Registered nurses typically come to the field through a bachelor's of science degree in nursing, an associate's degree or a nursing program diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Licensed practical nurses or vocational nurses take an educational program for about one year at community colleges or technical schools.
Regardless of whether a nurse is registered, practical or vocational, she must be licensed, explains the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bachelor's degree programs for registered nurses offer more education in communication, critical thinking and clinical experience than the other two avenues to the profession. The bachelor's programs usually take four years, while the other two options take two to three years. All three routes include clinical experience. Nurses who have an associate's degree or a program diploma often return to school to obtain a four-year degree. As of May 2012, registered nurses brought home a median annual wage of $65,470.
Licensed practical nurses or vocational nurses can get certified in areas including IV therapy and gerontology to show their detailed knowledge, states the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some of those nurses eventually go on to get the education needed to become a registered nurse. As of May 2012, licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses earned a median wage of $41,540.