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A nursing program enables trainees to get their first or advanced degree in nursing. Nursing programs are essential if your career interest is in nursing. To be a nurse requires that you have a bachelor's or associate degree in nursing and a state licensure. A Registered Nurse (RN) program will enable you to train on how to develop care plans, work with patients and doctors. Nursing has become such an exceptional career that you need to get a degree before seeking employment. Most nursing degree courses have full-time classes, but if you work as an assistant or senior healthcare assistant in the NHS, an employer can support your part-time university course.

How long does it take to complete a nursing program?

It takes you 4 years of full-time Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and a licensure exam if you do not have any nursing experience.  A bachelor's degree with a direct entry usually takes three years. If you have an associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a prior RN licensure, you can take an RN to BSN program for two years. Prospective nurses possessing a Bachelor's degree in a different field from nursing may enroll for a 2-year accelerated Bachelor of Science in a nursing program.

For you to become a registered nurse after earning your ADN or BSN degree, you must pass a National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam.   An RN with ADN   qualifies for an entry level job position at clinics and hospitals. It is the same situation for BSN holders, but they get more preference that their colleges with ADN qualifications as their credentials are higher.


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There are many affordable programs on offer by various nursing schools to students. It is important that you understand what each program offers before making a decision on the right one for your nursing interests. 

LPN or LVN Programs

LPN (licensed practical nursing) or LVN (licensed vocational nursing) programs have the shortest completion time. It is usually a year. An LPN/LVN will work under a registered nurse.  Many colleges throughout the US offer an LPN/LVN program and do not require students to have gone through any prerequisite classes.  Nonetheless, some schools require a SAT, ACT or TOEFL as the minimum test score.

The advantage of this program is that you can receive training at a hospital, community college or vocational-technical school near you. You may study while working or meeting other obligations. Some of the courses are online to allow working students to study at the convenient time for their schedule. An LPN/LVN gives you basic skills for a first nursing job such as checking for vital signs or patient monitoring.  Some colleges offer LPN to RN programs providing LPNs an opportunity to earn an Associate’s in Applied Science (A.A.S.) within three semesters and qualify to become an RN after passing NCLEX-RN.

RN to BSN programs 

 These are programs for ADN nurses wishing to earn their BSN degrees.   You can attend on campus or online if you are working.


LPN-to-BSN Program

LPN-TO-BSN bridge program takes the work experience as an LPN into account reducing the 4-year route it takes to earn a BSN by following the usual route. Although it includes studying some liberal arts, you will qualify to work as an RN after completing the program. You can attend classes full time and complete in time as short as 4 academic semesters.

You can also study part-time although you will take a longer time. LPN-to-BSN is rigorous and has more workload than the other LPN options. It is a factor you need to consider if you are working.  A BSN provided an opportunity for career advancement and a higher salary.  For instance, you can supervise other nurses as employer regard it to be more superior to an ADN.  Earning a BSN is a wise move if you are planning to get a higher degree program. 

Second Degree BSN Program

This program is also called as accelerated BSN program is customized for people with a non-nursing degree but have an interest in the joining nursing.  It allows students to transfer their credits for liberal arts in their first degree to accelerate their BSN training and complete it in 12-28 months. After successful completion of the program, students get their BSN in nursing and become eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination to get practicing license. Students requiring more flexibility can choose to study online, but they should know that the course is very challenging. Clinical rotations take place at the local community of the individual students.  A BSN you get through this route opens the way for supervisory roles, higher degree, and salary. 

ADN Programs

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a training program tailored to focus more on providing technical skills than theory. It takes 15-24 months to go through this program. Community colleges and vocational colleges are primary providers of ADN programs. You can find evening or weekend courses if you have work or family obligations. Over 30% of ASN graduates use it as a stepping stone to BSN.  It is a good option if you intend to be an RN career but you have not been working in an LPN/LVN position.  The requirement to join an ADN program is usually to complete pre-requisite classes before enrolling.  An ADN registered nurse can treat patients. They can also offer education to patients and provide emotional support to family members.  Trainees have to pass an NCLEX-RN exam to get a nursing licensure. It is a suitable choice for someone who is keen to practice as a registered nurse sooner than the 4 year period it takes to complete a BSN program.


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Programs

PhD programs prepare students to be nurse researchers and scholars who help in advancing theoretical foundation of health care and nursing practice. It takes 4-5 years to complete a full-time PhD program.     Part time option is available but may take a longer period. PhD documents do not have to complete clinical hours, but they have to participate in an extensive research and write a final dissertation. It is not favorable to hold a busy job while studying for your PhD. There are many organizations offering scholarships and grants for students to pay the tuition expenses to help students to focus on their PhD studies. 

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The regular period for BSN training is four years. It is a program that many nursing leaders prefer and it makes graduates marketable for best opportunities in the modern nursing market.  Many universities and colleges through the US offer BSN degree programs to prepare students to work in various health care facilities and settings. Some colleges complete the BSN   training with a clinical residency that transitions students to staff nurse role.  Many international students have an interest in BSN because its credits are highly transferable.  

