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Nursing is a great career, and now is a great time to become a nurse.  Presently, there is a nursing shortage, which is anticipated to continue for some time.  This means that if you become a nurse, you may work in an area that is short-staffed and stressful.  But it also means that wages will go up and you will be in high demand.    

The first decision you must make is what kind of nurse you want to be.  The employment future forRegistered Nurses is slightly better than for Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses, but both groups will continue to be employable.  Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) go to school for about one year, and typically perform nursing tasks under the supervision of the Registered Nurse. Some people choose to become LPNs with the intention competing their Registered Nursing (RN) coursework later.  Many schools grant advanced credit to LPNs in their RN coursework.

There are several ways to become a Registered Nurse.  The two most common ways are to go to school for two years and earn an Associate's Degree, or to go for four years and earn a Bachelor's Degree.  Three year diploma school programs used to be how most nurses got their training, but many of these programs have closed as more nursing jobs have moved out of the hospital environment.  Typically, those diploma schools that remain affiliate with a degree-granting institution so that the graduate earns both a diploma and at least an Associate's Degree.  Finally, a person with a Bachelor's Degree in another field can go to school for an additional three years and earn a Nursing Doctorate.  Graduates of all four of these types of programs - Associate's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, Diploma and Nursing Doctorate - take the same exam, the NCLEX-RN, after graduation.

Several factors may influence what type of degree you choose to pursue.  Your decision may be influenced by something as simple as having a college or university within driving distance.  Right now, a subset of the nursing community is working to mandate that the BSN be the minimum requirement for entry into professional nursing practice.  There are sound arguments for this position.  But with a nursing shortage that is becoming critical, it may well be impractical to mandate the BSN at this time.  And Associate Degree nurses have been performing well side-by-side with BSN nurses since ADN programs began. Further, compared to the cost of a community college, a four-year school may be too expensive for many.  You may wish to complete your ADN, seek employment, and return to school to finish your BSN with tuition reimbursement assistance from your employer.  Many schools now have RN-to-BSN programs with hours convenient to working nurses.  Whatever you decide, be aware that your chances for professional advancement are significantly increased if you have the BSN.

No matter which program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the program is accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission   This will ensure that you will be able to sit for the licensure exam after you complete your coursework.  If you are in doubt as to whether a program will allow you to sit for the licensure exam, check with your State Board of Nursing.

Yahoo's State Boards of Nursing

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