A comprehensive Guide: 5 Different Nursing Degree Levels to Know

There are many advantages to becoming a nurse. Nurses earn high salaries, and they can work in many different roles and save lives regularly. And the demand for more nurses is going to increase. More than one-third of the workforce is going to retire within the next 15 years. So your chances of getting a job post-graduation are high.

There are many types of nurses in the healthcare sector. The nursing industry is quite vast. Nowadays, professionals are looking for new avenues in the field. So there is no one-size-fits-all philosophy. Therefore, it cannot be evident to choose the best role for you. The nursing hierarchy can help you understand your career progression. 

Generally speaking, there are five levels of nursing degrees and credentials. There is a lot of scope in this sector for new professionals entering the field. And your options will increase as you get more certifications and degrees.

But advanced degrees require relevant work experience and state certification as prerequisites for enrollment. But juggling a demanding career as a nurse with studies is not easy. The good news is that you can get a qualified nursing degree online. You can even enroll for an advanced degree, such as online DNP programs.  

Read through our article to find out which degree is the best fit for you.

Nursing Assistant: Also known as nursing aides, Certified Nursing Assistants are the first point of contact for patients. Many Registered Nurses begin their careers as nursing assistants. These nurses are the principal caregivers in hospices and nursing homes. They are directly in contact with the patients and help them bathe, eat, and dress. They also monitor the vital signs of the patients and transfer them to beds or wheelchairs.

Some CNAs are in charge of medication, depending on their state.

How can you become a CNA? The process is simple. To become a CNA, you must successfully pass a state-approved training program. Most of these programs are only 3 to 8 weeks long, with a qualifying exam at the end.

What is the annual salary? As a CNA, you might earn approximately $29,640 per annum.

Licensed practitioner: Licensed vocational nurses, or licensed practical nurses, are in charge of patient care. They monitor patient health and communicate with patient family members about the patient care plan. Some LPNs can administer medicines and supervise healthcare processes.

How can you become an LPN? LPNs must complete a practical Nursing Program from an accredited school. Most programs can get completed within one year. However, LPNs must pass a licensing exam to receive their state license.

Other certifications are also available at this level. Earning a certification in a specialized area will lead to better job prospects. Most LPNs are certified in areas such as childbirth and IV therapy.

What is the median annual salary? The yearly wage for LPNs is $71,730. However, the highest-paid LPNs earn more than $106,530.

Registered Nurse: They play a significant role in inpatient care. Most RNs are in charge of recording patient data, which helps doctors in diagnosis. RNs monitor symptoms, administer medicine, perform medical testing, and support doctors. They also contribute to the patient plan of care.

RNs may also play an administrative role in the healthcare sector. RNs can also specialize in some sectors, such as neonatal nursing or psychiatric nursing.

How can you become an RN? Two nursing degrees can help you become an RN. You can either get an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BS). An ADN generally takes one and a half years, while a BSN takes almost two and a half years. However, you can also earn a BSN in one and a half years if you already have a prior degree in a related field.

You must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination after getting a nursing degree. Some states have additional requirements, so check statewide RN qualifications as well.

What is the median annual salary? According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, RNs earn up to $73,300 per year.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses: Nurses with a Master’s level degree under their belt can become an advanced practice registered nurses. As an APRN, you will have many career paths. You can choose to work independently or collaborate with physicians. Furthermore, APRNs are in charge of extensive tasks. They order tests and evaluate them, and they can also refer patients to specialists. Some APRNs are also in charge of making patient treatment plans.

 As an APRN, you can work as an anesthetist, midwife, nurse practitioner, or clinical nurse specialist. Or you can pursue a more administrative role. Some MSNs also become nurse educators to educate future nurses.

How to become an APRN? To become an APRN, you must first get an MSN degree. Since an APRN is an advanced position, most MSN programs require candidates to have an RN license. Candidates must also have a BSN degree.

After passing, you must also get a national certification exam in your specialization.

What is the median annual income? APRNs earn almost $115,000 per annum, according to the Bureau of Labour statistics.

Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practitioners: DNPs, or Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practitioners, are in charge of developing policies and procedures in the healthcare sector. They also manage health care systems and give direct patient care. Most DNPs work in leadership positions while others go into private practice.

How to become a DNP? DNPs must be Registered Nurses with vast experience in the field. They must have a master’s degree in nursing with national certification in an advanced nursing specialty.

 What is the median annual income? DNPs earn $150,000 to $170,000 per annum depending on the position.


Nursing is a demanding field with a lot of opportunities. Every career level has its educational requirements. The purpose of this breakdown is to inform you about your options in this diverse field. Now that you are more familiar with the hierarchy, you can make a better decision about your future in this sector.

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