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Registered Nursing Programs

Registered Nursing Programs

What Are Registered Nurses?

Registered nurses work with physicians and other healthcare specialists to plan, coordinate and provide patient care, as described by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They may occasionally instruct patients, family members or the public about health and healthcare, and some registered nursing jobs require the supervision of nursing aides, orderlies, licensed practical nurses or other healthcare assistance personnel. Although most registered nurses work in medical facilities, interacting directly with patients, some may work as educators, consultants, advisors, researchers, administrators or in other behind-the-scenes positions. For more information, see our registered nurse career page.

Registered Nursing Program Information

Registered nursing schools exist within universities, community colleges and approved medical training facilities. Many programs allow students to choose between campus-based or online classes. Programs do require some hands-on time in a supervised clinical environment, but those that offer online courses may maintain relationships with regional facilities where distance education students can complete their clinical sections. Accreditation is very important for registered nursing schools, so potential students should make certain that their chosen program is recognized by an appropriate regional or national accreditation agency before applying.

Students in registered nursing degree programs typically receive a well-rounded education, supplementing detailed training in nursing, anatomy, biology and nutrition with some coursework in the liberal arts and social sciences. Registered nursing courses commonly provide instruction in foundations of nursing, medical-surgical patient care, mental health nursing, gerontology, maternity care and nursing leadership.

Registered Nursing Program Types

There are three main academic programs available for aspiring registered nurses:

  • Diploma Program: Registered nursing diploma programs are typically offered at hospitals and other medical facilities instead of colleges or universities. They tend to more practical than academic, focusing on patient care and clinical skills rather than classroom work, and usually take two or three years to complete.
  • Associate of Science in Nursing: Associate degree programs in nursing can be found mainly at community colleges and take about as long to complete as diploma programs when attended full time. These programs can often be taken in a hybrid format, combining online coursework with a site-specific clinical section, and can be great for students already in the workforce who can only fit part-time training into their schedules. Associate programs also offer college course credit, which can be a big help to students who plan to continue their education later.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing: These programs can be a great choice for students who really want to dig in and study the field of nursing. Bachelor's degree programs in nursing can usually be completed in four years or less of full-time study and often come with options to complete course content online. Accelerated programs are also available at some schools for students who have already earned their bachelor's degree in another field and want to earn their nursing degree.

Graduate programs are also available, but these are typically reserved for current RNs who wish to continue their studies in order to pursue advanced roles in the field. However, there are BS-MSN degree programs for students who have a bachelor's in a non-nursing subject.

Licensure is required for registered nurses to practice anywhere in the country. Specific licensing requirements may vary by state, but all potential registered nurses must graduate from an accredited registered nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) before licensure can be considered. Students can check with their state board of nursing for more information.

Registered Nursing Course Descriptions

Nursing programs each have their own method of teaching the principles and skills of nursing, but most programs have some similar registered nursing courses in their core curriculum. Here are a few subjects that students at registered nursing schools can expect to study:

  • Nursing Fundamentals: Introduction to the basic skills of the nursing profession and the roles of registered nurses in various settings.
  • Nursing Pharmacology: Study of drug classifications, drug interactions and the effects of different medicines on patients with various conditions.
  • Pathophysiology: Explanations of common alterations in body systems and appropriate methods of risk management and disease reduction.
  • Mental Health Nursing: Information about mental health disorders and appropriate care strategies for individuals with specific conditions.
  • Anatomy and Physiology: Study of the systems, structures, cells, tissues and organs of the human body.

Registered Nursing Specialties

Students with an interest in a particular field of nursing may be able to specialize the courses they take during their training to fit an individual segment of the medical profession. Specialties that could be available include the following:

  • Addiction nursing
  • Cardiovascular nursing
  • Nephrology nursing
  • Genetics nursing
  • Neonatal nursing
  • Rehabilitation nursing

Related Career Options

Graduates from registered nursing programs may wish to use their education and experience as a springboard to other healthcare careers. Here are a few careers that use similar knowledge and skills:

  • Nurse Administrator: Manage other nurses and create policies and protocols that encourage a high standard of health care delivery. Typically calls for a master's degree.
  • Health Educator: Work to increase public awareness and understanding of common health issues and wellness practices. Typically requires a master's degree.
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer: Use special sonic imaging equipment to diagnose and monitor various internal medical conditions.

These and other related careers may require additional education, training, certification or licensure.

Links to Sources and Associations

Visit the following websites to find out more about registered nursing:

American Nurses Association, http://nursingworld.org/

American Society of Registered Nurses, http://www.asrn.org/

Registered Nurses Professional Association, http://www.rnpa.net/

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Registered-nurses.htm

"Entry into Practice: Diploma Programs for Registered Nursing," allnurses.com, September 7, 2009, http://allnurses.com/nursing-educators-faculty/entry-into-practice-422071.html

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Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Administration
  • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
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  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Associate of Science in Nursing
Unitek College , San Jose
  • Offers programs in nursing, medical assisting, pharmacy technology, dental assisting, and more.
  • Six Campuses across Northern CA: Fremont, San Jose, Sacramento, S. San Francisco, Hayward, and Concord.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, with programmatic approvals from the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians and the Board of Registered Nursing.
  • Approved by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with an A+ rating since 2010.
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  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Doctor of Nursing Practice

•        Ranked among the top 20 Regional Universities in the West in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.

•        Listed as one of America’s Best Colleges by Forbes Magazine in 2014.

•        More than 97% of tenure-track faculty holds a terminal degree in their field.

•        Student to faculty ratio of 15:1, and 47.5% of classes have fewer than 20 students.

•        Accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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  • Online Courses
Master of Science in Nursing - Nursing Administration
  • Its Fast Track program enables qualified students to save up to 30% on tuition and graduate up to 30% faster.
  • Its online MBA program was named by the International Graduate Forum as a top 10 Online MBA Program in 2012.
  • Listed as a military friendly school by G.I. Jobs magazine in 2014.
  • Lets students watch, view, read, or hear content through its program, My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.).
  • Has additional campus locations near military bases in Colorado Springs and Denver.
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  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
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Master of Science in Nursing
  • Allows students to transfer credits from non-U.S. colleges and universities after evaluation.
  • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
  • Its main campus is located in Fort Lauderdale, with campuses located throughout the State of Florida and internationally. 
  • Provides a Department of Student Services and Resources that assists students with résumé preparation, interviewing skills coaching, mock interviewing, professional development workshops, and more.
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  • Online Courses
B.S. in Nursing: RN to BSN
Good for Working Adults
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Founded in 1890, it has a campus in Waterbury, CT and offers online degree program in eight-week modules, six times a year.
  • About 800 students are enrolled at the main campus, and about half of them commute.
  • Online courses help make it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as 24 months and a master’s degree in 12-18 months.
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  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
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Vocational Nursing Program*
Platt College , Alhambra
Good for Working Adults
  • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
  • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
  • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
  • 3 campuses in Southern California.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits