Levels of Nursing Degrees: All You Need to Know

Table of Contents

Nursing ranks in order
Check out the full list of options for your career path

Are you considering a career in nursing? Have you been researching the different types of nursing degrees and feeling overwhelmed by all the choices available? If so, don’t worry – we’re here to help! 

In this blog post, we’ll break down each level of a nurse degree to give an overview of what each type requires. Not only will you better understand how education may influence your role as a professional, but you can also use this information to make an informed decision about which degree pathway will best suit your future goals and lifestyle. Let’s get started!

Hierarchy of Nurses Overview 

Investing in a degree for nursing is a wise decision as the demand for professional nurses in the United States, in particular, is strong and projected to grow for years to come. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are currently over 3.1 million registered nurses (RNs) practicing in the U.S., and employment of RNs is expected to increase by 6% during 2021-2031. Employment of nurse practitioners (NPs) is also projected to increase by 46% during the same period. 

Hence, there are many career advancement opportunities, whether focusing on patient care or rising to a leadership position within a healthcare organization. Besides, it is important to consider specialties, state-mandated exams, and job titles when planning your career and applying to programs.

Being a nurse is highly rewarding, even though it requires a great deal of dedication and education. If you want to become a nurse, there are different nursing degrees that you can choose to pursue. 

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the most common type. This degree prepares nurses for various healthcare settings and provides a strong foundation in theory and practice. 

Another type of nursing degrees is the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a more focused, two-year program that also prepares nurses to work in a variety of healthcare settings. 

Finally, there is the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a graduate-level degree that prepares nurses to specialize in a specific area, such as pediatrics or oncology. 

All of them are important because they provide the education and training necessary to become a knowledgeable and skilled professional who can provide high-quality care to patients. 

Overall, each type offers its unique advantages and disadvantages. It is vital to research the different nursing degrees in order to determine which will best suit your needs. For example, if you are looking for a fast-paced career requiring minimal education, then an ADN may be the right choice. 

On the other hand, pursuing a BSN or MSN may be more beneficial if you are looking for a more in-depth educational experience and a higher salary potential. Regardless of your goal, it is important to remember that with dedication and hard work, you can succeed as a professional. 

Nursing hierarchy in hospitals
Types of nurses and how they differ in terms of responsibilities

Types of Nurses

Different levels of nurses include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners, and certified nursing assistants. 

Registered nurses work in various settings and provide direct care to patients.

Licensed practical nurses assist registered ones in administering medications, monitoring vital signs, and performing basic patient care. 

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses with a broader practice scope. Besides, they can diagnose and treat illnesses independently. 

Certified nursing assistants usually work in retirement homes and provide basic care to patients, such as bathing, dressing, and feeding them. 

All levels in a nurse hierarchy play a vital role in ensuring patients receive adequate care and support during their recovery process. 

What are the Levels of Nursing from Lowest to Highest?

RN Diploma 

Getting a diploma may be a viable option if you’re looking to become a registered nurse (RN). RN diploma programs are typically shorter than traditional ones yet still provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in healthcare. 

Graduates may find job opportunities in various settings, such as hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and more. Admissions requirements may vary by institution, although they typically include a high school diploma or GED, prerequisite courses in biology and chemistry, and minimum GPA requirements. 

Don’t let the shorter length fool you – an RN diploma can lead to a rewarding and successful career in healthcare. 

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) 

Nursing is a noble profession that requires strong communication skills, compassion, and critical thinking abilities. An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), in particular, can be your ticket to a fulfilling and lucrative career. 

As a two-year program offered by many community colleges, an ADN provides students hands-on training in medical procedures, treatments, and patient care while covering key topics such as anatomy, pharmacology, and health assessments. Once you’ve successfully obtained your ADN, you’ll have various job opportunities available, from working in hospitals and clinics to retirement homes and home health agencies. 

However, getting into an ADN program requires meeting specific admissions requirements, such as completing particular prerequisite courses, maintaining a minimum GPA, and passing entrance exams.  

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) 

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is a comprehensive and rigorous academic course that prepares students for a fulfilling career. It covers a variety of subjects, including anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, health assessment, and nursing theory. 

Upon graduation, BSN holders will have the skills and expertise to provide high-quality patient care in a variety of healthcare settings, from hospitals to clinics to long-term care facilities. Job opportunities for BSN graduates are extensive, including roles as registered nurses, nurse educators, and healthcare administrators. 

