Is a Nursing Major Right For You?

Nursing is a major within the healthcare field that equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to provide care for those who are sick, hurt, and disabled. Students who major in nursing meet the qualifications required to perform a wide range of roles in a healthcare setting. This may include performing preliminary examinations, administering medications and treatments, and referring patients to physicians or other healthcare experts. Nurses may also assist physicians during examinations and treatments.

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Types of Nursing Degrees

The nursing field is diverse, with opportunities for individuals at several different educational levels, from entry-level to doctorate. Each type of degree involves a different time commitment and offers a different range of professional opportunities. The cost of tuition and average earning potential also differ among the different levels of nursing degrees.

Understanding what each type of degree entails is key to choosing the right path for you.

Entry-Level Nursing Degrees and Programs

Entry-level nursing degrees include diplomas, certificates, and associate degrees. These are the most basic types of nursing degrees you can earn. Each qualification will lead to a different type of nursing job.

Nursing Certification

You can earn a certification as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in as little as one year. This is an entry-level role that provides crucial support and assistance to patients as well as nurses at advanced levels. This is the lowest-entry nursing degree and has limited scope for advancement.

Diploma in Nursing

Earning a diploma in nursing can take about 1 to 2 years, depending on the program and whether you enroll part-time or full-time. The course curriculum includes foundations of nursing, principles of health assessment and medication administration, pathophysiology, pediatrics, gerontology, and medical-surgical nursing. Most colleges require a minimum 2.0 GPA, a GED or high school diploma, and SAT/ACT scores for admission.

On completion, you’ll earn an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) diploma, which qualifies you to work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, and residential care facilities. In these settings, LPNs are entrusted with providing patients with core medical care, which entails monitoring patients and tracking their health.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Earning an Associate Degree in Nursing requires 2 years of full-time enrollment or 4 years of part-time enrollment. ADN coursework focuses on imparting clinical skills including maternal and child health, mental health nursing, and adult acute and chronic diseases. On completing the course, you must complete on average 700 clinical hours to qualify for the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination), which certifies you to practice.

Community colleges more commonly offer ADN programs than some universities. Most schools require applicants to have a minimum 2.0 to 2.5 GPA and a GED certificate or high school diploma. In most cases, you will also need to complete a background check.

Students who earn an Associate Degree in Nursing are employed as Registered Nurses in ambulatory services, hospitals, and residential care facilities. They may also be hired by the government as well as insurance agencies.

Bachelor’s Degree (BSN)

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a mid-level degree. It takes 4 years of full-time study to earn a BSN and qualifies you to work as a Registered Nurse. While you can begin working as a registered nurse with an ADN, job opportunities can be limited. Nurses with a BSN are typically preferred in most larger workplaces as degree coursework equips graduates with the knowledge and skills required for leadership roles. On the other hand, the associate degree coursework puts more focus on technical skills.

BSN programs cover a wider range of courses from anatomy and science technologies to legal issues, ethics, nursing informatics, and social and behavioral sciences. Preparation for the NCLEX-RN is integrated into the coursework. Most schools require a minimum 2.5 GPA, along with recommendation letters, and SAT/ACT scores for admission into a bachelor’s degree program.

A Master of Science (MSN)

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is an advanced degree. It qualifies you for advanced practice nursing roles such as certified registered nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, and nurse midwife. In addition to performing nursing duties, nurses with a master’s degree are also eligible to work as nurse educators as well as in various managerial and leadership roles.

You must already have a BSN to enroll in a graduate nursing program. You must also have an active and unencumbered RN license to qualify for the program. The time taken to earn an MSN can vary depending on the type of degree you have at the time of enrollment, for example, if you enroll as a bachelor’s degree holder or as a practicing RN without a bachelor’s degree. Every accelerated program has its own requirements and time commitment.

Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP)

There are two types of doctoral degrees in nursing, each of which qualifies you for a different role. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) qualifies you to work as a healthcare executive or the highest possible level in any clinical organization. A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is a research-based degree. It qualifies you to work as an academic or in a research facility.

The time taken to complete a doctoral degree will depend on whether you hold an MSN or BSN degree at the time of enrollment. There are also several online BSN to DNP programs. Although admission requirements vary among schools, most will ask you to submit your GRE scores, official transcripts, personal essays, and recommendation letters. In-person interviews are a common practice as part of the admissions process into doctoral programs.

You will need to complete rigorous clinical coursework to meet the licensure requirements. Earning a DNP qualifies you to work as a chief nursing officer, nurse practitioner, or university professor.

Top 10 Nursing Schools In The U.S.

  1. Ohio University-Main Campus, Athens, OH
  2. The University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
  3. Adelphi University, Garden City, NY
  4. University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC
  5. Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, AZ
  6. Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA
  7. The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler, TX
  8. Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH
  9. Western Governors University, Salt Lake City, UT
  10. Emory University, Atlanta, GA
  11. Click here for more great schools.


If you are considering a career in nursing, your job outlook is great! Not only are nurses highly sought after, but they can also work in a number of different settings including hospitals, clinics, community centers, and many more.

Quick career facts:

  • Projected Career Growth Rate: 9%
  • Median Annual Salary: $81,000

A nursing career is all about serving others. If you are people-oriented and passionate about caring for others, you should consider a career in this field. The personal satisfaction that comes from the knowledge that you’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life is immeasurable.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!

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