If you’re interested in becoming a nurse, you have three degree paths to consider: a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN), or a Nursing Diploma/Certificate. Typically awarded by hospital-based nursing schools, a nursing diploma or certificate prepares graduates to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which is mandatory in order to become a nurse in the United States. Once you’ve passed the NCLEX-RN exam, you can apply for state licensure as a registered nurse (RN), and work as an RN in any of the fifty states.
At one point, all nurses in the United States were diploma-prepared and studied in hospital-based nursing schools. Although hospital-based nursing schools aren’t as popular as they were in the past, many still exist today. While some require that non-nursing prerequisite courses, such as mathematics and general education, be completed at another school prior to admission, other schools are self-contained and offer everything a student needs in order to get a nursing diploma or certificate.
Traditionally, diploma nurses attend classes and hands-on training at nursing schools associated with hospitals or medical facilities rather than traditional colleges. They would attend classes five days a week, for an average of three years. Currently, these types of programs are offered in their traditional form and, in some cases, some (or all) of the classes are offered online. Although online nursing diplomas are rare, students may find that the flexible schedule allows them to continue to work as they earn their nursing diploma or certificate.
After the Nursing Program
After earning your nursing diploma, you are able to take the NCLE-RN exam, which is mandatory to qualify for entry-level RN positions at hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices. You also have the opportunity to continue your education with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or other bachelor’s degree.
In the past, diploma programs were the standard way to enter the nursing field. However, with the rise of the Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN), there has been a significant decrease in “diploma nurses.” Most employers are likely to prefer applicants with an ADN degree over a diploma, which is why nursing diplomas could become obsolete.
As with other careers in the healthcare field, the future of nursing is bright. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of registered nurses is expected to grow at a rate of 22 percent until 2018; higher than the growth rate of the average career. As medical technology continues to improve and outpatient services continue to increase in popularity, the demand for nurses is expected to grow.