Registered Nurse Programs

Attending school to become a registered nurse involves training through one of several different programs. You can go to nursing school to achieve a nursing diploma, an associate’s degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and all will allow you to practice as a registered nurse. There is a difference in length and content of programs, depending on which type of diploma or degree you receive.

Nursing schools that offer diploma-based programs expect two to three years of study. Most students must have some prerequisites in the areas of science and social studies before starting nursing school. These types of registered nurse programs teach students about the fundamentals of nursing, medication administration, and documentation. Additionally, students may study some specialized areas, such as maternal-child nursing, psychiatric or geriatric nursing, and critical care. Diploma programs are often associated with hospitals, and many new nurses are then hired by the hospital after graduation.

Associate’s degree programs in nursing are also typically two to three years in length and cover many of the same topics as diploma programs. Students work in the classroom and the clinical environment as part of the learning process. Many nursing schools that offer associate’s degrees are part of technical or community colleges. Students may take prerequisite courses at the same college before entering the nursing program. The school may have affiliations with various hospitals and health care centers in the community, and students may practice clinical hours at several locations, providing a well-rounded experience.


A bachelor’s degree in nursing requires a four-year degree from a university or state college. Bachelor’s degree nursing programs train students in many of the same activities as diploma or associate’s degree schools, but these programs also offer advanced learning concepts. Some types of classes that may be part of bachelor’s degree programs include community health nursing, nursing research, ethics in nursing, and advanced critical care environments.

Graduation from an associate’s degree or diploma program results in a registered nurse license after examination, giving you the ability to work in many different environments. Some employers expect a bachelor’s degree in nursing, depending on the nature of work involved. Some nursing schools offer nursing completion programs for nurses who have achieved an associate’s degree or diploma to return to school for a bachelor’s degree. These programs can be completed while the student continues to work and are finished at an accelerated rate.