Options in Nursing Degrees

Obtaining a nursing degree is a wise choice for people with an interest in the medical sciences, a people-oriented personality and the desire for a career with healthy growth potential in the future.   According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 2.5 million nurses of varying credentials in the U.S. and that figure is growing daily as the baby boomer population ages. Nursing isn’t a one-size-fits-all degree, there are many types of nursing degrees, ways to obtain the education and career options afterward.

Nursing has a hierarchy of degree levels that train a different skill set and provide a wide range of nursing job opportunities. From trade school and community college to four-year universities with graduate programs, there are many academic institutions throughout the country offer specific courses of study to guide a student toward a nursing degree of some type.  Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), Registered Nurse (RN) and even a Master’s in Nursing are all options for nursing degrees.  Many of these degrees may also be obtained via distance learning and online coursework, providing convenience and flexibility to today’s busy student. Before pursuing a nursing degree, take the time to research an academic institution that best meets your career goals and life situation.

LPN and LVN: Those considering an LPN or LVN certification can expect to spend approximately one year in training that includes a combination of book work and hands-on patient care. This type of nursing degree is licensed by each state, so students will be subject to the requirements in their state residence.  Graduates with an LPN or LVN nursing degree can expect to provide general care for patients that may include monitoring vital signs, taking blood samples, changing wound dressings and providing first aid. The primary employer for LPNs and LVNs is in nursing care facilities and the average median salary (from 2009 data) was $39,820 according to the US Department of Labor.

RN: The path to becoming an RN can start with one of three different nursing degrees. Hopefuls must complete a 4-year program in Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing (BSN), an Associates of Nursing (ADN), or a Nursing Diploma program offered by certain hospitals. After receiving the degree, candidates must then pass a national licensing exam called the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).  More than half of RNs work in hospitals, but doctor’s offices, governmental agencies, schools and hospices all require the services of qualified employees with the RN degree. According to the US Department of Labor, the median salary (in 2010) for nurses with an RN is $64,690 per year and jobs are expected to expand significantly in the future.

APRN: An Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) meets all the qualifications for a general RN and then has gone on to study further at the Master’s level or beyond. This level of nursing focuses on a particular medical specialty, such as oncology or pediatrics, and provides in-depth services to patients. As a result of the high level of knowledge and skills required, APRNs are some of the highest paying nurses in the medical profession. Particular certifications include Clinical Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) and Nurse Practitioners (NP).