Nursing is often considered a highly satisfying, rewarding, and well-paid profession. By definition, nursing is a profession within healthcare that focuses on the care of patients as they return to or try to maintain optimal quality of life. The best part about this career path is there are multiple ways to get started.

Typically, degree levels range from entry-level diplomas that give you the basics of nursing to specializations. The former generally allow you to assist Registered Nurses (RN) while simultaneously laying the foundation for pursuing further studies to become a Registered Nurse yourself. However, growth does not stop there. Bachelor’s degrees generally open up more advanced nursing divisions for you, and Master’s and post-graduate degrees allow you to specialize and enter the management or faculty of nursing.

This article will discuss the types of degrees that would allow practicing nurses to level up in their careers while helping aspiring nurses know where to get started.

Advanced Nursing Degrees

Practicing nurses can pursue the following advanced degrees to specialize in their field of work and open the doors to exciting career opportunities.

1. Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN)

A Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) allows you to specialize in an area and advance in that field. Degrees such as an MSN FNP degree may lead to leadership and management positions, where you can suggest improvements to the healthcare policy, as well as open up avenues for yourself to pursue research or choose to embark on the journey of becoming a professor.

There are various ways of enrolling in MSN. Keeping in mind that you could be a practicing nurse with an Associate degree, your MSN may range from three to five full-time years. If you have a Bachelor’s degree, on the other hand, then your duration of study is likely to reduce to around 18 to 24 months. Additionally, some universities allow you to enter the MSN program directly. This program is called Direct-Entry MSN, which enables you to enroll without a Bachelor’s degree. If you are a practicing nurse with an RN license, you could opt for the special RN-to-MSN programs offered. Due to the experience, you would have, the duration of this program is likely to range from 24 to 36 months.

Popular fields of specialization include:

  • Family Nurse Practitioners – FNPs mainly focus on preventative care of acute and chronic illnesses.
  • Dialysis Nurse – their key responsibilities include attending to patients with kidney diseases and educating them about their illness
  • Clinical Nurse leaders – they coordinate patient care and make decisions regarding necessary amendments to the patients’ care routines

2. Doctorate of Nursing

There are two types of doctorate that you could pursue. A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing would allow you to work in research and academics and open up opportunities to join the nursing faculty in universities. In contrast, A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) would give you hands-on training to pursue executive and highly paid nurse positions.

Prerequisites to a doctorate include having an RN License. Most commonly, people pursue their DNP after completing their MSN. Alternatively, universities also offer students to pursue DNP right after their BSN. This program mostly caters to nurses who wish to start their careers as advanced practice nurses (APRNs). Regardless of your doctorate program of choice, the study duration would take anywhere from four to six years to complete, depending on whether you are a full-time or part-time student.

Popular fields of specialization include:

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRNs) – are nurses of advanced skill, scope, education, and experience in the field.
  • Pediatric Nurse – they specialize in children’s health.
  • Nurse Anesthetists – they administer anesthesia and monitor the response of vitals to it throughout the procedure.

Entry Level Nursing Degrees

The degrees mentioned below cater to individuals who want to start their nursing careers. They provide them with the necessary knowledge and experience under professional supervision to give them a strong foundation from which to start.

1. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

These are the nurses that patients interact with most frequently. They typically work under the supervision of an RN. Their main task is to care for patients’ basic needs, such as bathing, feeding, and repositioning them if they cannot do it for themselves, along with taking their vitals, dressing their wounds, documenting their health issues, etc.

Students pursuing CNAs should hold a high school diploma and, ideally, have nursing assistant training. Once enrolled in the program, they usually study for one academic year, consisting of two semesters. 

2. Diploma in Nursing and Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Diploma in Nursing is a program conducted by hospitals where they make students work in various departments to get hands-on nursing experience. However, it is not a college degree. On the other hand, Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a college degree that has to be studied at a university rather than in a hospital.

The prerequisite is high school education and knowledge of biology, human anatomy, physiology, etc. Although not compulsory, having a diploma in Nursing can benefit students of ADN. 

Attainment of the diploma will allow students to work at residential care facilities, physicians’ offices, research facilities, etc. Unlike diploma holders, students who graduate with ADN can go on to get their Registered Nurse (RN) license.

3. Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) is a college degree program normally opted for by those with no prior college degree in nursing. Like the ADN mentioned above, this qualification also prepares its graduates to become Registered Nurses. It allows its graduates to get the best jobs right after they graduate as employers prefer BSN over other sister degrees.

The primary prerequisite here is a high school diploma. Students who are completely new to nursing will have a 4-year degree program, whereas students already practicing as RNs can graduate in a shorter period. Students who have a Diploma in Nursing can opt for the bridge programs such as LPN-to-BSN. At this stage, students have the option to specialize, for instance, in pediatrics. 

Graduates of BSN can find their prospective career paths in more advanced areas such as Oncology, Intensive Care Units, Operation Theatres, etc.

Take away

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 9% increase in demand for nurses between the years 2020 to 2030, making nursing quite an attractive profession. It not only offers job satisfaction, growth opportunities, and a high income, but it also allows you to give back to society. Make sure you know where your interest lies and how far you want to progress in this field.