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What can you do with a degree in nursing?

A nurse's profession is a challenging, yet noble one. Nurses are required to tend to their patients, provide advice and support when needed, and to educate patients and the public on matters of healthcare.

An online nursing degree program can prepare students with the vital skills needed to play a crucial role in patient care, as well as advance their career in the healthcare industry. Students can develop skills in critical thinking, communication and organization. Those who have compassion, emotional resilience and physical stamina may be well-suited for the job of nursing.

The demand for nurses in the healthcare industry

Registered nurses (RN) are in big demand. According to the American Nurses Association, RNs are required more than any other occupation through to 2022. According to the National Institutes of Health, the high demand for nurses could be due to the aging population, the rise in diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and other critical diseases, as well as the number of nurses retiring or leaving the profession. Nurses, who have long been indispensable to patients, physicians and healthcare institutions, are needed in healthcare facilities across the country.

Jobs in nursing by degree level

To pursue a career in nursing, you may need to choose from different nursing degree programs based on the nursing career aspirations you have, the timeline, and financial commitment that suit you. Generally, a more advanced degree may prepare you to take on greater responsibilities, open up greater opportunities for career advancement and higher pay.

  • State-approved education program in nursing: Completing a state-approved education program, usually on offer at certain educational institutions, hospitals and nursing homes, may enable a student to gain employment as a nursing assistant or orderly.

    Jobs: Students who pass the state competency exam may use state-specific titles such as certified nursing assistant (CNA).

  • Online Certificate or Diploma in Nursing: Very few certificate programs in nursing may be available. They are usually offered by hospitals and medical centers and may take around two years to complete.

    Jobs: Graduates may seek employment as licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses (LPNs or LVNs).

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): An associate degree in nursing typically requires two years to complete. The program may equip you with clinical knowledge, problem-solving skills and other competencies required to earn a nursing license.

    Jobs: Graduates may apply for positions such as school nurses, traveling nurses, pediatric nurses and psychiatric nurses.

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): A bachelor's degree in nursing usually takes four years of study.

    Jobs: A graduate may work as a registered nurse (RN). They may also have the opportunity to pursue administrative, research, teaching and consulting roles in various fields such as public health, insurance, pharmaceuticals and management.

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): This two-year degree program may allow you to specialize in a particular area such as cardiovascular care, surgical nursing, mental health and so on.

    Jobs: A graduate may be eligible to apply as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or nurse practitioner (NP) or apply for a role as nurse midwife, anesthetist, manager or educator.

  • Doctoral Degree in Nursing:A doctoral degree in nursing may help you explore methodologies that can affect positive change in the field of nursing and address future challenges. Students may pursue either a professional degree (Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP) or a research degree (Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD, in Nursing).

    Jobs: The degree may take between 3-7 years to complete and may lead to employment as health policy analyst, chief nursing officer, college professor and many other roles.

How to become a nurse

  • To become a nurse, you need to complete a degree in nursing along with the required clinical experience from an accredited institution.
  • To acquire a nursing license, you need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
  • You may also seek additional certification in a field of your choice and may be required to pass certain other national certification examinations or licensure examinations to practice the specialty area.

Here's a guide to help you choose a nursing program that's right for you.

How can you earn a nursing degree online?

An online nursing degree program can generally provide students with the flexibility to pursue their education while simultaneously attending to professional and family commitments. Course content is usually similar to, and as rigorous as, the on-campus programs.

Classes are generally conducted asynchronously through course materials and videos uploaded to online learning platforms. Assignments may have deadlines and some courses may require online attendance and discussions with faculty and peers at a pre-appointed time. Most online nursing programs may include laboratory courses that are conducted on campus and supervised clinical experiences to be carried out at approved local hospitals or clinics.

Many colleges and universities that offer nursing degree programs through distance education may also offer online students access to a digital library, counseling services, tutoring, and career guidance. You can look up various online degree programs in nursing on the Internet and compare the curricula, tuition and student support services available or you can visit our online degrees nursing page and check out our ranking of the best online nursing colleges.

You may learn more about careers in nursing through the infographic below.

What can you do with a degree in nursing?
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