What are the Different Types of Nursing Degrees? 6 Paths for a Nursing Career

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What are the different types of nursing degrees? Registered nurses must earn an ADN or BSN before qualifying for the licensing exam; however, there are other ways aspiring nurses can gain experience before working toward a degree. Nurses also can advance their careers through graduate programs.

nurse reviewing tablet

There are many pathways to becoming a registered nurse, but what are the different types of nursing degrees? If you feel called to become a registered nurse, you can pursue your goal through entry-level positions, such as Certified Nursing Assistant, or by earning a nursing degree. Whichever path you choose, you can advance your career and grow through further education.

Career changers and transfer students can earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through Averett University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. Our ABSN offers a high-quality curriculum that combines online coursework with hands-on nursing simulation labs and clinical rotations, preparing students for rewarding nursing careers.

However, a BSN is not the only nursing degree that prepares you to become a registered nurse (RN). Several types of nursing degrees and pathways are available that may suit your previous education and career goals.

The High Demand for Nurses

There is currently a nationwide demand for nurses. According to the American Nursing Association, the contributing factors to the shortage include a significant portion of the nursing workforce reaching retirement age and the population’s increased healthcare needs. As a result, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects RN employment to grow 6% between 2022 and 2032, double the national average for all occupations.

Because of the nationwide nursing shortage, becoming a nurse leads to many career opportunities. But what degree do you need to be a nurse, and what are the different types of nursing degrees? Below are six types of nursing degrees and certificates that can kickstart your career or advance it.

ABSN student using stethoscope

1. Certified Nursing Assistant Certificate

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are not technically nurses but support nurses by transporting, feeding, bathing and other activities of daily living. They also support the nursing staff by maintaining medical supply stocks and collecting patient information such as vital signs.

Becoming a CNA is often considered an entry point for individuals who want to begin their nursing careers. According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), CNAs earn a median annual wage of $35,760.

Qualifications vary by state, but basic qualifications include a high school diploma or the equivalent, completing CNA training ¬— typically 75 hours of training but can vary — and earning CNA certification. Most states require CNAs to pass the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) to become certified.

nurses walking together in hallway

You can advance your career after becoming a CNA. Learn how you can transition from CNA to RN.

2. Licensed Practical Nurse Licensure

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) have a broader scope of practice than CNAs, operating under the supervision of RNs. LPNs share many responsibilities with CNAs while providing basic patient care, such as checking vital signs, changing wound dressings and inserting catheters. They also discuss the care they provide to patients and their families. The median salary for LPNs is $54,620 (BLS).

LPNs must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for an accredited LPN program offered by either trade schools, community colleges or hospitals. It typically takes LPNs one year to complete the program before they are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). LPNs can also pursue certifications in patient counseling, intravenous therapy and other areas to advance their careers.

3. Associate Degree in Nursing

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is the minimum education requirement for RNs. If you want to become an RN, earning your ADN sets you on a path to becoming a nurse. A registered nurse ADN program typically takes two years to complete. You will learn to perform health assessments, develop care plans, start IVs, administer medications and other nursing skills.

RNs earn a median salary of $81,220 (BLS). RNs are in high demand nationwide and receive competitive compensation. Prospective RNs can earn their ADN and qualify to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and earn their nursing license. However, an ADN is not the only education option for people who want to become an RN.

4. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A BSN is the preferred education credential for RNs and is considered the best degree for nursing by many hospitals and healthcare facilities. As a result, many employers offer more competitive salaries to attract BSN-educated RNs. That’s because evidence indicates more BSN-educated nurses lead to improved patient outcomes. A BSN degree also provides the best pathway for continuing nursing education, as well as providing varied nursing opportunities that promote professional mobility.

Averett ABSN student working with sim manikin

Today, many healthcare facilities prioritize hiring BSN-educated nurses for certain positions. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), Magnet hospitals require all nurse managers and leaders to hold at least a BSN.

A traditional BSN program typically takes four years to complete. These programs are intended for students who don’t have a pre-existing bachelor’s degree or college experience. Career changers and transfer students may be eligible for an accelerated BSN program, such as Averett’s ABSN.

Accelerated BSN programs are just as comprehensive as traditional, four-year BSN programs. They build upon your previous college credits so you can earn your BSN faster. In Averett’s ABSN, you can earn your BSN in as few as 16 months, not including the time required to complete prerequisites.

There are many benefits to earning a BSN. Read more to learn why a BSN is important.

nurse holding clipboard

5. Master of Science in Nursing

Nurses can advance their careers by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). MSN programs allow RNs with a BSN to work toward specializing in various nursing roles, such as nurse practitioner and nurse midwife. Nurses with an MSN also experience higher earning potential. For example, the median salary for nurse practitioners is $121,610 (BLS) and $122,450 (BLS) for nurse midwives.

MSN programs typically take two years to complete. While minimum eligibility requirements vary, many programs require applicants to accumulate clinical experience as an RN before enrolling.

6. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree for nurses, preparing them for high-level nursing positions. While many doctorate programs are research-oriented, a DNP program focuses on nursing practice, providing nurses with the skills to interpret and apply evidence-based research to improve procedures, systems and patient outcomes. The length of DNP programs varies but typically takes three to five years to complete.

There are BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs, creating pathways for nurses to earn their DNP throughout their education. Nurses with DNPs are eligible for various career opportunities, such as advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), healthcare executive and clinical researcher.

Earn Your BSN with Averett University

Averett ABSN student walking outside with backpack

Now that you understand the answers to the questions, “What are the different types of nursing degrees?” and “What degree do you need for nursing?”, you can take steps toward starting your nursing career. If you have at least 60 non-nursing college credits or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and meet the other admissions requirements, you may be eligible for Averett’s ABSN program.

Our ABSN program allows students to earn their BSN in as few as 16 months, preparing them to take the NCLEX confidently and earn their nursing license. Contact our admissions advisors today to learn more about the program and how you can start your nursing education.