Nursing can be a very rewarding career; the demand for nurses is generally high, and pursuing a degree where chances of employment are good is attractive to many people, especially in the current job market. If you are thinking about becoming a nurse, it is a good idea to educate yourself on the different degree programs available in this field so you can get an idea of what you need to do to accomplish your nursing career goals.
Associate’s Degree Program
An associate’s degree in nursing from a community college or vocational school is the minimum requirements to become a registered nurse (RN); this typically takes about two years and will prepare you to take the NCLEX, which is the nationwide licensing exam to practice as an RN in the United States. Some students who opt for this route eventually plan on getting their BSN, but opt to get licensed with an associate’s first so they can begin working and making money more quickly.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs
Like most other bachelor degree programs, a bachelor’s in nursing will take about four years to complete. Besides the educational component, you will gain a lot of clinical experience by working directly with a variety of patients in a healthcare setting. If you are already a registered nurse, there are RN to BSN programs that allow you to gain credit for skills already obtained through your associate’s degree and professional experience; there are many quality online programs that have flexible start dates throughout the year. Generally, you can complete them in one year. While an associate’s degree will allow you to get RN status, it is worth noting that many employers are now setting a BSN as the minimum education requirement for employment.
Master’s Degree Programs
A master’s degree in nursing is a good option for people who really want to specialize and work in a particular field of nursing or work in administration or research. In some instances, getting an MSN is a requirement, such as for nurse practitioners or an advanced practice nurse. The type of program and how long it will take to complete will depend on if you are already a registered nurse or you received a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. In the latter instance, for example, you may receive credit for any liberal arts courses you had taken previously. A master’s degree will often translate to greater pay; seven of the top 10 highest paid nursing specialties all require an MSN. As the field of healthcare continues to undergo many changes, nurses with advanced degrees may find themselves in high demand with higher salaries to match. In many instances online master of science in nursing programs are a good fit for busy professionals pursing an advanced nursing degree.
Doctoral Nursing Programs
There are two types of doctoral nursing programs and the type you would pursue would depend on your career path. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is appropriate for clinical work, while a Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS) is meant to prepare you for research or teaching at nursing programs.
About the Author: Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about various education topics.