RN Programs: Start to Finish Degree Options, Courses and Finding the Program for You

Meet the Expert
Keith Carlson Read More

Aspiring Registered Nurses must graduate from an accredited nursing program, which are available online, as well as on university and college campuses. Students have a number of educational options from which to choose, ranging from certificate to graduate-level programs, as well as alternative paths for those who already hold a degree in a subject other than nursing. The purpose of this page is to assist prospective students in navigating admission requirements and finding the right degree program in their efforts to become a Registered Nurse.

Top RN Degree Programs for 2017

Prospective students interested in studying a career that allows them to work closely with patients to improve their overall health and quality of life may benefit from enrolling in an RN degree program. The medical field is constantly evolving and growing to meet the demand of students. To help students find the best RN program for them, we have ranked schools all over the country based on criteria such as cost, graduation rates and resources available to them. Explore the top RN programs for 2017 in the list below.

RankSchool Title Net Price Financial Aid Total Programs Student-Teacher ratioNCLX ValueRanking ScoreSchool DescriptionAdditional Benefits: Placement Services Counseling Services Credit for Experience
1New York University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
52%
Online
Nursing
Programs
8
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
85%
Ranking SCORE 99.75
Read more

New York University’s most-popular programs at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing are the 15-month accelerated and traditional four-year degree programs. Undergraduate academic programs include an RN-to-BS, transfer degree, and double major options. Students seeking the accelerated BSN degree must complete prerequisites in anatomy and physiology nutrition, microbiology, developmental psychology, statistics, and chemistry (including lab). NYU’s Global Public Health/Nursing double major combines a nursing BS curriculum with a focus on community and global health. Graduate programs include a BS/MS, MS/MPH, DNP and PhD. In addition to the degrees, there are 10 advanced certificate programs at the university.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
2Cedar Crest College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
96%
Ranking SCORE 98.59
Read more

Founded in Allentown in 1867 as a private, women’s liberal arts college, Cedar Crest College currently serves 1,885 at its 84-acre suburban campus. Nursing programs include a BSN degree and BSN-completion program for transitioning registered nurses. Students can opt for a minor or double major in gerontology, healthcare management, or school nursing. The online Master of Science in Nursing program offers tracks leading to specialties as a nurse administrator or nurse educator. The School Nurse Certification Program (17-18 credits) can be completed on campus or online in as little as 18 months.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
3Loyola University Chicago Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
93%
Online
Nursing
Programs
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
92%
Ranking SCORE 98.09
Read more

Loyola University Chicago offers comprehensive degree programs with an emphasis on the Jesuit Catholic tradition. The Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing (SON) offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and the Accelerated BSN (ABSN) at the undergraduate level leading to NCLEX examination. Other undergraduate offerings include a wholly online RN-BSN degree and Bachelor of Science in Health Systems Management (non-nursing). Graduate students with an RN license and BSN can complete advanced degrees with a Nurse Practitioner or Clinical Nurse Specialist designation. The school’s RN-MSN is open to applicants holding an associate degree.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
4Shenandoah University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
96%
Online
Nursing
Programs
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
86%
Ranking SCORE 97.53
Read more

Shenandoah University, located an hour away from Washington D.C., was founded in 1875 in Winchester, VA. In 2016, freshmen students were awarded more than a total of $6 million in financial aid. Shenandoah’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a traditional, four-year degree program offered on the Winchester Main Campus. All nursing students are grounded in technology through the university’s iMLearning program. Classes are small and include studies in emergency preparedness and disaster relief nursing. At the end of the freshman year, nursing students must attain a minimum score of 65% on the Essential Academic Skills Test (TEAS) to advance to the second year.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
5Molloy College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
88%
Online
Nursing
Programs
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
79%
Ranking SCORE 97.36
Read more

Founded in 1955 by the Sisters of St. Dominic, Molloy College serves more than 4,000 students and has witnessed a 26 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment since 2005. Today the college offers nursing students a choice of bachelor’s degrees, dual degrees, master’s and doctoral degree programs. Undergraduate nursing students must complete a one-on-one practicum and other clinical experiences. The RN/Dual Degree Program (DDP) is an accelerated program that allows students to take both undergraduate and graduate courses, culminating in a master’s degree. All students are invited to First Friday brown-bag nursing research seminars every month.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
6Ursuline College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
85%
Ranking SCORE 97.25
Read more

