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What are the Different Types of Nursing Training Programs?

By Teresa McCraw
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are various types of nursing training programs available to cater to the needs and goals of would-be nurses and nurses who want to further their education. Nursing training programs range from the basic, which typically includes a year of study at a vocational school or community college, to the advanced, a course of study that results in a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in nursing. In between are various levels of education, including the degree that can qualify a student for the designation of registered nurse.

Before a person chooses a school to attend or enrolls in a nursing training program, it’s important to understand the different types of nursing training programs available. The type of program chosen will help determine the path and success of the person’s nursing career. Things to consider in picking a program include how long a person is willing to study and what, exactly, the end goal is.

A licensed vocational nursing (LVN) or licensed practical nursing (LPN) degree is the result of basic nursing education. Practical nursing education usually involves a year of training at a vocational-technical school or community college. At the end of the course of study, students must pass the National Council Licensure Examination — Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN) exam to obtain an LPN degree.

The next level amid the various nursing training programs is what is known as the LPN to Associate Degree program. This one- or two-year educational option is available to licensed practical nurses. It allows LPNs to earn an associate’s degree in nursing.

The Associate of Science nursing training program is the next educational option. This two-year associate’s degree program focuses on the technical skills of nursing. This type of program allows a student to become a registered nurse, which is a designation that typically allows the nurse to earn more money in the workforce.

The LPN to BSN is a nursing training program that gives licensed practical nurses an opportunity to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in four academic semesters. A student must already have a basic nursing degree to qualify for an LPN to BSN program. That means, while this program can be completed in the equivalent of two years of college, it must be preceded by a year or two of higher education. This puts it on par, from a time standpoint, with the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

Four-year BSN nursing training programs are split into two sections. During the first two years of study, students complete general courses that will prepare them for the nursing program. Once those general courses are out of the way, students spend the next two or three years focusing on their nursing education.

RN to BSN nursing training programs are for registered nurses who have an associate’s degree and wish to obtain a bachelor’s degree. This type of nursing program typically lasts from one to two years and is very flexible. RN to BSN courses are even available online.

A Master of Science in Nursing is an 18- to 24-month program. This nursing program allows nurse to specialize in a specific area. A person wishing to enroll in a MSN program must have an RN license or a BSN degree from an accredited nursing school. Doctoral nursing training programs also are available for nurses who want to earn a Ph.D. A doctoral program, which can take up to five years to complete, teaches nurses such things as clinical research methods, data and statistical analysis, and advanced medical practices.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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