This program requires serious commitment from students because of significant amounts of coursework and lab time. You should consider if you can manage to a healthy balance between study and job responsibilities if you are working. Some schools offer a hybrid program allowing students to take online classes. The practical lessons are however scheduled on campus or at local hospitals.  A BSN degree opens doors to various positions and career progression. It is also a pre-requisite for Master's program.



RN-to-BSN program is another bridge program customized for RNs who graduated with a diploma or Associate degree intending to complete their BSN degrees.

Rather than start the full BSN program from the beginning, it is practical for RNs to save time and reduce cost.  The program provides credit to students for nursing skills that they learned through their schooling or working experience for them to complete the studies in around two years. It is a program with one of the programs with most flexible schedules to suit the schedule of working nurses. Most schools set multiple start dates spread throughout the year rather than begin the program on September only.  Nowadays, schools also offer RN-BSN programs lessons online.  After completing an RN to BSN program and getting necessary certification increases the chances to join supervisory positions and earn higher salaries. It is also a viable step towards earning a master's degree.


LPN-to -Associate degree is s bridge program for students intending to become an entry-level RN.  The program requires you to take liberal arts courses. Some schools offer hybrid programs online that allow students to complete some of the courses at your convenience. You still need to make arrangements for your clinical practice schedule at local medical facilities.  If you want to continue studying, an ADN is an essential stepping stone for bachelor's degree. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement for the licensed practical nurses who intend to become an RN.


An Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program program provided students with an opportunity for specializing in a particular area of nursing such as research or advanced clinical training. Some of the students take a joint degree in a field relating to their careers such as public health, hospital or business administration. It requires much dedication because of the demanding workload of studying for two high-level degrees simultaneously.

A traditional MSN program takes 18-24 months, but it is extremely rigorous to prepare students for the advanced specialty. It is ideal for nurses who are looking forward to narrowing their focus.  Most MSN programs require trainees to complement their experience with a project or writing a thesis.  Many employers have tuition reimbursement arrangements for nurses who enroll in this masters program. If you are working as a nurse with a tight schedule, you can still go for an MSN and study online.  Earning an MSN hastens your move to a higher level of nursing career for example from nurse midwife to nurse practitioner. Your skills allow you to take care of patients as a doctor in many ways. You also get better remuneration.

Some of the specialty fields for MSN holders are:

• Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

• Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP)

• Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)

• Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

• Women Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

• Other routes to MSNs 

RNs have the option to enroll in an RN-to-MSN program as it allows them to get their Masters of Science in Nursing immediately after acquiring their BSN. Direct entry-sometimes called graduate or master's entry –programs are an ideal choice for nurses with bachelor’s degree in other fields. If you are an RN working at an entry-level position and want to specialize in a particular area of advanced nursing, an RN-MSN can be a good bridge program for you. MSN courses are designed to meet specific needs by students for them to receive a more advanced placement credit for their degree as possible. You can find MSN courses online. 

Some of the providers have an intake several times a year which is helpful if you want to join straightway and it is not near the normal September start date. MSN degree programs combine advanced training in a specialty area and RN licensure. Direct entry MSN programs usually take 3 years to complete. The first year is for entry-level nursing course work while the last two years are devoted to Master's level study.


Doctorate of Nursing (DNP) Degree programs prepare nurses for health administration, advanced clinical practice and clinical research careers.   DNP program requires lots of commitment by students since it will take 4-6 years to complete. Nurses with DNP degrees are in high demand, a situation that will last for a long time in future as many schools are phasing out some MSN degree for DNP programs. The main focus of many DNP programs is training in research and research methods such as statistics or data analysis, leadership skills and nursing science philosophy. A typical DNP program has 25 credit hours more than an MSN. It normally takes 18-30 months.  The median salary for US DNP degree holders is $ 107,000.

Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc) Program is one of the most popular DNP specialties prepares students to become nurse scientists with investigative skills of a researcher. They also possess leadership and clinical skills necessary for influencing the health care system. The study time is divided between in-depth research, challenging coursework, clinical defense and the final dissertation.  After acquiring a DNSc degree, you qualify to work as an administrator, analyst, educator or other high-level positions. It is a nice choice if your intention is to make a lasting impact in the nursing career. 

A Doctorate of Nursing Education program is another famous DNP specialty. It lays an emphasis on the development of clinical practice-oriented leadership.   It prepares students to make evidence-based decisions in educational, clinical and organizational settings. 


A PhD qualifies you to engage in all the dimensions so scholarly or professional life including:

• Conducting scholarly inquiry

• Leadership in health care delivery system

• Public policy formation 

 Nurses with a bachelor's degree and extensive qualifications have the option of taking an MSN/PhD dual degree. It is an intensive, accelerated program that prepares students for masters and advanced research training for doctoral-level simultaneously.   This program typically takes five years for the learners to complete.  A few schools consider students with non-nursing bachelor’s degree for MSN/PhD dual degree.

After settling for a program that suits your career requirements, it is essential that you research on the nursing schools that you may want to join to understand their strengths and weaknesses.  It also helps to study nursing school ranking information as it reflects their competence by comparing various factors. NIH Research Funding and U.S News &World Report are the two bodies that have been conducting authoritative ranking for many years.

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