Nursing Degrees Explained
A lot of people get really confused about what degree is for what exactly in nursing. The most common mistake people make when talking about degrees, is confusing the nursing degrees with the nursing positions. While in some cases you can find a program that will match your future work title, in most cases it wont.
CNAs or certified nursing assistants do not have a single career path which they must take, in order to become certified. The “CNA” itself is a job title not a degree. This means that you can also have any of the nursing degrees below to become a CNA, as long as you take the certification exam. Technically you do not have to have a college degree to become a CNA, but you still need training. Each state sets its own parameters on what kind of minimum training you must receive in order to take nursing assistant competency exam.
Nursing assistant training can be obtained also while working in a hospital or nursing home and you can take your certification exams after that. Still do keep in mind, that if you get your CNA training through an employer you will be most likely required to sign an agreement where you will be obliged to work for them for a number of years.
While it may seem like the most logical option to do, you can see from this post about nursing salaries, that if you want to work in a nursing assistant position your salary could be almost 3 times lower, than for those people that choose to get a associate degree (takes only 1 year) and have Registered Nurse (RN) qualifications.
This is why you have to weigh the pros ans cons of each particular career, before you enroll onto any course- even 6 months of additional training could make a huge difference in your future earning potential in nursing.
Nursing Programs & Degrees
There are many different degree programs in nursing, here are the main ones-
- Forensic Nursing
- LPN and LVN Licensed Practical Nursing and Licensed Vocational Nursing
- LPN to BSN – Licensed Practical Nursing to Bachelor of Science Nursing
- LVN to BSN – Licensed Vocational Nursing to Bachelor of Science Nursing
- NP Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Assisting
- Nursing Administration
- Nursing Education
- Nursing Specialties
- RN Registered Nursing
- RN to BSN – Registered Nursing to Bachelor of Science Nursing
- RN to MSN – Registered Nursing to Master of Science Nursing
Most of the nursing degrees above, can be taught on 6 levels- Diplomas, Certificates, Associate Degree, Bachelor of Science, Master of Science or Doctor of Science levels. Only Masters and Doctoral degrees demand for a lower level qualifications before they will accept you on their program. In order to qualify for Diploma courses & Certificate programs, Associate Degree or Bachelor of Science in Nursing you need to first have your high school diploma.
The nursing positions below are some of the most common entry level nursing positions out there. All of these nurses work in a variety of different nursing fields and their exact duties and responsibilities differ because of that.
If you want to become a RN, you have 3 different options. You can get a BS degree in nursing, an associate degree in nursing or pass a diploma program. As well as getting the degree, one must pass a National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN in order to become a registered nurse (RN).
Licensed Practical Nurses, Licensed Vocational Nurses
If you want to become LPN or LVN you must complete at least 1 year accredited program. These programs can be commonly found in community colleges or technical schools, as well as in some high schools and hospitals. Just like with RN, one must also take National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN in order to become licensed.
Medical assistants are usually employed by various healthcare facilites and physicians offices, where they work full time or part time. They complete various clinical and administrative tasks. In order to become medical assistant, you do need at least high school diploma.
Nursing Assistants & CNAs
Nursing assistants can either be certified (CNAs) or not. They provide basic care for patients in the hospitals, nursing homes and other similar facilites. Most employers do require certification before you can start to work as a nursing assistant, that is why most NAs want to pass a state approved certification (competency) exam. In order to become nursing assistant you need at least high school diploma.
Patient Care Technicians
Patient Care Technicians have similar jobs to those working as nursing assistants or CNAs. Their exact job responsibilities vary depending on the state. Normally PCTs have few extra tasks they can perform like doing EKGs or drawing blood among other tasks.