Types of Nursing Degrees and Nursing Certifications (2023)

When it comes to nursing degrees, there are many different options to fit your career and income goals, time frame, lifestyle, and budget. From an apprenticeship lasting a few months to several years, covering basic nursing skills, to advanced specialized practice, there are few professions that offer more diverse opportunities than nursing.

There are many ways to pursue a career in nursing. Some options require minimal training, and other nursing careers require a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing. Read on below to learn about the many different types of nursing degrees and certifications that might be right for you.

List of nursing degrees and certifications

There are various nursing degrees and certifications that will allow you to work in the nursing specialty you desire. Each nursing level and certification has different educational and work-related requirements to achieve these qualifications. Listed below are the different types of nursing degrees and nursing certifications you can pursue.

nursing assistant

One way to get into the nursing field quickly and with minimal training is to start as a nursing assistant. Common job titles at this level include: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Registered Nursing Assistant (RNA), Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA), Direct Care Worker, Care Assistant, Home Assistant, or Personal Care Assistant.

Time to Completion:A few weeks to a few months, with a combination of schooling and hands-on clinical experience. Upon completion, students must take a state exam to become certified. The requirements vary greatly from state to state.

Career Paths:Nursing assistants often work in long-term care facilities, assisting patients with tasks such as bathing, feeding and dressing, and documenting and filing patient records.

Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) oder Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN) Degree

Of all nursing certifications, LPN or LVN programs are the quickest and most convenient options. Because training can be completed in a hospital, vocational school, community college, and even online, LPN/LVN programs are ideal for students who have jobs or other commitments.

Time to Completion:About a year.

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Career Paths:This flexible, fast-paced program provides students with the most basic skills to become a registered nurse. Completion of an LPN/LVN program qualifies graduates for admission after passing a federally administered nursing examination called the NCLEX-PN.

Here is some information on career opportunities for Licensed Practical Nurses or Licensed Occupational Nurses provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Quick Facts: Licensed Practical and Licensed Occupational Nurses

Medianlohn 2016

$44,090 per year
$21.20 per hour

Typical entry level training

Post-secondary honors without a degree

Work experience in a related profession


on-the-job training


Career prospects, 2016-2026

12% growth (faster than average)

Those:U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook

Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) to Associate Degree (ADN)

LPN to Associate Degree Bridge programs prepare students to become an entry-level Registered Nurse (RN).

Time to Completion:LPN to ADN programs vary in length but typically last a year or less. Online hybrid programs are the most convenient option as they give students the flexibility to complete some coursework in their own time. However, the clinical practice hours take place in a medical facility.

Career Paths:An associate degree forms the basis for a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). Some employers even reimburse tuition fees for nurses who want to continue their education.

Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)

An Associate of Science degree in Nursing Program (ASN) provides graduates with more technical skills and serves as a stepping stone to a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degree for 30% of graduates. This degree option is ideal for those who want to start a career as an RN but are not currently working as an LPN or LVN.

Time to Completion:About two years. Night and weekend courses offered at community colleges or trade schools make this degree another ideal option for students juggling other assignments.

Career Paths:This degree is suitable for those interested in becoming a registered nurse taking earlier than the time it would take to complete a four-year BSN degree program.

Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

LPN-to-BSN bridging programs take into account a student's LPN work experience, meaning students would receive a liberal arts education without following the traditional four-year path to a bachelor's degree.

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Time to Completion:A full-time program can only last four academic semesters; However, part-time study is possible. The workload can be more rigorous than other LPN options, which is something to consider for students completing this program amid work and family commitments.

Career Paths:Completion of an LPN to BSN program enables graduates to work as an RN. An RN with a BSN is considered older than a nurse with an associate degree and typically earns a higher salary. A BSN paves the way for managerial positions and opens the door to continuing your education with a nursing degree.

Bachelor of Science in Pflege (BSN)

When considering the different types of nursing degrees, it is important to understand that a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is preferred by most healthcare providers and offers a wider range of career opportunities in today's healthcare field.

So do you want to aim for an ASN or a BSN? According to a study conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), patients cared for by nurses with BSN have better outcomes and lower mortality rates. Nurses at the undergraduate level are also better at making diagnoses and evaluating the outcomes of interventions. According to AACN, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has released a report recommending increasing the number of nurses with a BSN from 50% to 80% by 2020. Many hospitals and other medical facilities follow IOM guidelines and encourage associate degree nurses to earn their BSN within five years of completing an associate degree program.

Time to Completion:four years. A BSN program involves an extensive amount of coursework and lab time. While some BSN degree programs include a mix of classroom and online courses, clinical experiences are always completed onsite on a college campus or in a hospital.

Career Paths:Many foster positions require a BSN degree. For those who aspire to a college degree one day, it is recommended to complete a BSN program as opposed to the other nursing program options which require less time and offer less training.

