What Types of Nursing Graduate Degrees Are Available?

Nursing is a field that continues to be in demand, from licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that RNs would experience an employment growth of 26% between 2010 and 2020, with APRNs in even greater demand. Students interested in these careers need to complete nursing graduate degree programs. Below is an overview of the various nursing graduate degree programs available.

Master’s Nursing Programs

Master’s nursing programs prepare students for advanced careers in administration, teaching, research, direct patient care and informatics. Graduates may find employment as public health nurses, clinical nurse leaders, nurse managers and health policy consultant, among others.

• Entry-Level Master’s Degree – This program, also referred to as an accelerated program, is for students who have a baccalaureate or graduate degree in a non-nursing field. It generally takes 2 to 3 years to complete. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that there are more than 60 entry-level master’s degree programs in colleges nationwide.

• RN to Bachelor’s Degree – This program, for nurses with associate degrees, generally takes 2 to 3 years to complete. There are more than 170 of these programs available; this program may be offered online or in hybrid format.

• Baccalaureate to Master’s Degree – This program – the most common for nurses seeking graduate-level study – can be completed in 18-24 months. Graduates are awarded the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Master of Nursing (MN) or MS in Nursing.

• Dual Master’s Degree Program – This program is often chosen by nurses who want a graduate degree and wish to specialize in a specific area of study. Graduates combine nursing with public heath (MSN/MPH), business (MSN/MBA), health administration (MSN/MHA) or other areas. There are more than 120 dual master’s degrees nationwide.

• Post-Master’s Certificate Program – This program is for nurses with master’s degrees who want to advance their clinical skills and focus on specific areas in nursing.

Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Nursing Programs

The doctoral and post-doctoral programs are for nurses interested in roles in leadership, advanced faculty or as specialists. Students can choose from the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) if they want to practice or the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) if they’re interested in research.

• Fast-Track Baccalaureate to Doctoral Program – Students with bachelor’s degrees who want a doctorate in either research or practice can complete this program, including clinical experiences, in 3-4 years.

• Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) – This doctoral program is for nurses who want the highest level of nursing study. DNP programs are available in more than 150 nursing schools.

• Research-Focused Doctorate – This nursing program, offered in more than 120 nursing schools, demonstrates the highest level of study for a career in research.

• Post-Doctoral Program – This program, which can be completed within two years, is for nurses who wish to advance their studies and be scientists and researchers detrimental to the nursing practice. There are almost 40 researched-based colleges offering these programs nationwide.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

APRNs are registered nurses who complete advanced education and specialize in areas beyond the scope of nursing. They work in both acute and ambulatory care settings providing primary, preventative and specialized care. APRNs are generally be in one of the following categories.

• Nurse Practitioners (NP)
• Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
• Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
• Certified Nurse – Midwives (CNM)

Finding the Right Nursing Graduate Degree Program

Once students determine what type of degree they want to pursue, they can go through the various programs to find the one that’s right for them. According to the AACN, there are more than 500 nursing schools in the United States, offering more than 2,000 graduate programs to nursing students with various levels of education. It’s just a matter of finding the school that offers the program they want.