The following article discusses details of a nursing degree, prerequisites, types of degrees, job and career paths, licensing and certification as well as a list of nursing schools.
Is a Nursing Degree for You?
There is no question that earning a nursing degree of some kind is becoming a very popular choice in the 21st century. Given that the demand for health care practitioners is soaring in many areas, it is not a surprise that the job demand for nurses overall will be 16% higher by 2024. Further, some of the nursing professions that require a master’s degree will see job demand above 30% by 2024.
Still, not matter how good the job may be in terms of salary and overall demand, becoming a nurse of any kind does take a certain kind of person. Think about the following points before you start down the path of earning an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in nursing:
- Are you a good listener, even when the person who is talking is in pain and wants help?
- Are you an observant person? Do you notice very small details that others may have missed?
- Are you compassionate and able to empathize with others who may be in severe pain?
- Can you handle highly stressful and traumatic situations involving blood and other bodily fluids?
- Are you physically and mentally fit?
- Are you able to work 12 hours shifts, at night, weekends and holidays? Even if you have children?
- Are you comfortable working on an intimate basis with people of all backgrounds, races and religious beliefs?
- Can you deal with turning off life support equipment on patients, if that is their family’s wish?
- Do you like working in a fast paced environment, with sometimes more work than you have staff for?
- Do you respect the confidentiality of your patients?
If you have most of these qualities, becoming a nurse could be a good fit for you.
Prerequisites for Nursing School
Regardless of the type of the degree you obtain and where you attend, you will need to have certain classes under your belt before you can get into nursing school:
- Anatomy and physiology
If you already have a bachelor’s degree and you are entering a master’s degree program, you will be able to use your previous education to count for some of your classes, in some cases. This also may be the case if you already are a LPN or RN, and you decide to earn your bachelor’s or other nursing degree. This can save you valuable time as you are getting your nursing education.
Other Types of Degrees
Nursing is of course just one part of the huge health care industry, which overall will be adding millions of jobs in the next 10 years. If you are not certain that becoming a nurse is for you, consider exploring other degrees. Some degrees that may appeal to those who may be interested in nursing are:
- Physical therapy: Help the injured or ill to improve their ability to move and use their joints normally. This is a very important role as it helps people to maintain their independence as they age.
- Physician assistant studies: Similar to a nurse practitioner, a PA provides primary medical services under the supervision of a doctor. Some states allow PAs to practice independently of physician oversight.
- Occupational therapy: Help ill, injured or disabled people to improve their ability to move and function in their daily activities. This professional also serves an important role because they help people to stay independent and to be able to continue working.
- Health administration: If you are more interested in the managerial and administrative side of health care, you may want to become a health care administrator, which generally requires a master’s degree.
- Social work: Help people to solve and to deal with their life problems. If you enter clinical social work, you can diagnose and treat most mental health disorders. A clinical social worker is the most common type of mental health professional that people see.
- Psychologist: Help people to overcome their mental health problems by observing, interpreting and recording how the patient interacts with other people. This speciality requires at least a master’s degree.
Types of Nursing Degrees
One of the major advantages of entering the nursing field is that there different degrees that you can earn, depending upon how much education you want to get and how much you want to earn. When you gain some nursing experience, you always have the option of continuing your education to get the next degree. The major nursing degrees that you need to know are:
- Diploma of Nursing – Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN): This is the entry level nursing position that will have you doing all of the basic bedside clinical care that you would expect in nursing – from cleaning the patient to feeding them to helping them use the restroom. This is a one year training program that you take at a vocational school, community college, or hospital. Once you earn your diploma, you must take the national NCLEX-PN examination to become a practicing LPN or LVN.
- Associate’s Degree in Nursing – Earning your associate’s degree is the minimum requirement today to become a Registered Nurse or RN. You can apply for an associate’s degree program in nursing as a graduate from high school, or as a practicing LPN or LVN. This program takes two years to complete and provides essential clinical nursing training that you will need to succeed as an RN. After you complete your associate’s program, you can sit to take your NCLEX-RN examination.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing – Earning your BSN in nursing is considered the standard requirement for the long term to be in nursing, according to the American Nurses Association. You have the option of earning your BSN directly from high school, or you can already be an LPN or RN, and complete a BSN ‘bridge’ program. This allows you to earn your BSN in fewer than four years.
- Master of Science in Nursing – This is an advanced nursing degree that is how you enter the high paying fields in advanced nursing practice, including nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse educator and nurse anesthetist. This program takes at least two years to complete, you need to have nursing experience. For professionals entering nursing from another field who have another bachelor’s you can take an MSN ‘direct entry’ program. This program allows you to get your BSN, nursing experience, and your MSN in approximately 4-5 years.
- Doctor of Nursing Practice – This is the highest nursing degree that you can earn. It is suitable for highly experienced nurses who have a passion for academia and nursing research. Eventually, the DNP degree will become the standard for advanced nursing practice professionals to become nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists, although the MSN generally is sufficient for most employers today.
What Are the Different Types of Nurses?
As noted above, there are many different types of levels of nurse, depending upon your level of education. You will have the opportunity to specialize in many different areas, especially when you earn your BSN degree. Common specialties include:
- Critical care
- Long term care
Advanced Nursing Practice Nursing
The demand for advanced practice nurses is soaring year after year. The following fields all are enjoying record job growth and high salaries. You need to earn at least an MSN degree to enter one of these fields. You also must pass your national certification examination for each major specialty. Major ADN fields are:
- Nurse practitioner: Advanced practice nurse that provides primary care to patients very much the same way as a physician does but at a lower cost. One of the most in-demand types of nurses in the US today.