Admissions requirements for BSN programs vary by institution. However, most programs require a high school diploma or GED, a minimum GPA, and completed math, science, and English prerequisite courses. 

Pursuing a BSN is a challenging yet rewarding path for those looking to make a difference in the lives of others.  

What is the highest nursing degree?
Read and choose the program that suits you best

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) 

In an MSN program, students can specialize in specific areas, such as gerontology or pediatrics, and gain advanced knowledge and skills that can lead to job opportunities in nursing leadership, education, research, clinical practice, and more. 

Admissions requirements for MSN programs typically include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, an active care-of-patients license, a minimum GPA, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. 

With an MSN degree, you can expand your career options, take on new challenges, and make a positive impact on patient care. 

Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) 

The Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest nursing degree. This program offers advanced education and training for professional nurses who wish to take their careers to the next level. This program is designed to provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge to become clinical leaders, educators, and change agents in healthcare settings. 

DNP program graduates can pursue various job opportunities, such as executive nursing positions, healthcare administrators, nurse educators, or advanced practice registered nurses. Admissions requirements vary by institution, although they typically include a master’s degree in nursing, a current care-of-patients license, and relevant work experience. 

If you’re looking to advance your career and make a difference in the healthcare landscape, the DNP program may be the perfect fit for you.

How to Choose among Different Levels of Nursing

Becoming a nurse is a huge decision, and choosing the right level is equally important. There are several factors to consider when deciding on a nurses degree.  

  • It’s important to think about the level of education you are willing to pursue. Do you want to obtain a diploma, an associate, a bachelor’s, or a master’s degree? For example, an associate degree or diploma is typically the minimum requirement if you want to become a registered nurse.   
  • Consider the career opportunities that come with a particular degree of nursing. For instance, a registered nurse (RN) with a bachelor’s degree has a higher chance of securing a leadership role or advancing their career compared to RNs with an associate degree. 
  • Moreover, you should also take into account the state licensing requirements for the level of nurses you are interested in. Keep in mind that some states require a bachelor’s degree to become an RN. 
  • Additionally, evaluate each degree’s cost and time required and match it with your finances and schedule. Remember that a higher degree usually means more cost and time, yet it can also open up more job opportunities in the long run. Choosing the best level for you is ultimately an individual decision that depends on your career goals, finances, and lifestyle. 
  • Lastly, think about the kind of nursing career path you want to pursue, be it medical-surgical, pediatrics, or emergency care of patients. Different types of nursing degrees will provide you with the skills and knowledge required to specialize in a particular area.   

Ultimately, tackling the correct option will help you achieve your career goals and significantly impact your patients’ lives. 

Things to consider when choosing a degree
Explore the pros and cons of each program discussed in the article

Pros & Cons of Degrees in Nursing

Is the highest level of nursing the best option for you? Well, pursuing any degree is a big decision that requires careful consideration of the pros and cons at each level. While cost and time commitment may be essential factors to consider, the potential rewards of this career are numerous. 

At the associate’s degree level, students can expect a shorter time frame and lower cost yet may have limited advancement opportunities. 

At the bachelor’s one, there are more job opportunities and higher earning potential, even though students must commit a longer period of time to complete the program. 

The master’s degree level offers an even broader range of career options and higher pay. However, it requires a significant financial and temporal investment. 

All degrees for nursing may require additional costs such as tuition fees, textbooks, certifications, licensing exams, etc. Additionally, nurses must consider whether they have the clinical experience or qualifications required for specific specializations or roles. 

The rewards of pursuing different nurse levels include job satisfaction and security in knowing you can make a difference in people’s lives daily. Nurses also benefit from numerous professional development opportunities and scholarship programs. On the other hand, pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree can open the door to a wide range of career paths and higher salaries. 

Ultimately, weighing the costs and potential benefits of various degrees of nursing can help anyone make an informed decision. No matter which of the levels of nursing education you choose to pursue, the process requires dedication and hard work. But in the end, there’s no better feeling than knowing that you have made a real difference in someone’s life.

Final Words

In conclusion, considering and deciding on nursing degree types is a matter of personal choice based on current skills and career goals. While there is no one correct answer for all, each option does have its advantages and drawbacks. All in all, if you’re considering a career in the care-of-patients field, it’s important to research your options thoroughly. Knowing what kind of training each level requires and discovering possible job opportunities that meet your interests can help you make an informed decision and bring you closer to achieving your goal. Fortunately, with each level having its own merits, there’s sure to be a path that fits your needs and budget!