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Difference between Degree, Licensure, and Certification (RN)

by Elizabeth Russ

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    00:01 So if you've ever seen a nurse who's been a nurse for like five plus years right out their name, you probably saw an alphabet soup that followed their actual name, health care. Nurses, especially.

    00:12 We love, we love our letters.

    00:14 And one day, you, too, will have a string, a whole nice line of letters after your name that will apparently just bring you joy.

    00:21 Today, we will aim to understand them.

    00:24 The letters behind nursing titles, they are going to tell you what degree the individual holds the license and the certification.

    00:31 Let's look real quickly at the differences between those.

    00:34 We won't be looking at how to actually organize those letters today.

    00:38 But when you're ready, there is a lesson at the end of this course that goes over all of that as you prepare to launch into your career.

    00:45 For now, let's just focus on understanding what things are.

    00:49 Simplest first: licenses.

    00:51 In order to work as a nurse, you must graduate from an accredited nursing program and pass a licensing test.

    00:58 If you plan to become an LPN, you have to take the NCLEX-PN and if you want to become a registered nurse, you have to take the NCLEX-RN.

    01:06 And once you pass your exam, you finish school and you jump through all the other hoops that the state that you live in wants you to jump through, you will apply for licensure in your state and you will then become a licensed LPN or RN.

    01:20 So your certification specifies your role, especially what type of nurse that you actually are.

    01:27 You cannot have a license if you did not graduate from a nursing program, but graduating does not make you licensed.

    01:34 Does that make sense? Let's look at what your degree actually does.

    01:37 An academic degree.

    01:40 Those are what are awarded to you from a college or university for completing your nursing program, if applicable.

    01:46 There are a ton of different degrees.

    01:49 You can go and get in nursing an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, or a doctorate.

    01:55 And almost all registered nursing programs will have some sort of degree associated with it, except for the diploma RN programs.

    02:05 And don't worry, we'll kind of cover the differences between all of those as we move through this section.

    02:10 But if you are pursuing an LPN, it's likely that the program is a certificate program and often does not come with a formal degree associated with it. And a few programs do offer an associate of Applied Sciences degree for their LPN program, but that's not super common.

    02:28 If you do want to obtain an official degree doing the LPN route, you can do a bridge program later that uses your LPN course credits and adds on additional credits to take you from LPN to RN, awarding you an associate's degree in the process.

    02:45 This process of LPN to RN can also result in a BSN program.

    02:49 So, what are some common examples of degrees? If you attend a community college or a technical school, it is likely that you will receive an associate's degree in nursing, your ADN, as we'll probably call it going forward. If you attend a four-year university for a nursing degree, it will likely be a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a BSN, and those looking for a graduate degree can get a Masters of Science in Nursing or a Doctoral Nursing degree.

    03:15 We have a whole chapter on advanced nursing degrees, so, if that interests you, you can go take a look at that.

    03:22 But for now, let's just kind of get a good summary of what we have going on.

    03:26 There are a ton of different degree entry points for nursing, which is really confusing, but also it's super-duper helpful because it makes nursing much more accessible. And if you're confused, that's totally normal.

    03:39 They designed it to be that way.

    03:40 Most of us still are.

    03:41 Just know whatever degree you would like to hold, nursing has one of those, and you can get it. You can really get any of them with enough time and money.

    03:50 And lastly, I want to take a look at certification.

    03:53 This is usually one of two things.

    03:57 As we discussed, nurses who graduate from an LPN program are typically awarded a certification in lieu of a degree title.

    04:05 However, most commonly, certification is a specialty certification awarded to nurses who have been in practice for a few years and would like to become more knowledgeable in their particular specialty because we had to name them the same thing, of course.

    04:21 Both RNs and LPNs can attain certification, although there are specific, kind of specific to the license the nurse has.

    04:29 So you can't take an RN certification exam if you are an LPN and vice versa. Now that's kind of a mess of information.

    04:38 So let's look at how this works out in real life.

    04:41 We can use me as an example.

    04:42 I spent many a year working in pediatrics as a nurse, and after a certain number of those hours, I was eligible to sit for my Certified Pediatric Nurse Exam, which would tell everyone who looked at my resume that I have extra special knowledge in pediatrics. They have these specialized certifications for almost every nursing specialty and are a really cool way to learn more about your particular field of interest once you're working and to show employers that you're good at this.

    05:10 Certifications like this exist for those with advanced nursing degrees as well.

    05:14 For example, I'm a nurse practitioner and we have to pick a specialty certification.

    05:19 Mine is family nurse practitioner.

    05:21 So certifications in general are just usually a way to show that you are very smart in your one certain area of nursing or, if you are an LPN, they both denote that you graduated from an LPN program and can also show that you have additional expert knowledge in a particular specialty as an LPN.

    05:38 So that was kind of a hot mess, but hopefully that cleared up some of the confusion surrounding the language that is often thrown around in nursing school.

    05:47 Now we'll take a minute to discuss the two primary types of nursing licenses, at least in the United States, in the next section.

    05:56 We'll see you there.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Difference between Degree, Licensure, and Certification (RN) by Elizabeth Russ is from the course Choosing a Nursing Program (RN).


    Author of lecture Difference between Degree, Licensure, and Certification (RN)

     Elizabeth Russ

    Elizabeth Russ


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