Ursuline College was founded in 1871 by the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland. Today’s 1,500 students choose from over 30 undergraduate and 10 graduate programs at the college. The Breen School of Nursing was created in 1975. It offers a RN-to-BSN program, a second degree program and an accelerated, 15-month BSN degree. It has recently launched its Three-Year BSN Program, open to high school graduates with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and ACT of 24 or SAT of 1110 (M+CR). Graduate students can enroll in Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) at Ursuline.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
7Bethel College-Indiana Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
94%
Ranking SCORE 97.20
Read more

Founded in 1947, Bethel College-Indiana, is an Missionary Church evangelical institution. It currently serves 1,650 traditional and graduate students. School of Nursing offers programs that place bachelor-degree students in clinical experiences one year before they typically begin at other colleges and universities. Students can pursue a 72-hour Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with tracks for educators or administrators. Working nurses can undertake a RN - BSN Completion Program in 20-month plan (one class weekly) or accelerated 12-month option (meets twice a week).

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
8Union University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
88%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
92%
Ranking SCORE 97.12
Read more

Union University, established in Jackson in 1823, is the oldest American institution affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Its 3,500 students pursue more than 100 programs of study. Students at the nursing school undertake clinical experiences at the Center for Excellence in Health Care Practice and all students have the opportunity to serve on short, international missions. Undergraduates can pursue a traditional BSN degree or a LPN-BSN program. At the graduate level, Union offers a Master of Science in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. The university also has a First Step to BSN Program for students with no prior college experience.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
9Nazareth College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
94%
Ranking SCORE 97.11
Read more

Founded as a Catholic women’s college in 1924, Nazareth College today is a co-educational, religiously independent institution serving 2,800 students. The nursing school offers a BS in Nursing, LPN to BS in Nursing, RN to BS in Nursing, and accelerated Weekend RN to BS degree. Unique to the program are overseas nursing service programs in Belize and Finland. The Finland program qualifies students for European Union nursing licensure in addition to their four-year American nursing degree. Agreements with more than 90 institutions give Rochester-based students a wide choice of facilities, populations and clinical experiences.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
10University of Rochester Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
86%
Online
Nursing
Programs
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
83%
Ranking SCORE 97.10
Read more

