In general, there are three ways to meet the educational requirements of a nursing career. You can earn an associate's degree in nursing (ADN), a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN), or enroll in an approved nursing program administered by a hospital. ADN and BSN programs are the most common means of fulfilling the nursing career requirements. You can earn an ADN or a BSN through a career college or university nursing program; ASN programs take two to three years to complete, while BSNs require four. Diploma programs take three years to complete, but are the least common way to fulfill nursing career education requirements.
For all nursing careers, state licensure is also a requirement. To obtain a nursing license, you'll have to pass a national licensing exam. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing develops two licensing exams: the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, and the National Council Licensure for Practical Nurses. Both exams test the skill requirements for entry-level nursing positions.
As with many health care careers, a nursing career will require you to pursue continuing education--especially if you want to advance. Practicing registered nurses with an ADN, for example, often take advantage of tuition reimbursement to pursue a BSN, whereas many nurses with a BSN use the same employer-sponsored education benefits to earn a master's degree in nursing (MSN). (MSNs may be required for certain nursing supervisor careers.) Other nurses advance their careers by focusing on a nursing career specialty. Specialty nursing careers include clinical nursing specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, or nurse-midwife. To pursue any of these nursing careers, you'll need to enroll in certification programs and pass additional exams.
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