The Basics of Nursing

College Degree Finder

This page provides basic information on
nursing programs, scholarships and schools
that can help you launch or advanced your
nursing career.

Basic Requirements

For starters you’ll need a basic education
to get into nursing school. This means
you’ll need at minimum a high school
diploma or GED. If you’re serious about
going straight into nursing school
following high school we recommend that
you spend your time in high school wisely,
taking courses that will prepare you to
get into nursing school or college and
help you excel once you’ve been accepted.
Taking the following courses in high
school will give you a head start and help
prepare you for your nursing program.

  • English – 4 years
  • Math – 3-4 years (including algebra
    and geometry)
  • Science – 2-4 years (including
    biology and chemistry; physics and
    computer science are recommended)
  • Social Studies – 3-4 years
  • Foreign Language – 2 years,
    recommended, but not necessary

If you already know which nursing school
or college you plan on attending, you
should take some time to find out what the
prerequisites for their nursing program
are. Prerequisites will vary from school
to school, and college to college. If you
don’t take the required prerequisite
courses in high school, you can always
make them up down the road, but you’ll be
much farther along if you take as many
relevant courses while you’re still in
high school.

Several nursing schools require program
applicants to take a pre-admission test
called the National League of Nursing
(NLN) Pre-admission Exam. This exam is
designed to assess an applicant’s
qualifications for the program. You can
learn more about the NLN exam at

Entry level Education and Degree

There are several different types and
variations of degree programs designed for
nursing professionals. Below are a few of
the most common. For more detailed
informaton on nursing degrees please visit
our types

of nursing degrees page.

  • Bachelor of Science Nursing
    – This is a four-year
    degree program designed to prepare
    students to practice as nurses in a
    large variety of health care settings.
    The BSN degree is the most popular
    nursing degree. Individuals who earn
    their BSN from an accredited nursing
    program can expect to have the
    greatest opportunity for career
    advancement. For example, a BSN from
    an accredited school is a standard
    prerequiste for many Master’s
    programs. And earning your Master’s
    degree in nursing (MSN) will qualify
    you for an number of specialized
    nursing positions including nurse
    practitioner, nurse educator, clinical
    nurse specialist, or nurse researcher.
    A BSN is often the preferred degree
    for nurses seeking employment in
    military, public health, school
    nursing, case management and forensic
    nursing. A BSN is required in many
    countries (except the U.S.) to sit for
    the RN exam.

  • Associate’s Degree – This
    degree program is offered at community
    colleges and junior colleges and
    typically takes two to three years to
    complete. The Associate’s degree in
    nursing (ADN) prepares nurses to
    provide direct patient care in a
    variety of health care settings. This
    degree is an affordable option for
    students who want to qualify
    themselves for entry level nursing
    positions while preparing to earn a
    BSN or advanced nursing degree. ADN
    programs are also offered at
    independent nursing schools, some
    four-year colleges and hospital
    nursing schools.

  • Hospital Diploma – Like the
    ADN, a hospital diploma is a two- to
    three-year program that prepares
    students to provide direct patient
    care in a variety of health care
    settings. However, a hospital diploma
    is not a degree program and, in and of
    itself, will not qualify students for
    academic based career advancement
    opportunities. Many diploma programs
    are affiliated with junior and
    community colleges, where you can take
    additional required courses, which
    will allow you to earn an Associate’s
    Degree in Nursing along with a diploma
    in nursing.

  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPNs)
    – Also known as Licensed Vocational
    Nurses (LVNs), LPNs are responsible
    for providing direct care for sick,
    injured, convalescent, and disabled
    patients under the supervision of a
    medical doctor or registered nurse.
    Typical tasks performed by LPNs
    include taking temperature readings,
    vital signs, blood pressure, and
    pulse, as well as providing other
    basic patient care such as bathing,
    applying dressings, and monitoring
    catheters. LPN and LVN programs are
    offered by community colleges and
    vocational schools and usually last
    about one year.

  • Accelerated Nursing Degrees
    The most popular accelerated nursing
    programs are the Accelerated BSN
    (Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing) and
    the Accelerated MSN (Master’s of
    Science in Nursing.) Accelerated
    nursing degree programs are designed
    for students who already have a
    bachelor’s or master’s degree in a
    non-nursing field but would like to
    return to school to earn a degree in
    nursing. These programs allow students
    to complete their nursing degree in a
    much shorter time than typically
    required of an individual who has not
    already earned a bachelor’s or
    master’s degree.


