Charting the Course for Nurses' Achievement of Higher Education Levels

This nationally representative sample of newly licensed RNs identifies factors predicting enrollment and advanced degree completion.

Understanding the dynamics of enrollment and completion of an additional degree among nurses with an associate or BS as their pre-RN degree is important to the future of the U.S. health care system.

Logistic regression analysis was performed on data from an ongoing national panel study. The analysis included 1,648 RNs collected via self-report surveys in three waves from 2006 through 2009. Investigating the career trajectories of these newly licensed RNs, the authors examined the characteristics of: (a) RNs with an associate degree as their first degree who continue to a bachelor’s (BS) degree or higher, and (b) RNs with a BS degree as their first degree who continue to a master’s degree or higher.

Many factors including geography, age, race, marital status, and parents’ education levels were found to affect RNs decisions to pursue higher education.

Information about RNs who pursue further education is useful for policy-makers, and educators as long-term strategies are set. The Institute of Medicine set a Future of Nursing goal that by 2020, the nurse workforce would be composed of 80 percent BS-prepared RNs.

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30% of working RNs will need to obtain a BS degree to meet the IOM goal of 80% BS-degree RNs by 2020.