As our population increases, health care needs increase. It is projected that there will be a nursing shortage in the US. There are many levels of nursing degrees and specialties.

LPN and RN

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) has completed one year of in-hospital training.

A Registered Nurse (RN) has earned a two-year associate degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from a four-year college.

If you have earned a liberal arts bachelor’s degree and wish to pursue a nursing degree, there are programs that lead to the Second Degree BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) that allow you to earn a second bachelor’s degree, in nursing, in 1 to 2 years. The BSN degree is a prerequisite for advanced nursing degrees that lead to careers as Clinical Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Anesthetist. Schools that offer the Second Degree BSN can be found at

Required courses:

  • Human Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Statistics
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

Also recommended: Nutrition, Developmental Psychology

Graduate Record Exam (GRE): Most programs require the GRE general test.

Years of post-graduate education required: One to two years

Nurse Practitioner or Clinical Nurse Specialist

The Nurse Practitioner provides medical care services similar to those of a Physician Assistant. The NP also specializes in areas such as psychiatry or oncology or geriatric care. He or she works closely with physicians and other health care providers in providing primary care to patients. The NP may take patient histories, evaluate the patient, prescribe medications, and make referrals. They may serve as educators, working towards disease prevention. NPs most often work in hospitals, clinics, and physician’s offices.

Both the Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist are master’s level nursing positions. A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) specializes in a particular area, such as oncology, emergency room care, or neonatal care. The CNS can practice in a variety of settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and clinics, or may even be in private practice. The CNS works with other nurses and health care providers to maximize patient outcomes. In many states, the CNS is able to prescribe medications. The CNS often allows one to move into management-level positions.


Programs that prepare nurses to become NPs or CNSs require that one first earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The Bachelor of Nursing degree can be obtained in 1 to 2 years after completion of a liberal arts bachelor’s program.

Years of post-graduate education required:

Two years of training beyond the bachelor’s degree in nursing, plus additional clinical experience.

Nurse Anesthetist

The nurse anesthetist is the primary source of delivery of analgesia in many surgeries of all types, and are in particular demand in rural hospitals and the armed forces.


Beginning in January of 2022, all students entering a nurse anesthesia program must be enrolled in a program which leads to a doctoral degree. This means that the time-frame will become a minimum of three years of graduate education to become a nurse anesthetist. The link to the “become a CRNA” page is

Nursing Programs at the Wake Forest School of Medicine

Wake Forest School of Medicine has two nursing programs, run from the downtown campus. The nurse anesthesia program has been in operation for 75 years, and it is ranked at #10 nationally. Being part of a school of medicine, the BSN degree is not required as a prerequisite, as long as the candidate has a BS degree in a related science (biology, chemistry, etc.) and has an RN license and ICU experience.

Their DNP program is a distance format degree, so they can accommodate students from any state. The program is administered in an executive format, such that DNP students can remain in their regular career position, while interacting with faculty and peers through our online delivery platform. The DNP program accepts any master’s-degreed nurse (not specialty-specific) and it takes 24 months to complete the curriculum.