What are the Different Levels of Nursing Degrees?

levels of nursingAccording to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing is one of the most rapidly growing professions in the United States. Many students are looking to enter degree programs to become nurses, but the various degree options can be quite confusing. There are many different levels of nursing degree, each tailored to a different healthcare environment or level of specialization.

ADN – Associate’s Degree in Nursing

Considered one of the introductory nursing degrees, this is a two year degree that can be obtained from either a community college or a vocational school. Many students who get their ADN go on to become Registered Nurses, but as the field becomes more competitive, employers have begun to expect a Bachelor’s degree for most entry-level RN jobs.

BSN – Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Nursing

A Bachelor’s Degree is a four year degree obtained from an accredited college or university. While most nurses in the past could find work with only an Associate’s degree, a Bachelor’s is now the industry standard. According to the Associated Press, some states are even requiring Bachelor’s Degrees for new nurses. Nurses who have Bachelor’s Degrees can go into a wide variety of positions, and they get to experience the breadth of the nursing profession through various clinical workshops that are designed to give them practical experience during their degree program. There are many colleges and universities that offer a Bachelor’s in Nursing, and most accept transfer credit from community colleges and vocational schools if students have already completed some coursework before attending.

MSN – Master’s Degree of Science in Nursing

After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree, some nurses go on to an additional two year program to obtain their MSN. An MSN is an advanced degree that focuses nurses on a particular track, usually a specialty like anesthesiology or a type of nursing like forensic nursing or gerontology. Nurses with Master’s Degrees get paid a great deal more than regular nurses because they can take jobs as Advanced Practice Nurses or as Mid-Level Providers such as Nurse Practitioners.

Doctorate Degree of Science in Nursing

For individuals who have a life-long passion in both nursing and academia, a Doctorate Degree in Nursing is a step towards eventual work as either a researcher/educator or a clinical expert. There are very few nurses in the United States with a Doctorate of Nursing Practice or Doctorate of Nursing Science, and only about a tenth of all enrolled students graduate, but the degree path is very rewarding both financially and personally.

For students who are just getting into the nursing field and are wary of venturing down the long road towards nursing proficiency, remember that most of these degrees build upon one another. Someone who starts an Associate’s in Nursing can go to work as a Registered Nurse for a few years to build experience before returning to college for a Bachelor’s completion and a Master’s. Nursing is an exciting career with boundless opportunities for self-development, and the future looks positive for students who enter the field now.