How to Pick a Nursing Degree Path

If you’ve decided to become a nurse, then the world certainly needs you. The healthcare industry is expected to grow faster than the average economy over the next decade, and there are plenty of openings for medical professionals looking to help patients and doctors.

However, once you decide to become a nurse, you’re immediately faced with another decision. You have to pick a nursing degree path to follow on your way to joining the ranks of this noble profession. There’s a lot that goes into making that choice.

Nursing Degree Levels

Nursing degrees of various levels exist. Shorter degrees can mean becoming a professional nurse faster and cost less in tuition, but longer programs can lead to higher income and more career opportunities.

Associate Degree

Getting an associate nursing degree can take 18 months to two years. Unfortunately, this educational path won’t always qualify for nursing licenses in all states. Two-year graduates can apply these credits towards bachelor’s degrees. They can also move straight into the healthcare workforce as medical technicians while they gain professional experience.

Bachelor’s Degree

Anyone who graduates with a bachelor’s nursing degree can apply for a nursing license in all 50 states. Compared to an associate program, a bachelor’s candidate will get more advanced classes and various liberal arts curriculum along the way.

Master’s Degree

Attaining a master’s nursing degree can mean qualifying for a nurse practitioner position. This level of education usually means another year or two of study after the bachelor’s level with an emphasis on research methodologies. Other potential master’s nursing degrees include healthcare informatics, administration, and education.

Doctoral Degree

Nursing doctoral programs are not the same as medical doctor’s degrees. Doctoral nursing programs can be:

  • Doctor of philosophy or Ph.D
  • Doctoring of nursing practice or DNP

These professionals can become executive leaders, policy advisers, and nursing professors.

Each state has different requirements for nursing personnel. If you plan to remain in any particular state for the length of your career, you may be able to meet the minimum requirements of that state to begin your career. However, if you seek the flexibility to practice in multiple states, and want increased merits on your resume, you may want to consider a longer program to secure your career goals.

Should You Become an APRN?

If you want a nursing role that’s almost as powerful as that of a doctor and sometimes just as much, then you might want to become an APRN.

Do you know what the APRN meaning is? ARPN stands for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.

These are nursing professionals who have one of the following:

  • Master’s certificate
  • Post-master’s certificate
  • Practice-focused doctor of nursing degree

APRNs get licensed through state nursing boards to offer patient care in specific roles. Many states let APRNs practice independently of doctor oversight and even prescribe medications.

At the time of writing, APRNs serve in four distinct roles:

  • CNA or Certified Nurse Anesthetist: CNA professionals help address the market demands for anesthesiologists. They assess possible patients and screen them for warning signs of bad reactions. They can even work in the operating room and help with post-op recovery.
  • CNM or Certified Nurse Midwife: As you would expect from the name, CNMs help plan families and deliver babies. There’s a common misconception that they focus on home-births, but most of their deliveries are in hospital maternity wards.
  • CNS or Clinical Nurse Specialists: Many CNS professionals wind up going into advisory, management, educational, and outcome roles. They are often specialized based on parameters ranging from setting and population to kinds of disease, care, and problem.
  • NP or Nurse Practitioner: These are the most common kind of APRNs, accounting for more than half of such professionals. They fill a crucial role in the growing shortage of primary care physicians since they can step in and with diagnostic and treatment abilities.

Factors to Consider

Numerous factors come into play when trying to choose a nursing degree program or pathway. Not only do you have to choose your degree and potential specialty but you must also make other decisions along the way.

On-Campus or Online

According to Nurse Journal, the on-campus study is the traditional educational experience for nursing students. They either:

  • Live on the campus
  • Commute from their homes

Online programs were around before the pandemic, but they may have gotten more popular since then. Online classes have numerous advantages, including:

  • Cost savings
  • Schedule convenience for full-time employees or those with families
  • Course material is just as rigorous as traditional campuses

Online students do need to practice considerable organizational skills, however.

Hybrid learning is another option in the middle, involving online work but weekly visits for labs and other hands-on experiences. Hybrid learners get personal attention and learning experiences that purely online students do not, but they need to live near campus for the necessary visits.

Class Sizes

Larger classes might feature lower tuition from the educational providers offering them. However, it’s also easy to get lost in the crowd. Smaller classes mean the opportunity to get meaningful feedback from professors more often. There will also be more chances to form professional bonds with future peers.

Asynchronous or Synchronous Learning

On-campus learning is always synchronous. All students gather together at the same times for every class or lecture.

Online learning might also be synchronous with everyone logging in together online, although asynchronous learning might let some students view lectures after the fact and learn on their own schedule. Assignment deadlines remain the same, however.

Thousands of nursing positions have been unfilled for years, and many may remain that way in the coming decades. Demand is growing, and many current nurses are close to retirement and needing replacement. Choosing this career path means serious income and job satisfaction with helping people.

You have to pick a nursing degree first, and that can mean choosing:

  • Online or on-campus education
  • Your educational level
  • Professional path
  • Where you want to get licensed

As you can see, there are many decisions to consider, but the advantage is how many different ways there are for you to become a nurse with the right degree.