Ready for a Career in Nursing? 3 Options for Earning Your Nursing Degree

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to look forward to the New Year, examine your goals, and decide if you are ready for change.

Perhaps, like many others, you’ve decided that you want to pursue your passion and are ready for a career in nursing. But with so many degree options, you may find that you aren’t sure which path to follow.

Should you get an associate’s degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing? What’s the difference between the two? What can I do with these degrees? Do career offerings differ?

Ready for a change to nursing?

Take a look at how your nursing degree choices can impact your nursing career.

Changing Careers to Nursing

Choosing to change careers to nursing is a big decision. You may still not be sure about whether or not you are ready to commit to such a big change.

3 Different Nursing Degree Options

Luckily, there are many ways you can enter the nursing field as a registered nurse. Depending on your needs and what you are looking for out of your nursing career, you can choose an associate’s degree program, a traditional BSN program, or an accelerated bachelor’s degree program to become a nurse.

1. Associate’s Degree Program

Many might consider an associate’s degree to be the fastest route to a nursing career. An associate’s degree prepares you to successfully pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX), just like a bachelor’s degree program.

An associate’s degree program will typically take two years to complete.

2. Bachelor’s Degree Program

While both BSN-educated and associate’s-degree-educated nurses have the knowledge to care for their patients and both are qualified to sit for the NCLEX and become a registered nurse, a BSN education has a couple of additional benefits.

First and foremost, bachelor’s degree programs prepare nurses with critical-thinking skills that will prepare them for better patient care and lower mortality rates.

Second, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, you are able to pursue more management, leadership, and higher education opportunities than those with an associate’s degree.

Many traditional bachelor’s degree nursing programs take four years to complete.

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3. Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree Program

An accelerated nursing program, like Northeastern University’s Accelerated BSN program, allows you to earn the exact same nursing education as a traditional bachelor’s degree program, but in 16 months instead of four years.

Northeastern’s ABSN program builds upon your prior bachelor’s degree to allow you to earn your degree sooner.

Additionally, your classes will be online, so you can complete coursework where and when it’s convenient for you. Your clinicals and skills labs allow you to apply what you’re learning in classes to real-life situations and enhance your education experience.

Career Differences

How will my nursing career differ with an associate’s degree compared to a bachelor’s degree?

Associate’s Degree in Nursing Career Options

With an associate’s degree, you can become an RN and work in a variety of clinical settings, including hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.

However, you won’t be able to pursue management opportunities or higher education opportunities.

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report recommended that 80 percent of nurses hold a BSN by the year 2020. This goal has not yet been met, but employers are moving steadily in that direction. This means more hospitals are hiring nurses with bachelor’s degree instead of those with associate’s degrees.

BSN Career Options

With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, you have the option to pursue many different careers, including:

  • A bedside nursing
  • Nurse researcher
  • Nurse education
  • Managerial or leadership positions

With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, you can also earn a higher degree in nursing, such as a Master of Science in Nursing or a PhD, which expose you to even more nursing positions.

Which Nursing Degree is the Best?

When it comes to deciding which degree to earn so you can begin your nursing career, you should consider the pros and cons of each and your own circumstances.

What’s the Fastest Nursing Degree?

If you are simply trying to decide which degree will get you into the nursing field the fastest, you may want to look at either an accelerated BSN program or earning your associate’s degree.

With an ABSN program, you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in as little as 16 months.

You can also earn your associate’s degree in two years.

This means you will be able to start earning a salary sooner than you would in a traditional BSN program. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you might be required to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Which Degree has the Most Longevity?

Because more hospitals are seeking baccalaureate-educated registered nurses, more and more RNs with associate’s degrees are returning to school to earn their bachelor’s degree

According to the AACN today, more than 770 RN-to-BSN programs exist throughout the country to meet the needs of these students.

New York State has enacted legislation that requires all nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing within 10 years of initial licensure as an RN.

By starting your nursing career with a bachelor’s degree, you will be able to continue your nursing career without interruption, unless you choose to pursue higher education opportunities.

Which Degree Offers a Better Salary?

According to PayScale, as of May 2021, the average annual salary for RNs with an associate’s degree was $70,700, compared to an average annual salary of $86,520 for RNs with a BSN. An additional difference in pay comes in the advanced opportunities available to nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

According to Glassdoor, nurse managers with a bachelor’s degree earn an average annual salary of $87,721. By pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing, you meet the requirements many hospitals have for nurse managers, setting you up for success early.

Am I Ready for a Career in Nursing?

While trying to decide between an associate’s degree and a traditional four-year BSN program, you should take into consideration what you want out of a nursing career. Are you willing to start your nursing career sooner and return to school in a couple of years to earn a bachelor’s degree?

If you aren’t sure you want to return to school in a few years but want to start your career soon, consider accelerated BSN programs. Through Northeastern’s ABSN program, you can leverage your current bachelor’s degree to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in just 16 months.

Ready for Change?

Contact us to speak to an admissions counselor today about the Accelerated BSN program and get started on your new life as a registered nurse.

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