Types of Nursing Degrees

Types of Nursing Degrees

Types of Nursing Degrees

Nurses play a critical role in the healthcare system, providing essential care to patients in need. Your journey as a nurse can take shape through a number of different nursing degree options, specializations and career paths.

Deciding what level of nursing education to pursue, as well as whether to specialize are all important decisions in your career pursuits. Working as a nurse will require at least two years of education, with the need for higher education to advance your professional career development.

Not quite sure where to start? We’ve got you! We’re breaking it all down with an overview of the different levels of nursing degrees and providing insight into some of the many fulfilling opportunities you can pursue with each.

Male healthcare worker wearing teal scrub top and black scrub pants

In Canada, there are three main types of nurses, defined by their level of education, as well as various areas of specializations. Let’s explore them below.

Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPNs)
RPNs and LPNs qualify with a Diploma in Practical Nursing. This entails completing four-semesters of college and takes about two years to complete. Upon completion of your studies, passing a national licensing exam is required in order to work professionally as an RPN or LPN in Canada. RPNs and LPNs typically provide basic nursing care working with patients who have stable and uncomplicated medical conditions. They work in a variety of healthcare environments including hospitals, medical offices, care homes and clinics.

Registered Nurses (RNs)
The next level up in nursing degrees requires university studies leading to completion of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) or a Bachelor of Nursing Degree (BN). This path of study can be obtained through a combination college-university program or a 4-year university degree program. RN’s train as generalists in the field, to accommodate a range of patient care needs, but have the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of nursing such as oncology or paediatrics. Given the more extensive education and training RNs receive, they can expect to treat patients with more complex conditions.

Nurse Practitioners (NPs)
RNs can further their professional growth and skills by becoming a nurse practitioner. One needs to be an RN first, before training to work as a NP. NPs provide advanced level specialized care in a variety of areas including critical care, cardiovascular, emergency, and surgical nursing.

Nursing student studying at table wearing navy blue scrubs

One can elect to further advance their nursing education with a Master’s Degree, Post-Masters Certificate or Doctorate Degree which can open up access to more complex specialization opportunities as well as leadership and management roles. The more years of education you have, the more responsibility you will be able to take on as a nurse, and often the higher your earning potential.

There are numerous areas of nursing specializations, each with their own unique educational and clinical requirements. Completion of certification to specialize can be done through the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA). To help make the decision as to what area to specialize in easier, consider your personality, strengths, areas of interest, whether you enjoy working with kids or the elderly, your ability to deal with high-stress situations, as well as your ideal work environment. These can all help inform your decision.

Nurse wearing black women's scrub top and scrub pants

A world of opportunity awaits in the nursing profession. Be sure to check out our helpful guide on what you may want to consider when choosing a nursing program and the top nursing programs in Canada.

Whatever path your nursing journey takes, you’re sure to leave a positive impact on the lives of others while delivering quality care to those in need. And we’ll be here to bring you all the comfy scrubs and support along the way!