University of Rochester School of Nursing, founded in 1925, was one of the nation’s first institutions to offer a diploma of nursing. Its master of science degree program was launched in 1951. In 1979, its PhD program became one of the first 15 nursing doctoral programs in the United States. Today’s nurse education programs are based on a “patient-first” philosophy. Students can choose from Rochester’s Accelerated Bachelor's Program for Non-Nurses, Accelerated Master's Program for Non-Nurses, RN-to-BS, RN-to-BS-to-MS, nurse practitioner degrees, Doctor of Nursing Practice, or post-master's certificate programs. Online offerings include the Family Psych Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program, Care Manager Education program, and RN First Assistant program.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
11Xavier University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
88%
Ranking SCORE 96.99
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
12University of Iowa Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
59%
Online
Nursing
Programs
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
96%
Ranking SCORE 96.96
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
13Regis College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
97%
Online
Nursing
Programs
6
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
86%
Ranking SCORE 96.94
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
14Bradley University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
100%
Ranking SCORE 96.88
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
15Simmons College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
96%
Online
Nursing
Programs
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
94%
Ranking SCORE 96.87
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
16Capital University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
94%
Ranking SCORE 96.83
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
17University of Saint Mary Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
99%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
91%
Ranking SCORE 96.77
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
18Case Western Reserve University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
84%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
90%
Ranking SCORE 96.69
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
19University of Washington-Seattle Campus Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
34%
Online
Nursing
Programs
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
89%
Ranking SCORE 96.28
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
20St Catherine University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
99%
Online
Nursing
Programs
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
84%
Ranking SCORE 96.24
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
21Drexel University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
93%
Online
Nursing
Programs
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
94%
Ranking SCORE 96.20
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
22Gardner-Webb University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
96%
Online
Nursing
Programs
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
100%
Ranking SCORE 96.20
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
23Moravian College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
93%
Ranking SCORE 96.09
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
24Millikin University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
99%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
78%
Ranking SCORE 96.04
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
25Oklahoma Baptist University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
89%
Ranking SCORE 95.94
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
26Lamar University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
20%
Online
Nursing
Programs
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
94%
Ranking SCORE 95.47
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
27SUNY Downstate Medical Center Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
N/A
Online
Nursing
Programs
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
95%
Ranking SCORE 95.46
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
28Northeastern University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
69%
Online
Nursing
Programs
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
91%
Ranking SCORE 95.41
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
29Gannon University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
93%
Online
Nursing
Programs
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
92%
Ranking SCORE 95.19
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
30Berea College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
100%
Ranking SCORE 95.17
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
31Johns Hopkins University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
48%
Online
Nursing
Programs
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
89%
Ranking SCORE 95.17
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
32Lincoln Memorial University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
97%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
96%
Ranking SCORE 95.16
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
33University of Pennsylvania Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
50%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
93%
Ranking SCORE 95.06
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
34University of Northern Colorado Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
79%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
88%
Ranking SCORE 95.03
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
35New Jersey City University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
17%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
100%
Ranking SCORE 95.02
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
36West Virginia Wesleyan College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
100%
Ranking SCORE 94.91
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
37Ball State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
47%
Online
Nursing
Programs
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
93%
Ranking SCORE 94.90
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
38Delaware State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
60%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
84%
Ranking SCORE 94.84
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
39Creighton University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
91%
Ranking SCORE 94.81
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
40East Carolina University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
50%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
97%
Ranking SCORE 94.78
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
41Thomas Edison State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
N/A
Online
Nursing
Programs
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
89%
Ranking SCORE 94.77
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
42Seton Hall University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
97%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
75%
Ranking SCORE 94.75
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
43DeSales University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
94%
Ranking SCORE 94.74
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
44Indiana Wesleyan University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
50%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
87%
Ranking SCORE 94.73
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
45Azusa Pacific University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
93%
Online
Nursing
Programs
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
84%
Ranking SCORE 94.72
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
46Jefferson College of Health Sciences Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
97%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
85%
Ranking SCORE 94.69
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
47Barton College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
99%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
61%
Ranking SCORE 94.66
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
48Goshen College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
96%
Ranking SCORE 94.64
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
49Wesley College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
95%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
83%
Ranking SCORE 94.62
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
50Duquesne University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
Online
Nursing
Programs
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
NCLEX
Value
92%
Ranking SCORE 94.61
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes

Search for RN Programs

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there are about 2.7 million working RNs and more than 2,000 accredited nursing schools in the United States. Most programs are offered online and on campus to suit the schedules and needs of both traditional and non-traditional students. Find nursing programs by state, college, and degree-level with the search tool below:

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Acceptance Rate Student Population School Type RN Programs

Educational Road Maps for Aspiring RNs

There are many ways to begin a rewarding career as a registered nurse. The following are just a few examples of the possible paths that aspiring RNs can take.

Complete an LPN/LVN program and begin working as a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse.

Enter an LPN-to-RN or LPN-to-BSN program.

Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Begin working as a registered nurse.

Earn an RN certificate/diploma or an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) at a community college, vocational school, or online.

Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Begin working as a registered nurse, keeping options open for professional advancement through higher degrees.

Complete a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN). Enter the bachelor’s program from the beginning, or transition from an associate’s degree.

Enroll directly into a master’s of science in nursing degree program. Accelerated BSN-to-MSN programs are available.

Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Begin working as a registered nurse.

Complete an associate’s degree or a diploma/certificate program in nursing.

Earn licensure by passing the NCLEX-RN, and begin working as a registered nurse.

Return to school to pursue a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree. RN-to-BSN bridge programs can minimize time spent in school.

Continue working as a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree. Explore options for job promotions and higher salaries.

Return to school again to earn a master’s degree and open up more career opportunities. RN-to-MSN or BSN-to-MSN programs can accelerate the process.

Begin with an undergraduate degree in a non-nursing discipline, like psychology, biochemistry, or sociology.

Decide that a career in nursing is right for you.

Pursue an entry-level master’s of science in nursing (EL-MSN), also known as an accelerated MSN.

Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Begin working as a registered nurse.