Registered Nurse (RN) bis Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

This bridging program is for Registered Nurse (RN) graduates with an associate degree who wish to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Time to Completion:About two years. This program offers recognition of previous nursing skills and work experience and is often offered within a very flexible schedule designed for working nurses. Many schools offer online courses and multiple start dates so students don't have to wait until September to get started.

Career Paths:Nurses with a BSN degree can expect higher salaries and opportunities to hold supervisory positions. It is also a necessary step to earn a master's degree.

Second degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A Second Degree BSN, sometimes called an ABSN, is designed for adults with a non-nursing bachelor's degree who wish to transition their career into the nursing field.

Time to Completion:A second degree BSN typically lasts two years or less, as these programs credit the previously completed liberal arts requirements. Online programs are available for students who need more flexibility, and some schools offer accelerated BSN (ABSN) programs that can be completed in as little as 12 to 20 months. In addition to challenging coursework, students must consider the time they have spent completing clinical rotations.

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Career Paths:The same as above.

Your GMercyU path to a nursing degree

Bachelor of Science in Pflege (BSN)
Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing -ABSN(For students with a Bachelor’s degree in a different subject who want to become a part-time nursing specialist)
Weekend BSN Graduation(For students with a bachelor's degree in a different discipline who wish to become a nurse by completing coursework on the weekends)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statstics, job growth for registered nurses is expected to grow much faster than average.

Quick Facts: Registered Nurses

Medianlohn 2016

$68,450 per year
$32.91 per hour

Typical entry level training

Bachelor degree

Work experience in a related profession


on-the-job training


Career prospects, 2016-2026

15% (much faster than average)

Those:U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook

Master of Science in Pflege (MSN)

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program allows a registered nurse to specialize in various types of nursing through advanced clinical training and research. Many employers offer tuition reimbursement to nurses to continue their education.

Time to Completion:Usually 18-24 months. MSN programs, delivered online or in a more traditional on-campus format, are very rigorous as students learn about an advanced subject. Most programs require students to write a thesis or project.

Career Paths:An MSN can take a nursing career (and salary) to the next level. With advanced skills in a specialty, graduates can care for patients in many ways like a doctor.

Your GMercyU path to a Masters in Nursing

Online Master of Science in Nursing - Nursing
Online Master of Science in Nursing - Adult Gerontology Nurse
Online Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nursing
Online Pediatric Nurse (PNP)

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses with advanced degrees and expertise will experience much faster than average job growth over the next 10 years.

Fast Facts: Anesthesiologists, Midwives and Nurses

Medianlohn 2016

$107,460 per year
$51.67 per hour

Typical entry level training


Work experience in a related profession


on-the-job training


Career prospects, 2016-2026

31% (much faster than average)

Those:U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook

Other Nursing Degree Options

RNs with an associate degree have the option to enroll in an RN to MSN program to earn their MSN immediately after earning their BSN. Direct-entry MSN programs — sometimes referred to as “graduate entry” or “master’s entry” programs — are ideal for adults who have earned a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. This degree option is also perfect for entry-level RNs who know they want to specialize in an advanced area of ​​nursing.

Time to Completion:Approximately three years (one year of introductory nursing course and two years of master's degree). Online programs from RN to MSN are available, typically with multiple start times over the course of a year.

Career Paths:These degrees combine RN license preparation with continuing education in a masters degree in nursing.

Doctoral degree in Nursing

While high growth is expected at all levels of nursing, nurses with PhD degrees are projected to have tremendous job demand over the next decade. These programs prepare nurses for careers in healthcare administration, clinical research, and advanced clinical practice.

Time to Completion:Three to five years, full-time, including summer.

Career Paths:

• A doctorate in nursing education program develops advanced skills for nurses.
• A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program emphasizes clinical practice-oriented leadership development.

Your GMercyU path to a PhD in Nursing
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

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Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc)

At the DNSc level, the types of nurses differ even more as graduates are trained as nursing scientists with a combination of investigative research, clinical and managerial skills.
Time to Completion:About five years, full time. Part-time programs are available, but add several years to program time. Expect challenging coursework, in-depth research, a clinical defense, and a thesis.
Career Paths:A DNSc allows caregivers to work in high-level positions such as administrator, analyst, or educator.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs prepare nursing scholars and researchers to make a significant impact on the theoretical basis of nursing practice and health care delivery as a whole.
Time to Completion:Four to five years full-time, part-time possible. While students do not complete clinical hours, they must complete extensive research work and a thesis. In general, PhD programs are not suitable for combining study and work.
Career Paths:Nurses with a PhD are qualified for many facets of professional and academic roles, from research to public policy formation to leadership in health care delivery and education. Highly qualified nurses with a bachelor's degree may also consider an MSN/PhD dual degree, an intensive accelerated program that simultaneously provides master's degree preparation and advanced research training at the doctorate level. This program typically lasts five years.


