The field of nursing is fast-growing and in high demand. Whether you choose to pursue an Associate's degree or a Bachelor's degree in nursing, both will prepare you to take the RN license exam, making you eligible for different job opportunities. Earning a license allows you to practice anywhere you choose to live. However there are pros and cons, along with different skill sets, that come with either an Associate's or Bachelor's degree in nursing.

Associate's Degree in Nursing

An Associate's degree in nursing is earned in two years and is focused primarily on technical skills. Associate's nursing degrees are typically earned at community colleges, which prepare students for staff positions in hospitals and inpatient facilities. Also referred to as an ADN, an Associate's degree in nursing requires 60 credit hours. Some consider an Associate's degree a stepping stone to earning a Bachelor's degree in nursing. Some schools have an LPN-to-Associate's program which is designed for licensed practical nurses who wish to earn an Associate's degree.

Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

A Bachelor's degree in nursing is earned in four years at a traditional college or university. Also referred to as a BSN, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is considered "the entry point for professional nursing practice," according to AllNursingSchools.com. A BSN prepares nursing students for careers in inpatient and community settings. Students who have previously received a Bachelor's degree in another field may be eligible for an accelerated BSN or a second degree BSN. Accelerate programs are fast-paced, allowing you to receive your BSN in as little as 12 to 21 months. Second degree BSN programs are similar to a regular BSN, but require that students maintain a 3.0 grade point average. An RN-to-BSN program is for nurses who received an Associate's degree but want to go on to earn their Bachelor's.

Pros and Cons

In some cases, a four-year BSN is preferable to an Associate's degree because it provides better job opportunities. However, an Associate's degree allows you to begin working and earning money sooner. Earning an Associate's degree in nursing at a community college is less costly than earning a Bachelor's at a four-year institution. Starting pay for either degree tends to be the same, with employers leaning towards hiring applicants with a BSN. BSN applicants also have the possibility of moving up to higher paying positions. Choosing which degree is right for you is a personal choice that should be decided carefully.

Knowledge Gained

With either degree, students will learn the same basic principles of nursing, including psychiatric nursing, maternal and fetal care, pediatrics, adult health, community health and geriatric nursing. A Bachelor's degree, however, will take you deeper into nursing theory along with learning more technical skills, and may also lead to future management positions.