Which nursing school program is right for you?
Thinking of going to nursing school, but not sure which type of nursing program is right for you? Read on while we discuss the various types of nursing education programs offered, and which one may be the best fit for you!
Situation #1: You need to graduate fast!
You may be in a situation where your first priority is how quickly you can graduate and begin earning a good income. Maybe you have lost your job and your unemployment educational benefit will only last so long. Perhaps you are a single parent and every month you spend in school will be a struggle for you. Maybe you have been at this nursing school game for years, and have yet to successfully start an actual nursing program despite all your efforts. If your top priority above all else is to start your nursing career as quickly as possible, completing an LPN, or Licensed Practical Nursing, program may be the right move for you. Most LPN programs can be completed in 12-18 months time, with little to no prerequisites typically required. Some programs even offer flexible or part-time options. LPN’s make a good salary, with the average pay per year being $42,040 according to Salary.com. LPN’s are in demand in several practice areas, such as long-term care and home health care nursing.
I personally spent a few years at a local college completing prerequisites hoping to be one of the hundreds of applicants that were picked for only 60 annual spots in an ASN program before I got fed up waiting to get in and went to a private school program for my LPN. The school I went to was very flexible, classes were only 4 days a week so that allowed me 3 days a week to work, and start to finish I was done in 18 months. When I became an LPN in 2003 I started out making just a few dollars less than a new graduate RN. Becoming an LPN was a nice stepping stone for me, I was able to go on for my ASN, then my BSN. I was able to get into an ASN program right away, since I was a bridge (LPN to RN) student (most schools that have ASN bridge programs have a specific number of spots reserved for only bridge students, making the pool of competitors much smaller for each spot in the program). Ultimately, getting my LPN first was the right step for me, and it may be for you as well! For more information on becoming an LPN, check out our post How to become a Nurse in a year! and click here to view a list of LPN programs by state.
Situation #2: You have a few years to go to nursing school, but just can’t or don’t want to commit to going for a full 4 year degree.
If you have a few years you can dedicate to a nursing program, but the thought of committing to a 4-year degree is overwhelming, completing an ASN/ADN (Associates of Science in Nursing or Associates Degree in Nursing) degree program may be right for you! Most ASN programs can be completed in 2-3 years, and these programs may also offer more flexible hours and/or part-time options for students. Once an ASN program is completed, the student is eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN test and become a Registered Nurse upon passing. Registered Nurses enjoy a wide variety of potential areas of practice, in hospitals, acute care health facilities, and some supervisory positions in nursing. Registered Nurses make a very substantial paycheck. According to Salary.com, the average salary of a Registered Nurse is $68,910 per year.
ASN programs are known to be very competitive to get into, as there are usually many more students competing for program admittance than the number of spots available. If your goal is to get into an ASN program, it is recommended you have a very high GPA, at least 3.25, to consider applying. The majority of ASN programs also require students to have a high passing score on a nursing school entrance exam in order to be accepted into a program. There are ways to prepare for this test so that you can hopefully get the highest score possible, check out our post on How to pass the Nursing School Entrance Exam for more info on this.
If you want to find out about ASN programs near you, check out this helpful list of all U.S. ASN/ADN programs available.
Situation #3: I only want to go to school once.
Your situation may be that the specific length of time you spend in school is not such a concern to you, but you prefer to go to school only one time, and get the highest undergraduate degree possible for long-term nursing success. If this is your situation, you definitely want to plan on going into a BSN, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing, degree program. This program generally takes at least 4 years of study (although there are some accelerated BSN programs that take as little as 3 years’ time, these are not common but there are a few out there). If you plan on working as a Registered Nurse and want every opportunity open to you, it is definitely recommended to get your BSN degree. Some hospitals have even taken to only hiring RN’s with BSN degrees, or requiring new hire nurses who do not have a BSN to finish theirs within a certain number of years after hire. Certain opportunities in nursing all but require a BSN degree, such as upper-level management, case management, and nurse faculty positions.
Typically there is little difference in pay for RN’s with and without BSN’s, however having your BSN definitely affords the RN a greater number of promotion opportunities versus not having the degree. For more reasons why you would want to get your BSN check out our post 5 Reasons why you want your BSN.
Situation #4: I already have a non-nursing Bachelors’ degree.
If you already have a bachelors’ degree in a non-nursing area, your best option for nursing school will generally be to attend an accelerated BSN program. Accelerated BSN programs are designed for students who already have a bachelors’ degree and while known to be intense, demanding and very challenging, can typically be completed in 16-24 months depending on the specific program. Students of accelerated BSN programs will tell you that these are very intensive, full-time programs of study and it is generally recommended that students do not work while completing them. If you want to find out more about this type of program, check out AllNursings’ Accelerated BSN Info page.
This site also has a helpful listing of all the U.S. Accelerated BSN programs.
Do you fit in one or more of the situations above? I hope my advice on which nursing program to choose can be of help to you. I would love to hear from you in the comments on what nursing program you have chosen or plan to choose and why?
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