Guide to Accredited Nursing Colleges & Universities

Nurses are caregivers, medical experts, healthcare providers, nutritionists, and many other roles all rolled into one. Direct care nurses work with patients and support doctors and medical assistants in directing healthcare plans. They work in a variety of settings, from the pediatric or oncology units of hospitals, to ICUs and emergency rooms, to surgery units, to long-term care facilities, private clinics, and even in field hospitals or the military. Some nurses even conduct research for scientific institutions or take on administrative roles in medical facilities. Read More



Certified Nursing Assistant

Nurse assisting trains students to be entry-level healthcare providers. In nurse assisting programs, students learn to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), who give daily care to patients who need help eating, moving, grooming and going to the bathroom. But you will not be trained as a nurse through a CNA program. If you are thinking about studying nursing assisting, you should be compassionate and nurturing since you will be giving emotional support and companionship to bedridden patients and their families. But you also need to have a strong stomach, because this job requires you to perform unpleasant tasks like cleaning bedpans and helping people bathe. Many students are attracted to nurse assisting programs because the training period takes less than a year. In addition, CNA jobs give students a chance to gain work experience before pursuing training in nursing and other healthcare professions. If you decide to study nurse assisting, keep in mind that there is little room for advancement in this position, and if you want to become a Registered Nurse or a Licensed Practical Nurse you will have to gain more education and training.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 6-12 weeks
  • Employment prospects: you will not be able to advance your career unless you get additional education and training

Associate Degree in Nursing or Associate of Science in Nursing

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is intended for students seeking a more broad education than a diploma can offer, but who doesn’ want to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree before entering the workforce. Upon graduation, most students are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam.

An ADN or Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) is offered by community colleges or vocational schools and usually requires completing some general education requirements in addition to courses in medicine and nursing. You must complete hands-on classes that involve learning medical procedures on campus or in a clinical setting. Although an exclusively online associate degree in nursing is not common, some schools allow you to complete general education courses online, like math or English composition.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 2 years
  • Employment prospects: work directly with patients under the guidance of Registered Nurses and other medical staff

Associate Degree in Nursing to Bachelor of Science in Nursing

An advantage to the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is this option allows you to earn a bachelor’s degree more quickly than normal. If you have already earned an associate degree in nursing from an accredited campus-based or online nursing school and are a registered nurse, you may enroll in an ADN to BSN degree program and graduate in as little as one year. Online coursework is available, though you will also have to complete clinical training on campus or at a clinic.

Credit hours/length of study:1-1½ years

Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing

This accelerated degree program allows Licensed Practical Nurses to earn their degrees more quickly. While only an associate degree is required to become a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and work in most clinics or hospitals, many nurses find that earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing opens many more doors and advances their nursing careers faster. Fortunately, graduates of traditional or online LPN nursing programs can earn a BSN at an accelerated pace, typically in three semesters (including summers).

Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) typically have the same level of experience as LPNs, but are called LVNs in Texas and California. Like LPNs, they can earn a bachelor’s degree at an accelerated pace and should be able to transfer at least some of their basic education requirements.

Credit hours/length of study: 2 years

Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Many Registered Nurses begin their careers with diplomas or associate degrees, only to decide they need further education to expand their career options or take on more responsibility within the nursing field. For instance, most nurses who take on leadership roles have at least a bachelor’s degree. If you are already working as a Registered Nurse, the RN to BSN program allows you to earn a bachelor’s degree much faster than if you were starting with no experience. There are even fully online options available, because you will already have the practical experience needed to be a nurse if you pursue this degree.

Credit hours/length of study: 2 years

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Although this degree takes twice as long as an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), many employers prefer RNs to hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Therefore, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will make you much more competitive in the workplace.

