Nursing Degree Options

Whether you are considering a career in nursing or advancement within the profession, this guide provides the information you need to select a nursing school or program that is right for you. You will find the admissions requirements and process listed for each program.

Nurses today have taken on new roles and expanded their responsibilities in hospitals, clinics, schools, specialized institutions, the armed forces, home and community settings. The career opportunities are endless.

For today’s nurse, the profession offers a variety of opportunities for a rewarding career. Nurses are highly skilled caregivers, but also work as managers, counselors, nurse practitioners, educators and researchers, so we have also included resources of professional associations to benefit your career development.

The health care profession is one of the largest employing groups in the country with nurses comprising the largest segment of the health care work force. It is possible for nurses, because of the national licensing examination, to be employed in all states and in many foreign countries. The need for qualified nurses will be very strong over the next five to ten years and nurses will have an excellent selection of employment opportunities and multiple career options.

To become a nurse, in all states, students must graduate from a nursing program and pass a national licensing examination to obtain a nursing license. You can explore options to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN); or, there are three major educational paths to become a Registered Nurse: RN 2-yr Associate Degree; RN 4-yr Baccalaureate Degree BSN; or RN Accelerated Pre-Licensure Program. (LPNs who wish to become registered nurses may apply to associate degree or diploma programs to participate in the state-wide articulation model). If you are already an RN, this Guide also includes all of the options available for you to advance your education at the Baccalaureate, Master’s or Doctoral level.


Nursing Degree Options

Licensed Practical Nurse - LPN

Practical nurses provide patient care under the direction of a registered nurse, physician, or dentist and may work in long term care, community settings, clinics and hospitals. The course of study is approximately one or two years in length.

Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing - BS/BSN

Baccalaureate degree programs prepare students to practice in hospitals, extended care facilities and community settings. The programs provide a foundation for graduate study. They are offered in public and private universities and colleges. They are usually four years in length and may be offered on a full-time and part-time basis.

Associate Degree in Science/Nursing - ADN

Registered Nurses are one of the most versatile roles in the health care field today. RNs are employed in a wide variety of professional settings and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nursing is among the top 10 occupations with the largest job growth. There are three major educational paths that can be followed to become a Registered Nurse: Associate Degree, Baccalaureate Degree and an Accelerated Pre-Licensure Program. Information on each of these pathways is listed below under “Where can I get the education and/or training”?

Nurses care for the whole person, including physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual human responses to the entire range of health issues. Often they care for the ill or injured, but they are also involved in education and other health- promoting activities for patients, families, and communities.

Accelerated Pre-Licensure Programs

Accelerated Pre-Licensure Programs are designed for those individual’s with a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. Upon the successful completion of the pre-licensure program, the student is awarded a certificate in basic nursing and is eligible to take the NCLEX-RN (the national RN licensure exam).

RN to BS in Nursing/BSN Degree

These programs are designed for licensed registered nurses to complete requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. Curriculum requirements vary depending upon the institution; however, various mechanisms are available for advanced placement in nursing. Most programs are designed so that the liberal arts and science courses are transferable. Classes are often offered online and evenings or weekends. Usually, both full-time and part-time study is available. Completion of these programs provides the nurse with the preparation and experience to assume increasing responsibility as nurse leaders and managers.

Master’s Degree

Graduate programs which offer a Master’s degree in nursing are designed to prepare nurses for Advanced Practice in a Clinical Specialty, Clinical Nurse Leader, Nursing Education, Nursing Administration or Nursing Research. Areas of clinical specialization may include: Community Health, Medical/Surgical. Maternal-Newborn/Nurse-Midwifery, Nurse Anesthesia, Critical Care, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing, and Geriatrics. Several graduate programs offer a Master’s Degree in Nursing to individual’s with a Bachelor’s degree in disciplines other that nursing.

Doctoral Degree

These programs prepare graduates to design and conduct research relevant to nursing practice; assume leadership roles in the nursing profession and healthcare systems; as well as, assume full-time nursing faculty positions. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is designed to serve nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, midwives, nurse anesthetists, and administrators who prefer an alternative to doctoral programs focused on research. The program prepares practitioners at the professional doctoral level with courses focused on adding the highest degree of professional expertise in eight essential areas specified by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Students have the opportunity to specialize in an individual area.