RN Programs by Level

There is more than one path leading to a prospective RN’s eligibility to take the National Council Licensure Examination—or NCLEX-RN. Diplomas in nursing were previously the most common route to licensure; however, many 21st-century employers are now seeking RNs with more education and experience. An Associate of Science in Nursing can generally be earned in approximately two years, offering students a scope of practice which is mostly technical in scope. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a four-year degree that prepares students for the full scope of nursing practice, with more in-depth education and training. A Master’s of Science in Nursing offers a number of tracks, including advanced nursing, administration, research, and education.

1
RN Diploma/Certificate Programs:

Diploma and certificate programs for registered nurses are increasingly rare, and only available at a decreasing number of sites in the United States. With the Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) poised to become the entry-level requirement for many nursing positions, diploma/certificate programs are no longer highly recommended paths into the profession.

These types of programs are typically offered by hospitals in conjunction with an onsite nursing school, providing students with both classroom and hands-on training. A high school diploma or GED equivalent is typically the main requirement for admission into a nursing diploma or certificate program. Courses include sciences and health care strategies, with most programs requiring a commitment of one to three years, depending on the course load.

Accredited programs allow the student to sit for the NCLEX-RN, and employment options include entry-level positions at hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and doctors’ offices. Diploma recipients can build on their education by applying to a program offering a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree.

RN diploma programs combine clinical experience and classroom work. Common courses include:

Course Description
Human Biology

This course introduces fundamental biological and scientific principles by studying the structures, actions, and processes of the human body. Attention is paid to structure and function of organs and organ systems, as well as diseases of the human body such as cancer, heart disease and infections.

Anatomy

This course focuses on the anatomical structure of the human body. Some programs feature laboratory study that works with human skeletal collections, and the dissection of cadavers and preserved specimens.

Practices of Nursing

This course presents introductory concepts for the practical nurse. The course emphasizes the accountability and responsibility of practical nursing care consistent with the code of ethics.

Pharmacology

Students will learn the foundation of basic pharmacologic concepts needed for safe medication management and demonstrate skill in safe medication management.

Professional Nursing and Health Concepts

Students will be introduced to the role of the RN to develop a systematic approach to clinical decision making.

Graduates from an RN certificate or diploma program will have the following core competencies:

  • Determine health status

    Nurses will be able to determine the status and health needs of clients based upon interpretation of health data and preventive health practices in collaboration with patients and health care team members.

  • Formulate goals

    Nurses will be able to determine health care goals and outcomes for patients.

  • Coordinator of care

    Nurses will coordinate resources for the provision of individual and family care, and collaborate for the planning and delivery of care.

  • Advocate

    Nurses monitor and promote quality and access to health care for patients and families.

  • Communication

    Nurses will communicate and collaborate with members of a patient’s health care team to promote and maintain optimal health.

2
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs:

An associate degree in nursing is a common educational gateway to a career in nursing. ADN programs are offered at community colleges and technical schools throughout the United States, and provide students with the basic nursing skills needed to care for a wide variety of patients in a number of settings. Students who complete the ADN program are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN and apply for their RN license.

ADN programs offer didactic classroom education coupled with intensive clinical instruction. The ADN differs from a nursing diploma in terms of requiring a larger number of credit hours and more in-depth coursework taken at the college level. RNs with an ADN earn a higher salary than those with a diploma, and can assume greater responsibilities in the healthcare workplace. The ADN is an affordable and efficient path for entry into the nursing profession, opening many possibilities for further education and advancement.

Since the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that the BSN become the standard entry-level nursing degree by 2020, some nurses are choosing to sidestep the ADN by directly pursuing a BSN, while others are enrolling directly in a BSN program following the successful completion of the ADN.

Students at this level can expect to participate in many courses, including but not limited to the following:

Course Description
Courses related to the nursing process:

Courses related to the nursing process emphasize the fundamental theoretical and practical framework utilized by nurses in approaching patient care and illness.

Courses related to nursing across the lifespan

This course builds on previous nursing studies, focusing on health promotion, interventions, and management of care for patients across the lifespan.

Issues in professional nursing

Issues pertinent to nursing practice are the focus of such courses, and are usually designed to facilitate the transition from student nurse to entry-level practitioner.

Courses related to nursing and mental health

Nursing management of a wide array of patients experiencing various forms of mental illness are reviewed in such courses.

Graduates from an ADN program will develop the following core competencies:

  • Effective Communication

    RNs will use therapeutic communication skills when interacting with patients and their families.

