Skip to Content Request Info

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Nurse?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Nurse?

If you are considering a career in nursing, reflecting on why your interest was piqued is an important first step in the process. Equally important to explore is the source of that interest. Read ahead to find out more about the scope of nursing practice, the different types of nurses, and the degrees needed to be a nurse.

Scope of Nursing Practice

The scope of nursing practice describes the types of nursing you can perform based on the licensure and degrees you hold. The differentiation of scope of nursing practice and the various levels of nursing education speaks to the diversity of nursing. There are multiple options for nurse roles, positions, and work settings, and these can help direct the nature and level of your nursing education. This wide range of options extends from general nursing care to nurse leaders and educators, and even nurse researchers.

Types of Nurses

In February, I wrote about finding a good match in nursing, and ways to explore if a nursing career is a good match for you. This month, I want to talk more about the different types of nurses and what they do.

As you contemplate your nursing career, I ask you to consider these questions to clarify thoughts and encourage reflection about the type of you nurse you envision yourself becoming.

  • What or who influenced your view and your perception of the nursing role?
  • When you think about yourself as a nurse, what type of work setting comes to mind?
  • Are you more interested in up close and personal general nursing care or working with complex equipment with the most desperately ill, such as a hospital critical care nursing role?
  • Do you envision working among aging adults, small children, marginalized populations, or those with serious mental illness?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Nurse?

The million-dollar question then is “What degree do I need to be a nurse”. The desired role, position, and work setting should be addressed in considering the level of education required to be a nurse.

  • Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses

Nurse positions allowing up close and personal general nursing care with patients are mostly located in nursing homes and certain clinical units within hospitals, such as medical and surgical units, Mother-Baby units, or home health nursing. Nursing homes are often the domain of Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) with the supervision of Registered Nurses (RNs). Home Health Nursing is often a mix of RNs and LPNs. Both RNs and LPNs fill positions in community-based areas, such as clinical or correctional nursing, but school nursing generally requires licensure as an RN, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN).

  • Bachelor Science Nursing

Many hospitals now require Registered Nurses to hold a BSN for employment. Both the ADN and BSN degrees are eligible for NCLEX-RN licensure. However, recommendations by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Institute of Medicine continue to move the BSN degree toward the standard of entry into professional nursing.

Earning a BSN degree will not only assist you with opening the door to your future career opportunities but may serve to satisfy your current employer’s organizational objectives, and ultimately the overall profession’s goals for obtaining a higher educated nursing workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average nursing salary for registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree was $75,330 in May of 2020. This area is projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030.

  • Masters in Nursing

Earning a graduate degree in nursing brings additional options for nurse roles, positions, and settings. This includes the roles of Nurse Educator and Nurse Leader. A minimum of a Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) is required for employment in these roles.

  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Manager
  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP)

Can I Get a Nursing Degree Online?

Do you wonder if a nursing degree can be obtained through online studies? The answer is YES and NO, depending on the level of degree sought.

Undergraduate Nursing Degrees

In the United States, nursing coursework teaching the hands-on, practical skills necessary to become a nurse is offered onsite, often through an associate degree (AND) program within a community college. Classroom studies are generally “live” classes with some online assignments, sometimes also Zoom or another virtual curriculum delivery modality. Clinical experiences take place initially in a skills lab, a simulation lab if available, and within selected healthcare facilities with a clinical nursing faculty.

Many schools, including Ottawa University, offer a subsequent RN-BSN program. This type of program is designed for individuals who have completed nursing studies and successfully passed the NCLEX-RN exam and wish to expand their education in order to advance in their nursing career.

Graduate Nursing Degrees

Most U.S. graduate nursing programs, such as Ottawa University’s MSN program, are offered in the online modality, with clinical experiences at various clinical facilities under the supervision of a preceptor/field supervisor, and with the oversight of a nursing faculty affiliated with the school of nursing. MSN degree programs in the areas of nursing education and leadership are generally 30-44 credit hours.

Ottawa University offers two MSN concentrations:

Amid all these roles across various settings lies the heart and soul of nursing. We are One, We are all Nurses. If you’re interested in expanding your nursing opportunities, consider earning an online nursing degree at Ottawa University. We provide a world-class nursing education and the flexibility that working nurses need. Ottawa University offers the RN-to-BSN degree and Master of Science in Nursing. Learn more about our online nursing degree programs or request more info today.

Back to top