What are the Different Levels of Nursing Degrees?

In today’s healthcare field, nursing professionals are often considered the leaders of patient care. Nursing is an in demand field with a variety of different specialties and work environments. Individuals interested in entering the field may ask what are the different levels of nursing degrees. Nursing degrees are available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels.

Associate Degree in Nursing

An associate degree in nursing is usually the minimum requirement to work as a registered nurse, commonly called an RN. The program provides individuals with the necessary education and skills to enter the nursing field. Students learn about nursing theory and practices and engage in clinical experiences at nearby medical facilities. Some programs include laboratory components where students participate in simulation activities. The degree usually takes two years to complete and is commonly offered from a vocational institution or a community college. The associate degree is nursing is usually an Associate of Science. Graduates of the degree are prepared to pass the national licensing examination, commonly referred to as the NCLEX-RN.

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

A bachelor’s degree in nursing is the preferred credential by a variety of employers. Like the associate degree, the bachelor’s degree in nursing provides students with the essential knowledge and skills to practice as registered nurses. The key difference is the bachelor’s degree focuses more on general education courses to fulfill the requirements established by the four-year institution. A bachelor’s degree also provides students with a strong foundation for higher level degree programs. Students complete clinical components at area medical facilities, but many programs include rotations in specific areas, such as pediatrics or trauma. The degree typically takes four years to complete and four-year institutions offer the program. The bachelor’s degree in nursing is typically a Bachelor of Science.

Master’s Degree in Nursing

A master’s degree in nursing is a graduate degree for individuals seeking to acquire advanced practice nursing positions in the field. Advance practice nursing professionals have more clinical authority and complex work duties than RNs. Aspiring students must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing or related area to enter the degree program. Some institutions offer a dual degree program that enables students to complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing at the same time. Some master’s degree programs in nursing enable students to specialize in a particular area, such as clinical nurse specialist, forensic nursing, and nurse practitioner. Master’s degrees in nursing usually take one to two years to complete.

Doctorate Degree in Nursing

A doctorate degree in nursing is the highest level degree, and individuals must have a bachelor’s and master’s degree to enter the program. In general, there are two types of doctorate degrees in nursing–a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Doctor of Nursing Science. The first degree concentrates on the clinical components of nursing, and the second focuses more on research and academia.

A nursing degree is a great start to entering the rewarding and lucrative field of healthcare. No matter what type of degree level an individual selects, it is essential to choose a program that is accredited. This ensures the institution has met certain standards to offer high quality nursing programs.