  • Patient Assessment

    RNs will be proficient in the assessment of the emotional, physical, and cultural status of the patient, with an ability to analyze the effects of these factors on health status.

  • Decision making

    ADN graduates will demonstrate appropriate clinical judgment, critical thinking, and the ability to make decisions related to patient management and safety.

  • Managing care

    Graduates will have the skills to prioritize patient needs and the implementation of individualized care, including .

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Bachelor of Science in Nursing Programs (BSN):

Nurses seeking career advancement, a higher salary, more skills, and increased job responsibility would do well to consider a so-called RN-to-BSN “bridge” program. These programs streamline training and minimize redundancy, meaning registered nurses can generally complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in less time than a typical four-year bachelor’s degree program. A bachelor’s degree or higher is often necessary for administrative positions, research, consulting, and teaching, and is poised to become the industry standard for entry-level nursing positions by 2020 or 2025.

BSN programs are pursued by students in four-year colleges and universities. In order to earn the BSN, students follow a relatively more rigorous academic course of study as compared to that of ADN students, with considerably broader training in the humanities.

Generally taught at the university level, BSN programs provide more in-depth instruction in topics such as nursing leadership, research, and community nursing.

For students with no previous college education, nursing schools within four-year colleges and universities offer pre-licensure baccalaureate nursing programs; these programs also prepare students to sit for the NCLEX nursing licensure exam. Other students may enter so-called “Second Bachelors” programs, wherein they pursue a BSN and nursing licensure after having earned a baccalaureate degree in another discipline.

These programs are usually offered on campus and/or online and may take two to three years to complete, depending on course load and work schedule. Online programs give RNs more flexibility by offering schedules that allow students the opportunity to simultaneously study, work, and meet other responsibilities.

Typical courses that students take for a BSN degree may include:

Course Description
Contemporary Nursing and Health Care Issues

Students examine the historical, contemporary and potential influences on nursing practice. Issues, trends and their application to the practice of nursing are covered.

Pharmacology

Students are introduced to the basic principles of drug action and nursing implications within the framework of the nursing process. Drugs and the pharmacologic effects on the body are studied, as well as the safety and legal implications of drug administration.

Nursing Leadership and Health Care Policy

Students learn the theory and concepts needed to successfully assume leadership and management positions in a health care environment.

Community Nursing

This class examines disease and illness prevention and management in at-risk individuals, groups, and communities. Public policy, health, and epidemiology are covered.

Surgical Nursing

Students build on previous pre- and postoperative skills first introduced in adult nursing care classes. This course typically includes lectures, labs and clinical assignments.

Graduates from a BSN program will develop the following core competencies, which build on competencies from previous degrees:

  • Critical thinking

    Graduates will use critical thinking to identify the health-related needs of individuals, groups and communities.

  • Leadership

    Graduates will provide leadership for the continuing development of the nursing profession.

  • Streamlined Communication

    Effective patient communication is a vital component of patient care, as is interdisciplinary communication. Nurses must effectively communicate with patients and team members in a variety of settings.

  • Use of technology

    Nurses can perform procedures such as assessing vital signs with a range of assessment tools. Nurses evaluate patient data, and utilize information technology to document and communicate salient clinical information.

  • Teamwork and collaboration

    Nurses collaborate with members of the multidisciplinary care team in order to safely and appropriately treat patients. A nurse with a BSN may assume a managerial position, supervising other nurses and staff in the provision of patient care.

Advanced RN Programs

For various reasons related to professional advancement and career mobility, registered nurses pursue advanced education through a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. Programs offering a Masters of Science in Nursing provide specialized post-graduate education to nurses seeking to further their nursing careers with advanced academic education and/or clinical training.

In terms of Masters-level clinical careers as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), an MSN candidate may pursue education in order to earn the qualifications to work as a Nurse Practitioner (including adult, pediatric, family, geriatric, and other specializations), Certified Nurse Midwife, Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Certified Nurse Anesthetist.

Non-clinical Masters-level opportunities include nursing administration, nursing education, and related educational tracks.

Entry-level Master of Science in Nursing Programs (EL-MSN)

The EL-MSN program is a logical path for aspiring RNs who have an undergraduate degree in another field and wish to pursue a change of career in the nursing profession. Students are typically slightly older than those who pursue their schooling continuously from Bachelor’s to Master’s, and previous nursing experience is not required. Courses emphasize research, evidence-based practice, patient-centered care, leadership and theory. EL-MSN programs may take two to three years to complete, although accelerated programs offer a more condensed timeline.