Types of Nursing Degrees and Nursing Certifications? ›

Of all the nursing certifications, LPN or LVN programs are the quickest and most convenient options. Because training can be completed at a hospital, vocational technical school, community college and even online, LPN/LVN programs are ideal for students who work or have other obligations.

What is the easiest nursing certification to obtain? ›

Of all the nursing certifications, LPN or LVN programs are the quickest and most convenient options. Because training can be completed at a hospital, vocational technical school, community college and even online, LPN/LVN programs are ideal for students who work or have other obligations.

What is the highest certificate in nursing? ›

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)-Prepared Practitioner

The Doctor of Nursing Practice is a terminal nursing degree, meaning that it is the highest possible practice-based degree in nursing.

What is the hardest nursing certification to get? ›

Emergency nursing is considered one of the most difficult fields of nursing, and certification in this specialty is highly desirable.

What is the fastest nursing degree? ›

The fastest way to become an RN is through an RN diploma program, which can be completed in as little as a year. While completing this program does not lead to a degree, it does make the individual eligible to take the NCLEX and earn their RN license.

What is the easiest and fastest nursing degree? ›

An LPN or LVN program usually takes around a year to complete, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). What makes an LPN or LVN preparation program the easiest type of nursing education you can pursue is its focus on training for basic nursing services only and its quick completion time.

What is the highest paid certified nurse? ›

What is the highest-paid nurse? Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists! Earning $195,610 annually, CRNAs earn significantly more than any other type of nurse or nursing specialty.

Are nursing certifications worth it? ›

Increase Recognition and Respect

Certification demonstrates that a nurse has proven their competence and distinguished themselves within their specialty — two qualities that are appreciated by everyone from supervisors and administrators to peers and patients.

What degree is closest to nursing? ›

7. Majors Related to Nursing
  • Medicine.
  • Medical Science.
  • Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science.
  • Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
  • Dentistry and Dental Support Services.
  • Bioethics or Medical Ethics.
  • Movement and Mind-Body Therapies.
  • Social Work.

What degree is better than nursing? ›

For those who are interested in more behind-the-scenes work, or who want to explore their options in healthcare, health science is a great alternative major to nursing. A health science degree can lead to many different careers, from a healthcare administrator to medical biller and coder.

What are the 5 levels of nursing experience? ›

Benner (1984) also detailed the acquisition of nursing expertise and proposed five possible expertise levels: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.

What is the easiest nursing class? ›

The Easiest Classes in Nursing School
  • Social Sciences (Intro Psychology, Sociology, etc.)
  • Humanities.
  • Intro to Speech (or Communication)
  • English Composition.
  • History.
  • Using Information Technology.

What is the hardest class in RN school? ›

Pharmacology. Pharmacology, or the study of medication, can seem scary because of the sheer scope of the course. "It becomes one of the hardest classes for nursing students due to the depth and amount of knowledge needed," says Megan Lynch, RN and instructor at Pima Community College.

What is the highest GPA for nursing? ›

Requirements. After acceptance into the nursing program, each student must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for coursework in the nursing major to remain in the nursing program.

What type of RN makes the most? ›

The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist consistently ranks as the highest-paid nursing career. That is because Nurse Anesthetists are highly skilled Registered Nurses who work closely with medical staff during medical procedures that require anesthesia.

What degree is higher than an RN? ›

There are five levels of nursing: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN), Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Each level has different requirements, educational qualifications, and salary rates.

Can you take the Nclex without going to nursing school? ›

Do you need a nursing degree to take the NCLEX exam? To take the NCLEX-RN, you'll need a four-year nursing degree from an accredited program. To take the NCLEX-PN, you'll need to complete a related diploma program or certificate course.

What is the easiest nursing job that pays well? ›

Easiest Nursing Jobs Availabile
  • Nurse Educator. Average Annual Salary: $62,000. ...
  • Nurse Blogger. Average Annual Salary: N/A. ...
  • Clinic Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $65,000. ...
  • Traveling Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $70,000. ...
  • School Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $50,000. ...
  • Summer Camp Nurse. ...
  • Nurse Administrator. ...
  • Public Health Nurse.
Aug 31, 2022

Which state is easiest to become a nurse? ›

Easiest states to become a nurse – Length of licensing process
  • Maine: 1-2 weeks.
  • Maryland: 2-3 days.
  • Missouri: 2 weeks.
  • Nevada: 1-2 weeks.
  • North Carolina: 1-2 weeks.
  • North Dakota: 1-2 weeks.
  • Texas: 2 weeks.
  • Vermont: 3-5 business days.

