Earning Registered Nurse Certification
Most states require individuals to have completed a training program in nursing in order to qualify for registered nurse (RN) licensure. The fastest route to the RN qualification is a 2-year associate's degree in nursing. Many colleges and universities also offer 4-year bachelor's degree programs in nursing that can lead to RN licensure. Students who already have associate's degrees in nursing and RN licensure may be interested in pursuing an accelerated bachelor's degree program in order to qualify for graduate study in nursing.
After completing an associate's or bachelor's degree, prospective nurses must take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Upon successful completion of the exam, individuals can apply to their home states' nursing boards in order to become locally licensed RNs. Most states also require applicants to pass a criminal background check.
|Majors with Registered Nursing Courses||Associate's of Science (or Art), Bachelor's of Science|
|Degree Levels Available||Associate's degree, Bachelor's degree|
|In-Person Requirements||In class instruction|
In order to meet state education requirements, prospective RNs must complete hands-on training in a classroom or clinical environment. As a result, it isn't possible to qualify for RN licensure exclusively through distance education.
However, many colleges and universities offer blended nursing degree programs that combine online and on-campus instruction. These are typically available at the associate's degree level for students who have no previous experience in nursing and at the bachelor's degree level for students who already have RN licenses.
Entry-level students can pursue online RN licensure in a blended learning environment through associate's degree programs in nursing. Depending on the institution, these programs may lead to an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or an Associate in Science in Nursing (ASN), but degrees are basically equivalent.
Rather than offering some courses all online and some courses all on-campus, many associate's degree programs in nursing blend individual classes. Students may complete some of the coursework for a particular class online and the rest of it in a face-to-face environment, reducing the overall number of scheduled class hours. Clinical experiences, however, must still be completed entirely on-campus or at an associated health care facility.
The online portion of blended nursing courses typically includes case studies, online tutorials and related study materials. Most colleges use Web-based learning management systems, such as ANGEL to deliver online content. Sample course subjects may include these:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Nursing process
Students who already have RN certification may be interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Students may also be able to accelerate their time to degree completion by applying credits and prerequisites from an associate's degree program. The bachelor's degree can help RNs advance in their careers or qualify for graduate study programs required for advanced practice nursing.
Many RN-to-BSN programs are offered in a blended online and on-campus format. A typical blended program generally offers about 50% of the course content online. This may include some general education courses offered totally online and some nursing courses that include both on-campus and online instruction. As with the associate's degree programs, clinical experiences for the BSN degree must be completed on-campus or at an associated health care facility.
Sample upper-division nursing courses in an RN-to-BSN program include these:
- Leadership and management for RNs
- Theory of clinical practice
- Community nursing