If you’re considering a bachelor’s degree, going back to school can be a formidable prospect if you’ve been in the work force for a number of years. Here are some typical questions asked by nurses in this situation:
Why should I get a Bachelor’s degree in nursing? I will only get fifty cents more an hour in my current job.
A Bachelor’s degree in nursing opens many new opportunities for your career in nursing.
While taking courses you interact with nurses from other hospitals and community agencies and learn many other strategies for improving patient care, making work easier and more enjoyable.
A broader view of our nursing practice provides new options for solving day to day problems in a way that can bring about improvement in the practice environment.
The Bachelor’s degree provides the basis for specialty study to prepare for teaching new nurses, or being a resource nurse specialist for nurses caring for groups of patients with similar problems and needs.
Nurses with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are in demand for the growing number of new types of positions in nursing practice. Your future choices are expanded by additional education in nursing.
RNs who are obtaining a Bachelor’s education report that the high level of collegiality in the students and faculty, and the broader view of nursing changes their view of practice and their career options.
I am an RN with a diploma in nursing. Will I be able to get credit toward a degree?
Each educational institution has its own policy on this. Because you have no actual college credit, your nursing knowledge may have to be validated through examination. Credit for general education courses will also be evaluated on an individual basis. Those not taken at an institution of higher education may need to be validated through examination. Some schools use standardized testing (CLEP and ACT/RCE) or assess a portfolio of life experience.
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I am an RN with an associate degree in nursing. How many credits will I be able to transfer toward a bachelor’s degree?
In April 2007, NYS baccaulaueate nursing programs agreed to accept 30 nursing credits from NYS associate degree nursing graduates. However, transfer policies are not only set by state education regulations, but by the institution’s own academic standards. Consideration is usually given to grades, how long ago the courses were taken, and how well they satisfy the current curriculum requirements.
Must I have an RN license and work experience?
Institutions may require work experience in nursing and licensure in the state where the school is located, particularly in programs designed specifically for RNs. Contact the college nursing department for this information.
How long will it take me to earn a degree?
This depends on whether you're attending school part-time or full-time and the number of credits needed for completion of the degree. For an RN with an associate degree, it will take at least four full-time semesters. Some schools have accelerated or concentrated courses designed specifically for RNs which may reduce this period.
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Will I need to repeat nursing courses?
Programs that are specifically designed to build on AD nursing education usually have mechanisms that allow you to challenge nursing course work in which you already have competency. Traditional generic programs often grant advanced placement to RNs who can demonstrate their knowledge through testing, or accept their nursing credits outright.
The nursing courses in either type of program will expand on what you learned in your basic nursing program. You will learn about nursing research, community-based nursing, management and leadership theory, and a wide range of professional issues. Even though nursing courses may seem to cover old ground, they will allow you to apply your knowledge to new settings and to more complex patient, family, and community situations.
Why do I have to take all those non-nursing courses?
Earning a bachelor’s degree in any field requires taking a certain number of general education courses. Courses in the liberal arts and social sciences broaden your education and increase your ability to conceptualize, solve problems, and communicate more effectively.
It will take me less time to get a degree in health or social work. Is this a good idea?
A non-nursing bachelor’s degree may limit your career opportunities. Because it does not expand your knowledge base of nursing theory and practice, it might not be recognized for promotion in the workplace. Also, you must have a baccalaureate in nursing to pursue a master's degree in nursing.
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I haven’t been to school in a long time. I’m afraid that I can't handle it.
Your feelings are not unique. When you start classes, you'll find that other adult learners have the same anxieties. Try developing a support group with some of these colleagues. If you're taking a program designed for RNs or a generic program with a significant number of adult learners, the faculty will be a source of support as well.
To ease back into a routine of study, you may want to start with just one course. Once you realize that you can do the work (and it's usually easier and more satisfying than when you were 19 or 20 years old), you'll be eager to continue. If you are going to be a full-time student, you may want to take the minimum number of credits allowed for full-time status until you have a feel for how to balance course work with the other demands on your life.
I’d like to be certified in a specialty. How do I do this?
