Are you considering a future in the nursing field? Learn about the different types of nursing degrees and where they can take your career.
The world is in need of nurses more than ever before. In the face of a global pandemic, millions have recognized the value of skilled and compassionate nurses who can keep us safe. Every day, nurses help patients through some of the toughest and most vulnerable moments in their lives. They assess and treat people who are sick, injured, and disabled. They help families through difficult times. They teach patients about preventive care and management. They work with advanced technology and a remarkable medical team. This is just the beginning of what you can do as a professional nurse.
Due to the broad nature of their role, nurses must undergo extensive training before they can obtain a license to practice. The level of training and education required will vary, depending on one’s professional goals. The more advanced the nursing career, the more advanced the nursing degree.
As you contemplate your future in nursing, it is important to understand the different types of nursing degrees and where they can take you. To become a Registered Nurse (RN), for example, you will need to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Advanced practice positions, such as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), will require a graduate degree. Meanwhile, entry-level titles like a Certified Nursing Aide (CNA) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) only require a certificate or diploma to get started.
Which Type of Nursing Degree is Right for You?
As you commence your search, ask yourself what type of nurse you want to be. How much autonomy and responsibility do you wish to have in your career? How far up do you want to go? Most aspiring nurses today pursue the registered nursing (RN) path. RNs are the nurses you will most often find working with patients, administering treatments, and coordinating patient care plans. To start on this path, an undergraduate degree is required. However, those looking for upward mobility may choose to continue towards a master’s degree.
In addition to your career goals, it is also important to think about your lifestyle and how much time you would like to commit to nursing school. Do you have years to invest in your education, or are you looking to get into a career fast? By considering these factors, you can make a more sound, informed, and attainable choice regarding your nursing education.
To get you thinking, we’ve outlined the different types of nursing degrees available today:
Types of Nursing Degrees & Certificates (Undergraduate)
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN):
An associate degree in nursing is the standard, and therefore most common, pathway to becoming a Registered Nurse. Typically, this type of nursing program takes two years to complete. At Goodwin University, however, you can complete your associate degree in as few as 20 months part-time, after prerequisites are fulfilled. If you take full-time classes, that degree will be even closer!
A reputable ADN program will offer a blend of classroom learning, hands-on training, and clinical experiences to prepare you for work in the field. You will develop the foundational, technical skills needed to be a successful nurse, such as administering medications, performing diagnostic tests, and setting up treatment plans. On top of that, you can expect to learn the ins and outs of sciences like physiology, microbiology, anatomy, and psychology.
An associate degree in nursing will make you eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX), which is required to become a licensed Registered Nurse. Once you have passed the NCLEX and earn the RN title, you may choose to start working and/or pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN):
While an associate degree stands as the minimum requirement for Registered Nurses today, most healthcare employers now prefer to hire graduates who hold a Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN) degree.
If you want to broaden your career options and qualify for advanced or higher-paying nursing positions, a BSN may be the right path for you. This type of nursing degree is highly valued in today’s healthcare field, with studies showing that BSN graduates typically have more developed skill sets, better patient outcomes, and greater upward mobility.
Like an ADN program, a BSN program will combine classroom and clinical learning. However, a bachelor’s program will consist of more advanced coursework in professional nursing, community health, health assessment, ethics, policy, and leadership courses.
Many aspiring nurses understand the value of a BSN degree, but do not have the time to commit to a four-year program. Fortunately, there are other ways you can earn a BSN today. For example:
- An RN-to-BSN degree is designed for already-licensed Registered Nurses who have an associate degree, and wish to advance their education. At Goodwin, the RN-to-BSN program can be completed entirely online, in just 16 months part-time. This means you can work while obtaining your Bachelor’s in Nursing.
- An Accelerated BSN (ABN) is designed for students who have a bachelor’s degree in another field, and are changing career paths to become a Registered Nurse. This type of nursing degree can be completed in just 16 months full-time at Goodwin University.
Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) Diploma:
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) are entry-level nurses that provide care for sick and disabled patients, under the supervision of an RN. While LPNs can provide basic patient care, they are typically not permitted to carry out advanced duties like administering medication or designing treatment plans. RNs are responsible for directing LPNs to carry out basic care like transporting patients and checking vital signs. As a result, LPNs require less time in nursing school. LPNs can obtain a job with a diploma in hand, and successful completion of the National NCLEX-PN examination.
