Routes to becoming a nurse in the USA

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Unlike medicine, there are several routes to becoming a nurse in the USA – especially when it comes to undergraduate options. The path you take depends on several factors, but all of them lead up to you passing the National Council Licensure Examination and qualifying as a registered nurse.

Undergraduate Studies

There are three ways you can become a nurse as an undergraduate:

A Diploma in Nursing is available through certain hospital-based schools, although these are rapidly becoming less common.

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a two-year degree typically offered by community colleges. Students with an ADN focus heavily on clinical knowledge and in order to fully qualify in all areas of nursing will eventually need to complete their BSN.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four-year degree offered at colleges and universities up and down the country. A BSN allows you to work in the full scope of nursing practice, and you gain a lot more theoretical knowledge of the industry as well. If you already have an Associate Degree in Nursing, your BSN will take only half the time, and much of your training can be ‘on the job’ so you may not even need to leave work.

Postgraduate Studies

There are several options for postgraduate students:

A Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) can be obtained by those with a BSN who wish to further their studies. There are also courses available for those with an undergraduate degree in a different field who now wish to change careers.

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) will suit registered nurses who wish to carry out further research into certain branches of the industry.
You could also look into obtaining a Doctor of Nursing Science which focuses on the practical leadership roles needed to adequately train and motivate your fellow nurse practitioners.

Whether you attend high school or community college, it’s good to know that you can be working toward full qualification as a nurse. The process is far less rigid than medicine – although you still need to pass the same licensing exam as any other nurse, you can take the path that suits your preferred way of studying and anything else going on in your life.

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