Nursing Degree Programs: What’s Available to Study?

Nursing Degree Programs: What’s Available to Study?

Whether you have already decided that a nursing career is the right choice for you or are currently a registered nurse and want to pursue career advancement and progression, there are several nursing degree programs available for you to choose from. Picking the right nursing degree program for your needs and career goals isn’t always the easiest task, with a variety of different nursing degree options available that can lead to different lines of work, employment types and opportunities. No matter where you currently are in your nursing career, these are some of the most popular nursing degree options to consider. 

Associate’s Degree

Getting an associate’s degree will provide you with the qualification that you need to work as a registered nurse. This degree is typically the minimum requirement for people who want to start working as a nurse and the minimum that is needed for you to sit the NCLEX and get the correct license to practice as a registered nurse in your state. However, bear in mind that while this might be the quickest way for most students to get into a nursing career, it can be a limiting qualification with the majority of advanced nursing degree programs now requiring applicants to hold a bachelor’s of science degree. 


The BSN is quickly becoming the most popular degree program of choice for those who want to get into nursing. This four-year degree program will qualify you to become a registered nurse along with providing you with the necessary credentials to get into a wide range of advanced nursing degree programs, including master’s degree programs and family nurse practitioner training courses. BSN-educated nurses are also in much higher demand these days with more employers making an active effort to hire more nurses with this qualification compared to in the past, due to the results of studies that have found more BSN-qualified nurses in a healthcare setting will lead to better patient outcomes. 


If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing subject and are thinking of getting a nursing degree to change or further your career, the ABSN can be the best way for you to get qualified as a nurse in the quickest amount of time. Baylor University’s online ABSN program is a distance-learning option designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree but want to get the qualifications and skills needed to work as a registered nurse. Compared to a traditional BSN program, these programs are designed to last around two rather than four years, making it the best way for current graduates to get their nursing degree while saving time and money. 


Once you have a bachelor’s of science in nursing, the next degree option available is an MSN or master’s degree in nursing, which is typically required for nurses who want to advance their career or work in a specialist field such as neonatal nursing, nurse midwifery, acute care nursing, trauma nursing, and anesthesiology. An MSN qualification is also required for nurses who want to progress up the career ladder into a role as a nurse practitioner, where they will be allowed full practice authority in twenty-two states, allowing them to run their own practices, diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication without the need for supervision. There are various master’s degree types available for nurses including general master’s degrees in nursing and other programs that focus on a certain specialty area. 

Nurse Practitioner Master’s Degrees

Working as a nurse practitioner is becoming one of the most popular advanced roles for nurses to get into. The role of a nurse practitioner is unique in that it allows nurses the opportunity to continue working directly with patients while enjoying more autonomy, responsibility and a higher salary. With a current shortage of primary care doctors in the US, nurse practitioners are in growing demand to continue fulfilling patient needs, leading to a range of nurse practitioner focused master’s degree programs to choose from. 


A DNP, or doctor of nursing practice, is an advanced degree program that is typically available to nurses who already have an MSN or a significant amount of experience in the field. The DNP is an ideal degree program choice for nurses who are looking to advance their careers even further and work in roles such as clinical research, advanced clinical practice, health administration or nurse education. While you can become a nurse educator with a master’s degree in nursing, a doctoral degree is typically required if you want to be able to teach student nurses who are at a more advanced level. 

Nursing Advanced Certificates

Once you have gained an MSN or DNP, there are also several advanced nursing certificates to choose from depending on what you want to do with your nursing career. If you want to work in a certain specialty area of nursing, it’s likely that you may need to gain these certificates alongside your advanced degree in order to practice as a specialist or advanced practice registered nurse. Neonatal, pediatric, acute care, and anesthesiology are just some of the areas of nursing where an advanced certificate will be required. You can also get family nurse practitioner certificates after graduating with your master’s in nursing to prepare you for working in this role. 

Bridge Degree Programs

If you have a nursing education already and are looking to boost your qualifications with a more advanced degree, there is a range of bridge nursing degree programs that are available to help you do this. For example, for nurses who have an associate degree in nursing currently, there are bridge programs available that allow them to build on the knowledge, education and experience that they have already gained to get a BSN in a shorter amount of time compared to studying for four years. Bridge programs are available for nurses at almost every step of this career including BSN-MSN programs, BSN-FNP programs, FNP-DNP programs and more. 

As you can see, there are plenty of options open to you in the nursing field. You just have to decide which one will fit your career aspirations.