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2020 Nursing Degree Guide

If you would like to help treat, examine, and heal patients, consider a degree in nursing. A career as a nurse allows you to have face-to-face interaction with people in need; you are on the front-lines in preventing disease, fighting illness and promoting healing.

Nursing students work closely with many patients to perform physicals, administer treatments, aid in diagnostic testing, and provide basic needs, among many other tasks. Classes in biology, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, psychology, and behavioral science prepare nurses to work in a variety of locations aiding doctors and assisting patients.

Nursing is a broad field and has many areas of specialization available to students. For example, students can choose a major in Registered Nursing or Nursing Administration. Depending on your interest, your studies can also focus on adult health, anesthesia, family practice, maternal and neonatal, midwifery, public health, surgery, critical care, geriatric care and more.

A Spike in Nursing Degrees

In 2017-2018, nursing was the 3rd most popular major nationwide with 293,633 degrees awarded. This represents a 3.5% increase in nursing degrees awarded over the prior year's total of 283,388.

There are 1,126 schools offering degrees in nursing in the United States. Our 2020 Best Colleges for Nursing ranking analyzes 518 of these schools to determine the best overall colleges for nursing students. Continue reading to check out one of our many unbiased rankings of nursing programs later in this article.

What Are The Requirements For a Degree in Nursing

Since nurses work closely with patients, it is important to have strong interpersonal and communication skills. Nurses must give patients information and keep them calm during procedures and exams. Compassion and sympathy will help you sympathize with patients and make them more comfortable. Additional skills that are required for a career in nursing are analytical and critical thinking, detail-orientation, and patience.

The majority of Nursing graduates work in hospitals, however some also work in medical clinics and schools. Since the public needs health services 24/7, nurses may be required to work at night, on the weekends, and during holidays. They often work rotating shifts so they have time off to rest.

While a bachelor's degree or certification will allow nurses to pursue successful careers in nursing, some students go on to receive a graduate degree. This advanced degree allows nurses to advance to administration positions or conduct research.

Getting Accepted Into a Nursing Program

New students will need to have completed high school or a GED program and each school will have their own minimum GPA and SAT/ACT test requirements. Once you obtain your degree, additional nursing certifications required to pursue a career in this field.

Nursing Degree Types

There are various different levels of nursing degrees. Nursing programs offered by schools range from a first year certificate to a professional practice doctorate, which is the highest nursing degree you can get. The time it takes to complete a nursing degree varies depending on the program.

Degree Credit Requirements Typical Program Length
Associate Degree 60-70 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 50-70 credits 1-3 years
Doctorate Program required coursework including thesis or dissertation At least 4 years

A master's degree is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to nursing, with approximately 46.7% of workers getting one. See the the most common levels of education for nursing workers below.

Level of Education Percentage of Workers
Master’s Degree 48.2%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 17.9%
Bachelor’s Degree 16.4%
Doctoral Degree 6.1%
Post-Master’s Certificate 5.3%

60.1% of nursing workers have at least a master's. View the chart below to get an idea of what degree level most of those in nursing careers have.


This of course varies depending on which nursing career you choose.

Career Opportunities for Nursing Majors

Nurses have jobs in many different locations including hospitals, medical centers, schools, the armed forces, corporations, and private medical practices. They teach classes, give medical exams, and update patient information in many settings. Nurses are an important part of the work force and find jobs in almost every area of the medical field.

Due to the aging population and increase in preventative care services, the Nursing occupation is a good profession to be in.

High Growth Projected for Nursing Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your nursing degree? Nursing careers are expected to grow 16.5% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to nursing.

Occupation Name Projected Jobs Expected Growth
Registered Nurses 3,393,200 14.8%
Medical and Health Services Managers 424,300 20.5%
Nurse Practitioners 211,600 36.1%
Nursing Instructors and Professors 84,200 24.0%
Nurse Anesthetists 48,600 16.3%

Nursing Degree Salary Potential

Recently graduated nursing students earned an average of $66,994 in 2017-2018. Earnings can range from as low as $5,800 to as high as $188,500. As you might expect, salaries for nursing graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


High Paying Careers for Nursing Majors

Salaries for nursing graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top 5 highest paying careers nursing grads often go into.

Occupation Name Median Average Salary
Nurse Anesthetists $174,790
Medical and Health Services Managers $113,730
Nurse Practitioners $110,030
Nurse Midwives $106,910
Nursing Instructors and Professors $81,350

Getting Your Nursing Degree

With over 5,841 different nursing degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased nursing school rankings to help you with this.

Nursing is one of 34 different types of Health Professions programs to choose from.

Related Major Annual Graduates
Allied Health & Medical Assisting Services 104,465
Practical Nursing & Nursing Assistants 90,916
Health & Medical Administrative Services 87,058
Allied Health Professions 86,125
Public Health 34,089

View All Nursing Related Majors >


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