Types of Nursing Degrees

Nursing Diploma and Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs

One way to kick start a career in nursing is to enroll in an undergraduate nursing program. One type of undergraduate nursing program is a diploma or certificate program. An associate degree in nursing program is another type of undergraduate nursing program. Both of these programs equip you with the knowledge and training that you will need in your day-to-day duties as an RN, but there are some differences between the two.

While ADN graduates receive a college degree upon completion of their program, nursing diploma graduates do not. However, if a diploma student’s program is affiliated with a college or university, the student may receive college credit for certain courses. This is useful for those who wish to later pursue an ADN or BSN.

Another key difference between a diploma and an ADN program is the length of time they take to complete and where to get them. Diploma or certificate programs are typically run by hospitals, medical centers or vocational colleges. Nursing diploma candidates are only required to complete 12 months of vocational training, covering areas such as infection control, emergency procedures and personal care. ADN students, on the other hand, are required to complete 24 months of study at a community college. Behavioral health, maternal and child nursing care, and pharmacology are just a few of the courses an ADN student might take.

How to enroll in a diploma or associate degree in nursing program

Typically, you will need to have a high school diploma or GED certificate to enroll in a nursing diploma program. The subject prerequisites for an ADN or diploma program vary from institution to institution but may include microbiology, anatomy and physiology, and psychology.

Diploma and Associate degree in nursing program specialties

RNs with either a diploma or ADN can attain a limited number of career specialties and certifications, the most common being the licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). LPN and LVN are used interchangeably across the United States — the title of the role will vary per state.

LPN/LVN education can take 12 months to complete and covers a wide variety of topics, though you have an option to gain further certification through a state organization. The program will most often combine coursework and supervised clinical practice at a hospital or vocational school, and subject prerequisites may be similar to those of the ADN.

What are my career options with a diploma or Associate degree in nursing?

Newly graduated RNs with an ADN can go on to work in the following health care settings:

  • Emergency rooms
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Nursing care facilities

Diploma graduates or LPNs can also work in any one of these settings under the supervision of doctors to provide basic care to patients. Some common entry-level nursing roles are oncology nurse, geriatric nurse or critical care nurse.

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