While the correct nursing education is
essential, it does not substitute for
licensure. Licensure is required in all 50
states in order to practice as a
Registered Nurse (RN), Advanced Practice
Nurse, or as a Licensed
Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN).
After graduating from your nursing program
you will be required to take the NCLEX-RN®
or NCLEX-PN® license examination to become
a licensed, practicing nurse. To learn
more about licensure requirements in your
state visit the National Council of
State Boards of Nursing

Advanced Education and Degree Programs

Earning an advanced degree in nursing can
open up a whole array of career
development and advancement opportunities
in the health care and medical industries.
The following are the most popular degrees
that nursing can obtain in order to
increase their career opportunities.

  • RN to BSN/RN to MSN – These
    are degree completion programs
    designed specifically for registered
    nurses who have a diploma or ADN
    degree and desire to complete a
    bachelor’s or master’s degree program
    in nursing. These “bridge” programs
    are very popular among working nurses
    and are offered in several convenient

  • Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN)
    – This degree program prepares nurses
    for higher levels of responsibility.
    Nurses who earn their MSN qualify for
    a variety of nursing specialties
    including Nurse Anesthetist, Clinical
    Nurse Specialist, Nurse Practitioner,
    Nurse Psychotherapist, or
    Nurse-Midwife. Nurses with a master’s
    degree in nursing can function in a
    variety of other roles including
    geriatric specialist, expert
    clinician, faculty member, healthcare
    administration, nursing management and
    community health.

  • Doctoral Degrees (PhD, EdD, DNP,
    – Doctoral degree programs
    are designed to prepare nurses for
    leadership, administration, teaching
    and management roles within the field
    of nursing. Nurses with doctoral
    degrees are also qualified to conduct
    research in both private and
    educational settings. Many nurses who
    pursue doctoral degree in nursing end
    up serving as health system
    executives, researchers, nursing
    school deans, teachers, and healthcare
    policy analysts.

  • Post-Doctoral Programs – As
    the name denotes, these programs are
    designed specifically for nurses who
    hold doctoral degrees. The programs
    provided advanced training for nurses
    and are currently offered a limited
    number of universities throughout the

Nursing Certification

Registered Nurses can earn a number of
different certifications to show clinical
competence in their particular field of
expertise. Some of the most common
certifications include:

  • CNRN (Certification of Neuroscience
    Registered Nursing)
  • CGRN (Certification of
    Gastroenterology Nurses)
  • CPAN® (Parianesthesia Nursing
  • CAPA®
  • LNCC® (Legal Nurse Consultant
  • ANP-BC Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • FNP-BC Family Nurse Practitioner
  • PNP-BC Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • ACNP-BC Acute Care Nurse
  • GNP – BC Gerontological Nurse
  • PMHNP-BC Adult Psychiatric and
    Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • PMHNP-BC Family Psychiatric and
    Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • RN-BC: Nursing Case Management
  • RN-BC: Ambulatory Care Nurse
  • RN-BC: Pain Management
  • RN-BC: Medical-Surgical Nurse
  • RN-BC: Pediatric Nurse
  • RN-BC: Gerontological Nurse
  • RN-BC: Psychiatric Mental Health
  • RN-BC: Cardiac/Vascular Nurse
  • RN-BC – Informatics Nurse
  • NE-BC – Nurse Executive
  • NEA-BC – Nurse Executive, Advanced
  • RN-BC Nursing Professional
  • APHN-BC – Advanced Public Health
  • CEN® (Certification of Emergency
  • CFRN® (Certification of Emergency
    Registered Nursing)
  • CNOR®
  • CRNA (Certification and
    Recertification of Nurse Anethetists)
  • CRNI (Certification of Registered
    Nursing Infustion)
  • CMSRN® (Medical Surgical Nursing
  • CHPN® (Certification for Hospice and
    Palliative Nurses)
  • ACHPN®
  • NCSN® (National Certification of
    School Nurses)
  • CNN (Certification of Nephrology
  • CDN
  • ONC® (Orthpaedic Nurses
  • OCN® (Oncology Nursing
  • CPON®
  • CBCN
  • AOCNP®
  • AOCNS®
  • CRRN® (Certified Rehabilitation
    Registered Nurse)
  • CWOCN (Certified Wound, Ostomy,
    Continence Nurse)
  • CWCN
  • COCN
  • CCCN
  • CWON

Continuing Education

While continuing education for nurses is
not a requirement in all states, all
nurses are expected to stay up-to-date
with current practices and advances in
healthcare and nursing. Continuing
education credit can be earned via
continuing education course offered by
nursing schools, on the internet, or by
attending professional conferences.

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