There are a variety of factors to consider, both regarding the program itself, as well as your personal circumstances and aspirations. It is essential to gather as much information as possible about the program before making your final decision.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Is the program accredited? In order to be eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), you will need to complete a program that is accredited by the state board of nursing. There are two accrediting organizations for nursing programs: the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
- What is the program’s NCLEX pass rate? The program’s past NCLEX pass rates are a good indication of how well its students are prepared for the NCLEX, which you will be required to pass in order to become a registered nurse (RN).
- What type of degree does the program award? There is a wide variety of nursing career tracks, so it is important that you choose a program offering a degree that will provide you with you the appropriate requisite degree for your chosen area of nursing. In fact, many hospitals nationwide are now requiring all nurses to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, rather than an associate’s degree or nursing certificate.
- Does the program offer direct admission? Four-year bachelor’s degree programs with a direct admission policy ensure that you begin taking nursing courses during your first year of study, rather than waiting an academic year or more to begin your nursing curriculum. Similarly, direct entry master’s degree programs indicate that you will be able to begin nursing curriculum immediately, regardless of whether your bachelor’s degree is in nursing or another field.
- What are the prerequisites for the program? Before beginning any nursing program, you must ensure that you have completed the necessary prerequisites. While most nursing programs require many of the same courses, each program will have unique requirements, including necessary GPA and credit transfer policies. Before taking prerequisites through an outside institution, be sure to check with your program of interest to ensure that the credits will transfer, or if the program offers its own prerequisite program.
- What are the program logistics? More and more nursing programs are offering a portion or the entire curriculum online. Before committing to a program, be sure to find out which of your courses will be taken online versus on campus. Also consider how important student-professor “face time” is to your learning style – while online programs usually have faculty advisors, you may not get a chance to speak to the professor in person.
- Who are the clinical partners? Quality local hospitals and clinical partners are crucial to a strong nursing program experience. You’ll want to know which hospitals are located near your program and how many hours of clinicals your program offers. Clinicals give you the most real, hands-on experience in nursing before graduation, so the quality and number of hours should be a key consideration in your decision making process. Be sure to consider travel time to these locations as well. As your program progresses, you’ll spend more and more time at your clinical locations.
- How quickly can you start? If you’re looking to get in and out of school as quickly as possible in order to fast track your career in nursing, it is important to find out how long your program lasts and how many start dates are offered throughout the year. If speed of completion is a key consideration for you, there are many accelerated degree program options. Also, consider whether or not the school has a wait list.
- How much does the program cost? Many programs list the cost per credit hour, so it is important to determine the total cost of the program from start to finish. You’ll also want to find out if financial aid is available for your program. If you will need to work part-time in order to pay for the cost of the program, be sure that the schedule is manageable, especially when clinical rounds begin.
While the answers to many of these questions can be found on program websites, admissions advisors are generally your best resource for learning about the details of the program. Current students are also a great resource and can offer insight into the program and whether it is the right fit for you.