Whether you are a high school graduate looking to pursue a career in nursing or want a change from your current career to a job that allows you to care for and be there for others, there are several degree programs and other training options that you might want to consider in order to help you on your pathway towards becoming a nurse. 

Working as a nurse is one of the most personally satisfying and rewarding career paths in the world, with several opportunities for career progression and advancement to pursue. Nurses are needed in every aspect of healthcare from hospitals to outpatient clinics to doctor's offices, within the community and in schools and prisons. No matter where you are right now in terms of your career, choosing the right nursing degree program for you is essential. There are several different nursing degree programs and courses to choose from for those who are interested in pursuing this career choice. Here are some of the main nursing degree qualifications that are available, and how to come to the right conclusion when choosing the most suitable one for you. 

Licensed Practical Nurse Qualification:

If you are just getting started with your nursing degree and want to start working as a nurse as quickly as possible while working your way up the ranks of the career while on the job, getting licensed practical nurse certification might be an ideal choice for you. Once you are working as a licensed practical nurse, there are several options to consider if you want to continue furthering your career with various bridging programs that are available for LPNs who want to gain an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing. 

Licensed practical nursing programs will usually take around a year to complete and you can find them offered by community colleges, hospitals and other healthcare institutions, and vocational and technical schools. 

Associate's Degree in Nursing:

While getting licensed practical nurse certification might be the quickest way to get your career in nursing started, it will usually lead to an entry-level position with a very basic rate of pay. If you want to make sure that you can maximize your earnings as a nurse as quickly as possible and want to enter the workforce in a position with a little more responsibility, an associate's degree in nursing could be the fastest option for you to become a registered nurse. As associate's degree is typically the minimum qualification that employers will require for you to start working as a registered nurse, although more and more employers are asking for nurses to have at least a BSN, or at least be prepared to work towards achieving a BSN after finding employment. 

Bachelor's Degree in Nursing:

The BSN is the most popular degree option for getting into nursing, and more and more employers are requiring nurses to have this qualification as a minimum. This degree program will typically take around four years to complete full-time, although there are part-time study options for students who need to fit studying around working full-time and other commitments. 

Along with attending classes and lectures to improve your nursing knowledge and skills, the BSN will also involve some practical work that you will carry out as a nursing student at a hospital or other clinical setting. If you already have a nursing qualification such as a licensed practical nurse certification or an associate's degree in nursing, you may be able to get your BSN faster by building on the knowledge and skills that you already have. 

Accelerated BSN Programs:

If you already have a bachelor's degree in another subject or are working as a different healthcare professional and want to change your career to nursing, the ABSN degree program is designed to help you achieve your BSN qualification in around half the time that you would expect the traditional degree route to take. An ABSN is a fast-paced, intensive course that allows you to save money and time when getting your bachelor of science in nursing degree by building on the knowledge and skills that you have already developed in the past. Since it is designed for students who already hold a bachelor's level qualification in a different subject, this is the ideal option for those who want to facilitate a career change into nursing and achieve their new career goals as quickly as possible. 

Nursing Bridging Programs:

Bridging programs are designed for already qualified nurses to move up the career ladder by improving their qualifications. One of the most popular bridging programs for nurses is the ADN-BSN program, which is designed to allow those with an associate's degree in nursing to build on the knowledge and skills that they already possess to earn a BSN. 

In New York State, the BSN-in-10 rule that requires all registered nurses to earn a BSN within ten years of entering the workforce has made this a very popular choice of program. Since it allows nurses to build on what they already know, a BSN bridging qualification is often faster and cheaper compared to taking the traditional route. 

Nursing Apprenticeships:

For those who prefer to learn on the job in a more hands-on way, nursing apprenticeships are a newer alternative to getting a nursing degree that more students are considering. Apprenticeships combine learning on the job and in the classroom in a way that allows students to earn money as they learn and earn a BSN qualification or similar. They are ideal for hands-on learners who prefer to get involved with the work that they will be doing and want the chance to save money on tuition and earn as they learn. 

Advancing Your Nursing Career - What Advanced Degree Programs are Available?

