Career and education levels in nursing
The Nursing profession offers vast job opportunities in a variety of settings. But did you know that there are several levels of nursing based on the educational degree earned? For those interested in becoming a nurse and graduates who may be interested in pursuing a more advanced degree, we’ve broken down the differences between the types of nursing degrees.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Serving a basic patient care model, LPNs have the opportunity to provide services on the front lines of patient care, performing different duties depending on the work setting. Duties can include but are not limited to checking patient’s blood pressure and vital signs, providing basic bedside care, and relaying a patient’s concerns to registered nurses or physicians. LPNs typically report to RNs or physicians.
LPNs are required to complete a certificate or diploma-based education that takes a year to complete and are offered through technical schools or community colleges.
LPNs can earn $43,170 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. Projected employment growth in this area from 2014-2024 is a much faster-than-average 16 percent, which translates to an additional 117,300 jobs.
Registered Nurse (RN)
Nursing professionals at the RN level of nursing care can take on greater responsibility, including managing LPNs, nursing assistants, and home health aides. Patient care typically extends beyond the basic model, including but not limited to coordinating and implementing patient care plans and analyzing diagnostic test results.
RNs typically follow one of three education paths, earning either an Associate’s or Bachelor of Science degree in nursing; or an approved Nursing diploma or certificate. Licensing is also required for RN status through the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
RNs can earn $67,490 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. Projected employment growth in this area from 2014-2024 is a much faster-than-average 16 percent, which translates to an additional 439,300 jobs.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Working RNs interested in an RN-BSN degree program can enhance current nursing education and experience as well as prepare for leadership or management path in nursing. These programs typically allow nursing professionals with an associate degree or approved diploma credential to continue working while earning a BSN.
RNs with a BSN can earn $70,000, according to NurseJournal.org. Projected employment growth in this area from 2014-2024 is a much faster-than-average 16 percent, which translates to an additional 439,300 jobs, reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Nursing professionals with a BSN can also pursue careers in medical or health service management, as a nursing home administrator, for example. According to BLS, those working in this field can earn $94,500.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
Graduate-level education in nursing can unlock doors to a broad range of higher-level nursing roles, such as nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and nurse practitioner. Nursing professionals at this career level can take on the rewards and challenges that come with greater authority and influence in patient care settings. Depending on the particular nursing role and environment, duties can include but are not limited to dispensing medication to patients, diagnosing a variety of medical issues, as well as conducting medical research.
Nursing professionals holding MSN degrees can earn $104,740, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. Projected employment growth in this area from 2014-2024 is a much faster-than-average 31 percent, which translates to an additional 170,400 jobs.
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
The highest level of nursing is the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The Institute of Nursing’s The Future of Nursing Report concluded that the nursing field needs twice as many professionals with a DNP degree by 2020. DNP graduates are prepared to focus on the progression of disease from a clinical perspective. Graduates can take on independent practice roles, holding one or more specializations in areas from midwifery to anesthesia. Those interested in teaching or research have the flexibility to pursue these positions.
DPN graduates can earn $111,870, according to NurseJournal.org. Projected growth in this field from 2014-2024 is a much faster-than-average 31 percent, which translates to an additional 170,400 jobs, reported by the BLS.
As the population ages and chronic illnesses increase, nursing professionals will continue to be in demand, particularly those who are interested in taking on leadership roles. More than ever, nursing degree programs are critical for preparing graduates to approach current and future challenges in healthcare effectively.