Nursing is an incredibly wide field of work, as well as a wide field of education. If you have chosen to become a nurse, you should therefore think about how you want to become a nurse, and what you see your future career to be like. You may want to deliver babies, you may want to help wounded soldiers, you may want to advise people on cancer problems, and so on. These are all different specializations, and they all need different types of training.
Clearly, there are many different types of nursing degrees. There are so many, in fact, that the list could appear to be nearly endless. This is why most nurses now agree that it is best to classify degree types by the industry licensure and by the specialized credentials they can obtain. Below is some information on the different types of nursing degrees that exist.
#1 The Certificate or Diploma in Nursing
A certificate or diploma in nursing allows you to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), which is also known as a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) in some states (California and Texas). This allows for entry level positions, where you will work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse, performing simple, but no less vital, tasks. You will need to pass the NCLEX-PN examination to become licensed.
#2 The Associate’s Degree in Nursing, or ADN
The ADN takes about two years to complete and can be issued by a vocational school or community college. If you want to become a registered nurse (RN), then you must hold an ADN at the very least. However, some believe that the ADN is getting phased out completely, as most healthcare organizations now require a bachelor’s degree as a minimum for their RNs. In addition, in order to become an RN, you must pass the NCLEX-RN examination.
#3 The Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN
The BSN is now almost always required for those who want to go into nursing. Usually, it takes four years to complete, although you can transfer credits if you already hold an ADN. The BSN includes an element of classroom training, as well as “clinicals”, which are periods of hands on experience, where students work in a clinical setting. If you do complete a BSN, make sure that it is properly accredited. Again, you must pass the NCLEX-RN examination to become an RN following completion of your BSN.
#4 The Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN
If you want to obtain a MSN degree, you must have completed a BSN first, although there are some RN to MSN degree programs. If you want to become an advanced practice nurse (APN/APRN), then you must complete an MSN. This takes two years to complete on average and will give you more autonomy and clinical authority. Furthermore, you will also see an increase in salary. It is possible to complete a general MSN, but most choose to opt for a specialization or track, such as clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or forensic nurse. If you want to become a certified nurse anesthetist (CNA) or a nurse practitioner (NP), then you will also have to complete a master’s degree.
In some cases, employers who have hired an RN with a BSN degree will fund, or partly fund, their MSN as well. If this is the case, they will usually require you to agree to remain employed within the same healthcare setting for a number of years. Additionally, as with the BSN, the MSN should be appropriately accredited.
#5 The Doctorate Degree in Nursing
The doctorate degree is the highest type of degree, and it is always a “terminal” degree. This means you cannot go higher from there. To enroll in a doctorate, you must have completed a bachelor’s and a master’s. Two main types of doctorate degrees in nursing exist:
- The DNP Program (Doctor of Nursing Practice), which is a clinical degree
- The DNSc/DSN/DNS (Doctor of Nursing Science), which is a research degree and suitable for those who want to become nursing professors
Classifications and Certifications
There are a number of specialized degrees, with specific types of education requirements, that can be achieved as a nurse. These are the:
- RN, achievable with an ADN or BSN
- APN, achievable with an MSN
- CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife), achievable with a specialized MSN
- CRNA, achievable with a specialized MSN
- CNS, achievable with a specialized MSN
- LPN/LVN, achievable with a diploma or certificate
- NP, achievable with an MSN
- CNA, achievable with a specialized MSN
Within these specializations, there are also a number of further specializations, focusing particularly on specific population groups. These specializations all require an MSN degree, with specific core courses as well. These include:
- Acute Care Nursing
- Oncology Nursing
- Adult Nursing
- Parent Child Nursing
- Cardiovascular Nursing
- Parish Nursing
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nursing
- Forensic Nursing
- Perinatal Nursing
- Geriatric Nursing
- Psychiatric Nursing
- Home Health Nursing
- Public Health Nursing
- Infectious Disease Nursing
- Rehabilitation Nursing
- Legal Nurse Consulting
- Rural Nursing
- Neonatal Nursing
- School Nursing
- Occupational Health Nursing
- Women’s Health Nursing
Some of these specializations will also require additional certifications or licenses.
As you can see, there are a lot of options available to you if you want to become a nurse. While it is becoming increasingly common for nurses to complete an MSN, the reality is also that some worry about this due to the associated costs. While it is certainly true that such a degree is costly, you must see it as an investment in your own future. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries increase tremendously by completing an advanced degree, and demand for nurses with this type of qualifications will continue to grow much faster than average.