What is an APRN? Pursuing Advanced Nursing Degrees for Your Career

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Advanced nursing degrees provide a master’s or doctorate-level education and qualify graduates to pursue advanced practice registered nurse roles including nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists. See how Loyola’s ABSN program track prepares you for an APRN career.

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Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are integral to the functioning of our health care system. For those motivated to pursue a challenging and rewarding career in nursing, understanding what an APRN is, and the paths available to become one, can help to better chart a desired career path.

APRNs are individuals who have sought the additional educational requirements or certifications necessary to enter specialized roles in nursing. These roles build on the education required to become Registered Nurses (RN) and are filled with experts within their practice areas.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is essential for these advanced roles, as it lays the groundwork for future specializations and advanced practice roles. Loyola University Chicago’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program track offers an option for bachelor’s degree-holding individuals to take on a high-quality nursing education in 16 months comprised of four, full-time semesters. In this post we will explore more about APRN career options and share how a BSN degree from Loyola can help you reach your career goals.

What Are Graduate Nursing Degrees?

Graduate nursing degrees, also known as advanced degrees in nursing, include Master's (MSN) and Doctoral (DNP) programs. These degrees represent the next level of nursing education beyond a BSN degree and RN licensure and are an essential aspect of becoming an APRN.

Advanced nursing degrees allow nurses to pursue various specialized roles, whether in advanced practice clinical roles or within certain leadership or administrative positions. From nurse practitioners to certified nurse midwives and beyond, these degrees equip professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their chosen field.

Loyola nursing student on laptop

Discover more about why a BSN degree is crucial to a future nursing career.

Types of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Career Paths

Advanced nursing degrees equip nurses with the specialized knowledge and skills to provide high-quality patient care within their practice area. In many states, APRNs can operate independently, providing more day-to-day autonomy in the career field. They may have their own practices or even function as primary care providers.

What are some of the other benefits of BSN-prepared nurses? Advanced degrees in nursing also open more practice areas, career opportunities, and educational growth and fulfillment. These include various advanced practice nursing specialties.

portrait of three Loyola nursing students

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurse practitioners are licensed, independent clinicians who practice across nearly every clinical setting, acting with a high level of autonomy and providing quality care. They can diagnose health issues, prescribe medications or treatment plans in some states, and specialize in areas including family health, pediatrics, and mental health. U.S. News & World Report has also evaluated the nurse practitioner role as the best job in health care.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Clinical nurse specialists are experts in evidence-based nursing practice within a specialty area. They work to improve patient outcomes and provide guidance to nursing staff, working alongside nurses, physicians and clinicians to affect patient outcomes for the better.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Certified registered nurse anesthetists practice across myriad clinical environments, providing anesthesia and related care during surgical, obstetrical, and trauma procedures. They often work closely with anesthesiologists and surgeons to ensure patient comfort and safety before, during and after a procedure.

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)

Certified Nurse Midwives are some of the most important medical professionals for expecting mothers and families, providing care throughout the course of family planning, pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. They emphasize a natural, holistic approach to childbirth, often working in birthing centers or hospitals.

The Career Outlook for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

The future for APRN roles is promising from a career perspective, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a growth rate of 40% within the next decade. The additional 300,000 APRNs forecasted to enter the workforce by 2031 highlights their increasing importance in health care delivery.

Due to high demand and changing roles, APRNs are now more essential than ever, particularly with the dwindling numbers of physicians in some areas. There is strong job security for APRNs, and geographic flexibility makes it easier to find positions nationwide.

Loyola nursing student portrait

Additionally, APRNs often seek employment with Magnet organizations, recognized for their high standards and emphasis on nursing excellence. These organizations are associated with increased nurse job satisfaction and improved patient outcomes.

How a BSN from Loyola University Sets You Up For Success in Your Education and Career

A degree through Loyola's ABSN program track is not just an education; it is a comprehensive preparation for a dynamic career in nursing. Our 16-month curriculum blends online or on-campus nursing coursework with in-person skills and simulation labs and in-person clinical rotations at top health-care facilities in the Chicago area. This experience builds a comprehensive base of nursing education, readying graduates to pursue nursing licensure and future advanced nursing degrees.

Educating according to a Jesuit educational philosophy, Loyola emphasizes academic excellence, service, and leadership throughout. ABSN students also learn according to a holistic model that looks beyond patient symptoms alone, which is one of the benefits of BSN-prepared nurses. This approach prepares students for the fast pace of APRN certification programs while offering a broad view of health care beyond mere technical skills.

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Learn more about what the Loyola ABSN program track is like as a student.

Ready to Pursue a Career in Nursing?

Becoming an APRN represents a challenging yet fulfilling path within the nursing profession. With various specializations and promising career prospects, it can be an attractive option for those looking to make a significant impact in their career, and it starts by first earning a BSN. If you are interested in taking the first step toward advanced nursing degrees and an APRN career, contact us today to begin a conversation with an enrollment advisor.