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2021 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 Recent Jump in Nursing Degrees

#3 Most Popular Major
298k Degrees Awarded
3.7% Increase in Graduates

In 2018-2019, nursing was the 3rd most popular major nationwide with 297,747 degrees awarded. This represents a 3.7% increase in nursing degrees awarded over the prior year's total of 286,632.

Approximately 1,978 colleges in the U.S. offer a nursing degree of some kind. This year's Best Colleges for Nursing ranking compares 723 of them to identify the best overall programs in the country. Continue reading to check out one of our many unbiased rankings of nursing programs later in this article.

Nursing Degree Requirements

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.

Prior Education for a Nursing Program

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for most nursing degree programs and many students will need a minimum GPA and SAT/ACT score depending on the school. In addition to these basic nursing program qualifications, to serve in some nursing careers, special certification may be required outside of your degree.

Nursing Degree Types

There are many different nursing degree levels. Nursing programs offered by schools range from a to a , which is the highest nursing degree you can get. Nursing programs can take anywhere between one to four or more years for a full-time student to complete.

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. People currently working in careers related to nursing tend obtained the following education levels.

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%

About 60.1% of workers in careers related to nursing obtain at least master's degrees. The chart below shows what degree level those who work in nursing have obtained.


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

Career Opportunities for A Degree In Nursing Graduate

Above Average Number of Jobs
$67k Average Starting Salary
16% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

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%

How Much Money Do People With a Nursing Degree Make?

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 4,669 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.

Study Areas in Nursing

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

Majors Similar to Nursing

Related Major Annual Graduates
Allied Health Professions 50,338
Health & Medical Administrative Services 48,644
Public Health 34,192
Allied Health & Medical Assisting Services 30,460
Rehabilitation & Therapeutic Professions 27,972

View All Nursing Related Majors >


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