The idea of doctoral nursing programs is to prepare nurses to be leaders in their field. Often Doctors of nursing end up pursuing research, clinical advancement, policy change, or organizational reform.