We'll look at the differences between ADN, BSN, RN and many other degrees
There are many different pathways to becoming a nurse, and also many pathways to further your medical career after becoming a nurse. Whether you’re looking for your first experience in the field or hoping to specialize your care, it’s important to choose the right path to fit your goals, lifestyle and more.
From 1974 to today, the William Jewell College of Nursing has provided students from the Midwest and beyond with a practical nursing education. We offer four different Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs, each designed to provide students with exceptional learning experiences and set them up for success.
Maximize your previous experience, start a new journey or get one step closer to your dream career through the different types of nursing degree programs.
Types of nursing degrees
All types of nursing degrees require a combination of classroom education and hands-on clinical experience. Choosing which degree is best for you depends on the level of practice you desire, how much you want to specialize and where you would like to practice.
Associate Degree in Nursing
You can earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) in just two years. There are even some programs lasting just 18 months. After earning your ADN, you may sit for an exam to become a practicing nurse.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Depending on the program, you may earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in three or four years. Some advantages to earning a BSN over an ADN are:
- Better prepared for nursing licensure exams
- More competitive in the hiring process and able to earn more compensation
- Become more specialized in an area of nursing care
- Able to continue their education to earn a higher degree or more advanced position
Master of Science in Nursing
To earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), you must already have a BSN. Nurses with an MSN can work in advanced practice, where they may be able to see their own patients, perform more complex procedures and specialize in an area of care.
Doctor of Nursing Practice
A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest level of clinical nursing degree you can earn. As a DNP, you will expand your knowledge of clinical nursing practice, ethics, and healthcare policy to practice in a leadership role. For many, the goal of this career is to impact the field of nursing for good by bettering the healthcare delivery system and shaping new policies.
BSN programs at William Jewell
Every nursing program at William Jewell College of Nursing ends in a bachelor’s degree. No matter which program you choose, each of our nursing students leaves with a comprehensive education and hands-on clinical experience to prepare them for a career in nursing.
We designed our different types of nursing degree programs in response to a greater need. We consider both the healthcare system’s timely increase in demand for nurses and students’ desire to finish school quicker. Our specialized nursing program options allow students to choose to fast-track their undergraduate degree and sooner provide the healthcare industry with the support it needs.
Many other nursing programs across the country are responding to these modern needs by providing online resources for nursing education at the expense of hands-on clinical experience. It is important to note that a Bachelor of Science in Nursing cannot be earned through online curriculum alone; in-person experiential learning is essential to prepare students for a nursing career.
Each of our programs integrates critical thinking and processing skills, interpersonal experiential learning and a clinical environment to provide a well-rounded education in a customizable time frame. This is our response to the needs of our market, industry and students.
Traditional 4-year BSN program
Our traditional 4-year nursing program mirrors the structure of a traditional degree program at a university, with 124 required credit hours upon graduation. You’ll begin clinical rotations as a sophomore and complete over 650 hours of clinical and laboratory experience over the second half of the program.
In partnership with hospitals and care centers throughout Kansas City, William Jewell students will gain a wide variety of field experience in different areas of care, such as rural medicine, pediatrics and mental health.
Your work with patients as an undergraduate places an emphasis on the whole person. Your experienced professors and clinical instructors teach you real-world skills in understanding patient needs and exceeding care expectations.
Fast-track 3-year BSN program
Our 3-year nursing program comprises the same curriculum as our four-year track, including clinical rotations, but at a slightly accelerated pace. Over the course of your program, you will need to complete 124 credit hours total over the fall and spring sessions and at least one summer session. The suggested curriculum typically includes 18 credit hours per semester.
Because of the faster pace, 3-year nursing students can expect heightened course engagement and a more rigorous academic schedule. While there are abundant resources available to help you succeed, this program places an emphasis on accountability to the individual learner. This builds leadership skills and discipline that make William Jewell nursing students stand out in the career space.
Transfer nursing program
Our transfer nursing track is designed for students with previously completed coursework or partially completed degrees. Transfer students typically have the equivalent of two years of credits under their belt in general education courses like anatomy, biology, chemistry and others.
Depending on the program you’re transferring from, and how many credit hours you have, you may be folded into either the current four-year or three-year class. Our goal is always to match you with other students at a similar point in their curriculum, not to make you start over or separate you from other undergraduate nursing programs.
Accelerated nursing program
Our accelerated nursing program is designed for those who have a previously completed or soon-to-be completed bachelor’s degree. This type of nursing degree is a good fit if you are looking to change careers, enter a new field or explore a new passion.
