What Are the Levels of Nursing Degrees?

Each blog post is dated and contains accurate information as of that date. Certain information may have changed since the blog post publication date. If you would like to confirm the current accuracy of blog information, please visit our ABSN overview page or contact admissions at (866) 891-1371.

What are the types of nurses and levels of nursing degrees? Nurses can be categorized by non-degree, degree, or graduate degree. Non-degree nurses include Certified Nursing Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses, and degreed nurses are Registered Nurses. Graduate degree nurses include Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.

nurse leader meeting

Effective nurses are dedicated, lifelong learners. Long after you earn your nursing degree, you must commit to staying on top of the latest developments in your specialty area by reading medical journals and taking continuing education courses. You may also head back to school at some point to further your nursing education more formally, as a graduate degree can enable you to climb to the next level of nursing.

What are the levels of nursing and the levels of nursing degrees? You can explore the different levels of nursing here. When you’re ready to take the first step toward your nursing career, Concordia University Texas will help you navigate the journey. Our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) track enables you to earn your undergraduate nursing degree in as few as 16 months upon successful completion of prerequisites.

As you begin planning your intended career pathway, it can be helpful to develop a working knowledge of the different levels of nursing and types of nurses. What are the types of nurses? Nurses can be categorized in several ways, such as their nursing specialty area or workplace setting. For the purposes of discussing the levels of nursing degrees, we’ll categorize nurses by education level.

nurse with forensic tools

Beyond the general categories of nurses, there are plenty of specialization possibilities. Explore these 11 non-bedside nursing jobs you can pursue.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

A certified nursing assistant is a non-degree professional. They may sometimes hold job titles like nursing assistant or nursing aide. CNAs work in hospitals, nursing homes, other residential care facilities, and home healthcare agencies.

A CNA provides basic care to patients, the elderly, and disabled individuals, helping them with the activities of daily living (ADLs). For example, a CNA can:

  • Help patients eat
  • Bathe and groom patients
  • Help patients use the toilet
  • Measure vital signs
  • Record and report health concerns or changes

The specific regulations vary from state to state, but in some states, CNAs are also allowed to dispense medications.

To become a CNA, a person must complete a state-approved CNA education program and pass a competency exam. In some states, CNAs need licensure or certification.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

A licensed practical nurse or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is a step up from a CNA on the different levels of nursing. However, an LPN does need a nursing degree. LPNs can provide basic medical care in a variety of settings, including hospitals, residential care facilities, private homes, and physicians’ offices.

A LPN’s specific job responsibilities will often depend on their workplace setting. In general, however, they may do any of the following:

  • Keep track of patients’ health by checking vital signs
  • Maintain patients’ health records
  • Deliver basic medical care, such as wound care and assistance with ADLs
  • Collect samples for lab tests
  • Assist with patient and family caregiver education
  • Administer medications

LPNs often work under the supervision of a registered nurse or doctor, although supervision requirements vary by state.

ABSN student in sim lab holding chart folder

To become an LPN, you must complete a state-approved education program. These typically take a year and usually result in a certificate or diploma, not a degree. LPNs must obtain licensure by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Some LPNs may further their credentials by obtaining certifications, such as in wound care, basic life support (BLS), and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Registered Nurse (RN)

A registered nurse is the type of nursing professional people generally think of upon hearing the word “nurse”. RNs provide direct patient care and patient education. However, there are also non-bedside jobs for RNs, such as careers in research, public health, advocacy, and forensic nursing. RNs work in various settings — from hospitals and outpatient facilities to government agencies, schools, theme parks, and cruise ships. You can even find RNs working from home as telemedicine nurses.

An RN’s job responsibilities vary considerably, depending on their work setting and specialty area. In general, they may do any of the following:

  • Conduct patient assessments, take medical histories, and record symptoms
  • Administer medications and treatments
  • Develop care plans in collaboration with physicians and specialists
  • Set up and operate medical equipment
  • Place IV lines, insert catheters, and perform wound care
  • Deliver patient and family caregiver education

Becoming an RN requires a degree and licensure. Some RNs complete an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), while others earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Generally, healthcare employers prefer to hire BSN-prepared nurses because in-depth education improves patient outcomes. In addition to earning a degree, an aspiring RN must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to obtain state licensure.

CTX ABSN student in purple scrubs

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)

An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) has taken the next step beyond becoming an RN. An aspiring APRN must earn a graduate degree and obtain certification in their specialty area. Previously, an MSN was acceptable to become an APRN. However, the healthcare field is rapidly shifting to recognizing a DNP as the minimum requirement to become an APRN.

There are four main types of APRNs:

  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
  • Certified nurse midwife (CNM)
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Nurse practitioner (NP)

APRNs possess advanced nursing knowledge and training in a specialty, such as a medical condition or patient population. APRNs play a key role in the healthcare field by doing a variety of tasks:

  • Advising the public and individual patients about health issues
  • Diagnosing and treating acute illnesses and conditions
  • Helping patients manage chronic conditions
  • Providing preventive care services

CRNAs have a very narrowly focused specialty: delivering anesthesia and pain management to patients undergoing surgery.

nurse wearing red scrubs

Do you want to learn more about pursuing the APRN credential? Check out this blog on how to become an advanced practice nurse in 7 steps.

Nurse Managers and Healthcare Administrators

When considering the different levels of nursing and the levels of nursing degrees, it’s worth looking at positions that take nurses away from the bedside. Some nurses decide to step into managerial or administrative roles.

For example, a healthcare administrator is responsible for directing and coordinating the activities of a hospital department, medical practice, or an entire hospital. They may establish a budget, train staff members, and ensure regulatory compliance. Healthcare administrators typically need a bachelor’s degree, although some employers require a master’s. Aspiring administrators should seek a graduate degree with a concentration in healthcare leadership or management.

A nurse manager is responsible for directing and overseeing a team of nurses who provide direct patient care. They provide day-to-day supervision, manage the department’s budget, and act as a liaison between their nurses and other staff members. A nurse manager is generally an RN with clinical experience and an MSN. Nurse managers need excellent business-related organizational and management skills.

CTX nursing students standing in simulation lab

Begin Your Career at Concordia University Texas

When you’re ready to begin a rewarding career in nursing, the friendly admissions team at Concordia University Texas is here to guide you through the application process from start to finish. Your dedicated admissions counselor will develop a personalized plan to help you meet the admissions requirements, complete your prerequisites, and get started toward earning your nursing degree.

Contact our admissions team today and take the first step in the next chapter of your professional career.