Types of Nursing Degrees

Students graduate with their nursing degrees

There are many paths into Nursing, from certificate programs to four-year degrees.

Your career goals should guide your decision on which Nursing program is right for you. Getting a two-year associate’s degree and becoming an RN may be just right for you, but earning an advanced degree can improve your pay and open doors to new opportunities.

If you want to travel, making yourself more marketable with education and specializations will help you go further and earn more.

Below you will find details pertaining to common Nursing degrees and the opportunities you’ll discover after earning them.

Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN)

Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses work under the supervision of Registered Nurses and Physicians.

They provide care to patients in clinics, long-term care facilities and hospitals. LPNs take vital signs, provide basic patient care and, in some cases, administer medications.

LPNs and LVNs are basically only different in title, not in role. Texas and California use the term LVN, whereas the majority of the United States uses LPN.

To become an LPN/LVN, you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent certificate. The program usually lasts a year, and prepares you to take the NCLEX-PN.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 12% job growth for LPNs/LVNs through the year 2026.

The BLS also reports a median salary of more than $40,000. This salary fluctuates widely depending on years of experience and location.

Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An associate’s degree in Nursing, or ADN, is the entry-level degree into a career as a Registered Nurse.

Generally a two year degree, ADN programs prepare you to pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates 15% job growth over the next 10 years, and the mean salary for RNs is nearly $70,000.

* Note that this salary and job growth refers to all Registered Nurses, whether they have a ADN or BSN.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

The Institute of Medicine released a report in 2010 predicting the proportion of bachelor-prepared Registered Nurses to increase up to 30% by the year 2020. Many acute care facilities are giving preference to Nurses with their BSN over counterpart with only an ADN.

For first-time degree seekers, traditional BSN programs are generally four years long. RNs who don’t have a degree can get one with online RN-to-BSN programs.

If you have a degree in something other than Nursing, an accelerated BSN program might be a good fit.

BSN-prepared Nurses are eligible for the same roles as ADN-prepared Nurses, but a BSN opens doors into leadership and education roles, along with better pay.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

The baby boomer generation is aging and our population continues to grow. On top of it all, there’s a shortage of Primary Care Physicians.

The need for Advanced Practice Nurses is higher now than ever before, making it a good time to become a Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Midwife.

The job outlook for Advanced Practice Nurses is incredible. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates job growth of 30% between 2016 and 2026.

Mean salaries for these jobs are six figures. There’s no question that earning your MSN is a great financial move.

Online programs allow you to earn an advanced practice degree while continuing to work. If you have your RN but not your BSN, there are RN-to-MSN programs available as well.

If you want to move away from working at the bedside, a master’s degree can help. A master’s in health administration or education would set you up for roles such as Nurse Manager or Nurse Educator.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest degree for Nurses. According to Nurse Journal, less than 1% of Nurses in the U.S. have a doctoral degree.

You don’t need a DNP to do most clinical nursing jobs, but it may be a smart move if you’d like to move into an executive role.

Earning your DNP would raise your earning potential. It puts you in position to lead large teams of Nurses, and improve health care as a whole.

What degree should you go for next?

There will always be opportunity for advancement in Nursing. The Nursing profession is unique in that changing specialties requires no further education; you only need on-the-job training. However, a BSN will open doors to more Nursing positions across the country. And if you earn an MSN, the sky is the limit.

Where did you begin your Nursing education? Will you be pursing an advanced degree? Share with us in the comments!