You don’t need any previous experience in nursing to begin a BSN program, and you may be able to take many core curriculum classes online. Online RN programs with clinical requirements prepare you for the rigorous NCLEX-RN exam just as well as traditional programs. Your clinical experience that allows you to interact with patients setting under the supervision of an experienced RN will augment your online instruction and prepare you for the job.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 4 years
  • Employment prospects: On the whole, nurses with bachelor’s degrees have a higher starting salary than those with an associate degree, but keep in mind salary is also dependent on experience and location. You should consider whether the salary difference and additional training are worth the time and tuition costs of a higher degree, but know that a BSN will probably pay off in the long run because it sets you up for career advancement.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Master of Science in Nursing

The BSN to MSN program is an accelerated degree program intended for students who want a career in nursing and have already chosen their specialization. TYou may find online nursing school courses at this advanced level, especially theory-based courses that don’t require hands-on learning.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 5-6 years
  • Employment prospects: The program prepares you to specialize in a field of nursing to earn an additional certification, like a Nurse Practitioner or a Nurse Anesthetist. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, you may also be eligible to transfer your core credits and reduce the time it would take you to earn an Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

Master of Science in Nursing

Earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree will allow you to specialize in a field of nursing, such as mental health, maternity nursing, pediatric nursing or public health and is often required to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP). Most MSN students have earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and work as registered nurses but would like to specialize further or become nursing educators or administrators. There are online nursing master’s degree programs available, though all programs also require clinical experience.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 2 years
  • Employment prospects: A master’s degree is usually necessary to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) and to specialize in a particular area of nursing, such as nurse anesthesia or midwifery. While the average annual salary of an MSN is about $10,000 higher than that of a BSN, it is only $6,000 higher than the average pay of all RNs independent of degree level. It is important to consider that a master’s degree involves many more years of study. However, if you are interested in an advanced nursing specialization and you are currently employed as an RN, consider asking your employer how much of the cost of a master’s degree would be covered under the organization’s current tuition reimbursement policy.

Doctorate in Nursing Practice

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is an advanced degree intended for those who are interested in incorporating evidence-based practices in the field of nursing. A DNP generally does not conduct research, but rather incorporates new research and best practices from researchers.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 2-3 years
  • Employment prospects: If you want to work directly with patients, you should not get a DNP, as it prepares you to work as a nurse educator at traditional or online nursing school programs, or to work as healthcare administrator and to evaluate healthcare programs and leadership effectiveness in clinical settings. A DNP, however, may appeal to those who enjoy administrative roles and will facilitate career advancement within a clinic, hospital, or health system. DNPs have created some confusion, as they have earned the right to the title of “doctor” along with physicians, but are not medical doctors (MDs) and do not have the same privileges or pay grades. Some states have even passed legislation preventing nurses from using the title when addressing patients.

Doctorate in Nursing

Earning a Doctorate (PhD) in Nursing will allow you to conduct original research in the field of nursing, with the unique advantage of having a background in nursing and understanding the problems and practices of the discipline. The PhD coursework emphasizes theoretical and methodological approaches to nursing practice, with a focus on producing practical research that can be implemented in the healthcare system.As with the DNP, you should not earn a Doctorate in Nursing if you want to work directly with patients. This degree is not intended for practicing nurses, but for those interested in academic research pertaining to nursing.

  • Credit hours/length of study: 3-4 years
  • Employment prospects: A nursing PhD prepares graduates to work at universities and other research institutions.


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You should always make sure a nursing program is accredited before enrolling. This ensures that you will be able to take the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN exams after graduation, transfer credits to earn further degrees, and be eligible for most scholarships. There are different types of accrediting bodies for nursing programs. These include the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), as well as several individual state boards for nursing. Both associations ensure that nursing programs meet certain quality standards, such as the educational level of the faculty, the student-to-faculty ratio, and assessment standards.


Upon graduating from campus-based or online nursing schools, the majority of nurses go on to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) or for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN), which allows them to practice as a Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). Most employers require an RN or LPN title. Nursing jobs include:

  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Advanced Practice Nurse

Forensic Nursing

Forensic nurses are registered nurses who are specially trained to treat the victims and suspects of violent crimes like domestic abuse, rape and trauma. In addition to giving emergency medical care, they help conduct criminal investigations by documenting scientific evidence of a violent crime. They typically work in hospitals under stressful emergency room conditions. Some work in nursing homes to detect and prevent abuse of the elderly, or in correctional facilities to provide medical care to inmates.