- Nurse midwife: Advanced practice nurse who provides primary care to women and newborns, as well as pre and post natal care.
- Nurse anesthetist: Advanced practice nurse who provides anesthesia services to patients undergoing all types of medical procedures and surgeries. Performs similar work to anesthesiologists but at a lower price.
- Nurse educator: Teaches nursing students in undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.
- Clinical nurse specialist: Advanced practice nurse who has a master’s degree and specializes in a certain population of patient, from elderly patients to people who have cancer or diabetes.
Classes in Nursing Programs
The types of classes that you will take always depend upon the level of degree, but you can expect to take many or most of these types of classes at some point in your nursing career:
- Adult, Pediatric and Geriatric Care
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Biological Sciences
- Critical Care Nursing
- Environmental and Occupational Health
- Home Health Care
- Nursing Leadership
- Physical Assessment
- Medical and Surgical Care
- Human Growth and Development
- Environmental and Occupational Health
Where Will I Work?
Just as there are many different types of nurse, there are many different places in which you can work. The Department of Labor reports that the most common places for RNs and other types of nurses to work are as follows:
- Hospitals: 61%
- Nursing homes, long term care, assisted living facilities: 7%
- Doctors’ offices: 7%
- Home healthcare services: 6%
- Federal, state and local government, including public health: 6%
A small number of nursing professionals also may work in elementary, middle and high schools, and also in colleges.
How Much Will I Earn?
Salaries in nursing will vary depending upon education, but the Department of Labor reports that the median salaries for different types of nurses are as follows:
- RNs: $67,400. The top 10% of nurses are reported to have earned $101,000, and the bottom 10% earned $46,000. The nurses with BSNs and MSNs will earn at the top of the scale, while nurses with a diploma, associate’s, and/or limited experience will earn towards the bottom.
- LPN or LVN: $43,170. More experienced LPNs and LVNs will earn more than $59,000 and less experienced workers earn $32,000. LPNs and LVNs salary will top out at near $60,000, so you will want to eventually earn at least your bachelor’s degree to increase your salary potential.
- Nurse practitioner: $98,190
- Nurse anesthetist: $157,000
- Nurse midwife: $92,500
The Importance of Program Accreditation
When you are evaluating which type of degree to earn and where to earn it, you need to carefully consider whether the program has been accredited by a respected accreditation body.
There are two types of accreditation. The first type is the accreditation of the university itself. You should make certain that the university is accredited by one of the regional accreditation bodies recognized by the Department of Education:
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE)
- Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
The other type of accreditation is for the nursing program itself. The most important accreditation bodies for nursing programs are:
- The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
- The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
When your nursing program is accredited by both the US Department of Education’s regional body and one or both of the nursing accreditation agencies, you know that you are attending a very rigorous educational program.
Licensing and Certification
Whichever type of nursing degree you get and regardless of your nursing profession, you will need to obtain your nursing license and be certified in any specialities that you choose. The major licensing and accreditation bodies are:
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing: This is the national body that administers the NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN examinations, which you must pass before you can practice as an LPN, LVN or RN.
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners: You are required to pass your national certification exam to become an NP, as well as certify in any particular specialty.
- National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists: Administers tests and certifications for nurse anesthetists.
- American Midwifery Certification Board: Administers tests and certifications for nurse midwives.
- Pediatric Nursing Certification Board: Administers tests and certifications for nurses who specialize in pediatrics.
Nursing Schools by State
Find top nursing schools and programs in a city/state near you!
- California Nursing Schools
- Wyoming Nursing Schools
- West Virginia Nursing Schools
- Wisconsin Nursing Schools
- Washington Nursing Schools
- Vermont Nursing Schools
- Virginia Nursing Schools
- Utah Nursing Schools
- Texas Nursing Schools
- Tennessee Nursing Schools
- South Dakota Nursing Schools
- South Carolina Nursing Schools
- Rhode Island Nursing Schools
- Pennsylvania Nursing Schools
- Oregon Nursing Schools
- Oklahoma Nursing Schools
- Ohio Nursing Schools
- New York Nursing Schools
- Nevada Nursing Schools
- New Mexico Nursing Schools
- New Jersey Nursing Schools
- New Hampshire Nursing Schools
- Nebraska Nursing Schools
- North Dakota Nursing Schools
- North Carolina Nursing Schools
- Montana Nursing Schools
- Mississippi Nursing Schools
- Missouri Nursing Schools
- Minnesota Nursing Schools
- Michigan Nursing Schools
- Maine Nursing Schools
- Maryland Nursing Schools
- Massachusetts Nursing Schools
- Louisiana Nursing Schools
- Kentucky Nursing Schools
- Kansas Nursing Schools
- Indiana Nursing Schools
- Illinois Nursing Schools
- Idaho Nursing Schools
- Iowa Nursing Schools
- Hawaii Nursing Schools
- Georgia Nursing Schools
- Florida Nursing Schools
- Delaware Nursing Schools
- Washington DC Nursing Schools
- Connecticut Nursing Schools
- Colorado Nursing Schools
- Arizona Nursing Schools
- Arkansas Nursing Schools
- Alabama Nursing Schools