There are many paths for nurses to take to achieve their professional goals. Determining your desired role or specialization will help point you in the right direction. There are many paths that lead to advanced practice for nurses unsure of what specialization to choose. The first step is to determine what you want your day-to-day experience to look like by understanding role responsibilities and the required education level, licensure exams, and state licensure.
Professional and personal commitments, finances, and geography all play a role in determining which nursing career path is attainable and right for you. Read on to gain insights on which degree is the most appropriate for you based on your career aspirations and professional goals.
Types of nursing degrees
A career in nursing typically starts with earning an associate or bachelor's degree, sitting for and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), and becoming a registered nurse (RN).
RNs looking to then become advanced practice nurses typically pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program and may become a nurse practitioner (NP), but this isn't the only pathway to advanced practice. Nurses who desire to pursue graduate education have a variety of programs available to them. Some options include:
- Direct bachelor to doctoral programs resulting in either a terminal practice-based Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree or terminal research-focused nursing PhD
- Master’s degree programs that lead to specialized practice roles
- Programs specifically designed for entering academia and becoming nursing faculty