Best Nursing Degrees

If you’ve been thinking about entering the nursing field to help make a difference in peoples’ lives, now is a great time to find the best nursing degree to fit your interests and career goals. Not only is the need for registered nurses (RNs) expanding, due in large part to the service demands of the baby-boom generation, career avenues for nurses are varied and available around the globe.

CNN reported in April 2018 that “the American Nurses Association estimates the U.S. will need to produce more than one million new registered nurses by 2022 to fulfill the country’s health care needs.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than average for all occupations. The BLS notes the growth is due to several factors, including an increasing emphasis on preventive care, rising demand for health care services for people who are living longer through more active lifestyles, and the growing rates for chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

Where are registered nurses needed? Everywhere! There are opportunities for RNs to work in all types of environments and establishments from rural to suburban areas and walk-in facilities to hospitals. Nursing can be an eight to five job but definitely doesn’t need to be. You can work full or part-time and even find employment that offers flexible schedules and chances for extra hours — if you want them. And with the added flexibility of an online degree, you can fit education into your life now in order to give you the life you want in the future.

A career in nursing certainly won’t be boring — with new patients every day, there’s constant change, challenge, and variety. Depending on your position, you can have opportunities to interact with patients and their families, medical staff, doctors, and others. As a nurse, you’ll always be learning and growing.

Speaking of learning, let’s not forget about technology — today, advances in the use of technology in medicine and health care remain on the cutting edge. Technology directly impacts the delivery of health care services and how people in need access care and manage their health. Technology is fueling the growth of telemedicine, providing access to health care even at a distance to patients in many underserved communities. Technology is also combining with traditional health care disciplines. For instance, the nursing informatics specialty might appeal to you if you want to combine technology and nursing skills in a rapidly developing area of health care. Regardless of where in the health care industry you practice nursing, you can have an influence on improvements for patients and staff alike.

If you have a passion for learning, there’s also a great need for educators to teach new students. Pursuing a master’s or doctorate in nursing can set you on the instructor or nursing leadership and management path.

Options for Online Degrees in Nursing

There are many paths to find the best nursing degrees, and the ideal online degree for you will align with your professional goals and/or build on the experience you already have in the health care arena. You can read our article on how to become an RN in California to get some specific insight for online degrees and job possibilities in this state. And continue reading this article to learn more about some of the best nursing degrees and specializations.

On-campus and Online degrees in nursing offered at National University include the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate-level options.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing – RN Completion
To start expanding your career options after you have your license as a registered nurse (RN), a great next step is attaining the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, also referred to as the RN to BSN path. This program increases your nursing knowledge foundation and gives you a much-needed competitive advantage for career advancement in today’s workplace.

With the health care field on a significant growth track, adding to your education and training will help you to be the best candidate for the positions you apply for. By pursuing the BSN, you’ll gain effective communication and collaboration skills and learn how to develop therapeutic relationships at the individual and group level, as well as build patient-centered skills to deliver nursing care in a variety of settings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national annual mean wage for registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree was $71,730, and in California, it was $106,950 in May of 2018.

Read this article to learn more about National University’s RN to BSN online options and program.

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
National University’s Master of Science in Nursing program can be a good fit for you if you already have your bachelor’s in nursing (BSN), your RN certification, and some nursing experience. The MSN can open career doors if you want to pursue a nursing leadership and management role.

National University has four specialization options with the California-based MSN program:

Family Nurse Practitioner (NP)
You’ll focus on critical thinking, differential diagnoses, evidence-based findings to improve health care outcomes, and providing health care to a diverse mix of people in areas such as health promotion, disease prevention, primary care, and acute and chronic health condition management. Nurse practitioners can be primary or specialty care providers. They generally care for a particular demographic of patients, such as adult, geriatric, pediatric, or psychiatric areas.

For a deeper look at becoming a nurse practitioner, check out our article on nurse practitioner programs in California.

Nursing Administration. This specialty gives you experience with nursing leadership and the systems approach to management for clinical care and other services. Classes focus on decision-making strategies, evidence-based practice, team building and collaboration, fiscal management, quality improvement, and creating a learning culture that supports high quality and safe patient care.

Nursing Informatics. This specialization enables you to combine your passion for staying on the leading edge of developments in the health information technology field with a commitment to helping others through nursing. You can gain skills to make a difference in the overall U.S. health care services industry by potentially helping improve the quality, safety, and delivery of patient-centered health outcomes.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner This specialization merges the art and science of professional nursing with evidence-based services and therapies to help individuals deal with issues related to acute behavioral health concerns. You’ll gain the skills to assess patients, make diagnoses, develop plans for psychiatric and other medical issues, and learn how to prescribe and manage psychopharmacological agents. You can read more about the programs and requirements for the psychiatric nurse practitioner here.

