Medical Nursing Degrees by Degree Program Level

Degree programs in medical nursing exist at both the graduate and undergraduate degree level. Learn about each degree program, courses, employment outlook, and salary information to make a decision on which program best fits your needs.

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Essential Information

At the associate's degree level, nursing students develop basic clinical skills. More opportunity for career advancement can be gained through completing a bachelor's or graduate degree program in nursing. Entry into nursing programs can be competitive, particularly at the graduate level where a combination of education and experience is required for admission. Both undergraduate and graduate programs are available online.

Associate's Degree in Nursing

This 2-year degree may be earned through a community college, preparing students to sit for the licensing exam to become a registered nurse (RN). An associate's degree in nursing is the minimum requirement to take the mandatory test to become a registered nurse, the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). A high school diploma or GED is required to enter an associate's degree program. Required coursework includes such topics as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Pediatric nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Surgical and medical nursing

Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

Earning a 4-year degree in nursing may expand opportunities in the medical nursing field. Associate's degree credits are often transferable to bachelor's programs, which allows students to complete the bachelor's degree in two years. Clinical experience plays a larger role than in an associate's program. Critical thinking, communication and leadership training are also important. Like the associate's degree programs, these medical nursing programs prepare students to become RNs after passing the NCLEX-RN. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate, as well as submitting SAT or ACT scores. Coursework for bachelor's programs includes:

  • Clinical nursing foundations
  • Collaboration and communication
  • Medical terminology
  • Nursing leadership
  • Patient psychology

Master's in Nursing

A master's in nursing degree, a 2-year program, is for nurses who have a BSN degree, nursing experience and want to expand their career prospects. Theoretical and clinical management are central to degree concentrations, which may include acute or critical care nursing, neonatal or pediatric nursing and psychiatric nursing. A BSN and GRE scores are prerequisites to master's programs. Some master's programs require students to complete a thesis to qualify for graduation. Common course topics are:

  • Acute care principles
  • Advanced pathophysiology and physiology
  • Aging and mental health
  • Nursing pharmacology
  • Preventing disease

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Clinical Nursing
  • Critical Care Nursing
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  • Licensed Vocational Nurse Training
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Assistant or Patient Care Assistant
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner or Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Administration
  • Nursing for Adults and Seniors
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  • Operating Room and Surgical Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
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  • Registered Nurse

Doctorate in Nursing

RNs who want to improve the medical nursing industry may be interested in a doctorate program in nursing. Students learn how to conduct research and contribute to the theoretical advancement of healthcare and nursing. Graduates are able to improve the quality and safety of patient care, as well as advocate for policy changes through research and publication. Programs' lengths vary, but can take three to six years. Applicants must have either a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing, be current RNs and submit GRE scores.

All doctoral students are expected to research and write and edit a dissertation on the results. They must defend their dissertation in an oral exam to get their degree. The majority of classes are research intensive. Topics include:

  • Advanced nursing policies
  • Dissertation seminar
  • Health behavior theory
  • Nursing research design
  • Statistical methods

Popular Career Options

Registered nurses may work in a variety of settings, and a bachelor's degree may increase their leadership potential. Some positions are:

  • Public health services nurse
  • School nurse
  • Surgical nurse

A graduate degree in medical nursing opens doors to upper-level industry positions that require extensive management and leadership skills and are often in specialized nursing departments. These jobs include:

  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse midwife
  • Nurse practitioner

A doctoral degree can lead to research and education jobs. Some possible opportunities are:

  • Healthcare policy advisor
  • Medical nursing researcher
  • Nursing professor

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Medical nursing graduates are able to work in nursing homes, hospitals, hospices and other healthcare facilities. Registered nursing careers are on the rise, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth to increase 16% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). In 2015, the BLS reported that RN's made a median wage of $67,490.

To summarize, students interested in a career in nursing can earn a degree at the associate's, bachelor's, master's or doctoral level. Depending on the degree, graduates can pursue a career as a registered nurse, advanced practice nurse or a nursing professor, among other options.

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