Master of Science in Nursing Programs (MSN)

RNs who wish to work as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses or in areas related to research, education, leadership, or scholarship are potential candidates for an MSN program. The MSN prepares students for advanced roles including teaching, research, and administrative positions, as well as advanced clinical practice. MSN degrees tend to require 18 months to three years of study depending on the program and individual student, and programs generally are offered online and on campus. Clinical MSN programsy include hands-on practicums focused on advanced patient health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Earning an MSN related to a clinical discipline allows nurses to focus on a specialized area of nursing such as nurse practitioner, certified nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist or certified nurse midwife.

The first step in the MSN admissions process is the completion of appropriate academic prerequisites. Each school’s admission requirements will vary slightly, but most will require an application fee, personal statement explaining why you are applying and what you hope to accomplish while in the program, a professional resume, letters of reference from an employer or faculty member, submission of transcripts (be sure to check whether your prospective school wants official transcripts, and whether they can be sent electronically), and a copy of your active RN license.

Understanding the RN Online Program

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. Some schools allow students to earn associate degrees and RN licensure through hybrid programs, which are a mix of online classwork and on-site clinical work usually arranged at a medical facility near the student’s home. An instructor will post lecture materials and assignments online, which the students can complete on their own time and email back to the instructor by the designated due date.

Some accelerated courses may be offered, but schools typically require that online students follow the same quarter or semester schedule as on-campus students. Many working nurses with families or other responsibilities earn their degrees online, as do students who live far from a college campus. The RN-to-BSN and MSN degrees are the programs most commonly offered online. Regular access to a computer, an email account and a reliable Internet connection are required to take online courses.

Campus vs. Online: Side-by-Side

Online programs are perfect for non-traditional students who require a bit more flexibility with their schedule or who don’t live near any schools. Nursing is a hands-on experience but many of the courses can still be completed online.

  On Campus Online
Time to completion

In general, online and on-site programs require the same amount of time to complete, but students are sometimes able to finish faster via an online program because they are able to work ahead.

Cost

Students in on-campus programs are often required to buy parking passes and pay student activity fees. They must also allow for the cost of transportation, meals, and other expenses.

Students in online courses avoid paying parking fees, transportation costs, and student activity fees, as well as the need to purchase food and other services on campus.

Classroom Hours

Students in traditional on-campus programs are able to collaborate with their peers and have easy access to professors and advisers.

Virtual nursing programs allow students to work at their own scheduled pace, and connect with peers and instructors via online platforms, email, phone, and video conferencing.

Curriculum

Students are able to visit the school and determine whether it offers an accredited program.

Students are not restricted in terms of the specific school in which they enroll; for instance, a student on the East Coast can virtually attend a program on the West Coast. However, many online schools do not have the proper accreditation.

Working with Patients

Students are able to work with patients during the clinical practicum of their courses.

Students complete clinical rotations at local facilities, working directly with preceptors and patients.

After School: Passing the NCLEX-RN Exam

The National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, is a multiple-choice standardized test that each state Board of Nursing uses to determine whether a candidate is prepared for entry-level nursing practice. Candidates must apply for their nursing license from their state Board of Nursing prior to registering to sit for the exam.

The cost to take the NCLEX-RN is $200, and students have five hours to complete it. The test is taken on a computer, and the process is adaptive: your answer to each question will determine the next one you’re given. For instance, a correct answer will generate a higher-level question, but a wrong answer will prompt a slightly lower-testing level. The computer will provide questions until a pass or fail grade is reached.

Successfully completing this test can be a challenge, but the following tips can help students master the NCLEX-RN:

  • Develop a study plan that outlines how many hours per day will be devoted to test preparation, and what topics will be covered on which days.

  • Spend time studying with at least one other person; members of a study group can quiz one another and support their peers.

  • Take a comprehensive NCLEX review course that covers pertinent subjects, helps students identify strengths and weaknesses, and clearly addresses successful test-taking strategies specific to the NCLEX-RN.

  • Control test anxiety. This can be a stressful time for students so it’s important to find strategies to stay calm, as nervousness will have a negative effect on your test-taking performance.