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Certificate:
Certified Nursing Assistants, commonly called CNAs, ensure patients are comfortable during their stays in the hospital or a long-term care setting. They may also provide basic, observational care to patients under the supervision of an RN or LPN. For example, CNAs are responsible for answering call lights, assisting patients with bathing and dressing, serving patient meals, and reporting changes in health to the nursing staff. A CNA program is often seen as a steppingstone into the healthcare field, but will not position you for a practical nursing position. To enter this role, you must complete a short, postsecondary training program and pass the certification exam.
Types of Nursing Degrees (Graduate)
Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN):
If you want to maximize your career potential in the field of nursing, you might consider pursuing a Master’s in Nursing (MSN) degree. There are different types of MSN degrees, but all will qualify you for advanced and high-paying positions within the nursing field.
At Goodwin, the MSN degree program is focused on preparing nurses for innovative leadership roles. The program covers important topics like population health, pathophysiology, pharmacology, physical assessment, policy, and advanced nursing practice. In addition, students develop in-demand nursing skills in areas like leadership, communication, research, and case management. This positions them for careers in healthcare administration, management, and clinical nursing leadership.
As intimidating as an MSN degree may sound, it is one of the most flexible types of nursing degrees available today. Goodwin’s MSN program, for example, can be completed in just 20 months. For added flexibility, the MSN coursework can be taken completely online, so that you can earn your master’s degree on your own schedule, while still maintaining a career.
Family Nurse Practitioner (APRN-FNP) Degree:
While some MSN programs offer a broader, advanced curriculum, there are also concentrated master’s programs for students seeking to become specialized nurse practitioners. The APRN-FNP program is one example. APRN-FNP degree programs prepare students to become Family Nurse Practitioners.
Family Nurse Practitioners are a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) that provide continuing, primary care to families and individuals of all ages. They have a focus on disease prevention and health promotion, and oversee the health of patients in their care.
To become a Family Nurse Practitioner, you must complete a focused master’s or doctorate degree after earning a RN licensure and a bachelor’s degree. A graduate-level FNP program will cover broad topics in leadership, pharmacology, pathophysiology, and physical assessment, as well as focused subjects like the primary care of adults, pediatrics, and women’s health. At Goodwin, students have the ability complete the FNP track in as few as 27 months year-round, with online, classroom, and clinical learning experiences along the way.
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (APRN-PMHNP) Degree:
Another specialized type of nursing degree, at the master’s level, is the APRN-PMHNP degree. This program is designed to prepare seasoned Registered Nurses to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) with a concentration in mental health. A PMHNP degree may be offered at the master’s or doctorate level.
At Goodwin, students can earn their master’s degree to become an APRN-PMHNP. APRN-PMHNPs are dedicated to helping patients with mental illness and psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, and dementia. They may assess, diagnose, and provide therapy or treatment to help patients cope with these conditions.
Like the above types of MSN degrees, the PMHNP program at Goodwin is flexible. The total program is 50 credits and can be completed in just 7 semesters, entirely online. Students in this program learn all about the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health disorders. They learn the ins and outs of advance practice psychiatric mental health care, as well as other core topics like pathophysiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment.
Choose the Nursing Degree That is Right for You
Nursing is among the most thriving, rewarding career options today. It is also one of the best educational investments you can make if you are interested in the healthcare field. Across the country, there is an increasing demand for skilled, qualified nursing professionals – and this demand is likely to reach record-highs in the years to come.
While healthcare is the largest and fastest-growing industry in the United States, it is experiencing a shortage of skilled professionals who can meet the growing demand for health services. It needs passionate, dedicated, and caring professionals like you to mask up and step up. No matter which degree path you choose, you will be making a momentous choice for your career.
Remember, the type of nursing degree that’s best for you will depend on your career goals, as well as where you are in life today. What type of nursing degree meets your current needs, and will get you where you need to go? If you are interested in the above nursing degrees, and would like to learn more about the options at Goodwin’s nursing school, please do not hesitate to reach out.
At Goodwin University, we recognize the growing need for nurses. That is why nursing applications are accepted three times a year, and there are no lists for nursing enrollment. Call us at 800-889-3282 or visit us online to learn more about our program offerings.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.