Your best choice of which nursing degree to pursue is based on your academic background and abilities, your career goals and even where you intend to work as a nurse. Each state separately regulates the nursing profession and thus each state has its own education and licensing requirements. Below the different nursing degree options are discussed.
This option is the easiest and fastest nursing degree to obtain. This type of degree will prepare you to be a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). These types of nurses work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs), providing basic nursing care and related health care duties and functions. LPNs and LVNs generally work in settings such as nursing homes, hospitals, doctors’ offices and home healthcare services. A nursing diploma or certificate alone will not qualify you to become a RN.
Nursing diploma/certificate programs are available at community colleges, technical schools, hospitals and even some high schools. An LPN or LVN program usually takes around a year to complete.
The ASN degree is usually a two year program and allows you to qualify to become a Registered Nurse (RN). The ASN program is not only longer, but is more demanding than the diploma/certificate option. This degree program includes key core medical courses, including microbiology, physiology, anatomy and chemistry. Therefore, it might prove difficult if you have trouble with science classes. Also, the ASN has a hands-on clinical work requirement.
While this is the fastest and easiest degree option to become a RN, you should be aware that many RN jobs, particularly positions in hospitals, require a four year nursing (BSN) degree. However, there is still a large demand for RNs from all sectors of the health care field, which should allow you to obtain a nursing job.
This is overall the best degree choice for starting a career in nursing. As stated above, although the ASN degree will qualify you to become a licensed RN, the best and highest paying nursing jobs require a BSN degree in addition to a RN license. These degree programs are usually four years long and are offered by professional nursing colleges, many of which are part of major universities.
Studying at a four year nursing school is not as hard and demanding as medical school, but it is indeed very demanding and challenging. You will need to take and pass many medical courses as well as hands-on clinical work. Therefore, to be successful in a BSN program, you will need to be a dedicated and capable student. However, the rewards and opportunities can be very great, plus having a BSN and a RN license will allow you to become a specialist in various areas such as pediatrics, community nursing and geriatrics.
The accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program is designed for individuals who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field but now want to begin a nursing career. This “second degree” BSN allows students to apply general education credits earned via a non-nursing bachelor’s degree toward the completion of a regular BSN degree. The accelerated BSN degree usually takes students between 18 to 20 months to complete. Although a faster option than the regular BSN, it qualifies graduates for the same entry-level, career advancement and higher education opportunities as a traditional BSN degree program.
Like many other kinds of degrees, there are some nursing degree programs that are available online – generally referred to as distance (remote) education. The online classes are very convenient, as you can study from the comfort of your home and on your own schedule. It also allows students to repeatedly review lectures and study materials. However, while these programs may offer many of the classes online, the required clinical and other hands-on work still will need to be done in person. This combination of online study and in person work is known as a hybrid learning model and could be advantageous to certain students.