Selecting a nursing degree is one of the first steps to becoming a registered nurse or nurse practitioner. Before making any definite choices, research your area of interest. Knowing the amount of studying you’ll need to do to land a good job and the annual salary you can earn will help you decide your future goals.
To choose a program best suited for you, we recommend you begin by answering some basic questions;
- How much can you afford to spend?
- Which learning style best suits you?
- Do you plan on working while finishing your degree?
- What are your future career goals?
These questions will help you in setting academic and professional goals. Having clear-cut goals will help you in choosing the best option. Considering that you have already decided to pursue a career in nursing, here are some factors you should consider before applying for any nursing program;
Accreditation means that your degree’s curriculum is reviewed and approved by an expert panel. Graduating from an accredited school will help you score better jobs and higher education opportunities. To check the status of your program, look it up on national databases and the websites of associations that accredit such qualifications.
Explore specialized programs
Not all nursing degrees are the same, nor do they lead to the same career path. For example, if you want to become a nurse educator, Google FAQs about an online MSN in Nursing Education to learn more about the degree and professional journey. Similarly, if you want to become a forensic nurse or an FNP, you may have to opt for specialized degrees/courses. So choose wisely. You can consult an academic counselor or nurses already working in the same line of work you wish to pursue
You can choose to obtain the complete on-campus experience or enroll in an online program. The quality of education in online courses is no different than that in a traditional degree, but online programs are relatively cheaper and offer a more flexible way of learning. For example, programs do not charge students for many services availed by on-campus students, such as accommodation, material charges, etc. You will also save money while traveling.
Online programs are also more convenient and flexible for working students and nurses trying to upskill their practice. You can complete coursework and view lectures according to your schedule.
If you opt for an online program, you may have to choose one of three learning methods- hybrid, synchronous, or asynchronous. In hybrid learning, students complete most of their course work and lecture at home and only visit campus once a while to complete labs and activities that require in-person interaction. Synchronous courses are time-bound. You must log in and attend your lectures at a fixed time. On the other hand, asynchronous courses consist of pre-recorded lectures, and you communicate with your professor or classmates via email or group chats.
Students tend to prefer hybrid learning. However, if the on-campus components only comprise lectures, you might want to stick with a course that is entirely online. This can happen if you are pursuing an administration or informatics degree.
Clinical rotations and internships
Most nursing degrees require students to complete clinical rotations or internships. Ensure the nursing school/college has contacts with local hospitals where you can carry out your practical work. If you are attending an online program offered by an out-of-state college, call them up and ask about internship opportunities for online students.
With a large group of students, it gets hard for instructors to give attention to every student. Understandably, popular institutes will have more students. However, you can still opt for a reputed one with a reasonable number of students per class. This way, you will be able to maintain a better relationship with your instructor without too many students taking a slice from the pie.
The program you choose will significantly impact your career. Decide if you want to go for an LPN or RN certification, and then pick your degree accordingly. Look into your state’s licensure requirements before applying for an undergrad or postgrad program to become a nurse practitioner.
Levels of degree
Nursing students can earn different degrees starting from associate level to doctorate levels. The level of your degree significantly impacts your salary and job options. Let’s break them down.
- Associate degrees require students to only study for two years, but you might not qualify for appearing for licensing exams.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees will require you to study for four years. These courses teach advanced knowledge and skills. You can most definitely appear for licensing exams after attaining a BSN degree.
- A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can qualify you to become nurse practitioners, managers, and leaders. NPs work independently and can prescribe medicines. As discussed earlier, you can also obtain a nursing master’s degree in varying fields such as education, administration, and healthcare informatics.
- Doctoral or terminal degrees in nursing can help you become professors, advisors, or leaders. Students can enroll in a Ph.D. or DNP program. The main difference between both the doctorates is that the DNP degree is more practice-oriented.
Bridge programs and specialties
If you are already a registered nurse and want to upskill yourself, you can enroll in a bridge program. Many universities offer RN-to-BSN and RN-to-MSN programs. Such programs can benefit professionals who wish to acquire a specialty. Most nursing specialties, such as midwifery, anesthetics, dermatology, etc., require a master’s degree.
While selecting a nursing degree, you should also consider the educational institute’s reputation. Employers tend to consider educational background while hiring and often choose graduates hailing from schools with an excellent reputation. While searching for schools, look for accreditation statuses, NCLEX exam pass rates, award-winning, and faulty credentials. You can also read online reviews to develop a better understanding.
Selecting a nursing degree can be overwhelming. But you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about your career and future if you consider the factors mentioned above. The key lies in doing thorough research. So ask Google, experienced nurses, and other people you trust before applying to a program.