Nursing Degrees and Programs
As nursing becomes more specialized and technologically advanced, nurses are becoming more prevalent in the healthcare industry[i]. If you plan on pursuing a career in this field, earning a nursing degree may be the first step. There are many different types of nursing degrees and programs that may fit your career and life goals.
Licensed Practical Nursing Programs: You could pursue a career as a licensed practical nurse (or licensed vocational nurse) through an accredited program, either on campus or online. Passing a certification test and state licensing are required to work as a licensed practical nurse.[ii]
Associate's Degree in Nursing: Earning an associate’s degree in nursing could be a great first step if you want to jumpstart your career as a registered nurse. Your course load will likely include science and social science courses, as well as your school’s liberal arts requirements and clinical experience. Most associate degree programs can be completed within two to three years.[iii]
Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing: You may wish to consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing to widen your career options. In these programs, you will get more instruction in social sciences, communications and critical thinking. You can also look into online BSN programs.[iv]
Master of Science in Nursing: If you’re a registered nurse looking to move into a specific career path, you may want to consider pursuing a master’s degree. Some examples of nursing careers that, for the most part, require a master’s degree are clinical nurse specialist[v], nurse midwives[vi], and nurse practitioners[vii]. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, finishing a master’s degree requires 18 months to two years of full-time study or more if a student does not study full-time[viii].
Doctorate in Nursing: There are several types of nursing degrees you may pursue at the doctoral level. One is a traditional doctorate degree, either a Ph.D., doctorate of nursing science (D.N.S. or D.N.Sc.), or a doctorate of education (Ed.D.). The doctorate degree is generally for nurses who wish to pursue a career in clinical research, administration or education, while a doctor of nursing degree is more practice-focused and may be better suited for someone looking to pursue becoming a specialized nurse.
Accelerated Nursing Programs: If you already have a college degree in another major and are wondering how to pursue a career as a nurse, you may want to consider an accelerated nursing program. Whether you’d like to pursue your bachelor’s or master’s degree, these programs generally take into account your previous learning experiences as you transition into nursing. Students in accelerated nursing programs also typically receive the same number of clinical hours as those in traditional entry-level nursing programs[ix].
Are online nursing degree programs for you?
Here are some things to consider when choosing an online nursing program:
Make sure that the school is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing[x] and/or the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. They are the two recognized by the U.S. Department of Education[xi].
Find out if the state in which you plan to work will accept an online nursing degree from the school for your state nursing license.
Ask how clinical experience requirements are handled in online nursing schools. Will clinical work be done through the school, or will you need to arrange clinical rotations on your own?
[ii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed- vocational-nurses.htm#tab-4
[iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-4 Vonetonline.org/link/summary/29-1141.04
[iv] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-4 Vonetonline.org/link/summary/29-1141.04
[viii] aacn.nche.edu/education-resources/msn- article