What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Types of Nursing Degrees: Which One is Best for You?

Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?

See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.

Show me what areas I need to improve

What’s Covered:


Thinking about a career in nursing? It’s a great choice if you are interested in a healthcare position. There will always be a need for nurses and the long-term prospects for work in this career field are strong.


CollegeVine is here to help you navigate the entire process, from high school to your nursing career! We’ve put together information on the various types of nursing degrees, the work they do, the coursework needed, and base salary information to get you on your way.


Levels of Nursing Degrees


Certified Nursing Assistant/Licensed Nursing Assistant


Nursing assistants work closely with their patients and provide assistance with daily tasks. In many states, high school students can take the certification course and begin working part-time in a hospital or long-term care facility. Nursing assistants typically earn around $15 per hour.




Licensed Practical Nurses provide hands-on care and work under the direction of a Registered Nurse. LPNs take and record patient vitals, assist with bathing and other personal care, and administer prescribed medications. It requires passing a two-year LPN course at a technical school or a community college. Average LPN salaries are around $48,000. 


Registered Nurse


Registered Nurses work closely with physicians to direct nursing assistants and LPNs in carrying out a patient’s care plan. Registered Nurses work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and many other settings. The median salary for RNs is more than $75,000. Registered Nurses can hold a two-year associate’s degree from a technical or community college or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The BSN is a four-year degree offering wider career opportunities and increased salary. 


Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners


Nurse Practitioners have additional nursing education that allows them to diagnose and treat patients as well as prescribe medications. Depending on the state, they may or may not be under the supervision of a physician. NPs are required to have a BSN and will complete a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice in order to become a practitioner. On average, nurse practitioners earn around $118,000 annually. APNPs specialize in any number of fields such as anesthesiology, primary care, psychiatry, and oncology.


Typical Pathways to Becoming a Nurse


Becoming a Registered Nurse: 


Students can immediately apply to a nursing program at a technical school, community college, or a program at a college or university. 


However, it’s quite common for RNs to begin as CNAs or LPNs and then continue their education to become an RN. This path can be done at a technical school or a community college. These programs combine classroom instruction with hands-on learning. An Associate Registered Nurse is an RN who has completed a two-year nursing program and earned an associate’s degree. The jump in annual salary between a nursing assistant and an LPN is a strong incentive to take the step to become an LPN. However, Registered Nurses are paid significantly more than LPNs and assistants. 


Others may choose to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through an accredited program offered by a college or university. Students may enroll with or without any previous nursing education. Getting a four-year bachelor’s degree in any field is an investment of time and money, but it will pay off significantly. 


Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.


Becoming an Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner:


Nurse Practitioners begin with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and earn a Master’s of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice. For those who are interested in working in the medical field, but who are not sure about committing to the path to becoming a physician, advanced practice nursing is an option worth considering. APNPs can provide a wide range of primary and specialty care. Some of the fields in demand for nurse practitioners include family care, neonatal care, pediatrics, and psychiatric mental health. 


Advanced nurse practitioners are being hired in healthcare settings for being able to provide quality healthcare at a lower cost to patients. Because of this, the need for APNPs will continue to grow and so will their compensation!


What High School Students Should Do To Prepare for a Career in Nursing


Get started on the path to your nursing career in high school. A diploma is required for all positions except for the nursing assistant position which requires training that can be taken in high school. Regardless of where you want to be in your career, doing well in your core classes, taking advanced placement courses, especially in math and science, is important. It shows that you are willing to put in the work to be successful and that you have the analytical thinking skills to excel in the nursing field. If you are interested in getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, you will also want to do well on the SAT/ACT.


Begin exploring the levels of nursing degrees and compiling a list of schools


Check out our free college admissions chancing calculator to learn how to increase your chances of getting admitted to your preferred colleges. Talk with nurses you know personally and learn about their career path. Get to know as much as you can about the profession overall. Registered Nurses and Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners can specialize in a wide variety of areas and medical settings. A few examples include emergency nursing, intensive care, surgical nursing, and women’s health.



Take math and science courses


Include STEM courses such as anatomy, biology, and chemistry, calculus or statistics, in your high school schedule. Take challenging AP courses in these subjects and others like psychology. Doing well in these subjects shows admission professionals that you are prepared to be successful. If your school does not offer advanced courses in these subjects, show some initiative and look for free resources online or courses through a local community college!


Join clubs or groups for students who are interested in medical careers 


Check out medical internships you can do as a high school student to learn more about the field of healthcare. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities have explorer-type programs for high school students that provide information about careers in medicine. See if there is such a program offered in your area and get involved!


Consider becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant


In some states, you can do this as early as age 16 and work part-time gaining hands-on experience in the field of nursing. The pathway from CNA to Registered Nurse is a popular choice for many and has several benefits. 


High school is the time to begin thinking about careers and continuing education. Learn more about nursing schools and explore the schools you are most interested in. 


At any level, nurses and nursing assistants are in high demand with many employment opportunities and chances to advance. It’s an excellent career option for those who are interested in caring for people of all ages. The field of nursing is incredibly accessible and open to a variety of pathways to a long and successful career. 

Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.


Short Bio
An alum of the University of Iowa, Laura majored in political science with a related field of psychology. She's worked in the non-profit sector throughout her career. She writes from her home in Iowa surrounded by cornfields and prairies.