Certification is available from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Starting in 1998, the ANCC required a bachelor's degree for certification as a generalist. Other specialty organizations also offer certification based on their own educational, practice, and examination requirements. Some of these organizations are listed on the back cover. ANCC and specialty organizations can be easily accessed on the Internet.
If you’re considering a graduate degree...
With a bachelor’s degree already in hand, you may feel more confident about your scholastic capabilities. But questions remain about what type of degree is right for you.
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What types of graduate degrees are available?
The following advanced degrees in nursing are offered: MA (Master of Art), MS* (Master of Science), MEd (Master of Education), MSN (Master of Science in Nursing), PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), EdD (Doctor of Education), ND (Nursing Doctorate), DNSc (Doctor of Nursing Science).
*Most nursing programs offer an MS-Masters of Science, major in nursing, rather than an MSN.
What are admission requirements for a master’s program in nursing?
Admission requirements usually include a BS in nursing, and an acceptable Grade Point Average (typically 3.0 or better) from your undergraduate program. Some programs require acceptable scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT), successful completion of course work in statistics, work experience, references or recommendations, and a statement of personal goals.
How long does it take to get a master’s degree in nursing?
Generally, 2 years of full-time study or 3 to 5 years of part-time study, comprising 36 to 48 credits beyond the bachelor's degree. Some programs combine two degrees (such as an MS in nursing and an MBA) or provide concentration in two areas of specialization. These programs may take longer than 2 years.
Will I have to do a master’s thesis?
Clinical programs that are designed to advance your specialty preparation may not require a thesis. However using the thesis option would be appropriate if you’re thinking of going on to doctoral work.
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Can I transfer credits from one school to another?
Schools will generally accept 9 to 12 transferred credits. The remaining credits must be earned at the degree-granting facility.
I already have a master's degree. Can I expand on it?
Many schools of nursing have post-master's certificate programs for nurse practitioners, nursing administration, or teaching. Schools will also help you expand your clinical base so you can take advantage of new opportunities.
What kinds of careers require a doctoral degree?
Doctoral and post-doctoral study are essential if you want to establish an independent research career. University professorships require a doctoral degree as well. A doctoral degree may be necessary if you plan to work as a therapist in individual or group practice and you may need this level of training to combine the clinical, business, and administrative expertise necessary to start your own business in health care.
How do PhD, DNSc, and DNP degrees differ?
All of them represent doctoral preparation in nursing. The ND is a clinical degree which functions as an entry-level degree. The PhD and the DNSc focus on the development of new knowledge through research. The DNSc can also have an applied clinical research focus, so it's important to explore the nature of the program with the institution you're considering.
The DNP is a Doctor of Nursing Practice. It is the newest nursing doctoral degree and is designed primarily for nurse practictioners.
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Is it worthwhile to earn an EdD or PhD in another field?
Doctoral education in nursing began in EdD programs, which prepared teachers of nursing. Today there are over 50 PhD and DNSc programs in nursing. While some nursing leaders feel that nursing science is a relatively young field and will benefit from the infusion of ideas from other disciplines, the doctorate in nursing is developing as the more marketable degree. Keep in mind that a good doctoral program provides a foundation in both the theoretical and research aspects of your nursing specialty and also gives you opportunities to take courses in other disciplines.
How long does it take to get a doctoral degree?
The doctoral degree generally requires 90 credits beyond the bachelor's degree. All or most of the credits earned toward your master's degree in nursing will usually be transferred toward a doctorate in nursing. This may not be true of a doctoral program in another discipline. Three years of full-time study is probably the minimal time it will take to complete doctoral work, with the usual time being 4 to 6 years. Generally, students are allowed a maximum of 7 to 8 years to complete doctoral work.
What kinds of courses will I take in a doctoral program?
The core of courses will emphasize research methodology, theory development, research analysis, nursing theory, philosophy, ethics and helathcare sciences/policy. The curriculum will also include "cognates" or elective courses which can be in nursing or in other disciplines. These courses will help you explore the theoretical base for your dissertation and fill gaps in your education.
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Contact Nursing Practice and Nursing Education at 518.782.9400, ext. 282 or by e-mail.