Have you always wanted to help others or work in the world of medicine? Nursing is a career that covers both of these goals – and it’s a field that’s always exciting, continuously growing with every patient.

If you’re considering taking the first steps to become a nurse, here’s what you need to know about nursing degree programs.

Nurses Are in High Demand

Nurses are always in need – hospitals in every city need nurses on staff for everyday care and emergency care. However, nurses are even more in demand right now thanks to a serious nursing shortage.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by 2020, there will be a shortage of 800,000 nurses. People are living longer than ever before, and the Baby Boomer generation is aging at a rapid rate. These two factors combined mean hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other medical facilities need nurses. And over the next year, that demand will only increase and become more pressing.

This increased demand means earning your nursing degree and starting a career in this growing field is a smart idea. According to Nurse Journal, the current shortage means hospitals and medical facilities are willing to offer high pay and even incredible bonuses for nurses, giving new nurses the chance to score a sign-on bonus as high as $10,000.

Because nurses are in high demand, there are hundreds of colleges and universities that offer nursing programs. Every college offers its very own program – and some are more competitive than others. Before you decide to dive into nursing, make sure you do your research and look into which degree programs meet your needs and interests.

You Can Earn Your Degree in Months

If you’re ready to start working towards your nursing degree, there’s great news: you can earn your degree in just a matter of months.

According to Nurse.com, you can earn a nursing degree in as little as 22 months, or less than two years. It simply depends on which type of degree, and which pathway to your degree, you choose.

There are three different options for earning your nursing degree:

  1. Nursing Diploma – You’ll earn credits for taking nursing-specific courses and earn a diploma that allows you to get practical or clinical experience.
  2. Associate Degree in Nursing – Available at community colleges and online, an associate degree combines classes with clinical experience. You’ll be eligible to work as a registered nurse (RN).
  3. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – Available at colleges, universities, and online, a BSN is the more advanced degree that encompasses work experience, clinical experience, and classroom and lab coursework.

The best degree plan for you depends on your education and career goals. A diploma prepares you in the classroom, though you’ll need clinical experience to start working. An associate’s degree in nursing is also one of the quickest options, and it’s a great idea for students who want to get to work quickly. After earning this degree you’ll be prepared to sit for your licensing test in months.

If you’re hoping to advance your career and already have an associate’s in nursing, or perhaps you don’t mind taking the extra time to study, a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is a more advanced degree. Though it typically takes four years to complete, you can find accelerated and online programs that get the job done in anywhere from 11 to 18 months.

According to Nursing.org, new nurses with associate degrees earn an average of $55,719 after two years of study. Nurses with BSNs, however, earn an average of $81,240 once their degree program is completed in four years or less.

Students of All Ages and Experience Levels Can Enter Nursing

It’s common to think only young students can pursue nursing degrees. However, the field of nursing is open to absolutely anyone – and no matter your age or experience level, you can start a new career and change your life with a nursing degree.

As Nursing.org writes, there are a number of options available for nontraditional students:

  • Older students can return to school and pursue a BSN thanks to online BSN programs that can be taken from anywhere and fit into any schedule.
  • Students with associate degrees can advance their careers and knowledge to new heights with a BSN degree program. You can easily add to your experience level by furthering your education with another degree.
  • Part-time students can earn either a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree in nursing with online nursing programs. You can take your studies at your own pace and fit them into your schedule with the flexibility of a part-time program.

An RN to BSN Program Can Advance Your Career

If you’re already a registered nurse, or RN, you’ve done both the hard work of studying to become a nurse and gaining valuable experience working in different medical settings. However, you’ve likely found that RNs are more limited than those who have bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degrees.

The roles and jobs of RNs versus BSNs differ greatly. Because BSN programs take more years of education and practical clinical work, these individuals can apply for more senior jobs, take higher positions in hospitals, and perform slightly different work. Perhaps most importantly, there’s also a big difference in salary – Nurse Journal reports that an RN earned an average salary of $39,100 in 2014 while a BSN earned an average salary of over $69,000.

With a BSN, you’ll have greater potential and bigger opportunities. If you’re already an RN, earning your BSN is easy. You simply need to find a BSN degree program that suits you and your current lifestyle. Online programs make it easy to earn your bachelor’s degree, and many programs will allow you to accelerate your education or use your years of work experience to your advantage.

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