What Types of Nursing Degrees Can I Earn?

NursingDecember 20, 2013

If you're thinking of a career in nursing, you may be a bit confused about all the different educational options available. Here's a basic breakdown of the different types of nursing degrees and the jobs you can pursue with each. This article will give you a better idea of which degree you need for your planned career path.

Practical Nursing (LPN)

While practical nursing is not technically a "degree", it's worth noting it as the entry level to licensed nursing. Typically, this program lasts two semesters following the completion prerequisites, and students are then eligible to apply to take the exam and get their LPN license. The scope of practice for an LPN varies by state, but they often don't hold supervisory positions, and they work primarily in long term care. Some hospital and home health jobs are available to LPNs, but they tend to work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse (RN).

Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN)

This entry level RN degree usually runs two years, or four semesters, after prerequisites are completed. An ADN registered nurse is eligible for most clinical jobs and many supervisory roles like their bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) counterparts. Some community health, research and teaching jobs require a BSN, but ADNs and BSNs otherwise have comparable opportunities and wages.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

In addition to the community health, research, and teaching jobs noted above, nurses with the four-year BSN are one step closer to obtaining a master's degree in nursing, which is necessary if you choose to become a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthesiologist.

Another consideration for a BSN that may not occur to most people: If there's any chance you would like to work as a nurse internationally, you'll need your BSN. Even the countries that previously accepted ADN nurses such as Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have since changed their regulations to require a minimum of a three-year nursing program. You may not think that's important now, but you never know what might happen down the road. While you may not be interested in relocating overseas permanently, the lure of a travel nursing assignment working in the Australian outback or in a London hospital may draw your attention.

Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN)

If you want to become a nurse practitioner or a university level nursing instructor, you'll need to get your MSN, which requires an additional one to two years of school after your BSN. Nurses with an MSN usually work in administrative or research positions rather than clinical, but there are some exceptions.

Doctorate of Nursing Science (DNS)

If you want to write nursing textbooks or become the department head of a university nursing program, then you may want to pursue a doctorate degree in nursing. Very few nurses take their training to this level, but if you're interested in those areas of nursing, the time and expense of this degree may be worthwhile.

With so many types of nursing degrees, you can customize your training program to your career goals and determine exactly how much education you need to start your new career.

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