If you have made the decision to enter the medical field and want to become a registered nurse then you naturally need to find out about your education options. Registered nurse schooling can take several different formats with differing degree levels. Each format will prepare you to take the NCLEX-RN exam which makes you a licensed, registered nurse.
The different options you have, from an Associate’s Degree to a Bachelor’s Degree and even a diploma are explored below with some school choices outlined to help you with your decision.
Registered Nurse with a Diploma
This pathway to becoming a registered nurse is not a common one but can be found, typically in hospital settings. The diploma pathway is usually employer offered and provides courses that allow current medical employees to pursue a nursing career. At the end of the program, the students are eligible to take the RN examination. Nurses with a diploma instead of a degree are considered entry level and cannot further their education into advanced nursing without earning a degree first.
Associate’s Degree in Nursing
The Associate’s Degree in Nursing is a two-year program that prepares students for the world of nursing and qualifies them to take the NCLEX-RN. Most Associate’s Degrees are offered through community colleges. This degree focuses on the nursing aspect of the education whereas the Bachelor’s Degree has core courses that enable the graduate to continue into advanced nursing education.
There are also online schools that offer Associate’s Degrees. These schools typically partner with medical facilities in the student’s community to facilitate the clinical portion of the education. Online schools offering this program include:
University of Phoenix
Chamberlain College of Nursing
These schools are fully accredited and work with students to ensure they receive the clinical coursework necessary to become eligible for the NCLEX-RN exam.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Nursing
The Bachelor’s of Science in nursing degree is typically a 4-year degree that allows graduates to apply for and be employed in higher ranking positions than those with an Associate’s Degree or Diploma. Some nurses choose the Associate’s Degree in order to get started in their career and then work toward their BSN. Nurses with a BSN can also advance their education and move into specialty fields such as pediatrics and other advanced nursing jobs. Some of the top schools for earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing are outlined here.
BSN Degrees: The U.S. News and World Reports has ranked the following colleges and universities at the top of their list of schools offering BSN degrees:
University of Washington (three campuses)
University of California/San Francisco (The UC Berkeley Medical School)
University of Pennsylvania
Johns Hopkins in Baltimore
University of Michigan
University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill
Oregon Health and Science University
University of Illinois
University of Maryland
University of Pittsburgh
Each of these schools offers four-year degree programs with some offering online courses as well as campus-based courses. Students graduating from these schools with a BSN are prepared to enter the medical field in higher positions than nurses without a degree.
In addition, the following schools are ranked among the highest of schools offering the RN to BSN program.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: This is an accredited program that features distance learning. Students who attend full-time can complete their degree in one year while part-time students will graduate in two years.
University of Virginia: This RN to BSN program is a mixed program with some courses available online. The time to complete the program can be as little as three semesters or stretched out to three years. Graduates are prepared for advanced education, advanced clinical practice work and prepared to be leaders in their field.
University of South Carolina Upstate: This is a fast-track program that can be completed in one year. It is held at the Mary Black School of Nursing, part of the Mary Black Hospital System in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Azusa Pacific University: This program is an online program offered by the Center for Adult and Professional Studies through the Azusa Pacific University. It is a fully accredited program where students work together through the online classes.