Nursing Degrees

Nurses are pillars of the healthcare community, with many doctors believing they would be unable to treat their patients without help from the nurses. Because of their importance, nurses are commonly in high demand.


The training to become a nurse is not nearly as intense as the schooling to become a doctor. How much training you need depends on what type of nurse you want to become. There are advanced certification courses available for high-ranking nurses. Many nurses start with basic certification courses and eventually take advanced classes later in their careers.

You can also get a traditional nursing diploma. An associate degree in nursing typically takes two years to complete, with some colleges offering a fast-track program over the course of a year. A bachelor of science in nursing takes four to five years, and a master of science takes another five to six years.

Nursing Curriculum

A large portion of nursing programs teaches you how to take care of patients. In most classes, patient care is divided into four categories. The first is medical terminology, which includes information on treatments and conditions, but also how to effectively communicate with medical staff and patients. The second is anatomy and physiology courses, which covers what causes patients to get hurt or sick.

The third category is psychology. This section focuses on bedside manner, how to break difficult news to patients and how to address family members. The last section is pharmacology, which teaches you how to measure and administer common medication. Some classes offer specialization options, such as elder care, mental health or surgical assistance.

In addition to treating patients, nursing courses also stress the importance of self-care. Working as a nurse is a demanding job. You cannot properly take care of your patients if you are struggling to take care of yourself. The courses also help you manage your time and work with a team in a clinical setting. Many classes also include lessons on how to balance studying and taking additional classes while working as a nurse.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

CNAs are the first type of nurse. They have many responsibilities, primarily addressing the general needs of patients. This includes helping patients eat, dress and move around the facility. They also monitor vital signs while patients receive long term care. While nursing is in the title, CNAs are not technically considered as nurses, instead working under a licensed nurse. In order to become a CNA, you must complete a short certification program. The exact length varies depending on what state you work in, taking anywhere from three to eight weeks. Beyond the certification, you do not need any sort of degree to work as a CNA. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has a database of accredited nursing programs for CNAs.

CNAs are most commonly employed in hospitals, but they are also needed in nursing homes or residential care facilities. The responsibilities are mostly the same, but CNAs in nursing or care facilities get to work with the same patients each day. Many nurses start their careers as CNA, developing practical experience while also taking nursing classes to advance their careers.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

LPNs are sometimes called licensed vocational nurses (LVN). No matter which title is used, LPNs are responsible for basic patient care. This includes changing bandages, taking a patient’s blood pressure and inserting IVs. LPNs are also an intermediary between doctors and patients, as well as the patient’s family members. Whenever a patient is discharged to a family member, they meet with an LPN first, who explains how to take care of the patient at home.

LPNs must have a degree. If you do not want to get an associate or bachelor degree in nursing, you can complete a practical nursing diploma program, which typically takes a year to complete. These classes are commonly run at community colleges and technical schools. Once you complete the program, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). When you pass the exam, you receive your state license.

Registered Nurse (RN)

RNs perform the bulk of nursing roles, such as monitoring patient health, performing diagnostic tests and updating patient information. They work closely with doctors and other medical professionals to care for their patients. Many doctors consult with RNs when coming up with a treatment plan, and in a hospital setting, RNs oversee other nursing employees.

Many RNs work in a specific field. Some examples include emergency, psychiatric, pediatric or neonatal nursing. In order to be an RN, you need either an associate or bachelor’s in nursing. Once you complete the degree program, you must complete the National Council Licensure Examination before you can work.

Duke University

Duke has one of the best nursing programs in the United States. If you are interested in completing your associate as quickly as possible, the Duke School of Nursing offers an accelerated program. The program only requires 58 credits to complete, but students must get at least 800 hours of clinical experience before graduating. This gives students the chance to get real-world experience working as a nurse, and also provides excellent networking opportunities.

Georgetown University

Georgetown runs an excellent nursing program, working closely with hospitals and other medical facilities in the state. In order to complete a nursing degree, you must get at least 850 hours of clinical experience. The university runs one of the most extensive nursing programs, with different classes available for each specialty of nursing.

University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania has one of the largest nursing programs in the United States. The school has many claims to fame, including a six to one student to faculty ratio, ensuring prospective nurses get a personalized education. Students can also practice medical procedures in the simulation lab. The university also runs a mentorship program, where students can learn directly from registered nurses.