How to Major in Nursing
Majoring in nursing can qualify you for an extremely varied set of career opportunities. Read on to find out more on what you can expect as a Nursing Major.
With a degree in nursing, you could work in a doctor’s office, emergency room, mental health facility, or even provide in-home support to patients. You can specialize in anesthetics, radiology, rehabilitation, and an almost limitless array of other healthcare areas. You also have tremendous opportunities for advancement from Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), to Registered Nurse (RN), to Nurse Practitioner (NP), and even Doctor of Nursing (DNP). Though nursing is a highly varied field, these positions all have one major element in common. The best candidates are those who are caring, compassionate, and dedicated to helping others.
If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Nursing.
Or read on to find out what you can expect as a nursing major.
5 Reasons to Major in Nursing
1.Nursing majors learn critical thinking.
Working in a healthcare setting requires a combination of scientific thinking, ethical practice, and human empathy. Sometimes, a nurse must summon this combination under high-pressure circumstances. As a nursing major, you’ll refine your critical thinking skills and you’ll learn how to use these skills to make consequential care and treatment decisions in real time.
2.Nursing majors get an interdisciplinary education.
Nursing brings together elements of medical science, psychology, chemistry, and more. Your nursing major will incorporate the sciences and humanities into a well-rounded educational experience, one that provides you with a valuable array of professional qualifications and life skills.
3.Nursing majors get hands-on experience.
As a nursing major, you will be required to complete both laboratory and clinical elements as part of your degree program. This will give you a chance to practice your skills in a real-world setting while observing working professionals and interacting with actual patients. Nursing majors enter the field with workplace experience already under their belts.
4.Nursing majors have an opportunity to help others.
Nursing requires patience, compassion, and stamina. Nursing is a uniquely challenging and emotionally demanding profession. But it’s also an extremely rewarding profession, one in which you’ll have the chance to provide comfort to those in pain, relief to those who are ill, and support to families in their moment of need. Your nursing degree can put you on a direct path to making a positive difference in the lives of others.
5.Nursing majors are influential.
Nurses play a critical role in shaping and improving the treatment strategies and philosophies of care in use today. This means that leaders, researchers, and innovators in the field have a direct impact on our everyday experiences in the healthcare system. Today, top influencers in nursing are breaking new ground in Nurse Practitioner Programs, primary nursing, oncology nursing, and more.
Find out who the Most Influential People are in Nursing today!
What Kinds of Nursing Degrees Are There?
The type of nursing degree you pursue will depend largely on the position you hope to hold as a nursing professional. Your eligibility for certain roles will depend directly upon your completion of certain degree levels as well as your passage of qualifying exams. For instance, if you wish to become a registered nurse, you absolutely must earn, at a minimum, an associate’s degree in nursing. In order to become a nurse practitioner, you would need to earn a master’s degree. Below are the most noteworthy nursing degree types:
- Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Certificate: This state-approved certification program will take anywhere between 6 weeks and 6 months to earn, and includes a qualifying exam upon completion. You’ll learn foundational nursing principles and qualify to work as a frontline healthcare assistant, supporting nurse work by helping patients with basic functions like bathing, eating, and exercising. While not technically a nursing degree, this certification can be a strong starting point on the way to a degree program, as well as a great way to get hands-on experience.
- Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN) Certificate: The LPN/LVN is typically a 12-month diploma program, usually offered by a community college or professional school. In order to become a working LPN, you will be required to pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX), which will then qualify you to perform a number of patient duties including monitoring patient vitals, changing bandages, and addressing other elements of external care.
- Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN): This two-year degree is the minimum threshold for becoming a registered nurse (RN). RNs typically perform the full scope of nursing duties from recording medical history and monitoring patient health to administering medicine and contributing to a patient’s plan of care. In order to become a registered nurse, you will also need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) in addition to any state-specific requirements. This is a popular starting point if you plan to become an RN. Note that many healthcare settings may prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree, but that earning an ADN can be a great way to get started on the path toward your bachelor’s degree.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): This four-year degree will qualify you to work as a registered nurse, once you’ve successfully completed your National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), as well as any state-specific requirements. Though you can become an RN with an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree can elevate your candidacy for nursing leadership roles. Some healthcare settings may also offer support to nurses with associate’s degrees to enroll into RN-to-BSN degree programs.
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): An advanced degree in nursing, which typically takes up to two years to earn, can qualify you for the specialized roles of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), or nurse practitioner (NP). These positions provide nursing professionals with many of the same responsibilities as a doctor—such as ordering tests, diagnosing conditions, and referring patients to specialists—alongside the bedside manner and support training specific to nursing.
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): Earning a doctoral degree in nursing typically takes between three and five years, and will qualify you to lead research in the field of nursing as well as teach as a full professor at the post-secondary level.
*Note: Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings. “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.
What Are Some Popular Nursing Concentrations?
Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, which lists Nursing concentrations under the umbrella of Health Services/Allied Services/Health Sciences, General, the following are among the most popular Nursing concentrations:
- Nursing/Registered Nurse (RN, ASN, BSN, MSN)
- Nursing/Administration (MSN, MS, PhD)
- Adult Health Nurse/Nursing
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Family Practice Nurse/Nurse Practitioner
- Maternity/Child Health and Neonatal Nurse/Nursing
- Nursing Science (MS, PhD)
- Psychiatric Nurse/Nursing
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Emergency Room/Trauma Nursing
What Courses Will I Take as a Nursing Major?
Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a nursing major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Anatomy and Nursing Ethics. But you will also have an opportunity to take courses within an area of specialization, based largely upon the healthcare setting or area of medicine where you hope to practice nursing.
Common Nursing courses include:
- Nursing Fundamentals
- Mental Health Counseling
- Community and Environmental Health
- Clinical Nursing
- Nursing Leadership
- Women’s Health Issues
What Can I Do With a Major in Nursing?
Majoring in nursing can lead you into a wide variety of healthcare settings, and into any number of areas in clinical treatment, healthcare administration, or research. You have numerous options, and your degree program can help you hone in on the path that feels most suited to your skills and interests. As you consider career prospects, be sure that you know the degree requirements specific to your desired role. With the proper education and credentials, your nursing major can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:
- Registered Nurses
- Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
- Nursing Assistants and Orderlies
- Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
- Medical and Health Services Managers
- Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary
Curious how far you could go with a major in nursing? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!***
Check out The Most Influential Schools in Nursing and get started on your path to a nursing degree.