What are the Different Types of Nursing Degrees?

NurseAs you look into the nursing profession, you may want to learn more about the different types of nursing degrees. Nursing is a vital and growing profession and there are many education pathways you can choose, both as you make your way into the profession and later as you choose areas of specialization. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider the various types of nursing degrees.

Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees

There are different degrees you can obtain in order to get started in the nursing field. Some choose to obtain an associates degree in nursing (ADN) which is a two or three year degree offered by many community colleges and sometimes by smaller-scale nursing schools. Other people go on and get a four year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Either of these options is a viable pathway to becoming a registered nurse (RN). Graduates of both of these degrees can take the national exam (NCLEX) that you need to pass in order to become an RN.

Whether or not you decide to go the associate’s or bachelor’s route may depend upon your situation. An ADN degree can get you working in an entry-level job fairly quickly. Once you have become an RN and are holding down a nursing job, you may decide that you want to go on for your BSN, as an increasing number of nurses do. Because the profession is strongly encouraging nurses to go on for at least the bachelor’s degree, knowing that the degree can help nurses grow in professionalism, knowledge and critical thinking skills, there is a good likelihood that you will be able to get tuition assistance and other support when you go on to get a BSN, according to the National Student Nurses’ Association.

Master’s and Doctorate Degrees

The BSN provides another advantage: the opportunity to go on to graduate levels of study in nursing. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree opens up all kinds of doorways into specializations. When you study for your MSN, you will likely focus your studies on one of a variety of special areas in nursing. These may include gerontology, pediatric care, palliative care, family care or OB-GYN. Those who hold the MSN degree often become educators and administrators in nursing. Until very recently, the MSN was the degree that helped professionals become advanced practice nurses (APRNs) though the entry-level degree for becoming an APRN is now changing to doctorate level. An APRN works as either a nurse midwife, a nurse anesthesiologist, a nurse practitioner or a clinical nurse specialist. Some MSN programs are changing over into Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees, but this is such a recent change that many advanced practice nurses still practice with a master’s degree, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Part of the argument behind making this change was that many master’s level nursing programs were already requiring a doctoral level workload.

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Nursing is a complex field, and like all health careers, it’s growing and changing. That can make it an exciting profession to consider. As you look into the different types of nursing degrees, keep in mind your particular gifts and interests and think ahead about what further degrees you might want to pursue if you make a long-range commitment to the profession.