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Nursing Degree Guide: Certificates, Majors & Important Info You Need to Know

Nursing degree programs provide specialized education to individuals who want to become nurses and healthcare professionals. Get trained in the largest healthcare vocation in the U.S., significantly impacting patient care.

Nursing Degree Programs

Every year, thousands of students in the United States apply to nursing and healthcare programs. With the increased demand for care and a growing need for health professionals expected in the coming years, enrollment in these highly competitive programs will likely continue to grow.

Are you interested in any degree or certification in nursing?

We have all the information to help you choose a program relevant to your career objectives. We will provide a comprehensive review of each option to help you make an educated decision.

So let’s get into it.


What is a Nursing Degree?

A Nursing degree program is an academic program that certifies individuals who can provide essential nursing and healthcare services. Different nursing degree types permit individuals for different nursing degree jobs. 

They serve as licenses for a person to perform particular tasks and medical operations with higher degrees allowing for more sensitive interventions.

However, there are general responsibilities for nurses, guided by the generally accepted nursing definition of competency.

These programs usually require a practicum or internship where students get hands-on experience working in a healthcare setting. Through these experiences, you can apply what you have learned in class while gaining valuable insight into how healthcare systems operate daily. This experience is invaluable when it comes time to begin your career after graduation.

Pursuing a program in nursing or healthcare offers many benefits. You will gain an understanding of medical concepts and develop strong communication skills essential for any work in the healthcare industry.

You will also learn about patient advocacy which is an integral part of providing quality care for patients who need it most.

Lastly, pursuing one of these programs can open up potential job opportunities in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and more upon graduation!

Skills You'll Learn from a Nursing Degree

Nursing Degree Programs prepare students for various roles, from medical assistants to registered nurses. These programs equip students with the knowledge, skills, and experience they need to provide competent and compassionate patient care.

Through these programs, students learn essential critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, and collaboration skills.

Here are some of the top skills students will gain from nursing and healthcare programs:

  • Clinical reasoning & decision-making
  • Communication & teamwork
  • Patient assessment & vital signs monitoring
  • Disease management, prevention & health promotion
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical terminology, anatomy & physiology
  • Documentation techniques
  • Research & evidence-based practice
  • Professional ethics & legal responsibilities

Common Outcomes

Students who complete a nursing degree program will have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to care for people across their lifespans in various clinical settings.

This is an expansive field of study that offers the opportunity to explore a range of possible career paths, enabling students to unlock numerous professional opportunities such as:

  • becoming a registered nurse,
  • providing direct care in settings such as hospitals,
  • working as a healthcare administrator or manager,
  • advancing to leadership roles within the nursing and healthcare field.

In addition to helping students acquire the necessary training for their chosen careers, many programs also emphasize critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration — skills that can be applied in any organization or field. 

Finally, nursing degree programs also help students become life-long learners, enabling them to stay up-to-date with new developments in their area. This is essential for effective patient care and the overall success of an organization.

What types of specialties and concentrations can you find in Nursing Degree programs?

Nursing degree programs offer a variety of certificates and degrees with majors for those interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. Most nursing schools provide undergraduate and graduate-level degree options, with many offering certificates, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

Whether you’re looking for something entry-level like Medical Assisting or something more advanced like Nursing Informatics, there’s sure to be something that meets your needs!

It’s important to do your research when choosing which route you’ll take, but with so many options available, you’ll no doubt find something that fits your goals.

Registered Nurse (RN)

A Registered Nurse (RN) is a professional position that requires a minimum of an associate degree or Bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college or university. RNs are responsible for providing patient care and monitoring health conditions.

They may also be responsible for administering medications, educating patients about their conditions, and providing emotional support to family members.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse who has completed additional training and education beyond that required for an RN.

The NP program is usually offered at a graduate-level nursing degree, and NPs are independent providers who diagnose illnesses, treat injuries and chronic diseases, order tests, and prescribe medications. They often work alongside physicians in a team-based approach to patient care.

Medical Assistant

Medical Assistants provide administrative support to doctors and other health care practitioners by performing tasks such as scheduling appointments, updating medical records, filing insurance forms, preparing lab specimens for analysis, administering injections, and taking vital signs.

They typically have completed a certificate or diploma program from an accredited school or college.

Nursing Informatics

Nursing informatics is the science of how data is collected and used within healthcare settings to improve patient care outcomes.

Professionals with expertise in nursing informatics use their analytical skills to design systems that enable nurses to access patient data more quickly and accurately. A Bachelor’s degree in Nursing Science or Health Informatics is usually required for this role.

Nurse Educator

A Nurse Educator provides educational instruction to students in university-level nursing programs and continuing education courses for already practicing nurses.

This position requires a Master’s degree at minimum, with many nurse educators holding Doctoral degrees and certification as an Advanced Practice Nurse Educator (APNE).

What does the course curriculum look like in Nursing Degree Programs?

