If you have a passion for helping people who are sick or injured, a career in nursing may be the right choice for you. Nurses not only help patients with their medical needs, they also educate them about their health and ways to prevent future complications. In addition, they comfort and advise the patient's family members in an effort to creative a healthy environment for the patient outside of the hospital. An online nursing degree program will teach you how to assess patients, tend to any medical needs they have, and how to effectively communicate with the patient, their family, and other medical personnel to ensure that everyone understands the condition of the patient, as well as what needs to be done to help them get better.
Classes and Assignments of a Nursing Major
Nurses of every degree level and specialization build their foundation in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, and physical assessment during their online masters nursing degrees. Nurses also learn about mental health, pediatrics, geriatrics, community health, maternity, and much more. In addition to classroom instruction, nursing students are required to complete a certain number of clinical hours, which involves going to a hospital or clinic and shadowing a nurse to learn what working in the field is like and to learn how to apply the skills they developed in the classroom. Depending on state and hospital regulations, as well as the willingness of the nurse, students may have opportunities to provide care by giving shots, starting IVs, bathing patients, and talking with families.
Degree Levels for a Nursing Major
- Certification. Nursing certificate programs generally take about one year to complete, depending on the requirements of the program and the student's ability to successfully complete each course of the program in a timely manner. These programs will focus only on areas of study that deal directly with nursing, such as medical terminology, fundamentals of nursing, human anatomy, medical-surgical nursing, and pharmacology. A nursing certificate will allow you to begin a career as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and care for patients under the supervision and direction of physicians and registered nurses.
- Associate. Online associate nursing degrees consist of introductory level courses in health care, such as introduction to health, fundamentals of nursing practice, physical assessment, medical terminology, and family health concepts. Students will also be required to complete general studies courses, such as history, algebra, and English. This will allow students to use this degree toward higher degrees if they choose to do so. Earning an associate degree in nursing and obtaining licensure will allow you to become an LPN or a registered nurse (RN).
- Bachelor's. Online bachelors nursing degrees will include many of the introductory courses that are found in an associate degree program, as well as more advanced courses that expand upon these concepts, such as pathophysiology in nursing, nursing leadership and management, and nursing practice in the community. Earning a bachelor's degree in nursing and obtaining licensure will allow you to become an RN and enter into your chosen specialty, such as pediatric nursing, women's services, or critical care nursing.
- Master's. A master's degree program in nursing will include and expand upon the concepts found in lower degree levels will courses such as advanced physiology, pathophysiology across the lifespan, and pharmacology in anesthetics. Specialized nursing degree programs, such as nurse practitioner and nurse anesthetist programs, are offered at the master's level. Earning a master's degree in nursing and obtaining licensure will allow you to become an RN, nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or other specialty.
- Doctoral. A doctoral degree in nursing will cover courses and concepts from all other degree levels, as well as include more advanced courses, such as doctor of nursing practice, advanced methods in health research and policy analysis, qualitative methods in nursing, and advanced health measurement methods. Earning a doctoral degree in nursing and obtaining licensure will allow you to become an RN, go into the specialization of your choice, nursing philosophy, or become a professor of nursing.
A Future as a Nursing Major
Nurses of every specialty or degree level are required to become licensed before they can practice nursing by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Once licensure is obtained, you may begin your professional nursing career. The majority of nurses are employed by hospitals, but employment opportunities are available at many other locations, including physician's offices, medical clinics, patients' homes, and hospice facilities.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for registered nurses is expected to increase by 22% through the year 2018, which is better than nearly all other occupations. The average annual income for RNs is $67,720,but this number can vary depending on the facility you work for, your specialization, what area of the country you work in, and the amount of experience you have. The BLS also reports that employment for LPNs is expected to grow by 21%, and that their average salary is $41,360, which can vary as well.