Types of Nursing Jobs for Every Degree Level

A career in nursing offers a vast field of specialties and job roles. As health care continues to evolve, the demand for nurses across all levels of education continues to rise. Whether you’re just starting your journey in health care or looking to advance your nursing career, understanding the various levels of nursing and the corresponding job opportunities is crucial.

By exploring the levels of nursing degrees and the types of nursing jobs they can lead to, you’ll gain a comprehensive overview of how to align your passion for patient care with your career goals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights the growing demand for nurses, indicating a promising future for those entering the field, with ample career opportunities at every educational level.

Understanding the Different Levels of Nursing Degrees

Let’s explore the levels of nursing degrees, from foundational programs to advanced degrees, to help you find the path that aligns with your career aspirations and goals. Exploring these degrees will highlight the unique skills, knowledge, and qualifications each level offers, preparing you for a successful career in nursing. Whether you aim to start with your Bachelor of Science in Nursing or pursue a doctorate, understanding these pathways is crucial for making informed decisions about your education and future.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

A first step into the nursing profession is the associate degree in nursing (ADN). Typically taking two years to complete, an ADN program—such as an Associate in Science in Nursing or an Associate in Applied Science in Nursing—prepares students for entry-level nursing positions. Graduates are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN examination to become registered nurses (RNs). An associate degree is suited for those looking to quickly enter the workforce and start gaining experience in patient care.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

For a more comprehensive education in nursing, you may opt to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which is a four-year degree. BSN-prepared nurses are known for their strong clinical skills and are often preferred by employers for their ability to provide a higher level of patient care. Completing a BSN opens doors to leadership roles and is a prerequisite for advanced practice degrees.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) allows nurses to specialize in areas such as nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or nurse administrator roles. MSN programs provide advanced knowledge and skills beyond the basic nursing curriculum, preparing nurses for advanced practice and leadership positions within health care settings.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

The highest level of practical nursing education is the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Aimed at those seeking leadership roles in clinical practice, education, and executive positions, a DNP equips nurses with the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise to improve patient care outcomes and health care systems.

What Are the Different Types of Nurses?

The nursing profession is as diverse as it is rewarding, offering a multitude of specialized roles tailored to different interests, skills, and levels of education. Read on to explore the types of nursing careers for each degree level.

Types of Nursing Jobs for ADNs

  • Registered nurse (RN): With an ADN, you can become a registered nurse, a critical role in the health care system. RNs provide patient care, support medical procedures, and act as a liaison between doctors and patients. This role requires a strong commitment to patient care and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment.
  • Licensed practical nurse (LPN): Also known as licensed vocational nurses in some states, licensed practical nurses work under the supervision of RNs and doctors. LPNs are responsible for providing basic nursing care, monitoring patient health, and administering medications. An ADN or a diploma from an accredited nursing program is typically required for this role.
  • Licensed vocational nurse (LVN): Used primarily in Texas and California, LVN is an alternative title for an LPN. LVNs perform similar duties to LPNs, focusing on basic patient care, administering medications, and assisting with daily living activities. This role is an excellent entry point into nursing, offering hands-on experience in patient care.

Types of Nursing Jobs for BSNs

  • Critical care registered nurse (CCRN): A Bachelor of Science in Nursing opens the door to specialized roles like critical care registered nurse. CCRNs work in high-stakes environments like intensive care units (ICUs), providing care to patients with complex and acute conditions. This role requires exceptional clinical skills and the ability to make quick, informed decisions.
  • Rehabilitation registered nurse: These health care professionals play a vital role in helping patients recover from injury, surgery, or chronic conditions. Rehabilitation registered nurses work closely with patients and their families to develop recovery plans that address physical, emotional, and social needs, promoting independence and improving quality of life.
  • Oncology registered nurse: Specializing in caring for patients undergoing cancer treatment, oncology registered nurses administer chemotherapy, manage symptoms, and provide emotional support to patients and their families. They also educate patients about their treatment plans and expected outcomes.
  • Cardiac registered nurse: This type of nurse specializes in the care of patients with heart conditions. Cardiac registered nurses monitor heart health, administer medications, and assist in procedures such as catheterizations and pacemaker installations. This role requires a deep understanding of cardiology and patient care.
  • Emergency room registered nurse: On the front lines of health care, emergency room registered nurses provide immediate assistance to patients in crisis. They must quickly assess conditions and prioritize care for a wide range of injuries and illnesses. This role demands high levels of resilience and adaptability.

Types of Nursing Jobs for MSNs

  • Family nurse practitioner (FNP): These medical professionals offer comprehensive health care services across the lifespan. With an MSN, they can diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, and provide preventive care. FNPs often serve as primary care providers in settings lacking sufficient medical professionals.
  • Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP): Specializing in the care of adolescents through older adults, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners focus on preventive care, management of chronic conditions, and addressing the unique health concerns of older adults. AGNPs work in various settings, including clinics, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.
  • Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP): Providing mental health services to patients across the life span, PMHNPs assess, diagnose, and treat psychiatric disorders, offering therapy and prescribing medications, as needed. This specialization requires a deep understanding of mental health issues and a compassionate approach to patient care.
  • Clinical nurse supervisor: These medical professionals oversee nursing staffs and ensure that patient care meets exacting standards. Clinical nurse supervisors manage schedules, coordinate care plans, and mentor the staff. This leadership role is crucial for maintaining the quality and efficiency of health care services.

Nursing Jobs for DNPs

  • Nurse anesthetist: These medical professionals provide anesthesia and pain management services before, during, and after surgical procedures. Nurse anesthetists work closely with surgical teams to ensure patient safety and comfort. This highly specialized role requires extensive training and a DNP.
  • Nurse educator: Shaping the future of nursing by teaching and mentoring nursing students, nurse educators develop educational programs, conduct research, and stay updated on the latest nursing practices. This role is essential for preparing the next generation of nurses.
  • Clinical researcher: Another academically oriented role, a clinical researcher conducts studies to improve health care practices and outcomes. They develop research projects, collect data, and analyze results to advance nursing knowledge and practice. This role is vital for evidence-based improvements in patient care.
  • Health care executive: In this role, doctorate-holding nurses lead organizations, making strategic decisions that affect the delivery of health care services. Health care executives oversee budgets, manage staff, and implement policies to improve efficiency and patient care. A DNP equips them with the expertise to navigate the complexities of the health care system.

Take the Next Step Toward a Rewarding Nursing Career

Feeling inspired to take the next step in your nursing career? Consider advancing your education at Excelsior University. We offer a range of nursing programs designed to meet your educational and professional goals. If you’re looking to enter the nursing field or expand your expertise with an advanced degree, Excelsior University has the resources and support to help you succeed. Contact us for more information about our nursing programs and start your journey toward a fulfilling career in nursing.