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Understanding the Levels of Nursing Degrees

Are you interested in becoming a nurse but feel overwhelmed by the thought of all the nursing credentials and qualifications required? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. As a current or prospective nursing student, it can be challenging to make sense of all the different types of available credentials for nurses that you can pursue.

To help guide your decision-making, we’ll provide an overview of the various levels of nursing degrees required to practice within the field. From licensure to certifications relevant to specialized areas—like IV therapy or advanced cardiac life support — we’re giving you all the info necessary to reach your future career goals as a nursing professional.

What are the Types of Nursing Credentials?

If you’re a nursing student or a veteran professional looking to expand your skills and expertise, there are numerous ways to accomplish your career goals. The healthcare field offers many ways for nurses to diversify their credentials, allowing them to become experts in different areas.

If you’re considering adding certifications or another specialty to your current qualifications as a nurse, then you have come to the right place. Below are five popular types of credentials for nurses based on current student interests and career paths.

1. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

First on our nursing credentials list is the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). This credential is ideal for those who want to specialize in patient care. CNAs are responsible for providing direct patient care,  like bathing, dressing, grooming, and helping with basic medical monitoring.

The CNA credential requires state-approved training, which typically includes 75 hours of classroom instruction and 16 hours of practical hands-on experience. In most states, CNAs must also pass an exam at the end of their training to obtain certification.

2. Registered Nurse (RN)

One of the most sought-after nursing certifications is the RN license. This credential allows nurses to practice in various specialties, including management, pediatric, and geriatric nursing.

To become an RN, individuals must complete an accredited nursing degree program and pass the national licensure exam known as NCLEX-RN. This credential is necessary for all aspiring nurses in the United States, regardless of their field of specialty or desired career goals.

3. Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)

Those looking to take their nursing career to the next level may consider becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. An APRN typically engages in more independent practice than RNs. It may also work in leadership roles within the healthcare facility, such as directing other healthcare workers or developing patient care policies. In addition, APRNs are required to have advanced clinical knowledge that allows them to diagnose illnesses and prescribe medications.

To obtain this nursing credential, individuals must first obtain RN licensure and then complete an accredited APRN program. After completing the program, APRNs are required to pass a certifying exam for their desired specialty before they can practice independently in that field.

4. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Next on our list of nursing education opportunities is the Licensed Practical Nurse credential. This certification allows nurses to provide basic medical care—such as checking vital signs and administering medication—under an RN’s or doctor’s supervision

In most states, LPNs are required to complete a state-approved program consisting of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. Upon completing the program, individuals must also pass an exam before obtaining licensure.

5. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Another type of nursing professional is the Clinical Nurse Specialist.  These specialists provide direct patient care and identify and develop ways to improve systems of patient care within the healthcare facility. CNSs often work in specific areas, such as pediatrics, gerontology, or mental health.

To become a CNS, individuals must complete an accredited nursing program and pass the national certification exam. After obtaining certification, individuals must obtain a state-issued license to practice independently.

There are many other nursing credentials examples, too. For instance, many nurses choose to pursue certifications relevant to specialized areas, such as IV therapy or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS). These credentials enable nurses to demonstrate their expertise in distinct areas of expertise while expanding their scope of practice within the healthcare field.

Whether you’re just beginning your nursing career or looking to further develop your skillset, these five types of nursing credentials are sure to help you reach your career goals.

Which Institutions Provide National Certifications and Credentials for Nursing?

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) is the foremost organization responsible for providing national certifications and credentials for nursing. The NCSBN sets standards establishes licensure requirements, and offers national examinations to ensure that health professionals are qualified to practice in their respective fields.

Furthermore, they also provide continuing nursing education coursework and information about various specialties to help nurses keep up to date on the constantly evolving best practices in their respective fields. To maintain an active license, nurses must also meet any additional state licensing regulations and continuing education requirements. These additional state requirements may be obtained through approved programs at hospitals, universities, or other organizations that offer courses specific to certain specialties.

The Importance of Credentials for Nursing

By staying informed and pursuing the proper credentials, nursing professionals will keep their careers moving in the right direction. Whether it’s a basic RN license or an APRN credential, these five levels of nursing degrees are essential for anyone wanting to advance their career and reach their professional goals.

With the changing landscape of healthcare, having a comprehensive understanding of credentialing opportunities is key to nursing success—now more than ever before. Contact KarmaCheck today to find out how we assist healthcare organizations in verifying credentials.


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