- Associate Degrees: Associate degree programs take two years to complete and offer the quickest way for someone to become an RN. However, many employers are requiring nurses to have a bachelor’s degree, so graduates of associate programs often continue their education. An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is the most common program at this level.
- Bachelor’s Degrees: Bachelor’s degree programs take a total of four years to complete. However, RNs often enter bridge programs (RN to BSN) to earn their bachelor’s degree in two years while they keep working. A bachelor’s degree helps current nurses keep up with educational requirements and can lead to salary increases and career advancement. Many specialties of nursing and leadership positions require nurses to have a bachelor’s degree. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the most common program at this level.
- Master’s Degrees: Master’s degree programs take two years of graduate study to complete. They are for applicants pursuing management positions or a number of advanced specialties that can benefit from or require the degree. For instance, a master’s is required to become a nurse anesthetist or family nurse practitioner. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is the most common program at this level.
- Doctoral Degrees: Doctoral degree programs take four to six years of study to complete, after earning a master’s degree. There are various types of doctoral programs. Two of the most common are the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The DNP focuses on evidence-based practice and is appropriate for management positions and positions of leadership in nursing practice. The PhD is a research degree appropriate for nurse faculty and nurse researcher/scientist positions.
- LPN: An LPN provides basic medical care under the supervision of doctors or RNs. To become an LPN, a certificate or diploma is required, which takes one to two years to complete.
- RN: An RN is involved in all aspects of patient care and works in one of many specialties. To become an RN, at least an associate degree is required, although a bachelor’s degree is becoming the standard minimum education requirement.
- CNA: A certified nurse assistant provides basic medical care under the supervision of Licensed Nurses (LPN/RN)
- CMA: Certified Medication Aids are nurses whose focus is on delivering oral, topic, and sublingual medications to patients under the supervision of licensed nurses at the direction of the prescribing physician.
Data courtesy of Alvernia University, Reading, Pennsylvania 19607