An important thing to note is that our accelerated nursing program is not the equivalent of a four-year degree in two years. Because eligible students have already completed a bachelor’s degree or more, we are able to waive the general core requirements, which is what allows us to accelerate the program timeline.
There are two different accelerated nursing program options:
- A 12-month program beginning in May and ending the following May
- A 16-month program beginning in January and ending in May the following year
The 12-month option includes 53 credit hours of coursework and clinical hours while the 16-month program includes 58. You can apply for one program or another simply by indicating your preference on your application.
What you can do with the different types of nursing degrees
In addition to the different types of nursing degrees, there are different career opportunities you can pursue based on the degree you have. Titles of nursing professionals are hierarchical and indicate their level of education and experience.
Certified Nursing Assistant
Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) does not actually require any type of nursing degree. Instead, to become a CNA you must complete a state-specific training program, usually through a college, high school, vocational school or local hospital. These training programs typically last just 1-3 months and only require a high school diploma or GED to enter.
CNAs assist with daily patient care, like turning, bathing, feeding and more, under the direct supervision of a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN). CNAs may also help with collecting vitals, dressing wounds and assisting with procedures for patients with more complex care needs.
Licensed Practical Nurse
You also don’t need a nursing degree to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Also called a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), becoming an LPN is a great entry-level position for people to dip their toes into the nursing field or work in the field while they earn their degree.
Roles and responsibilities of LPNs are similar to the daily duties of a CNA. Because they have further training, LPNs may also perform smaller procedures like inserting a catheter or administering medication.
To become an LPN, you must complete a year-long practical nursing program from an accredited school and then take and pass the National Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to earn your official license and begin practicing.
As a Registered Nurse (RN) you are responsible for direct patient care, including administering treatments and medications, overseeing daily care, educating the family on treatment protocols and more. RNs receive training to recognize irregularities in vital signs and physical exams.
A big part of being an RN is collaborating with the doctor and others in the medical team to provide the patient with the highest level of physical and emotional care. They are the executors of the patient’s long- and short-term care plan and must coordinate with professionals above and below them to prioritize the patient’s comfort.
An RN can practice in a variety of medical environments, including hospitals, schools, clinics, offices, nursing homes and other facilities. As an RN, you also have the opportunity to work in specialized spaces in fields like orthopedics, pediatrics and surgery.
To become an RN, you must first earn your ADN or BSN, then take and pass an exam called the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
About the NCLEX
The NCLEX exam uses computer adaptive testing (CAT). This style of virtual testing provides a more accurate and valuable measurement of a candidate’s true ability by reducing the number of “easy” or “difficult” items as the test continues. Essentially, the test optimizes itself to your ability level as it continues.
While you can sit for the NCLEX-RN and work as a registered nurse with just an associate degree, earning your BSN affords you an advantage in the hiring market. Additionally, those with BSNs also earn higher pay and have more opportunities for leadership and management. Many states also require that you earn a BSN degree within 10 years of becoming an RN if you pass the NCLEX exam without it.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
An Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) represents the highest level of clinical nursing you can achieve without a doctorate degree.
APRNs specialize in their fields and achieve their status by earning an MSN, including specialty clinical hours, and passing a national certification exam. The certification exam necessary will depend on the type of APRN and area of specialty. APRNs also must apply and become licensed in their state of practice.
There are four different types of APRNs:
- Certified Nurse Midwife
While nurse-midwives are able to provide gynecological care for women throughout their lifespan, their primary focus is reproductive care. Nurse-midwives provide prenatal, delivery and postpartum care for women and can even assist with newborn care in the first few weeks of life.
- Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners (NPs) provide a more autonomous level of care with a focus in primary care or a specialty area like women’s health or dermatology. NPs can see their own patients for direct patient care, diagnose illnesses and write prescriptions.
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are trained to provide anesthetic care during surgery, childbirth, and procedures requiring conscious sedation. Depending on the state where CRNAs practice, they may work under direct physician supervision.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) primarily work as educators and consultants in their area of expertise. They may advise people on hospital unit management or patient care protocols in their chosen area. CNSs may focus on a patient population, like children, or a type of care, such as intensive care or end-of-life care.
Start your path to a nursing degree at William Jewell College
Apply for free to one of our leading BSN programs today to experience the William Jewell difference and earn your nursing degree. With four different program options, exceptional faculty and on-campus student resources, there is a place for every student to excel and succeed.
If you have questions, reach out to our department chair, Dr. Leesa McBroom, and her dedicated nursing admission staff at email@example.com.