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7 Different Types of Degrees for Nursing

Nurse in the hospital holding a stethoscope.

Getting a nursing degree is a beneficial educational investment. Increasing demand for nursing professionals throughout the world indicates that the field will continue to grow for many years to come. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing claims that more than 3.1 million registered nurses (RN) currently practice in the US.

Various degrees of nursing include Nursing Diploma and Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) programs, Midwifery programs, and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs.

The selection of degree program should be based on the type of care you’d like to provide, the kind of environment you want to work in, or how much money you’d like to make.

Other factors to consider, too, like how much time it may take to complete a program. Follow the post to the bottom for a complete understanding of nursing degrees.

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Types of Nursing Degrees

All information that one can look for, including different types of nursing degrees available and what they involve in regards to program content, length of time, and job potential, has been gathered below in detail.

By selecting a program that meets your personal and professional goals, you’ll position yourself for success in the rewarding field of nursing.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Certificate or Diploma

Nurse attending to her patient on wheelchair.

A CNA certificate is a non-degree diploma often offered at vocational schools and community colleges and. Both online and classroom options are available. But all the clinical hours must be performed in person at an approved facility or area.

The curriculum includes training in personal care, emergency procedures, skills, and infection control. You can broaden your options for employment if you get some voluntary certifications in specialized areas such as psychiatry or geriatrics. The duties of CNA include: 

  • Bathing and feeding patients
  • Recording patient data
  • Changing bedding
  • Taking vital signs
  • Communicating with family members

Enrollment Requirements For Certified Nursing Assistant

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Certificates provide a quick pathway for students to step into the nursing field. This certificate might be best suited to you if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • A high school graduate who wants a nursing career
  • Caregivers, parents, and people with other responsibilities that require a flexible  and easygoing schedule
  • Future nurses have an inclination towards gaining experience before getting into a more advanced nursing program

Length of Time for Certified Nursing Assistant

A Certified Nursing Assistant certificate is the quickest way to qualify for an entry-level nursing position. The federal guidelines for this program require minimally 75 hours of education, with a minimum of 16 hours of clinical training under supervision.

These requirements may vary state by state. The completion of this certificate generally takes 4-12 weeks.

Career Options for Certified Nursing Assistant

After getting certification, one can get a job in which he/she will work with patients under the supervision of a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).

Other career options include:

  • Assisted living facilities for the elderly
  • Hospitals
  • Home healthcare services

Earning Estimation for Certified Nursing Assistant

According to BLS, the average annual income of CNAs is $30,720, with the exception of those working in medical and surgical hospitals who can earn slightly higher.

LPN/LVN Certificate or Diploma

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) certificate is offered at community colleges, vocational schools, and sometimes at hospitals also. It is a non-degree diploma and is also known as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN).

Enrollment Requirements for LPN/LVN Certificate

LPN/LVN certificate is for students who can’t afford a college degree financially and want to pursue their career in the field of nursing. When compared with a CNA diploma, the LPN certificate provides mastery of a more comprehensive body of knowledge. Later on, these LPNs and LVNs supervise CNAs.

If you are going to enroll in an LPN course and further wish to go on to advanced degrees, you should have to enroll for an LPN/LVN certificate from an accredited nursing program.  Because there are many cases where credits got in a non-accredited program won’t make you eligible for transfer to a higher degree.

The LPN/LVN certificate could be right for you if you lie in one of the following groups:

  • Recent graduates from high school who want to start a nursing career
  • Prospective nurses preparing for admission in a registered nursing program
  • CNAs who want to expand their job opportunities and to enhance their expertise

Length of Time for LPN/LVN Certificate

An LPN/LVN certificate can be completed in about 12 months, though this timing may vary according to the institution. The completion of this certificate generally takes 7-24 months.

Career Opportunities for LPN/LVN

A certified LPN/LVN is qualified to take the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, for LPNs. After passing this exam and meeting all the state-specific requirements, LPN is eligible for licensing.

