What Are the Levels of Nursing: Academic Degrees & Practice

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As in any other career, nursing also has its own levels, which differ in degree requirements, practice, responsibilities, routines, and more. And the higher the role, the greater the salary and benefits the specialist receives. The complexity of studying what are the levels of nursing is that there are two separate rankings – academic and professional, which often overlap with each other, e.g., ADN-RN or BSN-RN.

What Are the Basic Levels of Nursing Degrees?

Here’re the various levels of nursing degrees and some information about each.

  • PN – the fastest path to launch a career as an LPN. It takes 1-2 years to complete, including classroom instruction and clinical practice.
  • ADN – a 2-year degree after which a student can become a certified registered nurse.
  • BSN – a 4-year degree that prepares graduates for higher education at advanced nursing levels.
  • MSN – a 2-year degree that allows RNs to specialize in a specific area, e.g., being an educator or administrator.
  • DNP – the terminal 3-6-year certification that prepares nurses for advanced roles such as leadership and policy formulation.

Different Levels of Nursing Practice

What are the levels of nursing from lowest to highest? There are four main nursing practice ranks – LPN, RN, APRN, and DNP, categorized based on skills and responsibilities.


LPNs have a diploma or certificate and provide basic care to patients. e.g., taking vitals, dressing wounds, administering medicine, and assisting with personal hygiene.


RN is the most common of the levels of nursing. RNs have an associate or bachelor’s certification and are qualified to provide direct care to patients, administer medication and perform assessments.


APRNs have a master’s or doctorate and can perform advanced clinical tasks like diagnosis, administrating medication, ordering tests, and managing chronic diseases.


What level of nursing is the highest? Of the different levels of nursing, the DNP is the uppermost. It consists of PhD graduates who often join academic settings to prepare future generations of nurses. DNPs commonly do not practice but can take managerial and administrating roles.

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