The courses available for nursing and healthcare students can vary depending on the program and institution.

However, there are some standard courses that all students can expect to take regardless of where they study.

Some sample courses include:

Physiology Course

Physiology is a course that focuses on studying organs and organ systems in humans and other organisms. It looks at how these organs work together to keep us healthy and how they can fail when we become ill or injured.

This course is ideal for those interested in becoming physical therapists, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, or doctors.

Understanding physiology is essential for healthcare professionals, as it helps ensure everyone utilizes the same language when discussing and diagnosing a patient’s body.

As this will guarantee clear communication and accurate medical notes, mastering physiology contributes to improved safety of patients and even better health outcomes.

Fundamentals of Nursing Practice Course

This course provides a fundamental understanding of nursing which is essential for anyone who wants to pursue a career in this field.

Students taking this course will learn about the principles of caregiving, how to use evidence-based practices, how to provide patient-centered care, and more.

This type of major provides an overview of the basics that every nurse should know before pursuing their specialty within nursing or healthcare.

Clinical Theory Course

Clinical theory is all about learning about the practice side of healthcare. Students who pursue this course focus on developing skills related to clinical trials, patient assessment methods, diagnostic testing methods, laboratory procedures, therapeutic treatments, patient safety protocols, and more.

Having a solid understanding of clinical theory will help future healthcare professionals provide safe and effective care to their patients.

Ethics Course

Being ethical forms an integral part of being a nurse or other healthcare professional, which is why ethics in nursing has its own course within this field.

This course looks at ethical considerations related to patient privacy laws, such as HIPAA regulations, as well as moral issues that can come up when caring for a patient with limited resources or providing end-of-life care.

It also covers topics like research ethics and organizational ethics so that students can gain an understanding of how they should act professionally while working in the medical field.

Population Health Course

The Population Health course, which serves as a culminating experience for students to gain in-depth knowledge of clinical and public health practices, is available to explore the intricate workings of healthcare systems.

Cases related to epidemiology, healthy behaviors, and social-ecological theories are discussed during this course; moreover, it focuses on promoting equitable health access across populations.

This course will provide you with a deeper understanding of the social elements influencing health and healthcare, including government policies, economic security, media representations related to well-being and sickness, as well as preventive community initiatives such as immunization.

Models for Health and Wellness Course

This course delves into the history and multiculturalism of health, healing, and wellness to create a holistic understanding. It delves into how evolving views on religion, philosophy, science, and psychology have shaped our comprehension of well-being and how international, social, and economic factors still impact medical care.

By examining the works of each significant proponent in health and wellness, you will gain an appreciation for various contemporary models. Additionally, you will create a unique wellness model utilizing the comprehension of current geopolitical and multicultural issues.

Nutritional Analysis and Assessment Course

This course provides a comprehensive overview of nutrition assessment, analysis, and interpretation. You will understand the implications of nutrition on health and how to use software tools to evaluate nutritional status.

The course also covers topics such as food composition tables, dietary assessment methods, epidemiological factors influencing diet, and nutrient-nutrient interactions. You will be able to interpret the data collected and use it to make informed decisions about nutrition-related health care, prevention of obesity and malnutrition, and other important lifestyle issues.

This course is essential for students interested in furthering their knowledge in nutrition or pursuing a career in this field.

Important to Know

It is essential for those considering a Nursing degree to be aware that the profession is highly regulated, and any other health science program – such as Medical Assisting – will not lead to becoming a Nurse.

In fact, these alternative programs will only enable you to enter the field of Medical Assisting, but no further than that. Achieving the dream of becoming a Nurse starts with enrolling in an accredited Nursing program.

Although some credits may transfer from other programs, pursuing one directly tailored to your ultimate career goal is best if you want to become a Nurse. 

Enrolling in an accredited Nursing program is the best way to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to become a Nurse. These rigorous curricula typically include courses such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, medical ethics, and more, and they often provide hands-on clinical experience or internships for the practical application of learned concepts.

With this comprehensive preparation, individuals can be fully prepared to practice nursing confidently when they graduate.

Therefore, if an individual’s goal is to become a Nurse, enrolling in a Nursing degree program is the best route to take.

Nursing Degree Programs: Career Outlook, Salary Potential & Positions

The healthcare industry is booming, and the demand for qualified health professionals continues to grow. Nurses and other healthcare practitioners are in high demand, making now a great time to consider enrolling in a nursing or healthcare program.

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that nursing and healthcare professions are exploding with opportunity.

It is predicted to grow 13% within the next decade, creating an incredible 2 million new jobs! Not only will there be a surge in job opportunities due to growth, but another amazing 1.9 million openings each year can be expected because of replacements for those who leave their occupations permanently – so now’s the time to take advantage of this incredible boom!

In May 2021, healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (such as registered nurses, physicians and surgeons, and dental hygienists) earned a median annual salary of $75,040 – an impressive sum compared to the overall median wage for all jobs at $45,760.

