December 7, 2018  |  Purdue University Global  |  Updated September 11, 2020

Nursing is a challenging and rewarding career that provides significant opportunities to help others and make a difference in the world. There's also ample room to achieve higher levels of education and advance into many different roles. Many nurses wish to continue their education and grow in the profession, becoming advanced practice registered nurses, community or public health nurses, nursing and health care administrators, nurse educators, and health care policymakers.

If you’re thinking of becoming a nurse or looking to expand your nursing career, this article is for you. It explains the various nursing degrees you can earn, average time to completion, and the possible career outcomes that go along with each degree.*

1. Become a Registered Nurse

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 7% between 2019 and 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.

How do you become an RN? You could start with an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN). This program is mostly offered through on-campus community colleges and career schools, although some hybrid online/on-campus programs exist. For example, Purdue Global offers an ASN program for students in Iowa, Nebraska, and Maine. This degree usually takes about two years of full-time study to complete.

Successful completion of the program qualifies you to sit for the NCLEX-RN; this is the exam that, if you pass, gives you the RN credential.

2. You May Wish to Earn an RN-to-BSN Degree

Many nurses who hold an ASN and work as registered nurses go back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Not only do BSN programs aim to provide a broader educational perspective, but many employers prefer a BSN, and having one may present you with greater career opportunities. In addition, a 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine recommended that 80% of nurses hold a BSN by 2020. As of February 2019, according to a report from the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, 56% of RNs hold a BSN or higher.

>> Read More: Top 4 Reasons to Earn Your RN-to-BSN Degree

Bachelor of Science in Nursing–RN-to-BSN: These programs are available at on-campus colleges and universities and in online programs. The time to complete varies. Purdue Global offers an online RN-to-BSN program as well as an accelerated competency-based online RN-to-BSN program known as ExcelTrack™.

3. Earn a Master of Science in Nursing

Once you earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, you may wish to move on to a master’s degree. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is available in online programs and at on-campus colleges and universities, and it usually takes about 2 years of full-time study to complete. Accelerated programs may allow you to earn your degree faster.

What can you do with a master's degree in nursing? Depending on the concentration, you can prepare to pursue a career as:

  • A family nurse practitioner
  • An adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
  • An adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
  • An executive leader
  • A nurse educator

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of nurse practitioners is expected to grow 52% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Purdue Global offers an online master’s degree in nursing and a competency-based, online accelerated master’s degree in nursing.

To learn more about the benefits of earning an MSN, career outcomes, and program requirements, download our free ebook, “How to Become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse With the Help of Purdue Global.”

4. Postgraduate Certificates

Numerous postgraduate certificate programs are available to help you build upon your master's degree in nursing. These are available at on-campus colleges and universities and in online programs, and they usually take about 2 years to complete.

For example, you may wish to earn the§:

5. A Terminal Degree: Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

One of the highest nursing degrees you can earn is the Doctor of Nursing Practice. This degree program is available at on-campus colleges and universities and in online programs, and the time it takes to complete varies.

A doctorate in nursing degree could provide new opportunities for clinical and higher level leadership positions, including working in clinic administration or as a health care executive, working in health care policy development, or holding a position as faculty in a School of Nursing. To learn more, read "MSN to DNP: What Can You Do With a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree?"

Learn More About an Exciting and Fulfilling Career in Nursing

If you feel called to a nursing career—or if you’re interested in earning a higher nursing degree—reach out to an institution of higher education today. The baccalaureate degree in nursing, master's degree in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and postgraduate APRN certificate programs at Purdue Global are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The programs are all online, so you can study on your own schedule. Request more information about Purdue Global’s online nursing programs today.

Filed in: Nursing

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Purdue University Global

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Learn more about online programs at Purdue Global and download our program guide.

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*Purdue Global cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. Additional certification or licensing may be required to work in certain fields. Prior experience may be necessary for leadership positions.

†National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

‡Upon successful completion of the program of study, students may be academically prepared to apply to take the national licensure examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN®). This program is approved by the Board of Nursing and meets the educational requirements to obtain licensure in the states of Iowa, Nebraska, and Maine. Graduates of this program should not expect to obtain initial licensure in other states. Refer to Licensure and State Authorization for additional information on licensure and state authorizations. NCLEX is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc.

§This isn't representative of every nursing degree available at the postsecondary level; these are the degree programs offered by Purdue Global.