Nursing Degree Prerequisites and Programs

Explore your options for becoming a registered nurse, including associate's degree programs and Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs. Continue reading about options for advancing your nursing training at the graduate level. Check the prerequisites for enrolling in undergraduate and graduate programs, and learn about clinical coursework and licensing requirements. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are My Options for Nursing Degrees?

For entry-level positions in registered nursing, you have the option to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Associate's degree programs typically last two years, while earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can take around four years. However, bachelor's programs provide a more detailed level of study and can lead to more career advancement opportunities down the road.

If you choose an associate's degree program in nursing, you have the option to later enroll in a degree completion program to earn a BSN. If you have a bachelor's degree in another subject area, you may be eligible for an accelerated degree program, which will allow you to earn your BSN in less time.

If you are interested in continuing your education, you can also find nursing programs offered at the graduate level. You can earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing. These programs are designed for licensed nurses interested in advanced nursing practice, research or academic careers. In some cases, you may be able to enroll in an MSN program even if you have a bachelor's degree in a subject other than nursing.

Degree Levels Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees available
Undergraduate Prerequisites A high school diploma, or equivalent is required; applicants may need to complete specific coursework also
Graduate Prerequisites Varies, depending upon institution, but all programs require a bachelor's degree for admission
Common Courses Pharmacology, pediatric nursing, leadership, lifespan development, healthcare policy

What Are the Prerequisites for Undergraduate Programs?

Prerequisites can vary according to your chosen degree path and the institution's admissions policies. If you choose an associate's degree program, your high school classes in biology, chemistry and math may influence admissions decisions. You'll typically be required to take minimal college-level prerequisite courses, which can include anatomy and physiology, microbiology and college algebra.

To gain admission to a bachelor's degree program, however, you'll need to take more extensive college prerequisite courses. You'll apply to your school's BSN program prior to your junior year. Your nursing school advisor can help keep you informed on the classes necessary for entrance into your school's nursing program. Prerequisite courses may include:

  • English
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Statistics

What Are the Admissions Procedures for Graduate-Level Nursing Programs?

Master's degree programs typically require that you have earned a bachelor's degree and hold an active registered nurse (RN) license. You may also be required to submit letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.

The admissions procedures for doctoral programs depend on the school and type of program you are interested in. For instance, some programs require that you have an MSN, and others require only a bachelor's degree. DNP programs typically require an active RN license, while Ph.D. programs may not.

What Will I Study?

Once you're admitted to your school's nursing program, you'll begin your nursing courses in preparation for your clinical rotations. In both associate's and bachelor's degree programs, some of the things you'll learn may include health assessment, pharmacology, lifespan development, pediatric nursing, family nursing, mental health nursing and surgical nursing.

Your clinical hours will take place at an approved facility, where you'll receive supervised experience in the practical application of nursing concepts. You must have a certain number of clinical hours in order to later take your licensing exam. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), each state maintains different eligibility criteria for licensing exam registration (www.ncbsn.org).

Graduate degree programs are more specialized toward your area of interest. For MSN programs, you have a wide variety of specializations to choose from, whether your goal is to become a family nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, psychiatric nurse practitioner or nurse-midwife. You may be able to choose from thesis and non-thesis program options. Ph.D. programs are typically heavily research-oriented and culminate in a dissertation. DNP programs are geared toward those who are interested in influencing healthcare policy, and may include courses in health policy, leadership and epidemiology.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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