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Nursing, Associate's

If you've always wanted to become a nurse, and you've just graduated from high school, it comes recommended that you consider an Associate of Science degree in Nursing. In the industry, those who have graduated with this qualification are referred to as ASNs. This course is ideal if you are brand new to nursing – and in as little as four semesters, you could be out in the world of work and hunting for jobs. Some students decide that they want to continue with their studies at this point, possibly with a Bachelor of Nursing Degree. However, it is possible for you to amass more experience – and end up getting paid more – on the job.

Normally, ASNs work in long-term care – and there's always a lot of information to take on board. Remaining compliant with employer guidelines is also important, and so it's vital that you memorize these and understand their significance before you begin to interact with patients.

Although you may have a gleaming academic background for your school days, any college is also going to look at what your people skills are like. After all, you're going to be interacting with patients all day, and it's crucial that you're compassionate, caring, and friendly to everyone – even if you're stressed or having a challenging day. Nursing is a career which involves multi-tasking, continual pressure and the need to problem solve fast.

On average, graduates with an Associate's Degree in Nursing can earn more than $30 an hour, and this has the potential to rise to $45 in time.

Nursing, Bachelor's

Those who are embarking onto a Bachelor of Nursing Degree are often already experienced and hard-working registered nurses who have been approved by their state board. In many cases, they are taking the extra responsibility of academia on board to better their prospects, enter leadership, and expand the role they play in treatment centers. As a result, those who become a BSN have better earning potential – especially if their school was reputable, and if the course was accredited by a nursing organization. For example, one hallmark that is worth looking for is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education – also known as CCNE.

Obviously, one challenge for any RN who is beginning to study is finding the time to cram it all in. That's why the nursing sector has a large proportion of courses that can be completed online – considerably more than in different subjects. You'll be able to find a starting time that suits you, at monthly intervals throughout the year, instead of having to wait for the fall.

This course can take a year-and-a-half or more, and it's going to help you become a strong leader in any healthcare workplace. You'll know how to perform, interpret and act upon research, act in an ethical manner, and embrace the changes and technological developments which affect the industry on a regular basis.

There is plenty of medical content to battle through as well. Just some of the areas you will study include microbiology, statistical analysis and genetics – so it helps to have a good head for math and science. You may also choose to major in a particular area of nursing that you haven't worked in before, such as caring for the elderly.

Nursing, Masters

If you want to make the transition from BSN, and cash in on your years of experience as a registered nurse, you might consider becoming an MSN – that is, a Master of Science in Nursing. This allows you to move away from treating patients on the frontline on a daily basis, and instead become a decision maker who is responsible for managing nursing departments in treatment centers, handling budgets, and making staffing decisions.

Most people go into a Masters in Nursing completely aware of their desired outcomes, including the specialty that they want to cover during the course. Some of the specialties available for you to consider include geriatrics, pediatrics, or managing healthcare systems. And, given how the US population is living for longer – meaning that there are more elderly people – deciding to focus on senior care could also be of great use.

Dependent on how much you're able to study around your work commitments, this Masters could take up to two years. Thankfully, all universities try to offer as much flexibility as possible in terms of where you study, and have invested heavily in providing a functional online interface where you can access recorded clips of lectures and seminars, as well as notes pertaining to your study.

The admissions requirements for a Master of Science in Nursing course should also give you food for thought. Many universities are interested in how well you performed during your Bachelor's Degree, and will only accept students who managed to complete their course to a high standard. In addition, you'll need several years of real-world nursing experience.

Nursing, Doctorate

Treating a patient and spending time with them individually to help them get better is immensely rewarding, and it's a feeling that stays with a nurse for a lifetime. However, what if you could actually have an influence on how an entire nursing division is run, and have the potential to benefit thousands of lives – including those of your colleagues? This is exactly the opportunity afforded to you by embarking on a Doctoral Program in Nursing.

A Ph.D. gives you the chance to see the industry you love from a whole new perspective, and just like the floor of a busy nursing station, there is an atmosphere built on teamwork when you are studying at a university at this level. You get to have roundtable discussions about the future of the industry, enjoy heated discussions, and bring together research from different experts in trying to formulate a better nursing sector for tomorrow's patients.

That said, in order to get admitted into a prestigious course, there's a lot of work to be done. You need to have excellent results in your previous Bachelor and Masters degrees. Also, it's nothing short of crucial that you have a clear understanding of the commitment you're about to undertake. Finally, many universities require you to submit a 1,000-word essay which shows your devotion to the sector, and explains why you're actively considering a Ph.D. in Nursing to begin with. Such a process is normally followed by an interview, where your CV will be reviewed and critiqued by a panel of experts, which sometimes include existing Ph.D. students.

Nursing, Certificate/Diploma

Normally, you're able to acquire a Diploma in Nursing while you are working in a healthcare organization. It's a document which testifies to the experience you have gained during employment, as well as the education and training that you would have received from your colleagues. Oftentimes, these qualifications can count towards a Bachelor's Degree if you decide to further your studies at a later date – however, you must make sure that is accredited by a specialist body beforehand.

Diplomas can be split into two clear categories – and the first covers the human anatomy as well as the key principles which nurses are expected to implement into their daily work. Secondly, you'll look at science from a wider perspective, as well as how to care for patients. It can take up to two years to complete this course, spanning four semesters.

Here's a list of the objectives for those who have completed a Diploma in Nursing:

  • Understand biological, behavioral and societal theories
  • Acknowledge how important it is to make careful judgments when dealing with patients and organizing treatment plans
  • Accept that you will be held accountable for your actions, and that you need to remain professional at all times
  • Provide care in an ethical manner, and always try to account for any cultural sensitivities that can arise during the working day
  • Develop a passion for continually developing your skills and achieving promotions
  • Understand your legal obligations as a nurse, especially when it comes to caring for vulnerable people