A Guide to Nursing Schools and Degree Programs

A Guide to Nursing Schools and Degree Programs
EMT/Nursing Pediatric Emergency Simulation by COD Newsroom Source: Flickr

If there is a career field that is always a safe bet, both for salary and hiring opportunities, then it is the nursing field.  The median salary for nurses is $65,470 per year, and the number of nursing positions is expected to grow 19% by 2022. This is much faster than the national average. But in order to become a registered nurse a nursing degree is required. We’ve gathered information on nursing schools and pathways to a nursing degree if you are considering a nursing career. A nursing certificate and an associate’s degree is needed for entry-level positions. Below is more information to assist you in choosing a nursing school or the level of education that is best for you.

Choosing a Nursing School

Nursing Schools
EMT/Nursing Pediatric Emergency Simulation by COD Newsroom
Source: Flickr

If you have just started to thing about a career in nursing then you may be wondering just what is nursing? A registered nurse’s job description varies depending on a few factors: work setting, patient group, and experience. For example, a nurse working in a private practice may not have as many tasks or responsibilities as a nurse working in an emergency room. While both will need to take care of basic tasks such as taking a pulse or blood pressure reading, other more specific tasks may be required. Nurses can also choose to work in a specific area of medicine (like pediatrics, dermatology, cardiology, etc.), which require different skills and abilities. Nurses with more experience may work collaboratively with physicians or oversee other LPN’s or nursing assistants. There are a couple of different education options when one is considering nursing. Click on the link below to find the best schools for nursing and what might be the top nursing school specifically for you.

Discover the best local & online Nursing schools available to you!


One of the routes that you can choose is a certificate in nursing. This can be obtained through an accredited program. Other options are to receive an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). All prospective nurses must take at least the basic of the science classes. These include biology, anatomy, psychology, nutrition, etc. An ADN is typically completed in in 2-3 years and a BSN in 4 years.


In addition to their classes, students in nursing schools must also complete clinical rotations in conjunction with their education. Once a nursing certificate or associate’s degree is obtained a nurse may want to take on a higher job title or more responsibilities. If a nurse wants to move into an administrative position, conduct research, or teach they must obtain a bachelor’s degree. And important to note is that all nurses must be licensed by the state in which they are employed. The minimum requirements for nursing license are:

  • You must graduate from a state approved nursing program.
  • You must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (or NCLEX exam).
  • You must self-report any and all criminal convictions, chemical dependencies, and disabilities that affect function.

Other requirements may need to be met depending on the state. Registered nurses also have the option of receiving certification in specialized fields.

Nursing Schools and Degrees Overview

Now that you have an idea of what a nurse does and needs to do in order to enter the nursing field it is time to discuss nursing schools and what will be asked of you depending on the program you choose.  First lets run down the complete list of nursing degrees:

  • LPN or LVN Education Degree – Quickest to complete. Convenient option for students who work or have other obligations. Allows you the eligibility to complete a state administered nursing exam.
  • Associate of Science in Nursing (ADN) – Takes about 2 years to complete. This is also a popular option for students who work or have other obligations. This is the quickest way to become an RN and start earning money sooner than a 4 year BSN.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – A four-year degree and most preferred by healthcare employers. Students will need to commit more time in order to complete. If planning to pursue a higher degree a BSN is the best choice to start with.
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Less time than the BSN – about 18 to 24 months- but the classes are more rigorous. Allows a nurse to specialize in a specific area and has the highest earning potential for nurses. Also allows for the nurse to take on many responsibilities that are normally saved for physicians.
  • Doctorate Nursing Degree Programs – Takes 4-6 years of full time study. Prepares nurses for careers in health administration, clinical research, and advance clinical practice.

Now lets take a look at the top nursing schools in the country:

  • #1 University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, Pa.
  • #2 Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore, Md.
  • #3 University of California – San Francisco, Ca.
  • #4 Universitey of Washington – Seattle, Wa.
  • #5 University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, Pa.

Rounding out the top ten are Duke, New York University, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, and Emory University.

The best thing to do when considering a nursing school is to decide how much time you want to invest in your education and what your career goals might be. If you can a BSN might be the best way to achieve a high salary in a relatively short period of time. But if a 4-year program doesn’t fit in your schedule then an ADN is an option and a pursuit of a BSN and MSN can always be accomplished further down the road. There are many factors to consider when picking the top nursing schools for you such as cost. Interesting to note that all master’s students at Baylor University, Texas Christian University, and the University of California received grants last year.

There are also online nursing schools that allow you to get your associate’s degree and qualify for an initial RN license. In order finish an online program you need to complete the non-clinical portion of your nursing schools curriculum course online. The clinical requirements are arranged at a medical facility in your area. Online courses are also a great option for students who work and/or have a family and cannot attend traditional school.

Find the best nursing schools near you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *