Unlocking the 6 Different Types of Nursing Degrees and Top Schools Offering Them

Discover the diverse world of nursing degrees, from LPN to DNP, and the advantages they offer. Explore top schools, qualifications, costs, job prospects, and more in this comprehensive guide.

Nursing is a great career with lots of options. Let’s explore the types of nursing degrees, the best schools for them, and what you need to know.

1.      Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)/Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

LPNs, also known as LVNs in some states, are essential members of the healthcare team. They provide basic care to patients, working under the supervision of Registered Nurses (RNs) and doctors. LPN/LVN programs typically last one year and prepare students for hands-on patient care.

Requirements for LPN/ LVN Nursing Degrees:

To become an LPN/LVN, you usually need a high school diploma or a GED. LPN/LVN programs are widely available at community colleges and vocational schools, making them accessible to many.

Why It’s a Good Choice:

LPN/LVN programs offer a quick way to start a nursing career. They cover crucial nursing topics like anatomy, patient care, and medications. Graduates can work in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and home health agencies.

Advantages of LPN/LVN include:

  • Quick Entry: LPN/LVN programs are shorter, so you can begin your nursing career sooner.
  • Career Growth: LPNs/LVNs can advance by becoming RNs or specializing in areas like gerontology or pediatrics.
  • Hands-On Experience: LPNs/LVNs gain valuable patient care experience, a strong foundation for a nursing career.

Cost of LPN/LVN Nursing Degrees:

LPN/LVN program costs vary, but on average, expect to pay between $5,000 to $15,000 for tuition, books, and fees. Financial aid and scholarships may help with expenses.

Job Outlook:

LPNs/LVNs have a positive job outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment is expected to grow by 9% from 2020 to 2030, faster than average. The aging population, increased healthcare needs, and demand for skilled nursing care are driving this growth.

Top 5 Schools Offering LPN/LVN Nursing Degrees:

  • Veeb Nassau County School of Practical Nursing (New York)
  • North Seattle College (Washington)
  • Columbus State Community College (Ohio)
  • St. Phillips College (Texas)
  • Eastwick College (New Jersey)

2.Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An ADN is a two-year program that gives you the basics to become an RN. It blends classroom learning with hands-on training for patient care.

Requirements for ADN Nursing Degrees:

To get into an ADN program, you typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Why Go for an ADN:

  • Quicker Path: ADN programs are shorter, taking just two years. You can start your career as an RN sooner than with a four-year program.
  • Lower Cost: ADN programs are usually cheaper than four-year ones, which can help you avoid hefty student debt.

Cost of ADN Nursing Degrees Programs:

ADN program costs vary widely, but on average, tuition and fees can range from $5,000 to $20,000. Don’t forget to factor in books and clinical supplies.

Job Prospects for ADN Grads:

The job outlook for ADN graduates is positive. RNs are in high demand in hospitals, clinics, long-term care, and home healthcare. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 9% job growth for RNs from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average. This demand comes from an aging population and a focus on preventing illness.

Top 5 Schools Offering ADN Nursing Degrees:          

  • Community College of Philadelphia
  • North Seattle College
  • Wake Technical Community College
  • College of Southern Nevada
  • Miami Dade College

3.Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A BSN is a four-year nursing program that trains students to be RNs. It covers nursing theory, clinical practice, and leadership skills, offering various nursing specializations.

Requirements for BSN Nursing Degrees:

A high school diploma or GED.

Acceptable scores on standardized tests like SAT or ACT.

Prerequisite courses in biology, chemistry, and math.

Strong communication and people skills.

Advantages of a BSN Nursing Degrees:

  • Higher Income: BSN grads often earn more than nurses with associate degrees, making it a financially rewarding choice.
  • Expanded Career Options: BSN holders can access a wider range of nursing roles, from leadership to research and specialized fields.
  • Better Patient Care: BSN-educated nurses excel in evidence-based, patient-centered care, improving healthcare outcomes.
  • Advanced Nursing: A BSN can be a stepping stone to advanced degrees like Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Anesthetist.

Cost of BSN Programs:

BSN program costs vary based on factors like location and whether it’s a public or private institution. On average, tuition and fees at a public university can range from $10,000 to $30,000 per year, while private institutions may charge $40,000 or more annually. You’ll also need to budget for textbooks, clinical uniforms, and supplies.

Financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, and student loans, can help cover these expenses.

