RN Programs – Understand Your Options

By on June 28, 2015 in All Things Nursing

Registered Nursing This WayThere are many different types of RN pre-licensure programs.  Taking the time to understand the options will help you narrow your nursing program research.

Associate Degree in Nursing Programs
Students who earn an Associate Degree in Nursing may sit for the NCLEX –RN (National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses).

Advantages-Assuming students can go straight through the program (without having to wait a few years on a waiting list) the ADN program is  about 3 years long.  This includes the year required to meet all the prerequisites. Another advantage is that many of ADN programs are offered at community colleges which tend to be less expensive than the 4 year programs.

Disadvantages: Many community colleges place students on waiting lists that are 4-5 years long. If this is the case, students should consider the opportunity cost of the salary they could have been earning had they gone through another program. Another disadvantage for students who attend an associate degree program is that many health organizations prefer to hire and/or promote nurses with their BSN or MSN.

Pre-Licensure BSN Programs:
Students earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing which allows them to sit for the NCLEX-RN.

Direct entry in the freshmen year

Advantages: You will know that you are in a nursing program and on your way to becoming a BSN-RN.

Disadvantages: Nursing programs have very specific curriculums which you must follow each year. This leaves very little room for exploring subjects outside of the curriculum. An added disadvantage is that if you decide that nursing isn’t for you, some of your courses may not be applied toward other degrees or transfer to another college.

Admitted after taking prerequisites during the freshmen and sophomore years

Advantages: Students have the opportunity to take other classes and discover whether or not nursing is the right subject for them, before taking nursing courses.

Disadvantages: You may enter as a pre-nursing student only to be rejected when you apply for entry into the nursing major.  This would require students to either switch to another major or transfer to a nursing program at another college.

Accelerated-BSN program ( Second Bachelor’s degree)
Students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree have the opportunity to earn a BSN after completing all the prerequisite courses.  The programs are generally 11-18 months long (after all pre-requisites are met).

Advantages: In general, Accelerated BSN students tend to be older, more mature and motivated. Their additional life experience and schooling adds to their self-confidence and provides them with a wider base of knowledge  .  All of this helps them make the most of their nursing program which is usually very intense with few if any breaks between sessions.

Disadvantages: Spending an extra year or two in college is expensive.  Additionally, students lose   out on two years of salary that they could have earned had they gone directly to work.  Students are frequently ineligible for forms of financial aid that are  offered to first degree students.

Pre-Licensure MSN Program

Entry-Level Master’s Degree Programs (Entry Level- MSN)
Students who have earned a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing can enter the field by taking the required pre-requisites then applying into the entry-level Master of Science in Nursing program.  The first year of the program is generally spent on basic nursing education which allows the student to  sit for the NCLEX exam but does not provide them with a degree.  The following two years are used to complete the master degree program.

Advantages – When students complete the program they have an advanced degree that places them in a good position for a nursing leadership position and many job opportunities.  They also enter the program as more mature and focused students due to the breadth of their education and life experience.

Disadvantages –  Students in the entry-level Master of Science in Nursing program will be required to pay for one extra year to earn the degree. (MSN programs are traditionally 2 years or less)  In addition, many of the Master of Science in Nursing programs require that students decide on their area of specialty before they start.This places the entry-level students at a disadvantage since they may not know which area of nursing will be the best choice  for them in the long run.

I hope this had clarified some of the RN pre-licensure options and helped you to evaluate which ones might be good match for you.

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