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What Type of Nursing Degree is Right for Me (RN, BSN, MSN)?

Higher Education Articles July 1, 2013

Nursing encompasses such a wide range of services that students who are considering a nursing career must determine the level of expertise and education they seek; this dictates the nursing degrees types that will help them achieve their career goals. Three popular options offer students a choice of completing their education all at once or advancing through each degree at a more balanced pace.

RN: Registered Nurse

The entry-level nursing degree, the Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN), qualifies graduates to take the NCLEX-RN and apply to be a licensed Registered Nurse. Most successful RNs have launched their careers with an ADN degree while others use the ADN as a stepping stone to the bachelor’s degree.

Which Schools Award an ADN?

Community Colleges: Most Associates in Nursing degrees are earned at this level. Students appreciate the convenience, scheduling flexibility, and cost effectiveness of these programs.

Four-year Nursing Schools: Most offer an ADN with the option to transition seamlessly into an RN-to-BSN program if desired.

What Is the Career Outlook for a Registered Nurse?

Most graduates obtain their registered nurse licensure and build a fulfilling career at this level. Some registered nurses continue their studies to earn a bachelor’s degree, which opens more doors for career advancement. The popular RN-to-BSN program specializes in preparing RNs for the next level with a focused curriculum. Frequently, if a practicing registered nurse chooses to advance his or her education, employers will cover the costs of schooling and award pay increases.

BSN: Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Most professional nurses prefer the BSN degree because it indicates possession of the skills and practice theory that are required to think critically in patient care. This degree also positions nurses for advanced study at a later date if desired.

Which Schools Award a BSN?

Most commonly, a four-year nursing school confers the BSN degree, but some medical schools include a school of nursing that awards this degree. A wide range of choices among schools ensures that students will find a program that matches his or her needs and interests; programs vary considerably in financial aid, career guidance, specialization, size, location, and cost.

What Types of BSN Programs Are Available?

Traditional BSN program: Four years of full-time study will award a BSN degree and prepare students to take the NCLEX examination and apply for licensure.

RN-to-BSN program: This course of study is designed for registered nurses who are already working and who have an ADN or equivalent degree. The program concentrates on the final two years of study for a BSN degree, and most schools offer classes online with flexible schedules to accommodate working nurses.

Accelerated BSN program: This program, not commonly found, is geared toward students who previously obtained a bachelor’s degree in a different field. The curriculum usually takes one to two years and provides an intense study of nursing theory and practice.

MSN: Master of Science in Nursing

The MSN degree program offers interdisciplinary study to prepare nurses for advanced practice with a specialization such as nurse practitioner, midwifery, and anesthesia. Graduates provide advanced patient care, perform research studies, and provide professional leadership.

Which Schools Award an MSN?

Universities’ School of Nursing offers the MSN degree with highly flexible campus and online programs. Except for nursing anesthesia, most specializations do not require much clinical work and adapt well to online study; this permits nurses with a BSN degree to continue working and caring for a family while completing the MSN program.

What Specializations Are Available for an MSN Degree?

The most common specializations include:

•Clinical Nurse Leader
•Clinical Nurse Specialist
•Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
•Certified Nurse Midwife
•Nurse Practitioner

In addition, some universities offer joint master degree programs for nurses who want to advance further in the professional arena. The most popular programs bundle the MSN degree with either a Master of Business Administration degree for those interested in management or a Master of Health Administration degree for careers in public health and health facilities.

All three types of nursing degrees will equip students to become effective, knowledgeable professionals. For each individual, the right degree will depend on career goals, interests, and availability for further education.

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