Degree Preparation: Pursuing a Nursing Degree Pathway

by Morgan T. Rogers

Pursuing a nursing degree is a rewarding education path for many students. A nursing career provides opportunities to serve others and offers job stability and a competitive salary. What you may not realize, though, is that this degree can open up a plethora of career possibilities. Depending on which degree you choose, you may go on to work in various roles, including administration, education, and public services.

By knowing your options and being strategic with your academic path, you can personalize your skill set to prepare for a career in your chosen field. Here are some of the nursing pathways to consider.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is what most students picture when they think of going to nursing school. This traditional four-year program is designed for recent high school graduates and prepares students to provide holistic health care in many different environments. As part of the curriculum, BSN students participate in clinical experiences that offer hands-on educational opportunities at research centers, hospitals, community centers, and more. While the BSN is a traditional pathway, it’s by no means limiting. Graduates go on to have careers in oncology, public health, the mission field, and the military, to name a few.

Nontraditional Students

Azusa Pacific University offers nontraditional students pathways toward a BSN. Both the RN (registered nurse) to BSN and LVN (licensed vocational nurse) to BSN programs allow currently working nurses to advance their nursing careers and gain experience in organizational and managerial roles, setting them up for leadership positions in the healthcare field. The RN to BSN also allows students to pursue their nursing degree online.

Transfer Students

Transfer students can choose between the BS in Nursing Transfer program (which allows students to transfer coursework and complete their BSN in six consecutive semesters) or the Bridge to BSN program (designed for Associate’s Degree in Nursing students to get an early start on BSN coursework). The latter option also allows students to pursue their nursing degree online.

Graduate Nursing Education Pathways

If you want to attain a higher level of leadership within the nursing field or add a layer of expertise to your resume, APU offers several graduate nursing programs that cater to distinct career goals.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

APU’s nationally accredited MSN program equips students to practice in specialized areas of clinical nursing. With a strong compounded understanding of theory, research, and professional development, MSN students are prepared for advanced practice roles, such as family or pediatric nurse practitioners, school nurses, and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners.

Similar to APU’s other programs, the MSN pathway includes an array of supplemental specialty tracks to better cater to your nursing career goals, including:

  • MSN in Healthcare Administration and Leadership (with an online option)
  • MSN in Nursing Education (with an online option)
  • MSN with Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • MSN with Nurse Practitioner (NP) Specialties
  • MSN with School Nurse Services Credential (SNSC)
  • MSN with SNSC and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Specialty
  • MSN with SNSC and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Specialty

Entry-Level Master’s in Nursing (ELM)

APU’s ELM program gives students with a baccalaureate degree or higher in other disciplines the opportunity to pursue nursing careers. ELM students participate in rigorous studies to prepare them for the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. They select a clinical specialty and earn an MSN degree upon successfully completing the program.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

The DNP focuses on evidence-based practice and organizational analysis, equipping students with the knowledge and experience to improve care systems. This online program features a low-residency format to accommodate nursing leaders’ work schedules. Students periodically attend intensives over one or two days at APU’s Monrovia Regional Site, opening doors to learn from and connect with others students from diverse backgrounds.

APU also offers a BSN to DNP program for RNs with a BSN to enter directly into the DNP program without having to first receive an MSN.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing

APU’s PhD in Nursing is a research-based program with an emphasis on developing and testing theoretical knowledge to advance the nursing field and improve health outcomes. This program equips students seeking a career in education, government, or health care with the knowledge they need to strengthen nursing education, research, and public health policy.

The PhD in Nursing includes the option to add a concentration in Health of the Family and the Community, International Health, or Nursing Education.

Master of Public Health (MPH)

This graduate program isn’t a nursing degree per se, but it’s closely related to the nursing career path. Pursuing an MPH is an excellent opportunity to improve overall community wellness.

MS in Healthcare Administration

The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a steady increase in healthcare administration jobs over the coming years. This broadly applicable degree is ideal for nursing students with a baccalaureate degree to nuance their education and focus their leadership and management skills within the realm of health care. Graduates go on to become clinic directors, patient safety specialists, nurse navigators, and more.

Focus Your Expertise with Non-Degree Certifications

In many cases, practicing nurses may want to further their education without pursuing a nursing degree. If this sounds like you, APU offers certificate programs designed to advance your career through specialized coursework. Some examples include the Oncology Nurse Practitioner Certificate and the Post-Master’s Certificate in Healthcare Administration and Leadership.

Whichever career path you’re pursuing, APU’s nationally ranked School of Nursing offers opportunities to specialize your education and set yourself up for success. To learn more about available nursing degree programs, contact the School of Nursing.