According to the BLS, most of LPNs and LVNswork in nursing and residential care facilities. However, other employment options include clinical and administrative positions in locations such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Home healthcare services
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Clinical research facilities
  • Diagnostic testing centers
  • Government agencies

Earning Estimation for LPN/LVN

An Average Annual Salary for LPNs and LVNs can be estimated at up to $48,500, according to the BLS.

Associate Degree in Nursing

Doctor and nurse conducting surgery in the emergency room.

Associate Degree in Nursing programs is commonly offered at community colleges and some four-year institutions. Some schools are also offering online nursing degrees in terms of hybrid programs that combine virtual instruction with on-site clinical training.

ADN programs give the knowledge and experience that RNs need to perform the following duties:

  • Assistant to the physicians during exams, surgeries, and the other medical procedures
  • Dress incisions and wounds
  • Run and analyze diagnostics tests
  • Review the patient treatment plans and chart progress
  • Supervise LVNs, LPNs, and CNAs
  • Provide patient education on self-care

The course for an Associate Degree in Nursing also includes studying science-related courses such as biology, anatomy, chemistry, and physiology.

Enrollment Requirements for Associate Degree in Nursing

An Associate Degree in Nursing from an accredited nursing school is a good choice if you are planning to become an RN without being committed to a four-year degree. It is noteworthy that this is the minimum education required for licensing.

Many employers are increasingly setting Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees as a requirement for new hires. In some states, RNs who have an associate degree will ultimately need to earn a bachelor’s degree in order to maintain their license.

Still, there is good news that many bachelor’s programs will allow you to transfer some basic credits earned from your accredited ADN. An Associate Degree in Nursing can be the right choice if you are in any of the following groups:

  • Recent high school graduate looking for long-term career opportunities in nursing
  • Career changers who are able to take the time and financial commitment to be an RN
  • Parents who need a career with flexible financial security and scheduling
  • LPNs and CNAs ready to fast-track into RN positions 

Length of Time for Associate Degree in Nursing

Associate Degree in Nursing typically takes around two years to complete. The state-approved programs include extensive on-site clinical training that aligns with the requirements of your state for licensing.

Career Opportunities for Associate Degree in Nursing

Having an Associate Degree in Nursing makes you eligible to take the NCLEX-RN, which is a prerequisite for Registered Nurse licensure in all states of U.S. RNs are in high demand, so they can secure jobs that offer tuition reimbursement to continue their nursing education with a reduced personal expense.

According to BLS, after earning a license, more than half of all RNs go for work in hospitals. But they can also use their credential in several other types of environments like:

  • Physicians’ offices
  • Ambulatory healthcare services
  • Nursing and residential care facilities
  • Educational services and schools
  • Government agencies and the military
  • Health insurance companies
  • Travel nursing organizations

Earning Estimation for Associate Degree in Nursing

On average, the annual salary for Nurses is $77,460, as BLS says. Salaries for nurses also vary depending on their education, setting in which they work, level of experience, and any specialties they may have.

Those working in high-level roles within the government sectors, research facilities, or pharmaceutical companies have the chance to earn significantly more.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Doctor discussing a file with the nurse in the hospital.

BSN is a four-year degree for Registered Nurses (RNs) who want to continue as supervisory roles and qualify for higher-paying jobs.

Along with the academic classwork and on-site clinical training, the other scientific areas such as biology, anatomy, and chemistry, as well as specific duties related to laboratory testing, patient care, designing treatment plans, and assisting with surgery, are also taught.

Enrollment Requirements for Bachelor of Science in Nursing

BSN can prove to be the right choice for you if you want to work as an RN and have enough time and financial resources to have a commitment for four years. A BSN is an ideal starting place if the ultimate goal is earning a master’s degree and working as an advanced practice nurse.

Ways to Earn Your BSN

If you are seeking your BSN, there are several pathways that can lead you.

Traditional BSN

Traditional BSN degree programs are proposed for recent high school graduates who have little or no professional healthcare experience. Requirements for these programs are similar to the other bachelor’s degree programs, though some specific science prerequisites may be necessary.


LPN-to-BSN degree programs are also called “bridge programs.” These programs allow LPNs and LVNs to get degree credit for their previous education and experience. For these programs, to earn a BSN, the students usually need to take liberal arts coursework that is not offered in LPN/LVN programs.


