Types of Nursing Degrees

A career in nursing is a perfect path to a life of fulfillment and prosperity.  Nurses are in high demand across the country.  The Bureau of Labor statistics estimates that there will be an increase of available nursing positions by 15% over the next several years. With nursing in high demand there has never been a better time to go to school and earn your degree in nursing.

4 Main Types of Nursing

There are four main types or level of nursing, and each one has different education requirements. The four main levels of Nursing are:

  • Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
The education requirements vary across all levels of nursing, ranging from certification and associates degrees, to Master’s degrees in Nursing Sciences.  The more education it takes for earn a specific level of nursing, the higher the expected base salary.  The highest levels of Nursing also typically tend to have the most available career paths and job opportunities.

To become a Nursing Assistant one must first enroll in a state approved education program, many of which are offered by technical colleges or trade schools.  Some local community colleges and Nursing Homes may also offer such programs.  You may also find courses offered by The American Red Cross, although these courses are regional.  After completing coursework you will need to pass the CNA exam to earn your Nursing Assistant certification.

Licensed Practical Nurse Schooling

Licensed Practical Nurses (also known as Licensed Vocational Nurses) have greater education requirements than those of a CNA. You must first earn a Practical Nursing Diploma, which requires completing (and passing) a program at a technical school, trade school, community college, or career college. These programs typically take 12 months to complete, although each program is different and the various program lengths will be affected by class availability and number of students. Like a CNA, you will need to complete an additional exam after completing the program.  This exam, the National Council Licensure Examination, is given to determine if you are eligible to receive certification as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Registered Nurse Schooling

Registered Nurses are those Nurses that you might find working in hospitals or primary care offices. They are afforded much more responsibility and are certified to perform a variety of duties that LPNs and CNAs are not able to perform. Registered Nurses are often able to administer medication, or forming patient care plans.  Because of these added responsibilities, the education requirements for Registered Nurses is much higher than LPNs or CNAs. To qualify as a RN, you must have earned an Associate’s degree in nursing. This is the bare minimum, as many hospitals and primary care facilities require a Bachelor’s degree (Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing). These courses take between 18 and 24 months for an associates degree, while earning a bachelor’s in nursing may take as many as 48 months to complete in full. There are programs available for CNAs and LPNs who are looking to take their nursing career to the next level.  These courses typically take less time, as applicants already have some experience in the field. As with previous levels of nursing, after earning your degree you will  need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination before you can begin working as an RN. There may also be additional state requirements, so be sure to inquire with your local State Licensure board.

The final level of Nursing, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, have the greatest education requirements of all nursing levels. To become an Advanced Practice nurse you must earn an MSN degree, A Master’s of Science in Nursing. To even be considered for an MSN program you must first be an RN, and most APRN programs require applicants to have earned a BSN before applying. Advance Practice Registered Nurses will usually select a specific area of nursing to specialize in, so not all MSN programs will be right for everyone.

There are many opportunities to start your career in the nursing field.  All you need to do is decide what level of nursing is right for you and find the program that works best for your schedule. And with no shortage of nurse positions in sight, there has never been a better time to start the process of earning a Nursing Degree.