What Education Is Needed to Become a Nurse?

There are many different options in education to become a nurse. Learn about the education, job duties, and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you. View article »

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  • 0:01 Essential Information
  • 0:51 Licensed Practical Nurses
  • 1:36 Registered Nurses
  • 2:20 APRNS
  • 3:07 Educational Options

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Video Transcript

Essential Information

Nurses perform numerous tasks, from providing fundamental healthcare to assisting surgeons with advanced and critical procedures. Those interested in becoming a nurse, can pursue several educational options based on their career goals and level of care they hope to provide. There are three main categories of nurses. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) provide basic care while supervised by registered nurses and doctors. Registered nurses (RNs) care for patients, provide support to patients' families, and assist doctors in medical procedures. Additional education can lead to further specialization as an advanced practice registered nurse.

Nurse Type Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) Registered Nurses (RNs) Advanced Practice Nurses (APRNs)
Required Education Postsecondary certificate Associate's or bachelor's degree Master's degree
Other Requirements LPN license RN license RN license and APRN certification or licensure
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% 16% 31%
Median Salary $43,170 (2015)* $67,490 (2015)* $87,537 (2016)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Let's look a little bit closer at the career options including job outlook and salary information.

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)

Licensed practical nurses (LPN), also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), are supervised by registered nurses. They measure and monitor patients, assist in patient care and treatments, and collect laboratory test samples. Most LPNs work in general healthcare and don't specialize.

For the decade spanning 2014-20224, 16% job growth is expected for licensed practical nurses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is faster than the average growth for all occupations. As of 2015, the annual median wage for licensed practical nurses was $43,170.

Registered Nurses (RNs)

Registered nurses (RNs) coordinate the treatment and care of patients. They work with doctors and other health professionals to administer medicine to patients, monitor their progress, and educate their families on how to manage the patient's illness. In addition to hospitals, RNs can work at long-term health care facilities, outpatient health care centers, and at patients' homes.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for registered nurses was $67,490 as of 2015. The expected job growth for RNs from 2014 to 2024 is also faster than average. Job opportunities in registered nursing are expected to grow 16% due to the increasing need for health care services.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)

The four types of advanced practice registered nurses are:

  • nurse anesthetists
  • nurse practitioners, nurse midwives
  • clinical nurse specialists

These individuals require advanced education and experience and must complete a graduate degree in nursing with a specialized program of study such as women's health, critical care, or public health. Though they perform the same duties as registered nurses, they work more independently and can be primarily responsible for a patient's care.

The expected job growth for APRNs, according to the BLS, is 31% from 2014 to 2024. Their median salary as of January 2016 is $87,537 according to

Educational Options

Educational programs in nursing are typically found in both public and private colleges, technical schools, and universities. Some hospitals and high schools offer them as well. In addition to liberal arts courses, nursing programs require students to take courses related to the field such as biology, physiology, chemistry, and anatomy. All nursing programs contain a supervised clinical component, and graduates of these programs must pass a licensing exam in order to begin work.

Associate of Science in Nursing

Associate's degree programs for registered nurses typically take 2-3 years to complete. Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree programs are offered by community colleges and nursing schools. These programs, which can be administered in coordination with hospitals, provide training in nursing fundamentals, pharmacology, and microbiology. ASN Programs may be a good fit for those who want a hands-on career and are not interested in pursuing administrative, research, or teaching positions.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Those interested in greater career flexibility and additional clinical experience can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). These 4-year programs prepare prospective RNs for nursing jobs as well as managerial, clinical, research, and teaching positions. BSN programs may include courses in adult health care, health assessment ,and community health. Most BSN programs require students to acquire experience in clinical settings.

Master of Science in Nursing

A Master of Science in Nursing program prepares nurses to become nurse administrators, advanced practice registered nurses, nurse educators, and family nurse practitioners. Most master's degree programs in nursing emphasize advanced nursing practices, management skills, and areas of specialty such as women's health, critical care, or public health.

The education required to become a nurse is highly dependent upon what type of nurse you want to become and can range from associate's to master's degrees.

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