Types of Nursing Degrees: Diagnosing Your Ideal Healthcare Career [Infographic]

The veins that crisscross our bodies carry the blood and nutrients that help us live healthy and productive lives. Similarly, the academic choices we make crisscross our past and present and, hopefully, lead us to healthy and productive careers.   

The desire to help others is a characteristic common to the DNA structure of most aspiring nurses. But you have to dig deeper to match the type of nursing degree with the professional you want to be. 

So which nursing credential is right for you? The flowchart below will help guide you in the right direction to get started on your unique nursing career path.

Visit the Rasmussen College School of Nursing to learn more about our nursing programs.

types of nursing degrees infographic, described in detail below.

Types of Nursing Degrees Infographic: Diagnose Your Ideal Healthcare Career

The introductory paragraph reads: While it’s safe to say that aspiring nurses share a desire to help others, not everyone has the same circumstances, priorities and characteristics. Each of these factors influences the path your healthcare career will take. Here’s what you need to consider when making your decision.

So which nursing credential is right for you? Use the flowchart below to help guide you in the right direction.

Please note that the flowchart has an infinite number of possibilities, based on what is chosen for each section. Here are the four outcomes:

Practical Nursing Diploma
Typical time to completion: 12 months

You like the idea of being a nurse, but you’re not quite convinced it’s your calling. The good news is that in just one year, you can enter the field and start testing the waters as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). If you decide nursing is indeed your destiny, you can always advance your education while still earning your paycheck.

Future options: Enroll in an LPN to RN program to earn your ADN and become a registered nurse (RN).

Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)
Typical time to completion: 18–24 months

You know becoming a registered nurse (RN) is right for you and that the demand for RNs is real. This is precisely why you want to qualify yourself to reap the rewards as soon as possible. You’re aware of the added benefits of earning your BSN, but you’d rather build on your education while you’re already working in the field.

Future options: Enroll in an RN to BSN online program to qualify yourself for more advancement opportunities.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Typical time to completion: 18 months–4 years

You want to become a registered nurse (RN) and nothing is going to stand in your way. You’re willing to invest your time and energy toward a formal education—and you’re up for the challenge. Your commitment to your career will make you an attractive candidate for competitive positions and promotions.

Future options: Earn your MSN to become a nurse educator, nurse administrator or nurse leader; or choose to continue on and become a nurse practitioner.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
Typical time to completion: 2–3 years (with existing Bachelor’s degree)

You’re a go-getter who is committed to climbing the ladder in the nursing world. Your desire and dedication will qualify you for career advancement opportunities, either in management or esteemed specialties. You’ll need work experience for most of these options, but knowing your end goal will help keep you motivated along the way.

Future options: Become a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) to influence public health policy, conduct research on modern medical issues or even start your own practice.

Here are a few of the pathways in the flowchart for considering each credential level:

Practical Nursing Diploma:

  • You’d rather be responsible for routine checkups and ailments
  • You prefer starting in an entry-level position with the option of working your way up
  • You might prefer a hospital setting, possibly working with the same patients long-term
  • You’d like to get your feet wet before making a significant time commitment

Associate’s Degree in Nursing:

  • Career advancement isn’t your top priority, but if you did prefer to advance your education, you would want to do so while working in the field
  • You want to become an RN as soon as possible
  • You prefer starting in an entry-level position with the option of working your way up
  • You might prefer working in a hospital setting, possibly working with the same patients long-term
  • You’d like to get your feet wet before making a significant time commitment.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing:

  • You’re interested in career advancement
  • You don’t necessarily want to become an RN as soon as possible, but you may prefer to finish your schooling all at once (or, you’ve already got an ADN and want to advance your education)
  • You want to be eligible for management and education positions
  • You consider yourself a highly motivated student and a high academic achiever
  • You might be more flexible where you want to work

Master of Science in Nursing:

  • You are willing to invest in 5 or more years in school
  • You want to work in an urban area
  • You may prefer to finish your schooling all at once
  • You want to be eligible for management and education positions
  • You consider yourself a highly motivated student and a high academic achiever
  • You want to work in a hospital setting

*Rasmussen College does not offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

See rasmussen.edu/SID for information about educational debt, earnings and completion rates.
Completion time is dependent on transfer credits accepted and courses completed each term.
Some Accelerated BSN programs allow Bachelor’s degree holders to finish in as few as 18 months.
Contributions are from:

  • Cheryl Pratt, EdD, MA, RN (Dean of Nursing, Rasmussen College)
  • Colleen Koob, DNP, PNP, CDE (Dean of Nursing, Rasmussen College)
  • Karen Guty, DNP, RN (Dean of Nursing, Rasmussen College)

Callie Malvik

Callie is the Content Manager at Collegis Education, overseeing blog content on behalf of Rasmussen College. She is passionate about creating quality resources that empower others to improve their lives through education.

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This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college and Public Benefit Corporation.

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