Someone who wants to become a registered nurse must obtain a high school diploma or equivalent and a college degree prior to taking the standardized National Council Licensure Examination, explains the American Nurses Association. The type of college degree determines the level at which a nurse can practice.
A student who earns an associate degree in nursing, which is commonly offered by hospital-based schools of nursing and community colleges, trains for a position in a defined scope of practice, explains the American Nurses Association. A diploma in nursing is also a common route to becoming an RN. The most common degree required is a bachelor of science in nursing offered at a four-year university or college.
A student who seeks a position in health care administration, nursing education or advance practice can opt to earn a master's degree in nursing, a doctorate of philosophy or a doctorate of nursing practice, according to the American Nurses Association. A student who opts for a doctorate of nursing practice is trained for employment in a leadership role or clinical practice.
Undergraduate nursing educational programs focus the first two years on human growth and development, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, biology, and organic chemistry, explains the American Nurses Association. Upper-level classwork focuses on community health nursing, pediatrics, acute and chronic disease, and mental health nursing. Nursing theory is also a primary element of nurse training.