Higher Education Options for Registered Nurses


Higher Education Options for Registered Nurses

Photo : Higher Education Options for Registered Nurses

Once upon a time, registered nurses didn't have advanced education degrees. If you became a registered nurse, the only higher degree was a doctorate in nursing or becoming an actual doctor. Now, there are so many more options for registered nurses.

If you have ever considered going beyond your current nursing degree in registered nursing, you are living in a fantastic age in which to accomplish this. You can achieve a higher degree by taking courses online or on weekends, or pursue whichever option is more feasible for your work and personal schedules. You can also achieve any one or more of the following four higher degree programs.


The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a four-year degree program. You may be a registered nurse already, but you might have accomplished this by getting your registered nurse license one of two ways. Either you earned an Associate's degree in nursing, or you were trained by a hospital or nursing facility that offered a program to prepare you to become a licensed registered nurse. In any case, you may be a licensed registered nurse, but you do not have a four-year college degree with a major in nursing.

The good news is that your experience in your line of work could count as credit toward your BSN. Credits from an AAS degree in nursing may also transfer over to your BSN degree, allowing you to complete the degree a lot sooner than you might have expected.


The Masters of Science in Nursing is taking your BSN to the next level. If you already have a BSN, you might want an MSN. Some nurses would prefer to teach others than be involved in hands-on nursing care, and that is where the MSN degree comes in handy. You have that option to be either/or both a teacher and a hands-on nurse. What's more, there are accredited RN to MSN nursing programs online, making the switch to a higher career a matter of signing up and registering for classes.


The Doctor of Nursing Practice is an advanced nursing practice degree. It's often confused with Nurse Practitioner since they share the same rung on the career ladder. The most significant difference is the coursework required to become a DNP versus an NP. It is a split path with an equal level of licensed clinical degree work but which allows you different job opportunities and certified abilities once completed. Essentially you would need an MSN to move up and choose one of these two paths. Only two tracks are higher than the DNP.

The MD and the PhD in Nursing

So, both of these options put your career in a whole new category. As an MD, you are officially a doctor and not a nurse anymore. As someone earning a PhD in Nursing, you are a doctor of nursing, and officially on the same level as an MD. The majority of PhDs in nursing, however, operate as head nurses of all nursing staff in a hospital and oversee most of the complex patient care.

They operate in a more supervisory role of nursing and advise other doctors about patient care. You could do either, although a lot of the MD coursework would require you to take time away from your job because the courses need to be completed in person. Coursework for a PhD in Nursing rarely requires you to step away from your job because the courses are easy to complete online and on your own time.

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