Nursing Programs

If you’re considering a career in nursing, choosing the right program is crucial. This guide provides a concise overview of nursing programs, from entry-level options to online and advanced degrees.

Nursing Schools & Programs

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Nursing programs, including online nursing degree programs, have opened a world of possibilities for aspiring nurses and current practitioners seeking to advance their careers. These programs cater to a wide array of learners, from those seeking their initial certification to seasoned professionals looking to specialize or ascend to leadership roles. 

Types of Nursing Programs

Nursing programs offer diverse degrees to cater to different career goals and professional backgrounds. At the entry-level, you’ll find programs leading to Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and Registered Nurse (RN) credentials. Each requires specific training hours and exams, with RN credentials obtainable through either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

For those seeking to ascend to higher-level positions, advanced degrees such as the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) prepare nurses for roles as Nurse Practitioners (NPs). These programs typically take 2-3 years to complete and require approximately 1,000 hours of clinical experience. It’s worth noting that a BSN is often a prerequisite for administrative, supervisory, and certain public health positions within the nursing field.

CNA Classes

CNA classes are typically offered by technical schools, community colleges, and private career colleges. CNA programs are typically offered at the certificate level and take four to 12 weeks to complete. Students enrolled in a CNA program learn to perform a wide range of duties, including assisting patients with daily activities such as eating, bathing, and dressing; monitoring a patient’s condition; reporting changes in the patient’s condition to a nurse or physician; and transporting patients to diagnostic tests.

ADN Programs

The two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is typically offered by community colleges and technical schools. ADN programs are designed to teach students how to provide basic bedside care for patients, monitor vital signs, administer medications, assist in surgery, and educate patients on health maintenance.

The ADN degree qualifies graduates to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX–RN), which is required to become a registered nurse. After earning an ADN, many students find entry-level work as nurses, while others continue their education with a bachelor’s degree, which opens up additional career options in management and administration.

BSN Programs

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is designed to provide students with advanced education, giving them broader practice opportunities and greater autonomy. The BSN degree usually requires four years of full-time study and is regarded as the most comprehensive undergraduate nursing program available to students. Earning a BSN degree qualifies the graduate to sit for the NCLEX-RN and begin a career in registered nursing.

MSN Programs

Master’s degree programs are intended for nurses who wish to practice in advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) roles. A master’s degree program typically requires at least two additional school years after earning an ADN or BSN. 

Master’s programs are available in a number of areas, including APRN roles such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists. In addition to preparing students for advanced nursing roles, master’s programs also prepare graduates to continue their education with a doctoral degree. 

DNP Programs

A Doctor of Nursing Practice is an advanced professional degree for nurses who wish to pursue careers in nursing education, clinical research, and administrative leadership roles. The DNP is a terminal degree that prepares graduates with the skills necessary to provide patient care at a highly advanced level. The DNP degree typically takes three years of full-time study beyond a bachelor’s degree to complete.

Ph.D. in Nursing

Nursing Ph.D. programs are intended for nurses who wish to pursue careers in nursing research, teaching, and leadership roles. Ph.D. programs typically require a minimum of four years of full-time study beyond the master’s degree level to complete and culminate in an original dissertation. Nursing Ph.D. programs are available in various topics, including nursing education, gerontology, and psychiatric-mental health nursing.

What Nurses Say About Nursing School

After four years of applying to nursing schools, I was finally accepted into an ADN program. I was excited but also unsure of what I had gotten myself into. The journey has been challenging and certainly no walk in the park, but incredibly rewarding. My program has prepared me, building my confidence and showing me that I can do much more than I believed. I am truly grateful for my time in nursing school.

Nursing Schools & Programs

Brooke C.

Registered Nurse

As a new staff nurse, I traveled to Huanchaco, Peru, where I provided primary care to the people in a small village. Being able to provide care to those in need reinforced my desire to pursue my NP degree. In 2005, I became a full-time student, enrolling in an Adult Nurse Practitioner Program while working full-time in a neuro ICU. It was very difficult committing to both, but by continuing to work while in school, I maintained my working relationships and had several job offers before I graduated.
Nursing Schools & Programs

Erin S.


From a young age, I was drawn to the medical field. When I was five, my mother battled breast cancer, which was my first introduction to the hospital world. My youngest brother has epilepsy and had a seizure when I was in high school. After these experiences I knew that nursing was what I want I wanted to do and that I would go on to become a nurse. I chose to pursue my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and it was the best decision of my life.

Nursing Schools & Programs

Lanh D.


Nursing Programs Online

Online nursing programs are a flexible and affordable option for nurses with responsibilities, such as full-time employment, making it difficult to attend traditional classes in person. Online programs offer the same high-quality nursing education and curriculum that students receive from regular programs, with the added benefit of working toward a degree from any location with an Internet connection.

Alternative Degree Paths

Over the past decade, nursing schools have significantly expanded their program offerings to help working nurses advance their careers and to encourage students without a background in nursing to enter the profession. Traditional BSN and Master’s degree programs remain widely available at most institutions, but most nursing schools have begun to offer some type of alternative degree path that allows nurses to earn a degree in much less time than if they were to pursue the traditional route.

Accelerated Nursing Programs

Accelerated nursing programs are designed to help students earn their Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN) or Master’s in Nursing (MSN) in less time than traditional programs. For example, a student holding an Associate’s Degree in Nursing may complete their BSN degree in 12-18 months instead of four years by enrolling in an accelerated BSN program.

Accelerated nursing programs are far more intensive than traditional options. Classes are typically held on weekday evenings and weekends, allowing students to earn their degrees while working full-time. Additionally, students can often transfer credits earned from previous college coursework, which may significantly reduce the total number of credits required to graduate.

Second Degree Nursing Programs

Second-degree nursing programs, or direct-entry nursing programs, are designed for students with a degree in a non-nursing field to pursue a career as a registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). These programs allow students to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) without first earning an undergraduate degree in nursing.

Second-degree programs are typically shorter than traditional options, lasting between one and two years for the BSN and two to three years for the MSN.

Nursing Program Resources

Nursing Programs FAQ

Can you become an RN in 2 years?

For people without nursing experience, there are two ways to become a registered nurse in two years or less: an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or an Accelerated BSN program. ADN programs take approximately two years to complete and are offered at most community colleges. An accelerated BSN can be completed in 15 to 24 months and is designed for students who have earned a bachelor’s degree in another field but wish to transition into nursing.

What is the fastest way to become a nurse?

The answer depends on what type of nurse you want to be. If your goal is to enter the field as fast as possible, the fastest way to become a nurse is to complete an LPN program, which takes as few as 12 months. If you are aiming to become a registered nurse, the fastest path is to complete an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN). ADN programs result in an undergraduate degree that meets the minimum education requirements to become a registered nurse and can be completed in roughly two years.

What is the pay difference between RN and BSN?

BSN-prepared nurses are in higher demand because they are expected to have advanced skills and competencies that allow them to perform some duties that an ADN nurse cannot. Hospitals acknowledge this difference by offering BSN-educated nurses higher salaries. The starting salary for an ADN nurse is approximately $71,000 per year, while RNs with a BSN earn approximately $83,000 per year, on average.

How much do RNs make?

The mean annual wage for registered nurses in 2020 was $80,010. However, the job market for registered nurses varies greatly depending on location, experience, and area of specialization. Registered nurses with a graduate degree, who work in advanced practice roles, can earn substantially more. A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, for example, earns a mean annual wage of $189,190.

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