Questions To Ask Before Applying For An RN Degree Program

So you've fallen in love with nursing and you can't wait to start nursing school and become an RN. Before you start submitting applications to every RN degree program out there, it's a good idea to figure out what you want. Rather than wading through piles of information, you can pre-screen programs with a few basic questions and save your applications for the programs you're serious about. These 5 questions will help you find the RN degree program that best suits your nursing career goals.

1. Should I Apply to an ADN or a BSN Degree Program?

Two educational paths will lead you to your RN title: an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). ADN degrees are typically more affordable, require fewer prerequisites, and--in theory--take less time to earn. BSN degrees, on the other hand, are quickly becoming the minimum standard for professional nursing practice, and will open the door to far more job opportunities. If you're serious about your nursing career, a BSN is the way to go. When choosing which degree to earn, focus on the big picture. For example, an ADN program that costs less per credit now may end up costing you more in the future when you are passed over for a job promotion because of your lack of BSN degree credentials.

Nursing Associate degree programs are only available on-campus with two exceptions - if you're already an LPN, then you could take the Online LPN to RN Program, or the Online LPN to BSN Degree Program. If you lack any prior nursing license then you will probably need to earn your BSN degree on-campus as well, unless you're an LPN enrolling in the online LPN to BSN program, already hold a Bachelor's degree in another discipline and enroll in an online direct entry BSN program, or are an ADN or Diploma nurse in which case you are eligible to enroll in an Online RN to BSN Completion Program, or an Online RN to MSN Degree Program. Decide which type of RN degree program you want before requesting information from any nursing schools.

2. Is the Nursing Program Accredited?

Don't even consider nursing programs that are not properly accredited. A degree from an accredited nursing school will ensure that you meet the criteria for graduate schools, job applications, federal financial aid, and employer-based tuition assistance plans. Without accreditation, you'll miss out on all these opportunities, and you'll also be unable to transfer credits to another institution if you decide to switch schools. Nursing programs are accredited by two national organizations: The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), which accredits all nursing education programs, and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which accredits only master's and baccalaureate level degree programs. Only request information from accredited nursing programs.

3. If Selecting An Online Nursing School Determine That The Nursing Program Is Fully Online?

Some nursing programs market themselves as online, but are actually hybrids of online and traditional programs. Make sure that all of the nursing program's classes are taught online, and that the online courses offered enable you to earn a complete degree. Another thing to consider is that some programs may be fully online, but require you to attend an orientation on campus. If you are only interested in fully online programs, you don't want to find out after the fact that you are actually required to travel to a brick-and-mortar campus at some point. Be sure to establish whether or not the nursing program is fully online early in your research, before applying to any online nursing schools.

4. How Will I Fulfill My Clinical Requirements If I Enroll In An Online Nursing Program?

Just as with the previous question, you don't want to find out late in the day that the clinical aspect of your program requires you to travel, or that the requirements are too stringent for you to fulfill conveniently. Before committing to an online nursing program, find out exactly what the clinical requirements entail. You'll want to know how many hours are required, if there are additional fees, and if you'll be able to fulfill the clinical requirements at your current workplace or local healthcare provider. Will you be able to choose a preceptor yourself or does the school arrange that? Most online nursing programs are up-front with the clinical requirements, but be sure to ask the admissions advisor these questions so you know the facts about clinical requirements before you apply.

5. Will I Pay Any Additional Fees?

Comparing the cost of nursing programs is like comparing apples and oranges if the programs aren't transparent with their fee structures. In addition to the cost of tuition, you'll want to factor in the cost of additional source materials, textbooks, clinical fees, lab fees, administrative costs and application fees. There's one final additional cost many online nursing students forget about: the cost of technology to access your virtual classroom. If your computer is less than a year or two old and you have up-to-date peripherals like a webcam, printer, scanner, office software and so on, you probably don't need to worry. But if you're working on a dinosaur of a computer, you may need to upgrade before you can take advantage of online learning. Find out from the online nursing programs what the basic technology requirements are, and if you will be billed for any additional fees.

Deciding Between An ADN Degree Or A BSN Degree Program

In October 2010, the Institute of Medicine released its landmark report on The Future of Nursing, initiated by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which called for increasing the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce to 80% and doubling the population of nurses with doctoral degrees. The current nursing workforce falls far short of these recommendations with only 50% of registered nurses prepared at the baccalaureate or graduate degree level.

On December 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported employment of healthcare occupations is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.3 million new jobs. As the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, RNs likely will be recruited to fill many of these new positions. The BLS confirmed that 439,300 jobs are expected to be added in the Registered Nursing sector between 2014 and 2024.

Whichever degree program you decide upon, ADN or BSN, a nursing degree offers the opportunity for a great career!