Who has the easiest BSN program? ›

Rochester University - Rochester Hills, MI

If you're looking for a way to boost your nursing career, Rochester University's Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is ideal. This program is one of the easiest BSN programs to be accepted into and is 124 credits that will take you four years to complete.

Who is lowest paid nurse? ›

For starters consider the main types of nursing careers. These include nurse practitioner (NP), registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), and nursing aides or nursing assistants. Nursing aides make the least amount of money, and these jobs require the least amount of education and training.

Which nurse has the lowest salary? ›

Licensed vocational nurses (LVN) and licensed practical nurses (LPN) are some of the lowest-paid nursing roles, but that is due to the fact that the educational requirements are less than most other types of nurses.

How to make 7 figures as a nurse? ›

  1. Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) ...
  2. Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) ...
  3. Become a Nurse Midwife. ...
  4. Advance in Nurse Leadership. ...
  5. Begin travel nursing assignment. ...
  6. Change Nursing specialties. ...
  7. Relocate to a higher paying state. ...
  8. Make sacrifices.

Which state pays nurses the most? ›

In the United States overall, the average registered nurse salary is $82,750 and the median (50th percentile) is $77,600. California, with RN salaries averaging $124,000, is the highest-paying state for nurses as of May 2021 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

What is the highest nurse salary per month? ›

Average Annual Salary
  • ₹ 0.1L (lowest) ₹ 0.1-0.7 Lpa 677 Reported.
  • ₹ 0.7-1.4 Lpa 658 Reported.
  • ₹ 1.8L (average) ₹ 1.4-2.0 Lpa 453 Reported.
  • ₹ 2.0-2.6 Lpa 861 Reported.
  • ₹ 2.6-3.2 Lpa 401 Reported.
  • ₹ 3.2-3.8 Lpa 158 Reported.
  • ₹ 3.8-4.4 Lpa 123 Reported.
  • ₹ 5.0L (highest) ₹ 4.4-5.0 Lpa 86 Reported.

Which accreditation is best for nursing? ›

The two most prominent nursing accreditation agencies are the ACEN, a subsidiary of the National League for Nursing, and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), a division of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

What does it mean to become a certified nurse? ›

As the American Board of Nursing Specialties defines it, certification is the formal recognition of the specialized knowledge, skills, and experience demonstrated by the achievement of standards identified by a nursing specialty to promote optimal health outcomes.

How many nurses are certified? ›

3 There are now well over 800,000 nurses certified by the American Board of Nursing Specialties,4 and this number increases significantly each year.

What is the lowest nursing certification? ›

As the name suggests, CNAs assist nurses with patient admittance and vitals. It is the lowest-level credential related to the nursing field and the quickest point of entry. That said, it's important to remember that CNAs are not technically nurses.

What is the lowest course in nursing? ›

Advantages to Earning a Nursing Degree vs. Entry-Level Programs
DegreeProgram Length
LPN/LVN (Diploma or Certificate)1 year
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)2 years
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)4 years
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)2 years
2 more rows

What nurse takes the least amount of education? ›

An LPN/LVN certificate is for students who want to enter the nursing field without the time and cost of earning a college degree. In contrast to a CNA diploma, the LPN certificate represents mastery of a more comprehensive body of knowledge.

What is the hardest in nursing? ›

Hardest Nursing School Classes
  • Pathophysiology. In this course, students learn how different anatomical systems work and how diseases or injuries affect these systems. ...
  • Pharmacology. ...
  • Medical Surgical 1 (also known as Adult Health 1) ...
  • Evidence-Based Practice.

Is nursing one of the hardest majors? ›

Nurses provide medical care in a range of settings, from schools to clinics to hospitals. Considered one of the hardest majors in college, it is also a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding career.

How can I become a simple nurse? ›

After you've decided that you would like to pursue a career in nursing, the steps to becoming a registered nurse are fairly straightforward. First, you must earn the appropriate degree. Then, you must pass the NCLEX Exam. And finally, you must obtain a license in the state that you wish to practice in.

What is the lowest GPA for nursing? ›

While most nursing schools set their minimum GPA requirements at 3.0, there are accelerated nursing programs out there that accept students with 2.7 and 2.8 GPAs. Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you'd receive a lesser nursing education with these programs.

What are the hardest pre nursing classes? ›

Pharmacology, Microbiology, and Anatomy & Physiology each have a well-earned reputation for being difficult to pass. Some students may find Cardiology, Chemistry, or even Mental Health especially trying.

What is the easiest healthcare degree to get? ›

Which medical field is the easiest? Phlebotomy is the easiest medical field to get into and to practice. Part of your training can come online, and with an accelerated program, you can be ready for your state licensure exam in under a year. Phlebotomists draw blood and transport it for lab testing.


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