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Types of Nursing Degrees:
6 Different Degree Levels to Know

1. Diploma in Practical Nursing (PN)

Earning your diploma in practical nursing is the fastest way to jumpstart your nursing career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). LPNs provide basic nursing care and work closely with registered nurses (RNs) and physicians in a wide variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, doctor's offices, nursing homes, hospice and urgent care clinics.

Demand for LPNs is expected to grow by 9 percent through 2030, adding more than 63,000 new jobs, according to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual wage for LPNs was $48,820 in May 2020, with the top ten percent earning more than $65,520.

Many nurses start out by becoming an LPN before choosing to advance their education and nursing career through an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree program.

Compare LPN vs. RN and discover the main differences so you can better determine if you’d like to start out as an LPN or start working towards becoming an RN right away.

Our 12-month program: Diploma in Practical Nursing

2. Associate in Nursing (ASN)

You can become a registered nurse (RN) in just two years with your associate degree in nursing (ASN). RNs are the first line of care in many healthcare settings, and they are in increasingly high demand as healthcare organizations strive to accommodate a growing patient population.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 6 percent employment growth for registered nurses through 2031. The median annual wage for registered nurses is $77,600, with the highest-paid 10 percent earning more than $120,000. Registered nurses also have the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of nursing, such as pediatrics, neonatal (NICU), oncology, surgical/perioperative or acute care.

Our degree programs. Our Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program is designed for entry-level applicants with no prior experience. We also offer several ASN bridge options for LPNs, paramedics, respiratory therapists, cardiovascular technologists, and military medics.

3. Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN)

A bachelor’s degree is becoming the new educational standard for registered nurses, as hospitals and other healthcare organizations respond to the Institute of Medicine’s call to increase their bachelors-prepared RN staff to 80 percent by 2020.

The average salary for an RN with a BSN will typically trend higher than salaries for RNs without a bachelor’s degree. Earning a BSN vs. an ADN/ASN also opens the door to advanced educational opportunities and career growth down the road.

Interested in earning your BSN? Herzing offers many pathways (availability varies by campus):

I am new to nursing, and have no prior healthcare experience (including those looking to bridge from CNA to RN). Apply for our 3-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, available at several ground campuses as well as an online BSN program. We also offer several BSN bridge options for LPNs, paramedics, respiratory therapists, cardiovascular technologists, and military medics
I am an RN with an associate degree. Complete our RN to BSN program online in 1 year or less.
I have a BS in another field. See our second degree accelerated BSN nursing program.

4. Master’s in Nursing (MSN)

Some nursing specialties or management roles require additional training and education. Earning your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) allows you to advance your nursing career and expand your scope of practice. Here are three common MSN specialties:

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who is educated at the master’s level or higher, and represents a step up in responsibilities and autonomy compared to registered nurses. NPs provide an advanced level of care that includes health promotion, health prevention, wellness and disease management, as well as diagnosis and treating acute, chronic, and episodic illnesses.

Demand for nurse practitioners is expected to increase by 40 percent through 2031, much faster than average for all occupations. The average salary for nurse practitioners is $118,040 per year ($56.75 per hour), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.*

You cannot practice as a nurse practitioner without a degree - you will need to earn an MSN to become a nurse practitioner of any kind. There are more nurse practitioner specialties you can pursue; learn more about all of Herzing's nurse practitioner degree pathways.

Nurse Educator (NE)

Nurse educators are essential for ensuring that the RN workforce can meet the healthcare needs of current and future generations. As registered nurses return to school and new students seek entry to ASN or BSN programs, colleges and universities are under increased pressure to find qualified faculty to educate and train future nurses.

Nurse educators also serve an important role within the hospital system. Their depth of knowledge and experience in the field means that they understand how to convey critical and lifesaving information to other nurses and can help improve processes to mitigate risks to the patient, nurse and hospital.

An MSN-NE degree can prepare you for educator roles in both academic and clinical settings.

If you have a knack for teaching, read our guide covering how to become a nurse educator and what you need to do to embark on this rewarding career path.

Nurse Leadership and Administration

Healthcare organizations need experienced nursing leaders to help them navigate changes in technology and the healthcare landscape. An MSN in Nurse Leadership can help you advance to a variety of management roles, from overseeing a nursing unit to leading the entire nursing department. Possible job titles in nursing administration include Chief Nursing Officer, Director of Nursing, or Healthcare Manager. Learn more about how to become a nursing administrator and what it takes to reach the upper levels of the nursing profession.

Employment for health services managers and executives is expected to grow by 28 percent from 2021 to 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS data also shows that medical and health services managers earn an average annual wage of $119,840 per year ($57.61 per hour). Discover the average salary for nurse administrators and clinical healthcare managers across the U.S.

5. Post-master’s nursing certificates (PMC)

Master’s level certificates allow working nurses to build on their graduate education with more specialized knowledge and experience.

For example, a Post-Master's Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate prepares APRNs to become board-certified family nurse practitioners. A Post-Master’s Nursing Educator Certificate allows individuals with an MSN to become certified for educator roles.

View all of our PMC concentrations.

6. Doctoral degree

You can earn the terminal degree in nursing by enrolling in a doctorate in nursing program.

There are a few different types of doctoral degrees in nursing, including the Doctor in Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD) or Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS or DNSc).

We offer the practice-focused Doctor of Nursing Practice, in which students are trained to translate evidence from the research and put it into practice. DNP students must complete a minimum number of clinical hours and a scholarly project.

You can earn a DNP and expand your knowledge of advanced nursing across all disciplines. Our Post Master’s DNP program is designed for MSN or PMC-prepared RNs looking to reach the top of the nursing profession.

Learn more about our DNP program.
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