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What are the Different Types of Nursing Degrees?

Getting Started with Nursing

Embarking on a nursing career offers various entry points, including options that don't require a full degree-granting program. These initial steps provide a solid foundation for those interested in the nursing profession and related fields.


Nursing Assistant Certificate (CNA)

A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) plays a crucial role in the healthcare system, providing essential support in patient care. While CNAs are not licensed nurses, they work closely with nurses and other healthcare professionals, making it an excellent entry point into the nursing profession. CNAs are responsible for assisting patients with daily activities, monitoring vital signs, and providing basic patient care.

This role offers a glimpse into the nursing profession and can be a stepping stone for those interested in eventually pursuing different types of nursing degrees.

Career outcomes for CNAs often lead to roles in various healthcare settings, with salary expectations reflecting the level of responsibility and geographical location.


Diploma in Practical Nursing (PN or LPN)

A Diploma in Practical Nursing (PN or LPN) is a more direct path to nursing, offering substantial training without the commitment of a full degree program. Upon completing an LPN Program, students earn a Practical Nursing Diploma, making them eligible for the NCLEX-PN exam. After passing, they can obtain licensure.

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) or Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) provide primary nursing care under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and doctors. They play a vital role in patient care, administering medication, monitoring patient health, and communicating with patients and their families.

The median salary for LPNs/LVNs ($54,620 in 2022) is a testament to the critical role they play in healthcare.

LPNs work in:

  • Nursing care facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Home health care services
  • Outpatient care centers

Their job tasks include:

  • Providing basic nursing care
  • Measuring vital signs
  • Collecting fluid samples
  • Administering medications
  • Maintaining records

Read More about Getting Started with Nursing

Building Your Nursing Career

Becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) is a significant milestone in the healthcare profession, achievable through dedicated educational pathways. These different types of nursing degrees not only provide essential knowledge but also pave the way for diverse career opportunities in nursing.


Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a streamlined pathway to becoming an RN. This program focuses on providing foundational nursing education, preparing students for the demands of the nursing profession. Upon completing all program requirements, graduates are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam. Passing this exam is essential for obtaining RN licensure.

The median salary for an RN with an Associate’s Degree is $76,000 as of October 2023. 

ADNs typically find employment in:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Home health care services
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Correctional facilities
  • Schools and universities

Their responsibilities include:

  • Providing and coordinating patient care
  • Assisting doctors in exams and surgeries
  • Performing lab work
  • Evaluating and recording patient symptoms
  • Educating patients about their conditions


Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a comprehensive degree that extends beyond the foundational knowledge acquired in an ADN program. While not required for initial entry into nursing, a BSN can be crucial for nurses seeking to advance in their careers, especially in specialized areas of nursing. It qualifies nurses for more advanced roles in administration, research, consulting, and teaching.

For Jersey College graduates and other RNs, the availability of RN to BSN programs provides a flexible pathway to continue education while working. These programs are designed to accommodate working nurses, allowing them to gain advanced knowledge and skills without pausing their careers.

The median salary for an RN with a Bachelor’s Degree was $92,000 as of October 2023.

BSN-prepared nurses are responsible for:

  • Coordinating and providing patient care
  • Supervising nursing staff
  • Assisting in medical procedures and surgeries
  • Conducting lab work and research
  • Evaluating and recording patient conditions
  • Educating patients and their families on health management


Read More about Becoming an RN

Specializing your Skills with Advanced Nursing Degrees

Advanced nursing degrees open the door to further specialization, skill enhancement, and expanded career opportunities.


Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate degree designed for Registered Nurses who are looking to elevate their careers to the next level. This advanced degree opens up a variety of specialized roles, significantly expanding the scope of practice and leadership opportunities for nurses.

An MSN equips nurses to take on significant roles in various aspects of healthcare. These roles include:

  • Nurse Educators, who are instrumental in training the next generation of nurses. They work in academic settings, shaping the curriculum and mentoring nursing students.
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), who provide high-level care with a degree of autonomy. APRNs include Nurse Practitioners, who often serve as primary care providers.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists, who focus on improving patient outcomes and nursing practices in specialized areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or critical care.
  • Certified Nurse Midwives, who provide holistic care in women's health, including childbirth, gynecological exams, and family planning.
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), who are responsible for administering anesthesia and monitoring patients during surgery.

With an MSN, nurses are also well-positioned for leadership roles in health policy and clinical management, where they can influence healthcare practices and policies.

The median salary for an RN with a Master’s Degree is $102,000 as of October 2023.

This degree not only offers higher earning potential but also provides a platform for nurses to significantly impact healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.


Post-Master’s Nursing Certificates

Post-master's nursing certificates offer specialized training for nurses who have already completed their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). These certificates enable nurses to focus on specific areas of nursing, further honing their expertise and opening up new career opportunities. Here are some popular certificate options and their focus areas:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: Focuses on providing comprehensive care to adults, including the elderly, particularly in acute and complex health conditions.
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner: Prepares nurses to provide care in emergency settings, dealing with urgent medical conditions and injuries.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner: Trains nurses to deliver primary healthcare across all age groups, focusing on family-oriented care.
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: Specializes in caring for newborn infants, particularly those who are ill or premature, in neonatal intensive care units.
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: Specializes in mental health care, treating patients with psychiatric disorders and mental health issues.
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner: Concentrates on providing comprehensive healthcare to women, covering gynecological, reproductive, and general health needs.

Each of these certificates enhances a nurse's skill set in a particular field, making them invaluable in their specialized roles. They not only provide the opportunity for professional growth but also play a crucial role in addressing specific healthcare needs within the community.


Doctoral Degrees in Nursing

Doctoral degrees in nursing represent the apex of educational achievement in the nursing field. These degrees, such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Nursing (ND), Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc), and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD), cater to nurses aspiring to reach the pinnacle of their profession.

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): This degree focuses on advanced nursing practice, including clinical practice and educational practice. DNPs often work in clinical settings, healthcare administration, and nursing education, applying their knowledge to improve healthcare outcomes and educate future nurses.
  • Doctor of Nursing (ND): The ND prepares nurses for advanced clinical practice, emphasizing the application of research findings to clinical environments.
  • Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc): DNSc degrees are research-oriented, aimed at nurses who wish to focus on investigative and analytical aspects of nursing science, often leading to roles in research and academia.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD): This degree is heavily research-focused, preparing nurses for careers in scholarly research and academic teaching. PhD nurses contribute to the nursing body of knowledge through original research.

Nurses with doctoral degrees find opportunities in a variety of settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Public health offices
  • Research facilities
  • Independent practices
  • Colleges or Universities

Their roles can include:

  • Faculty member
  • Director of Nursing Research
  • Director of Clinical Services
  • University professor
  • Researcher

The choice between a DNP and a PhD often depends on whether a nurse's focus is on practical, clinical applications of nursing knowledge (DNP), or on conducting research to advance the field of nursing (PhD). Both higher degree programs offer significant contributions to the nursing profession and healthcare as a whole.


Read More about Advanced Nursing Degrees

Begin Your Nursing Education at Jersey College

Jersey College offers practical and accessible nursing programs, catering to those starting or advancing in the nursing profession:

Our programs are designed for real-world nursing demands, offering a solid foundation for your nursing career. Jersey College is committed to providing quality education to aspiring nurses.


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