A Guide to Nursing Program Types

2 Min Read

After determining that a career in nursing is for you, one important step that you will take is deciding which program type you want to pursue. Each one varies in the length and requirements, as well as what your role and responsibilities as a nurse will be. Below you will find the ins and outs of the nursing program types available to you.

Related Read: How to Get into Nursing School – A Five-Step Guide  

LPN or RN, That Is the Question

The first decision you will have to make is whether you want to work as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN). What’s the difference? Quite a bit.

  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN/LVN): Licensed practical nurses, known in some states as licensed vocational nurses, work under the guidance of both physicians and registered nurses. Some of their daily duties include bedside care, taking vital signs, and laboratory testing.
  • Registered Nurse (RN): Registered nurses are responsible for many roles, but the chief role being responsible for patient care. Each day is hands on, from administering medication and treatment to performing diagnostic tests and analyzing the results. There are three degree paths associated with becoming a RN, Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)/Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor or Science in Nursing (BSN), or Certificate/Diploma.

How Do They Vary?

According to NursingLicensure.org, “RNs have, at the minimum, a two-year degree or three-year diploma. [They] have an expanded set of duties and are more frequently employed in hospital settings.” “LPNs have about a year of nursing education, often culminating in a certificate. [They] are expected to report even minor changes in patient care to a registered nurse or another medical professional.”

In addition to the amount of education and role responsibilities, there are also differences in salary ranges and career advancement. A great resource with more information is Johnson + Johnson’s Find Your Path in Nursing. Be sure to select your education level before getting started!

Picking a Program Type

Once you decide on the route of LPN or RN, you can determine a program type.

  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing: This program typically takes two years to complete. Just as there were differences in salary and role responsibilities between LPN and RN, there are differences between degree programs for RN. See more RN, ADN/ASN details here.
  • Certificate/Diploma: Diploma programs are often associated with a hospital or provider so the duration of this degree path will vary. According to RNtoBSN, “Nursing diploma recipients who successfully complete the NCLEX-RN have two career options: enter the workforce and compete for entry-level jobs, or continue their education with a BSN or other bachelor’s degree.”


Scroll to Top