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Clinical and theoretical aspects of bachelor's in nursing degree programs help students acquire an in-depth knowledge of the discipline. Students typically work toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, but the type of degree program depends on their school and level of nursing experience. For example, individuals with no prior experience may enroll in a traditional BSN program and earn the degree in four years, depending on their schedule. Nursing students with experience may be able to enter an advanced program and earn their degree in a shorter time span.

Online bachelor's degree in nursing: coursework and overview

Students seeking a bachelor's degree in nursing take a combination of nursing electives and other relevant coursework. Courses offered vary by school, but some common requirements are reviewed below:

Nursing electives

  • Nursing Research: Students learn the major components of the research process and gain experience evaluating and applying their findings. Some schools offer advanced courses in nursing research.
  • Leadership: Students learn leadership and management concepts in the context of the nursing profession. Specifically, courses could cover decision-making, conflict resolution, delegation and financial responsibilities.
  • Pharmacology: Individuals study the classification of drugs, the use of specific drugs and the administration of medication. Courses may also cover applications of pharmacology to nursing.
  • Health Assessment: Students learn how to complete a health assessment for patients and gain skills in data collection, health history taking and conducting physical examinations.
  • Pathophysiology: Courses examine disruptions in the human body caused by a syndrome or disease and the effects of those changes throughout one's lifespan. Students may explore the characteristics and impact of common diseases as well as cellular and genetic disruptions.

Courses related to nursing

  • Chemistry: In introductory courses, students learn about fundamental principles of chemistry, such as atomic structure, molecular structure, chemical equations, and nomenclature. Studies typically include a lab component.
  • Nutrition: Courses explore basic concepts in human nutrition, such as metabolism and nutrient requirements, and their uses for the human body. Nutrition courses offered through nursing programs may cover healthcare applications, such as specialized diets for certain medical conditions.
  • Statistics: Often a requirement for BSN programs, these courses teach students how to calculate and analyze various types of statistical data, commonly including correlation, probability and sampling.

Potential careers for individuals with a bachelor's degree in nursing

As stated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree may expand opportunities for nursing careers. Through a combination of coursework and clinical experience, students in BSN programs can acquire skills relevant to a variety of nursing specializations. Below are a few examples:

  • Genetics nurses treat and counsel individuals with genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis. Genetics courses can help individuals learn about various gene characteristics and mutations. Pathophysiology studies may also be relevant to this career, as these courses sometimes discuss genetic disruptions in the human body.
  • Nephrology nurses treat individuals with kidney-related health issues stemming from such conditions as high blood pressure and diabetes. Health assessment courses can help prepare students for basic responsibilities that nurses may carry out, such as taking a patient's health history. Additionally, nutrition courses may help individuals interested in nephrology nursing assess what kind of diet to use with patients with specific conditions.
  • Nursing home administrators manage their facility's staff, finances, and admissions and also oversee care of nursing home residents. Leadership courses can teach students effective practices in managing a facility and staff, particularly in regards to a nursing environment. The BLS notes that a bachelor's degree is a common requirement for administrative nursing positions, and all states require licensing for administrators of nursing care facilities.
  • Nurse anesthetists give anesthesia and other care to patients before and after surgical, diagnostic, therapeutic, and obstetrical procedures. Additional responsibilities include offering emergency services and pain management. For students interested in this career, pharmacology courses can teach them how to administer medication to patients and can also provide an overview of various drugs that may be used in this specialty. A master's degree is required for nurse anesthetist positions, the BLS states.

Students who wish to continue their education in nursing after earning a bachelor's degree can pursue a master's degree in the subject. While a bachelor's degree can help qualify one for a nursing position, a graduate degree is often required. For example, according to the BLS, advanced practice registered nurses must have a master's degree. Many individuals in medical and health services management hold one, as well. Individuals interested in earning a master's degree in nursing should speak with an admissions counselor to discuss their qualifications.

Further information on nursing studies is available in the Guide to College Majors in Nursing.


"29-2061 Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm

"Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm

"11-9111 Medical and Health Services Managers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119111.htm

"Medical and Health Services Managers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm

"29-1141 Registered Nurses," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm

"Registered Nurses," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm

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