RN-to-BSN degree programs, also called ADN-to-BSN programs, are intended for RNs who already have an associate’s degree. The graduates of accredited ADN programs can transfer educational credits to meet the BSN course requirements. This enables them to earn their bachelor’s degree in less time.

Second Degree BSN

Second-degree BSNs are designed for career changers who have a previous bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. These programs help the students to fulfill some of the liberal arts requirements of BSN by transferring credits from their first degree. This also shortens the length of time.

Length of Time for Bachelor of Science In Nursing

Traditional BSN programs need four years of full-time study. However, the students who already have RN or LPN licenses, or a bachelor’s degree in any different field, can qualify for alternative BSN programs that can be completed in one to two years.

Career Opportunities for Bachelor of Science in Nursing

If you do not have an RN license from a previous associate degree, then earning a BSN can help you to qualify to sit for the required NCLEX-RN licensing exam. As the job rate for RNs is predicted to grow by 7% by 2029, you’re likely to find a range of job opportunities with this degree.

More than half of RNs are now working in hospitals. But, with additional clinical experience and specialized skills, one can find a variety of less traditional roles, including:

  • Case manager
  • Legal nurse consultant
  • Forensic nurse
  • Home health nurse
  • Nursing informatics specialist
  • Mid-level nurse administrator
  • Occupational health nurse
  • Public health nurse
  • Parish nurse
  • School nurse

Earning Estimation for Bachelor of Science in Nursing

The salaries for RNs with associate’s degrees vary based on different factors. However, the average salary for all RNs is $77,460 per year. Those in the top 10% can even earn more than $111,000 per year.

Master of Science in Nursing

Nurse checking on his little patient.

Master of Science in Nursing or MSN is a graduate program of study intended for nurses who want to practice in a specialized role known as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

Pursuing MSN, you’ll dive deep into a concentrated area of study, taking advanced courses in many topics such as healthcare policy, leadership, management, and research.

Enrollment Requirements for Master of Science in Nursing

Requirements can vary by program, but typically MSNs are designed for licensed RNs who already have completed their bachelor’s level education.

You can qualify for an MSN program if you fall in any of the following groups:

  • Students who have an accredited BSN degree and current RN licenses
  • RNs with extensive clinical experience but have no BSN
  • Career changers who have bachelor’s degrees in non-nursing but some related fields

Ways to Earn Your MSN

Pathways to a master’s degree include:


Some MSN programs offer admissions to RNs who have associate degrees. They allow them to achieve an MSN degree without having to spend four years to earn a separate BSN, which is a traditional precondition for an MSN. An RN-to-MSN bridge program still teaches you the material that you already have learned if you received a BSN. 

These programs are intense and fast-paced, designed for the students who want to complete their degree quickly.


A BSN-to-MSN program is basically the same as the traditional MSN program since BSN is a prerequisite to enroll for MSN.

These bridge programs are usually marketed as “fast-track” programs and will also include MSN generalist programs or programs in non-clinical specializations, like nursing education or nursing administration, which typically require fewer clinical hours for completion.

Length of Time for Master of Science in Nursing

Students who start MSN programs with a BSN take about two years to complete their degree. Pursuing an MSN without a BSN degree or with a bachelor’s in any other field roughly takes three years.

Career Opportunities for Master of Science in Nursing

With an MSN degree, you’ll be able to practice as an APRN in your area of concentration. You’ll need to get a state license as an RN as well as a national credential in your specialty to do so. Specializations do vary by program, but the most common options include:

  1. Nurse Practitioner

The duties of a nurse practitioner (NP) are similar to those of physicians. Some states require NPs to work under the supervision of a physician, but NPs have more responsibilities for diagnosing and treating patients than traditional RNs.

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

To work as a CNS, applying advanced training and education to a specific patient group or type of treatment is required. The specialty area of a CNS is defined by a specific population, disease, treatment setting, or type of care.

  • Certified Nurse Midwife

The role of a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) is working with mothers during the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum phases. CNMs are considered as the primary providers in all 50 states.