Job Outlook for BSN Graduates:

The job outlook for BSN grads is very positive. Several factors contribute to this:

  • Aging Population: As people get older, the demand for healthcare services increases, creating more job opportunities for nurses.
  • Complex Healthcare Needs: Advances in medical technology require nurses with advanced education and critical thinking skills, which BSN programs provide.
  • Nursing Shortage: Many regions are experiencing a nursing shortage, making the job market favorable for BSN graduates.
16 different types of nursing degrees and top schools offering them

Top 5 Schools Offering BSN Nursing Degrees Programs

  • University of Pennsylvania           
  • Johns Hopkins University              
  • Duke University                
  • University of Washington             
  • University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

4.Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is perfect for registered nurses (RNs) aiming to boost their nursing careers. It dives deep into nursing leadership, education, clinical expertise, and healthcare management. MSN students can choose from various specializations like Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Anesthetist, and more, depending on their goals and interests.

Requirements to Pursue an MSN Nursing Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): Most MSN programs want applicants to have a BSN. Some programs have options for RNs with an associate degree in nursing.
  • RN License: You must have an active RN license.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Many programs ask for recommendation letters from healthcare professionals.
  • Transcripts: You’ll need to submit your undergraduate transcripts.
  • Personal Statement: Write a clear personal statement explaining your career goals and reasons for pursuing an MSN.
  • Interview: Some programs may require an interview as part of the admission process.

Why Pursue an MSN?

  • Advanced Career Paths: An MSN opens doors to higher-paying and specialized nursing roles like Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator, or Clinical Nurse Specialist.
  • Better Pay: MSN grads often earn significantly more than those with a BSN or ADN.
  • Leadership Skills: MSN programs teach leadership and management, preparing nurses for healthcare administration and leadership roles.
  • Teaching Opportunities: MSN grads can become nurse educators, shaping the future of nursing through teaching and mentorship.
  • Expertise in Patient Care: Specialized MSN tracks, like Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Anesthetist, enable nurses to provide advanced patient care, diagnose, and treat medical conditions.

Cost of MSN Nursing Degrees Programs:

MSN program costs vary widely based on location, program length, and school reputation. On average, tuition for an MSN program ranges from $20,000 to $60,000 or more. Financial aid, scholarships, and grants can help cover these expenses.

Job Outlook for MSN Graduates:

The job outlook for MSN grads is bright. As healthcare evolves, there’s growing demand for advanced practice nurses, nurse educators, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse administrators. For instance, the employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Top 5 Schools Offering MSN Nursing Degrees Programs

  • Johns Hopkins University              
  • Duke University                
  • University of Pennsylvania           
  • Vanderbilt University     
  • University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

5.Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is a top-tier qualification in nursing that emphasizes hands-on practice, leadership, and using research to improve patient care. It’s different from a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.), which leans toward research and academia. DNPs are equipped to turn research into practical healthcare solutions and lead progress in patient care.

Program Overview of DNP Nursing Degrees:

Duration: DNP programs usually last 3 to 4 years.

Curriculum: The program covers advanced nursing, leadership, healthcare policy, ethics, and research methods.

Clinical Hours: Students gain real-world experience through extensive clinical practice.

Capstone Project: DNPs often complete a capstone project, addressing a healthcare challenge or policy issue.

Requirements for a DNP Nursing Degrees:

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): Most DNP programs want applicants to have an MSN, though some offer a BSN-to-DNP route.
  • RN License: You must hold a valid, unrestricted RN license.
  • Clinical Experience: Having strong clinical experience is a plus, especially for those aiming for advanced practice roles.

Why Pursue a DNP:

  • Advanced Practice: DNPs can become nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, or clinical nurse specialists, offering advanced patient care.
  • Leadership Opportunities: DNPs are ready to lead healthcare teams, departments, or even entire organizations.
  • Advocacy and Policy Influence: DNPs can drive changes in healthcare policy, improve systems, and stand up for patient rights.
  • Higher Earnings: DNPs often earn more than those with lower degrees.

Cost of DNP Nursing Degrees Programs:

DNP program costs vary depending on the school, location, and if you’re studying full-time or part-time. On average, you can expect to pay between $30,000 to $100,000 or more. Scholarships, grants, and financial aid may be available to help with expenses.

Job Outlook for DNPs:

The job outlook for DNPs is very promising. As healthcare systems become more complex, the need for highly educated nursing leaders is growing. DNPs can step into roles in clinical practice, healthcare management, education, and policy development. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts strong job growth for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse educators, all of which require a DNP or higher degree.

