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Congratulations! At long last you have achieved your goal – you’re an RN or an LPN. But there is so much more out there. A nurses education never truly ends, and once you’ve decided on your specialty, you may desire to pursue learning for new nursing credentials, or even an additional degree. To help you, as well as other professionals understand them all, we offer this clarification.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association, has created a standard to help understand the significance and the value of nursing credentials. Their preferred order for the letters that follow a nurse’s name is as follows:
- Highest Degree Earned. Educational degrees may be associate degrees (AD, ADN), bachelor’s degrees (BS, BSN, BA), master’s degrees (MSN, MS, MA) and doctoral degrees (PhD, DrPH, DNS, EdD, DNP).
- Credentials include registered nurse (RN) and licensed practical nurse (LPN).
- Individual State Requirements or Designations. These identify that a nurse practices at a more advanced level. Credentials may include advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), nurse practitioner (NP) and clinical nurse specialist (CNS).
- National Certifications. These are earned through certifying bodies (such as the ANCC), and may include registered nurse, board certified (RN-BC) and family nurse practitioner, board certified (FNP-BC).
- Honors and Awards. These are distinctions for outstanding nursing achievements, including FAAN (Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing) and FCCM (Fellow of Critical Care Medicine).
- Other Recognitions. These may include certifications that denote skill levels (non-nursing) such as EMT-Basic/EMT, which is awarded by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, and BELS (Board-Certified Editor for the Life Sciences).
There may be more than one type of the same nursing credentials, so you may list them either in the order in which they were obtained, or in order of relevance to your particular practice. When listing your multiple degrees, begin with your highest or most relevant first.
- Associate Degree. You may receive an associate nursing degree in two years, the fastest method of becoming an RN. Some employers may now require a bachelor’s degree in nursing, so the associate degree nurse may have to pursue higher education. (The Associate Degree in Nursing is the most common at this level).
- Bachelor’s Degree. You may receive a bachelor’s nursing degree in four years. As associate degree nurse may choose to enter a bridge program (RN to BSN) to complete the bachelor’s in two years while continuing to work. Earning your bachelor’s degree helps you achieve continuing education requirements at work, improve your salary and offer career advancement. Often, leadership roles and nursing specialties will require a bachelor’s degree. (The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the most common program at this level.)
- Master’s Degree. You may receive a master’s nursing degree after two additional years of graduate study. A nurse desiring a management position or an advanced specialty may benefit from, or be required to attain, this degree. For example, a nurse wishing to achieve family nurse practitioner or certified nurse anesthetist is required to have a master’s degree. (The Master of Science in Nursing is the most common program at this level).
- Doctoral Degree. You may receive a doctoral degree with an additional four to six years of study. While several doctoral programs are available, two are most common. The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is research driven and is most appropriate for a nurse researcher/scientist or nurse faculty position. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is best suited for positions of leadership in nursing practice or management positions.
- A diploma or certificate is required to become a licensed practical nurse; this takes one to two years. Working under the supervision of doctors or registered nurses, an LPN may administer basic medical care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median wage for LPNs is $43,170, and the field is expected to increase 16 percent by the year 2024.
- To become a registered nurse, you must earn at least an associate degree, however, the standard minimum educational requirement is expected to become a bachelor’s degree. An RN may choose one of many specialties and will be involved in all aspects of patient care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median wage for RNs is $67,490, and this field is also expected to increase 16 percent by the year 2024.
Advancing Nursing Education
Alvernia University has an online RN to BSN Completion Program as well as a Post-Master’s online DNP Clinical Leadership Program that may be perfect for furthering your education. For more information on nursing credentials, check out Alphabet Soup: A Guide to Nursing Credentials and Degrees.