  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist

A certified nurse anesthetist (CNA) is one who works closely with physicians to safely administer anesthesia prior to the procedures, monitor the patient during surgery, oversee the recovery, and develop plans for pain management.

Earning Estimation For Master Of Science In Nursing

An average annual salary for nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, certified nurse anesthetists, and clinical nurse specialists is estimated to be $111,840, $108,810, $181,040, and $77,460, respectively.

The salaries of APRNs also vary depending on the exact job title, location of work, and level of responsibility. As of 2019, the BLS offered some general guidelines for average salaries that are:

  • Nurse practitioner: $111,840
  • Certified nurse-midwives: $108,810
  • Certified nurse anesthetists: $181,040
  • Clinical nurse specialist: $77,460

Joint Master’s Degrees In Nursing

Nurse reviewing an x-ray.

Choosing a joint master’s degree in nursing can be the right choice for you if you want to earn an MSN and a complementary degree in less time than completing two separate degree programs. You can have a solid education in nursing practice and theory along with gaining advanced skills in another area that can help you adapt to your career.

Enrollment Requirements For Joint Master’s Degrees In Nursing

These programs are designed for nurses who want to continue their careers towards specific types of leadership positions. Remember, to pursue a joint degree; you have to get admission into each separate program. These degrees are intended for very serious students only, as you’ll have to work on two challenging course loads at once.

Length Of Time For Joint Master’s Degrees In Nursing

It typically takes around 18 months to three years of full-time study to complete a joint master’s degree in nursing.

Career Opportunities For Joint Master’s Degrees In Nursing

Any joint degree can expand your career opportunities to an advanced level and higher earnings. Specific roles depend on the type of degree you have, but the three common combinations are:

  1. Joint MSN/MPH

Pairing an MSN degree with a Master of Public Health (MPH) is considered for nurses who want to pursue leadership positions in the community or public health organizations.

  • Joint MSN/MBA

Combining an MSN degree with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is known as being in the “Nurse Executive Program.” Students learn the business skills to hold executive-level roles in hospitals and healthcare organizations. 

  • Joint MSN/MHA

Earning an MSN along with a Master of Health Administration (MHA) offers almost similar benefits to MSN/MPH and MSN/MBA, but the combination is a bit broader.

Earning Estimation For Joint Master’s Degrees In Nursing

An average annual salary for healthcare executives and administrators can be estimated at $115,160.

Doctoral Degrees In Nursing

Doctoral degrees are terminal degrees designed to help students gain the knowledge required to conduct research in the field, teach at the university levels, or pursue high-level roles.

Enrollment Requirements For Doctoral Degrees In Nursing

In some particular programs, these degrees are only for those who have their master’s degree, while in others, BSN graduates can also qualify for programs that allow them to earn an MSN as well as a doctoral degree at the same time.

Length Of Time For Doctoral Degrees In Nursing

On average, a doctoral degree in nursing is completed in two years.

Career Opportunities For Doctoral Degrees In Nursing

Career opportunities vary depending on the type of degree. Three primary options based on your degree are:

  1. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

A DNP is a practice-oriented degree that highlights clinical leadership and advanced theory. It helps to qualify for higher-paying executive positions in hospitals as well as other healthcare organizations.

  • Doctor of Nursing Philosophy (Ph.D.)

It focuses on scientific content and creating new research in the field. Ph.D. programs usually include the completion of a dissertation and research papers. This degree helps to qualify for leadership positions in research and academia. 

  • Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc or DNS)

Doctor of Nursing Science is a research-based degree. It makes graduates eligible for roles as researchers nurse educators like a Ph.D.

Earning Estimation For Doctoral Degrees In Nursing

An estimated average annual salary for nurse educators is $83,240. Salaries vary by tens of thousands of dollars depending on position, employer, location, and more. According to the BLS, nursing instructors who are working at universities, colleges, and professional schools earn an average annual income of $83,240, while those instructing at medical and surgical hospitals can make more than $120,000 a year.


All the nursing degrees are committed to helping you advance your career and improve your life through education. There are a lot of degrees in nursing that you can go for depending on your previous education/degree. Moreover, nursing being a noble profession, allows you to help society and play your role in the development.

References: Types of Nursing Degrees