About Nursing School Rankings and Nursing Degrees

There are a variety of programs for individuals who want to pursue nursing as a career. Here is an overview of the types of programs that are available, and schools that offer these programs.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An associate degree in nursing (ADN) is a two year program that prepares students for licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN). Students learn the fundamentals of nursing, dosage calculation, dispensing of medications and nutrition. ADN programs also prepare students to care for patients in specific situations such as maternity, surgery and mental health. In addition to coursework, students are required to complete clinical rotations. The ADN program emphasizes practical education, and less time is devoted to classroom learning.

Article: Associate’s in Nursing Rankings

Upon successful completion of an ADN program, and licensure, RNs can work as entry-level nurses. Most are employed in clinics, doctor’s offices, hospitals and long-term care facilities. Although RNs who have completed an ADN can be found in any setting, employers are increasingly requiring a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Students should look for established ADN programs that are accredited, and adequately prepares them for licensure. Furthermore, students should consider schools that have transfer agreements with surrounding schools if they plan to pursue higher-level training. There are many ADN program rankings available online to help prospective students sort through the options.

Examples: Houston Community College; Bronx Community College

Accelerated Nursing Degree

Accelerated nursing degrees are designed to decrease the time it takes for students to become RNs. One type of program is for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) to become RNs. These programs offer either an ADN or BSN. Students have acquired practical experience through their employment, which reduces the number of nursing course they are required to take. Completion times are two and three years for the ADN and BSN, respectively.

Article: Accelerated Nursing Program Rankings

Another type of program is for students that have earned a bachelor’s degree in a different field to become RNs by earning a BSN. This program is often referred to as a second-degree nursing program, and takes two years to complete. Students have previously completed general education courses through their first degree; therefore they can begin nursing courses immediately. The coursework is the same as the junior and senior levels of a traditional BSN.

Students should select programs that award a reasonable amount of credit for prior education and experience. Those entering with a degree in a different field should look for programs that will eliminate all general education requirements for degree-holders. Students may also want to consider Accelerated Nursing Degree rankings as a way of identifying schools that may be a good fit for them.

Examples: Purdue University; Johns Hopkins University

RN to BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing)

RN to BSN programs are for students who are currently employed as RNs and want to earn a BSN. The program can be completed in two years. Credits are awarded for practical experience and previous coursework. A BSN program consists of both practical and classroom education. However, the BSN places a stronger emphasis on nursing theory than an ADN. Classroom education consists of specialized patient care such as rehabilitative medicine, pediatrics and gerontology. Students also learn about topics beyond patient care that can expand their career opportunities such as public health, research and management.

Article: Online RN to BSN Rankings

RNs who have completed a BSN can expect employment opportunities in clinics, hospitals, schools and other medical facilities. BSN graduates may supervise other nurses in addition to their regular work, and are more likely to work in specialized units of hospitals such as surgery, intensive care or the emergency department. Graduates of BSN programs are also employed in medical laboratories as researchers, and may work as health educators in health departments.

A good RN to BSN program will have a well-rounded education and established practical sites. Students should consider programs that offer flexible scheduling, including night, weekend and online courses. RN to BSN rankings can be a helpful way to identify top programs in this field.

Examples: Walden University; Drexel University; University of Maryland

BSN to MSN (Master of Science in Nursing)

BSN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs are open to individuals who wish to become RNs, or RNs that have not earned their BSN. This accelerated program is for students that want a graduate degree in nursing, and want to streamline the process from undergraduate to graduate studies. Acceptance into a BSN to MSN program eliminates the need to go through an additional application process to be accepted for graduate-level work. Students begin graduate nursing courses while completing undergraduate work, and may finish in as little as two years. Without prior nursing education, the program can be completed in approximately five years. BSN to MSN graduates can expect the same job opportunities as those who graduate from traditional MSN programs.

Students interested in BSN to MSN programs should find programs that fit their long-term goals also evaluate BSN to MSN rankings. Furthermore, they should carefully consider the number of credits that can be transferred from previous education or awarded based on experience.

Examples: Jacksonville University; University of Pennsylvania; Kaplan University

MSN (Master of Science in Nursing)

The MSN is a two year, graduate level program that gives RNs the opportunity to specialize in their field. Students may choose from many clinical specialties including gynecology, anesthesia, pediatrics, midwifery, gerontology and family medicine. Many MSN programs offer other program tracks such as clinical research, education, and administration. All specialties combine coursework and practical experience. Students pursuing clinical tracks receive education specific to their specialty, and must participate in clinical rotations. MSN students in other tracks earn their practical experience through student teaching, internships, working in research labs or other applied activities.

Article: Online MSN Rankings

Graduates of MSN programs have more variety in the job opportunities available to them. Those choosing a clinical specialty are typically employed in hospitals, physician’s offices and specialized medical facilities. MSN graduates may be employed at colleges and universities as adjunct instructors or lecturers, even if they did not pursue an education track. Students that pursued research often find job opportunities at medical schools, hospitals or pharmaceutical companies, where they can be actively involved in research and clinical trials. Graduates with an administration emphasis can find opportunities in hospitals, public health and health care policy.

Prospective students should look for programs that have specialties in which they are interested, evaluate program characteristics, and consult MSN degree rankings.

Examples: Villanova University; Old Dominion University; Salem State University