Whether you are already qualified as a registered nurse or are planning to get into an advanced nursing career in the future, it's worth getting to grips with the range of advanced nursing career options that are available for you to choose from. Working as an advanced practice nurse such as a nurse practitioner or working your way up into nurse management and executive positions in the healthcare industry will often require you to have obtained an advanced nursing degree. Similarly, you will need to earn an advanced nursing degree if you want to pursue a career in nursing education and be instrumental in educating and preparing the next generations of nurses. 

Master of Science in Nursing:

The master of science in nursing or MSN degree program is usually the minimum requirement for the majority of advanced nursing roles. Whether you want to start a career as a family nurse practitioner or are interested in a role in nurse leadership or management, it's likely that you will be required to earn an MSN before you can begin. 

You can find general master's degree programs that are designed to prepare you for a wide range of advanced nursing roles, or master's degrees that are designed to prepare you for a specific role, such as a nurse practitioner, as is the case with the Texas Womans University's Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree. Visit the Texas Womans University site to find out more. 

Understanding where you want your further nursing career to take you is important when choosing which advanced degree to study for since there are so many options available with different future careers in mind. 

Doctor of Nursing Practice:

The highest available nursing degree option is a doctor of nursing practice, which is often required for the majority of senior nursing roles, working in research as a nurse, or working as a nurse educator to teach and prepare the next generation of nurses for their future role. The doctor of nursing practice degree is typically offered as a practice-based degree to prepare students for a role as an advanced nurse or nurse educator, however, if you are interested in taking the research route, you can consider a Ph.D. in nursing, which is a degree program of equal value that places more emphasis on research rather than practice. 

Studying Nursing Online - What are the Benefits?

Whatever nursing degree level you are considering studying, whether you're just starting out with preparing for your future career as a nurse or are already a registered nurse looking to improve your career with an advanced qualification, you have probably heard a lot about online nursing degrees. In recent years, online degree programs have grown massively in popularity and are a top choice for many nurses who want to advance their careers while continuing to work full-time in nursing and save money on the associated costs of going to college. Some of the main benefits of choosing to study for an online nursing degree program at any level include:

Flexibility:

The added flexibility is one of the main reasons why an increasing number of students are opting to take an online nursing degree program. Unlike traditional degree programs where students are required to attend classes on campus at certain times throughout the week, many online programs are completely flexible, which allows students to choose the best time for them to study based on their personal schedule and needs. This makes online nursing degree programs a popular choice among students who want to change their current career to nursing and will need to or prefer to continue working full-time while gaining their qualification. Advanced online nursing degree programs are also a popular option for full-time nurses who are looking to advance and improve their future careers but do not want or have the ability to take time off work while they are studying. 

Cost:

Another great benefit of opting for an online nursing degree is that it can often work out much cheaper compared to taking the traditional route. While tuition fees are usually much the same for both online and offline programs, you might be able to find a college that charges less for an online degree due to the fact that these programs will often cost the college less to deliver. However, even if you're not saving much in terms of tuition, there are many areas where online students are able to save money. 

The lack of commuting to classes on a daily basis, for example, can save a huge amount of gas money over the four years that it will take to complete the degree. In addition, students are able to study at a nursing school that is preferable to them even if it's not local, making it easier and cheaper for students to get a degree from the college of their choice without the need to relocate. Also, there is often a lower opportunity cost for professionals who are working full-time and want to become a nurse or eventually advance their nursing careers. 

Due to the flexible nature of online programs, aspiring nurses or advanced nurses are easily able to continue working as they study, meaning that there will be fewer earnings lost in the process. 

Options:

Finally, studying online is becoming an increasingly popular choice for aspiring nurses - meaning that when it comes to study options, there's definitely not a shortage of choice. An increasing number of colleges and nursing schools are understanding just how popular online programs are becoming, leading to a huge range of online nursing degree programs and advanced degree programs becoming available for students. 

Whether you are looking to change your career with an ABSN program to help you get into the nursing profession as quickly as possible while still working in your current job, want to improve your current nursing qualification with a bridging course designed to help you achieve a BSN in less time than the traditional route or are hoping to improve your career and become a family nurse practitioner in the future, you will be able to find a range of online degree programs that are suitable for your needs. 

Whether you're already working as a nurse and want to advance your career or are thinking about a career in nursing for the future, choosing the right nursing degree for you is the first step to take.