On the other hand, workers in healthcare support roles (e.g., home health aides, personal care assistants), occupational therapy assistants), medical transcriptionists) had a lower median salary of just under thirty thousand dollars ($29.880).

This still falls short when stacked against the generally accepted yearly income across professions – but it’s reassuring to know that helping others yields its rewards!

Below you will find a list of some of the most sought-after nursing and healthcare positions, along with their respective annual salaries.

Top Jobs you can get with Nursing Degree:

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care and educate patients and the public about various health conditions.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$77,600 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Medical Assistant

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in hospitals, offices of physicians, and other healthcare facilities.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$37,190 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners

Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty healthcare.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$123,780 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$30,290 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


*Please be advised that the average salary provided by the BLS may deviate significantly from state to state and occupation to occupation, depending on various factors.

Popular colleges with Nursing Degree Programs

If you are looking to jumpstart your career in the Health and Nursing industry, many top-notch educational institutions await. Whether it is a renowned university or a smaller college, there are plenty of options for those aspiring to enter this field.

These institutions are highly regarded for their excellent faculty, impressive state-of-the-art facilities, and comprehensive courses that combine educational theory with hands-on experience to equip students with the knowledge they need to succeed.

Johns Hopkins University

One of the country’s top nursing and healthcare colleges, John Hopkins University offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing and healthcare. Their world-renowned faculty provides both research-intensive education as well as hands-on clinical experience.

Duke University

Located in Durham, NC, Duke University is a highly respected institution that offers numerous healthcare and nursing degrees. Their faculty of experienced professionals provides a combination of classroom instruction and clinical experience to ensure students get the best possible education.

University of Pennsylvania

An Ivy League school in Philadelphia, PA, the University of Pennsylvania has been one of the most prestigious universities in the nation for decades. They offer a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing and healthcare, including a four-year BSN program.

University of California San Francisco

Based in the Bay Area, the UCSF School of Nursing is one of the top nursing schools in the world. It offers traditional BSN and advanced practice degrees and specialized courses in health policy, public health, and biobehavioral science.

University of Washington

Located in Seattle, WA, the UW School of Nursing is known for its excellence in teaching and research. It offers multiple undergraduate and graduate-level programs that focus on community-based care and a variety of specialty courses.

With its strong commitment to evidence-based practice, the UW School of Nursing is an excellent choice for aspiring healthcare professionals.

What you need to know about Accreditation

Programmatic Accreditation

Programmatic accreditation ensures students obtain a quality education in their desired field of study. Rather than reviewing the institution as a whole, programmatic organizations evaluate individual programs or offerings to guarantee they align with established standards and provide an adequate level of instruction within the specialty area.

*Our website proudly displays a reputable list of colleges and universities, all accredited by either renowned regional associations or highly respected national agencies that have been acknowledged by the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Featured Colleges

FAQ about Nursing Degree Programs

There are a variety of nursing and healthcare programs, including Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN), Doctoral Degree in Nursing Practice (DNP), Nurse Practitioner, Certified Nurse Midwife, and more.

Students may have access to online courses, academic advising services, clinical experiences, and financial aid options. In addition, several professional organizations support nursing students, including the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

Requirements typically vary by school but may include prerequisite courses, entrance exams, and other prerequisites such as a criminal background check or immunization records. Additionally, students should ensure that a reputable accrediting body accredits the program they are interested in.

Consider your interests and goals when selecting a program. Research different programs to determine which is best suited for you and meets your needs.

It is also essential to consider the cost, location of the school, and other factors such as accreditation and clinical experiences. Additionally, you can speak with a guidance counselor or admissions advisor at your school for more information about nursing programs.

The length of time it takes to complete a nursing degree depends on the type of degree being pursued and varies from two years (for an associate’s) up to eight years (for a master’s).

To practice as a nurse or healthcare professional, you will typically need to obtain a license or certification from your state’s board of nursing or department of health. Check with your state’s regulations for specific requirements.

Many colleges and universities offer scholarships and grants specifically for students pursuing degrees in nursing and healthcare. Additionally, you may be eligible for federal and state financial aid programs.

When selecting a nursing degree program, choose one accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Additionally, review each school’s curriculum to ensure they provide the most up-to-date education and training.


Nursing degree programs offer students opportunities to pursue rewarding careers with excellent salary potential.

If you are interested in becoming a nurse or working in another health-related profession, such as physical therapy or occupational therapy, then researching available programs is a great place to start! It is important to understand the career outlook and salary potential before you commit to any particular program to make an informed decision about which program best suits your needs.

With so many options available, it can be overwhelming—but with the right knowledge and research, you can find a program that meets your professional goals!

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The College Compass is reader-supported and committed to maintaining complete editorial independence. All views expressed are solely ours and are not influenced by any external party. We may include affiliate links in the article, which helps us earn a small commission to support our work. We always have a link to the source for any data or information we include. Learn more about our editorial practices.

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