What Degree Do You Need for Nursing?

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Are you passionate about healthcare and considering a career in nursing? One crucial aspect to consider is the level of education you need to pursue in order to become a nurse. In this article, we will explore the different nursing degree options available, the requirements for each degree, and the benefits of obtaining a nursing degree. So, let’s dive in and find out what degree you need for nursing!

Nursing Degree Options

When it comes to nursing, there are various degree options to choose from. The most common nursing degrees include:

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

The associate degree in nursing is a two-year program offered by community colleges and some universities. It provides students with the necessary knowledge and skills to become a registered nurse (RN). While an ADN can help you kick-start your nursing career, it may limit your advancement opportunities in the long run.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A bachelor’s degree in nursing is a four-year program offered by colleges and universities. It offers a comprehensive education in nursing, covering topics such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and nursing theory. A BSN is considered the minimum requirement for many nursing positions and provides a broader scope of practice.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

For those aspiring to specialize in advanced nursing roles such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or nurse midwife, a master’s degree in nursing is essential. An MSN program typically takes two to three years to complete and focuses on advanced clinical skills, leadership, and research.

Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

A DNP or Ph.D. in nursing is the highest level of education in the field. These doctoral programs are designed for individuals interested in advancing their nursing career through leadership, research, and academia. They provide the expertise necessary for executive nursing positions, nursing education, or research.

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Requirements for Nursing Degrees

The requirements for nursing degrees may vary depending on the institution and degree level. However, some general prerequisites and educational requirements apply to most nursing programs:

  1. High School Diploma or GED: To be eligible for any nursing degree, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent.

  2. Prerequisite Courses: Many nursing programs require completion of prerequisite courses such as biology, chemistry, anatomy, and psychology. These courses lay the foundation for nursing education.

  3. Clinical Experience: Nursing programs typically include hands-on clinical experiences, allowing students to apply their theoretical knowledge in real healthcare settings.

  4. Licensure and Certifications: After completing a nursing degree, graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to obtain a nursing license. Additionally, specialized certifications may be required for advanced nursing roles.

Benefits of a Nursing Degree

Obtaining a nursing degree offers numerous benefits that go beyond just a career in healthcare. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages:

  1. Increased Job Opportunities: With a nursing degree, you open doors to a wide range of job opportunities in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, and various healthcare settings. The demand for nurses continues to grow, ensuring a stable career path.

  2. Career Growth and Advancement: Higher levels of nursing education, such as a BSN or advanced degrees, can lead to career advancement and increased earning potential. Specializing in a specific field of nursing can open doors to leadership roles and advanced practice.

  3. Enhanced Knowledge and Skills: Nursing degrees provide a comprehensive education that equips you with in-depth knowledge of healthcare, critical thinking skills, and evidence-based practice. This enables you to provide quality patient care and make informed decisions.

  4. Personal Fulfillment: Nursing is a rewarding profession that allows you to make a difference in people’s lives. The ability to positively impact the health and well-being of others can bring a great sense of fulfillment and purpose.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What degree do you need to become a registered nurse?

To become a registered nurse, you can start with either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). While an ADN can get you started in the field, a BSN is becoming increasingly preferred by employers and offers more career opportunities.

Can you become a nurse with just an associate degree?

Yes, you can become a nurse with just an associate degree in nursing (ADN). However, it’s important to note that some healthcare organizations and institutions are now requiring or strongly preferring a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) for entry-level nursing positions.

Is a bachelor’s degree necessary for specialized nursing roles?

A bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) is often necessary for specialized nursing roles, such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or nurse midwife. These advanced practice nursing roles require a higher level of education and expertise.

Do you need a master’s or doctorate for advanced nursing positions?

Yes, advanced nursing positions such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, nurse educator, or nurse executive typically require a master’s degree (MSN) or doctorate (DNP or Ph.D.) in nursing. These degrees provide the advanced knowledge and skills necessary for these specialized roles.

Can you pursue a nursing career with an online degree?

Yes, it is possible to pursue a nursing career with an online degree. Many reputable universities and colleges offer online nursing programs that provide the same quality education as traditional on-campus programs. However, it is essential to ensure that the online program is accredited and meets the necessary requirements for licensure.

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Are there alternative paths to becoming a nurse without a degree?

While a nursing degree is the traditional path to becoming a nurse, there are alternative paths available. Some individuals may choose to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) through diploma or certificate programs, which typically take around a year to complete. These roles have more limited responsibilities compared to registered nurses but still play a vital role in healthcare.


In conclusion, the degree you need for nursing depends on your career goals and aspirations. While an associate degree in nursing (ADN) can get you started in the field, a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) is becoming increasingly preferred by employers and offers more opportunities for career growth. Advanced nursing positions often require a master’s degree (MSN) or doctorate (DNP or Ph.D.) in nursing. Whichever degree path you choose, obtaining a nursing degree equips you with the necessary knowledge, skills, and opportunities to make a positive impact in the healthcare field. So, take the first step towards your nursing career today and pursue the degree that aligns with your goals!

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