Diploma and associate's degree programs take between two and three years to complete. A bachelor's degree program includes additional clinical rotations and coursework designed to develop students' critical-thinking skills and could give applicants an edge over job applicants who don't hold 4-year degrees.
Students looking for specific schools can search a database provided by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (www.nlnac.org). This organization accredits nursing programs all over the country. When searching for registered nurse schooling, students can select the state in which they'd like to complete their program. Students can also narrow results by program level, institution type and city.
There are some program specializations available for students such as: surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, nurse management.
Although the rise of associate's degree nursing programs means nursing diplomas are no longer the standard way to enter the field, the programs do still exist, and completion of a degree program qualifies a graduate to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, which will allow them to seek entry-level jobs as RN's. These programs last about one to two years, with a course load of 7-10 credits per semester, though fast-track programs allow students to complete the diploma in less time. Courses studied may include:
- Basic Nursing Skills
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Patient Care Strategies
- Healthcare Administration
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
Like nursing diplomas, an Associate Degree in Nursing takes about two years to complete and qualifies a graduate to take the NCLEX-RN exam. However, this collegiate program covers more in-depth topics, such as biology and pharmacology and includes more clinical work. Because this program includes all prerequisites for BSN programs, this may be the best option for students wishing to pursue a BSN at a later date. Courses covered in this program may include:
- Healthcare Management
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Students new to the nursing field may apply to BSN programs as a traditional undergraduate student. Students already licensed as RN's may apply through a specialized RN-to-BSN program, and students choosing this route should have at least a 2.5 GPA in their prerequisite courses. BSN programs cover more advanced topics in nursing and nurse management, and courses may include:
- Medical Microbiology
- Psychiatric Health
- Nurse Management
- Healthcare Ethics
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of registered nursing is projected to grow by 16% between 2014 and 2024, faster than most professions. As of May 2015, registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $67,490. Nurses with at least a bachelor's degree have greater job prospects and opportunities for advancement than nurses without this degree.
Registered nurses often choose nursing specialties, such as pediatric nursing or nursing management. Once a student has chosen a specialization, he or she can look into further their education in that area. A master's degree in a specialization area may help a registered nurse gain more responsibility and pay within his or her place of work. Nearly all advanced practice nurses, including nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists, hold a master's degree.
Individuals who want to be registered nurses can get a nursing diploma, an associate's degree or bachelor's degree. There are many different specializations that students can choose from and the salary improves the more education an individual has.