For nurses already in the workforce, pursuing further education online has become a great way to advance their careers affordably and with the flexible scheduling they need. While there are many different types of online degrees, there are three options in particular for working nurses:
1. Bachelor of Science in Nursing
2. Master of Science in Nursing
3. Doctor of Nursing Practice
Below, we’ll walk you through these three degrees, explain how they differ, and show how they can lead into each other as you continue to advance your career in nursing.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
For working nurses who began their careers with an associate degree and become an RN, online BSN programs, such as our RN to BSN nursing degree, provide the opportunity to pursue better, more diverse opportunities. This degree deepens your knowledge and approach to care, while also preparing you for more specialized roles and leadership positions.
Online RN to BSN programs are usually completed within two years, and require an ADN, RN diploma, or a bachelor’s in another field to apply. As an added benefit, some programs allow you to use your existing job as the required clinical experience.
After earning your BSN, you can expect the average salary of $78,000 per year.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
An online MSN degree is the next step for those who’ve earned a BSN and want to open up further advancement opportunities and continue honing their specialized knowledge in areas such as pediatrics, orthopedics, oncology, mental health, and more. Holding an MSN can help you gain more autonomy on the job, leverage better hours, and influence the policies and care practices of your hospital.
MSN programs generally require a BSN degree and RN license to apply, and usually take up to two years to complete. While a small number of programs allow you to apply with just an ADN, it can be very difficult to complete an MSN degree without the experience gained from a BSN.
With an MSN degree, you can expect increased in earnings, with an average salary of $91,000 per year.
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
A DNP is the highest level of nursing degree available, and unlike nursing PhDs (which prepare you for teaching at a university), a DNP is practice-focused. This degree is the final step for nurses looking to master their care practices, become more independent, and even start providing primary care. Nurses can also use this degree to leverage more influence as an administrator, executive, or health policy specialist.
Online DNP programs require at least a BSN to apply. BSN to DNP programs usually take 4-6 years as a part-time student, but if you already have an MSN, you can earn your DNP in 2-3 years. After earning a DNP, you can expect an average salary of $103,000 per year.