The Complete Guide to Different Nursing Degree Pathways


There are several different ways to pursue a nursing career, ranging from certificates to doctoral degrees. Each level of nursing education has different requirements, and each offers different opportunities for career advancement. In this guide, we’ll explore the different nursing degree pathways in detail so that you can choose the best one for your needs.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

As a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), you will be responsible for providing basic patient care under the supervision of a registered nurse or physician. Your duties will vary depending on the setting in which you work but may include taking vital signs, administering injections and medications, performing wound care, and providing patient education.

In order to become an LPN, you must complete an accredited practical nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). Once licensed, you will need to complete continuing education credits to maintain your license. With a degree in hand, you’ll be on your way to beginning a career in one of the most valuable professions in society.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a two-year program that teaches students the fundamental knowledge and abilities necessary to become licensed nurses. Upon completion of the ADN program, students are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The ADN program is offered at many community colleges and technical schools around the country.

The ADN program curriculum typically includes coursework in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, nursing fundamentals, and psychiatric nursing. Students also gain clinical experience through hands-on practice in hospitals and other healthcare settings with patients. The ADN program provides students with the foundation they need to begin their careers as registered nurses.

With an ADN degree, nurses can find entry-level positions in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and home health agencies. Nurses with an ADN degree can also pursue further education to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four-year degree that can be obtained at a college or university. The BSN program prepares students for a career in nursing, teaching them the essential skills and knowledge they need to provide quality patient care.

The curriculum for a BSN program includes coursework in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and medical-surgical nursing. In addition, BSN students must complete a clinical rotation, which gives them hands-on experience in a healthcare setting.

Upon graduation, BSN holders are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and work as registered nurses. With a BSN degree, nurses can find employment in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. They can also choose to specialize in a particular area of nursing, such as pediatrics or geriatrics.

Despite the hands-on nature of the program, many students enroll in an online accelerated BSN in order to complete the degree in a shorter time frame.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate-level degree that can lead to advanced nursing roles. Nurses with an MSN often have the opportunity to specialize in a certain area of nursing, such as primary care, geriatrics, or education.

An MSN can also prepare nurses for leadership positions, such as nurse administrator or clinical nurse leader. In addition to coursework, students in an MSN program must complete a research project. This project allows students to apply what they have learned to a real-world problem in nursing.

The MSN degree can be completed in one to two years, depending on the program and the student’s schedule. With an MSN, nurses can move into more advanced roles and make a difference in the lives of their patients.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest degree in nursing. It prepares nurses for advanced practice roles such as primary care provider, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, and clinical nurse specialist. The DNP curriculum requires the knowledge and skills acquired in the RN-to-BSN or ADN-to-BSN program.

It focuses on evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and leadership. The DNP program can be completed in as little as two years of full-time study. Part-time and online programs are also available.

With a DNP, nurses are prepared to provide the highest level of patient care possible. They are also prepared to take on leadership roles within the nursing profession and to contribute to the advancement of the nursing discipline.


There are many different nursing degree pathways available, so it’s important to choose the one that’s right for you. With the right education, you can pursue the career of your dreams and make a difference in the lives of your patients.


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