Blog » More Nurses Getting Advanced Degrees

More Nurses Getting Advanced Degrees

Created Mar 22 2015, 08:00 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing
  • IOM
  • BSN
  • DNP
  • Institute of Medicine
  • AACN
  • MSN
  • nursing
  • nursing education

Monday, March 23, 2015
More Nurses Getting Advanced Degrees

Nursing enrollment in baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral programs has increased significantly in recent years. Infact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) just released data that shows the greatest gains are in baccalaureate degree-completion programs and the practice-focused doctorate. AACN’s 2014 survey data revealed enrollment growth at all levels, including students in entry-level baccalaureate programs and RN-to-BSN programs.

While a diploma, an associate's degree, and a bachelor's of science degree in nursing all qualify a candidate for licensure, there are distinct differences in the programs: nursing diplomas are usually awarded by hospitals, an associate degree is granted by a two-year community or junior college, and a bachelor's degree is earned at a four-year college or university.

Realizing that an RN license alone is not enough in today's healthcare environment, many are opting for a BSN, both new students and those looking to build on their initial education at the diploma or associate degree level.

Some nurses are taking their education even further:

A Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) prepares graduates to be advanced practitioners in the healthcare system, serving as clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, nurse administrators, nurse educators, and nurse researchers.

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) prepares graduates as clinical experts set to lead innovation and improvement in nursing practice and health care. DrNP is a hybrid degree that combines advanced clinical practice and academic research.

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in nursing prepares nurse scientists for careers particularly in research intensive environments. Graduates of a doctoral program hold leadership and research positions in academia, government, health systems and industry.

Advanced degrees in nursing are not just a luxury; they are becoming a requirement. Several states have proposed legislation requiring all registered nurses obtain their bachelor's of science degree within 10 years of initial licensure, and many hospitals have implemented a BSN requirement for nursing staff.

The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Future of Nursing report makes recommendations to increase the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree to 80 percent and to double the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020.

Nurses have many options to choose from to meet their career needs and goals. Whether you are a nursing student, a recent nursing school graduate, or a nurse thinking about continuing your education, there's no lack of nursing education opportunities.

If you have a BSN or higher, what influenced your decision to obtain an advanced degree?


  • I entered the nursing profession with a baccalaureate degree in 1983 and began work in an acute care hospital. I registered for my first MSN class in the fall of 1983, inspired by peers at work who were continuing their education. It took 5 years to complete my MSN. I returned to school in 1983 because I was in the habit of taking classes, I attended classes with friends, the hospital I worked for had a tuition reimbursement program, my parents were supportive of continued education, and I felt increased education would allow me employment options.

    Seventeen years later I went back to school for an EdD, I plan to complete my capstone research and graduate within the next 12 months. I returned to school because I had the support of peers at work, the institution I work for has a generous tuition reimbursement program, and a terminal degree will allow me employment options in the academic setting.

    For me, the decision to return to school has involved social support, economic support, and increased opportunity for employment advancement.
    Thanks for the read,

  • It is so lucky for you that your career allowed you to do this! I graduated with a BSN in '80. My plan always was to continue. I started taking graduate classes in 1982 but had married and my then-spouse's career moved us away from the school I hoped to attend. Took the GREs more times than I want to count. But then supported family through their education and now am too old (approaching 60) and tired to try to go for a degree even part time. I have taken graduate courses here and there with the hope to make it work, but just don't think it is going to happen in this lifetime. Plus I still struggle with the programs - I do not want to be an NP....maybe I need to think about an on-line degree. I always advise young colleagues to try to get their MSN before they get married and start a family if they can!