Top 5 Schools Offering DNP Nursing Degrees Programs

  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

6. Ph.D. in Nursing Degrees

A PhD in Nursing is the highest level of nursing education, focused on research, scholarship, and pushing the boundaries of nursing knowledge. In these programs, students dive deep into healthcare research, theory development, and leadership skills. Graduates are ready to make significant contributions to the nursing profession through research, teaching, influencing healthcare policies, and taking leadership roles in academic or healthcare settings.

Requirements for PhD in Nursing Degrees Programs:

  • Master’s Degree: You should have a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or a related field.
  • Active RN License: You must hold a valid registered nurse (RN) license.
  • Strong Academic Record: A good academic track record, including a high GPA, and GRE scores (requirements vary by school).
  • Recommendation Letters: You’ll typically need recommendation letters from academic and professional sources.
  • Statement of Purpose: A well-written statement outlining your research interests and goals is usually required.
  • Interviews or Writing Samples: Some programs may require interviews or writing samples.

Benefits of Pursuing a PhD in Nursing Degrees:

Here’s why going for a PhD in Nursing can be a game-changer:

  • Advanced Research Skills: PhD programs equip nurses with advanced research and analytical skills, enabling them to conduct impactful research that can enhance healthcare outcomes.
  • Leadership Opportunities: Graduates are ready to take on leadership roles in healthcare organizations, academia, and policymaking.
  • Policy Influence: Nurse researchers with PhDs can contribute to healthcare policy decisions, driving positive changes in the healthcare system.
  • Teaching and Mentorship: PhD holders often become educators and mentors, inspiring the next generation of nurses and researchers.
  • Career Growth: A PhD in Nursing opens up diverse career paths, from university professorships to research positions in healthcare institutions.

Cost of PhD in Nursing Degrees Programs:

The cost of a PhD in Nursing program varies widely depending on the school, location, and whether you’re studying full-time or part-time. On average, tuition and fees can range from $20,000 to $50,000 per year. Many schools offer financial aid, scholarships, and research assistantships to help cover these expenses.

Job Outlook for PhD in Nursing Graduates:

The job outlook for PhD in Nursing graduates is bright. With the increasing emphasis on evidence-based practice and research in healthcare, there’s a demand for nurse scientists who can contribute to the field. Graduates can choose from various career paths, including research, academia, health policy advocacy, clinical expertise, and healthcare administration.

Top 5 Schools Offering PhD in Nursing Degrees Programs

  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Duke University
  • University of Washington
  • University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)


The nursing field offers a wide range of opportunities, and pursuing a nursing degree can be a transformative experience. We’ve covered the 6 distinct nursing degrees, each offering a unique path to impact healthcare positively. Whether you’re inclined toward the patient-centered role of an LPN, the advanced possibilities of a DNP, or something in between, your passion for nursing can find its ideal outlet.

As you contemplate your choices and set forth on this fulfilling journey, remember that the right nursing degree can open doors to a world of possibilities. It’s not merely about the certificate; it’s about the lives you’ll touch, the communities you’ll serve, and the lasting impact you’ll have in the ever-evolving healthcare realm.

Whether you’re commencing your educational voyage or seeking advancement in your nursing career, select your path with resolve and enthusiasm. The distinguished schools we’ve discussed are here to lead, equip, and ignite your passion on the road to becoming a nurse who genuinely makes a difference. Embrace the opportunities, continue to learn, and let your nursing expedition be an extraordinary one. Your future in nursing awaits, and it’s full of promise and potential.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1.            Are there online nursing degrees programs available?

Yes, many nursing programs offer online or hybrid options to accommodate diverse schedules.

2.            What is the average salary for nurses with advanced degrees?

Salaries vary by specialty and location, but advanced degree-holders often earn significantly higher salaries than those with entry-level credentials.

3.            What is the job outlook for nurses in the future?

The nursing profession is expected to grow significantly, driven by an aging population, healthcare advancements, and the need for skilled healthcare providers.

4.            Can I work while pursuing nursing degrees?

Many nursing programs are designed to allow students to work part-time or full-time while studying, making it more accessible for working adults.

5.            Is financial aid available for nursing education?

Yes, various scholarships, grants, and loans are available to help students finance their nursing education. Be sure to explore these options to ease the financial burden.