Levels of Nursing

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There are many levels of nursing, largely depending on the amount of education you’re willing to pursue. The main types of nursing degrees include an ADN, a BSN, an MSN and a DNP. The first level in nursing is a certified nursing assistant. Next is a licensed practical nurse.

UST nursing student portrait

You may already know you want to be a nurse, but do you know what level of nursing you want to reach? When it comes to levels of nursing, it’s important to understand the types of nursing degrees and how far they can get you.

Whether you want to focus on bedside patient care or transition to leadership, a degree from the University of St. Thomas Houston’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program can help you achieve your goals. Our 12-month accelerated nursing program combines online coursework with hands-on skills and simulation labs and in-person clinical rotations at top area healthcare facilities to give you a high-quality nursing education that employers respect.

When applying to programs and planning your future healthcare career, consider the many levels of nursing degrees, specialties, state-mandated tests, and diverse job titles within the levels of nursing.

Types of Nursing Degrees

Non-degree, degree, and advanced degree are the three primary categories of nursing degrees and certifications. Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs), who finish nursing education programs but do not receive degrees, are examples of non-degree nurses. Nurses who hold a degree in the discipline, such as an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a BSN, are referred to as degree nurses. A graduate degree in the nursing industry, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), qualifies a nurse as having an advanced degree.

nurse in red scrubs talking with patient

Wondering what nursing is really like? Take a look at this blog describing a day in the life of a nurse.

Levels of Nursing

Let’s take a deeper look at the different levels of nursing and the requirements for each of these nursing careers. We’ll start with entry-level careers and work up to the most advanced levels of nursing.

1. Certified Nursing Assistant

Home care and long-term care facilities are the typical workplaces for certified nursing assistants (CNAs). CNAs, also known as "nursing assistants" and "nursing aides," frequently operate as the patient and family's main point of contact with the healthcare facility. They help the patient with daily tasks like bathing, dressing, eating and walking.

Along with compassionate care, CNAs offer their patients companionship. Depending on state laws and requirements, they may perform activities that don't require advanced training, such as completing patient charts using electronic medical record software, taking vital signs and administering medication.

Requirements: Becoming a CNA typically requires a high school diploma or GED, completion of a state-approved CNA program and passing exams.

Median Salary: $30,310 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

2. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) deliver patient care and serve as the patient's main point of contact with the healthcare team. LPNs help with patients and often spend time taking blood pressure, inserting catheters, starting IVs and changing bandages, as well as general health monitoring and record-keeping for their patients.

Requirements: Completing a practical nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).

Median Salary: $48,070 in May 2021, according to the BLS.

3. Registered Nurse

Many people associate the term "nurse" with a registered nurse (RN). The University of St. Thomas’s ABSN program prepares you to enter the healthcare field as a BSN-educated registered nurse. The benefits of becoming a BSN-educated nurse include diverse job opportunities, high-salary positions, job security and career advancement pathways.

RNs typically administer medication, help develop care plans, and collaborate with a healthcare team. RNs even oversee LPNs and CNAs for a variety of tasks. After a few years of clinical care, you can transition to an alternative RN career such as school nurse, travel nurse, forensic nurse and more.

In addition to holding a BSN, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam, which differs from the NCLEX-PN for practical nurses mentioned earlier.

Median Salary: $77,600 in May 2021, according to the BLS.

woman wearing red scrubs standing outside

The UST ABSN program prepares you for an exciting nursing career. Check out these 10 alternative nursing careers you can pursue after completing our program.

4. Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

RNs who want to pursue more leadership in patient care become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). APRNs include nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners. Additional education, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), is necessary to become an APRN.

Requirements: To enroll in coursework to become an APRN, you usually need at least a year of experience working as an RN and a current RN license. After completing your degree, you must pass a certification exam from a reputable national organization like the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. People earning education for these roles may also pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which is considered a terminal degree and the highest level of nursing education.

Median Salary: $123,780 in May 2021, according to the BLS.

Why Earn a BSN

It’s possible to secure a nursing job with an associate degree or a traditional four-year BSN; however, our ABSN program combines a shorter timeframe with top-of-the-line baccalaureate nursing education. Our program offers a comprehensive curriculum combining online coursework with hands-on labs and clinicals to help you earn your BSN in as few as 12 months.

UST nursing students working in simulation lab

Get Your Nursing Career Started

Now that you understand the levels of nursing and types of nursing degrees, it’s time to find out how the ABSN program at the University of St. Thomas can help you reach your dream of becoming a nurse.

At the University of St. Thomas, we’ll answer any questions you have about our ABSN program and how to become a nurse through our 12-month second-degree ABSN program. The nursing field inspires us every day, and we are excited to educate the next generation of life-saving nurses.

Contact us today to learn more about how to begin your nursing journey.