|Program Level(s)||Associate's and bachelor's in nursing; master's as nurse practitioner|
|Prerequisites||GED or high school diploma for associate's degree along with training as a practical nurse; GED or high school diploma is also required for a bachelor's degree; master's degrees require a bachelor's degree and a full year experience as an RN|
|Length of Study||Part-time associate's degrees take 3-4 years; part-time bachelor's degrees take 6-7 years; part-time master's degrees take 4-5 years|
|Online Availability||Some courses and programs are available online|
Part-time nursing programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Associate's degree programs are sometimes designed for those new to the field of nursing, though many part-time programs are intended for licensed vocational or practical nurses who want to advance their training. Both associate's and bachelor's programs require a high school diploma or GED for admission. Master's degree programs typically require a bachelor's degree and RN licensure. All program levels prepare students for licensure, whether as RNs or advanced practice nurses.
Several schools provide students with the opportunity to take nursing classes at night and on weekends while they work towards a degree. Additionally, some courses and programs are available online.
Associate's Degree in Nursing
A part-time associate's degree program in nursing provides training in the care and treatment of patients. Students add to their base of knowledge about the human body and its ailments in learning to perform diagnostic tests, record medical histories, administer medications and devise treatment plans. An associate's degree may be earned in 3-4 years if a student is attending part-time.
Courses such as composition, psychology, and sociology, which often make up the general education component of an associate's degree program, are considered important supplements to the work of nurses. Medically-related nursing courses might include:
- Anatomy and physiology introduction
- Health assessment
- Adult patient care
Bachelor's Degree in Nursing
A part-time bachelor's degree program in nursing builds fundamental theoretical and practical knowledge in a range of medical disciplines and introduces students to nursing specialties that can provide a basis for graduate studies. Program content encompasses biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology and mental health. Students hone their skills in critical thinking, patient management and treatment outcome evaluation. Internships provide the opportunity to gain clinical experience in pediatric, acute, natal or geriatric care. When enrolled on a part- time basis, students may earn a bachelor's degree in 6-7 years.
The curriculum in bachelor's degree programs typically includes liberal arts courses in history, literature or the arts. Course topics addressing health and patient care include:
- Clinical nursing theory
- Child and youth care
- Maternal and pediatric care
- Surgical nursing
- Mental health nursing
Master's Degree in Nurse Practitioner
A part-time master's degree program in nurse practitioner enables registered nurses to further expand their practical and theoretical knowledge of health care delivery. Programs offer concentrations in acute care, pediatrics and women's health as well as other areas. Clinical rotations provide opportunities to collaborate with physicians and other medical professionals on providing primary care to patients of all ages, performing diagnostic tests, and managing hypertension, diabetes and other chronic conditions. Students also learn to advise patients on healthy lifestyle choices and self-care. Part-time students may earn a master's degree in 4-5 years.
Part-time programs provide for a reduced course load of 1-2 classes per semester rather than 3-4. Some programs require completion of a thesis or capstone project. Possible courses in a nurse practitioner program might include:
- Biostatistics applications
- Advanced clinical assessment
- Clinical decision making
- Health care economics
- Health care delivery systems
- Nursing informatics
Popular Career Options and Continuing Education
Earning a nursing associate's degree qualifies graduates to take the licensure exam to become registered nurses. Nurse practitioners typically train for and work in a specialization. Some of the positions master's degree holders may take include:
- Family and adult practice nurses
- Pediatric and geriatric nurses
- Nurses at private physicians' offices
- Hospital nurses
- Home health care services nurses
- School nurses
All states and U.S. territories require registered nurses to be licensed. With minor variations among states, licensure minimally entails completion of a qualified nursing program and passage of the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses.
Certification as a nurse practitioner is available from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) to nurses who graduate from a master's degree program. Attaining certification requires passage of an exam consisting of 150 multiple choice questions. The AANP has established exams for adult, family and gerontologic nurse practitioners.
Registered nurses can open up more opportunities for advancement by earning a bachelor's degree. Many schools offer transfer programs that allow students to apply their associate's degree credits towards a bachelor's degree
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in nursing are qualified to work as registered nurses in clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and other medical settings. Over the years 2014-2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 16% growth in the number of positions for registered nurses. The rate of growth is expected to be high in hospitals, private physicians' offices, and home health care services. Registered nurses earned median salaries of $67,490 as of May 2015, reported the BLS.
In summary, part-time nursing programs are available at the associate, bachelor's and master's degree levels, and they prepare graduates for licensing as registered nurses or nurse practitioners.