Paths to Becoming a Registered Nurse

Paths to Becoming a Registered Nurse

Becoming a Registered Nurse is a process that can take from 2 to 4 years and that can vary greatly in cost. The cost and the time involved depend on how quickly you want to get the training done – and the path you choose to becoming a Registered Nurse!

Although there are variations of the paths, there are three main paths to becoming a Registered Nurse: a Diploma program, an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). For those interested in moving beyond these degrees, there is also a Master’s degree in Nursing (MSN) and a number of degrees at the doctoral level. In general, those degrees are not entry level pathways to the Registered Nurse license. This article will look at the three entry level paths. It should be noted that all three of these paths adequately prepare the student to take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Nursing Diploma

At one time, a nursing diploma was the only way to become a nurse. This sort of training typically occurs in a hospital and provides extensive training at the bedside in addition to some basic classes in the sciences and fundamentals of nursing.

Length of Program

The length of the diploma program varies by the hospital but programs are typically at least one year long and most often two years.

Cost of Program

Although the cost of nursing diploma programs can vary, the typical program will cost less than an Associate Degree in Nursing.

What You Will Study

In a nursing diploma program, you should expect:

  • The emphasis will be on clinical practice and basic elements of patient care;
  • A basic introduction to pharmacology;
  • A basic introduction to different nursing/ patient care specialties;
  • Information about nursing across the lifespan from birth to death;
  • A basic introduction to psychiatric nursing.

Pros and Cons

Nursing Diploma programs offer a TON of hands on patient care experience during the training for an affordable price. However, diploma programs will only prepare you for entry-level positions.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

In addition to the basic sciences and fundamentals of nursing, ADN programs also require general education courses that will satisfy requirements for a degree at the college or university. Many nurses who receive an ADN use this degree as a stepping stone to a BSN degree.

Length of Program

The Associate Degree in Nursing Program typically requires 60 to 70 credits that usually takes about 2 years if you attend full time. Even on a part- time basis, most individuals can complete the ADN in less than 3 years.

Cost of Program

The College Board Annual Survey of Colleges average for tuition, fees, room and board for a 2- year degree in 2015-2016 is $11,438 per year for a total average of $22,876. Depending on location of the program, costs may be higher or lower than this average.

What You Will Study

In an ADN program, you should expect:

  • The emphasis will be on clinical practice and basic elements of patient care;
  • A basic introduction to pharmacology;
  • A basic introduction to different nursing/ patient care specialties;
  • Information about nursing across the lifespan from birth to death;
  • A basic introduction to psychiatric nursing;
  • Additional required courses that may be required from the college or university.

Pros and Cons

The Associate Degree in Nursing allows you to begin working quickly (usually after 2 years) so you can begin to make money even if you know you want to continue for the next two years to work for the BSN degree. In addition, the ADN is usually very cost effective. While the ADN can be the only degree you earn, you may find that you want a position or pay that only a BSN prepared nurse can obtain.

Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN)

The Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing builds on the fundamentals of nursing by adding the theoretical concepts

Length of Program

The BSN program is usually 4 years long unless the student qualifies for an accelerated program or elects to pursue the degree at a slower pace. Typically, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing will require a total of 96 to 144 credit hours.

Cost of Program

The College Board Annual Survey of Colleges average for tuition, fees, room and board for a 4- year degree in 2015-2016 is:

  • In State: $19,548 average per year for a 4 year average total of $78,192
  • Out of State: $34,031 average per year for a 4 year average total of $136,124
  • Private: $43,921 average per year for a 4 year average total of $175,684

What You Will Study

In a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, you should expect an expanded curriculum that may include courses such as:

  • Health sciences (Microbiology, Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology, Nutrition)
  • Social Sciences (Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology)
  • Nursing specific courses (Nursing across the life span, Assessment, Psychiatric, Community Health)
  • Other courses for a general education (Anthropology, History, English, Math)
  • Nursing Theory
  • Nursing Research

Pros and Cons

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree provides an excellent preparation for most areas of practice. In addition, the nurse with a BSN is typically preferred for leadership and management positions. The pay range is typically higher than for a Diploma or ADN nurse. However, the educational preparation takes longer and is usually more expensive per year than the other two paths.

Summary

In summary, all three paths to the Registered Nurse license will prepare you to become a great nurse. Your choice of the path should be guided by: time, cost, and your ultimate career goals.