Other Options After the RN 

The National University Master of Science in Nursing Pathway (RN to MSN) can prepare you for a nursing leadership and management role. In particular, it “provides the education required for a role that utilizes advanced practice skills to function as a provider and organizer of the health care delivery process.”

Other master’s programs can add to your specialty skills. For instance, if you’re a mid-career professional seeking to increase your knowledge of the effects of aging, the Master of Arts in Gerontology at National University may be what you’re seeking. This article gives some insight into what you can do with the MA in Gerontology.

If you’ve already started on a career path as a nurse, there are numerous nursing specialties available to focus on, including:

  • Acute care
  • Ambulatory care
  • Cardiology
  • Critical/intensive care
  • Emergency room
  • Hospice and palliative care
  • Maternal-child health
  • Medical-surgical
  • Public health

These are just some of the areas of specialization you can consider for your nursing career. You’ll also have a choice of where to work. Hospitals, emergency departments, urgent care centers, trauma centers, medical clinics, doctor’s offices, health organizations, nursing homes, and hospice care are obvious employers for those with a nursing license and education. But employment opportunities also exist in schools, recreational facilities, private homes, businesses, community agencies, detoxification centers, and laboratories. Attaining at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing will open doors to job possibilities across the state and across the nation.

Going Even Further On the Career Path

Becoming an advanced practice registered nurse, or a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is a great career path to consider; it’s a specialty that pays exceptionally well and the career growth is expanding more than other nursing specialties.

According to the BLS, nurse anesthetists were earning an annual mean wage of $212,210 in California, as of May 2018, compared to the national mean wage of $174,790. And growth is projected nationally at 26% from 2018 to 2028.

A certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA) provides care before and after procedures, including surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, and obstetrical. This article on launching a career as a certified nurse anesthetist will give you more information on how you can get started. You can also check out our Ask the Expert article about this high-demand field of nurse anesthesiologists.

National University also offers the Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP), one of the highest nursing degrees available. The DNAP requires a bachelor’s degree to start, plus three additional years of study. The doctoral degree helps students prepare to become certified nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and creates a strong foundation for someone seeking to pursue a leadership role in nurse anesthesia administration and education. There is a significant focus on health organizations and systems analysis, quality assessment and improvement, policy analysis, and initiatives for implementing evidence-based practices in the program.

If you aspire to be a nurse educator or nurse researcher who can have a direct impact on improvements in nursing practice and science, the best nursing degree may be the DNAP to give you the boost you need to reach that goal.

Income Potential

Nursing career salaries are higher than a lot of other careers, particularly due to the high number of job opportunities that need to be filled. The number of nurses with a bachelor’s degree is rising due to the competitive employment landscape. Nurses holding a master’s degree are increasing, but at a slower rate than undergraduates, and those holding a doctorate degree are still a small number in the overall employment landscape. The income potential in your career is basically up to you and your educational choices.

According to the BLS, in California for the period ending May 2018, the annual mean wage for registered nurses was $106,950 with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

Careers with an entry-level minimum education of a master’s degree include nurse anesthetists, who earned an annual mean wage of $212,210, nurse midwives who earned $139,990, and nurse practitioners who earned $133,780 in California, as of May 2018 per the BLS. Career opportunities for these positions within the United States are predicted to grow 26%, much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2018 to 2028, due to an increasing emphasis on preventive care for an aging population.

Because of a nursing shortage, you can be in the driver’s seat when applying for a position if you fit the criteria for the job posting. According to an article in CNN Business, hospitals are offering big bonuses, free housing and tuition to recruit nurses.

Paying for Your Education 

National University is a Yellow Ribbon school, and as such, offers tuition assistance through financial aid, scholarships, and discounts to current and retired servicemembers, and their dependents, particularly through the GI Bill. You can also learn about navigating the maze of financial aid to get a few more ideas for financing your advanced education.

This article on nursing scholarships gives pointers on how to apply, where to look, and how to use some creativity to get the funding you need for a degree in nursing.

The Best Nursing Degree Is the One That Fits Your Goals 

Different nursing jobs require different levels of education. Once you determine the type of nurse you want to be and discover the level of education needed, take advantage of National University’s year-round rolling admissions to move forward. With 4-week terms, new classes start every month. Many online degrees can be 100% completed without entering a classroom. There is no need to wait to get started.

Good nursing schools, such as National University, can quickly get you on the path to making a difference in people’s lives with the nursing program and specialized training you need. As a registered nurse, what you do can matter to an amazing number of people. There are many on campus and online degree opportunities to explore, so visit National University’s nursing program page, reach out to an academic advisor, and start on a new or revitalized nursing career today.

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