The two major groupings of nursing degrees are earned through a licensed practical nursing or licensed vocational nursing program and a registered nursing program. However, nurses can also obtain master's degrees and doctoral degrees.
A LPN program takes about a year to complete and is available at most community colleges, at hospitals, or at a vocational school. It teaches the student the basic skills necessary to be a nurse, and after graduation, the student is eligible to become licensed if she passes a state-administered nursing examination called the NCLEX-PN®. LPNs work alongside doctors or RNs and help take care of a patient's basic needs. They may collect data on the patient, monitor vital signs, change out bandages and administer medications. They cannot have an independent practice as their job is purely a dependent one.
Students can become a RN through a diploma school, by getting a four-year Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree or by getting a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing. These all qualify the student as an RN; the diploma school is the most traditional method, but most nursing students now are using the four-year or two-year programs. These nurses do perform some dependent tasks, such as following medication orders from a doctor, but overall, they are far more independent.
Master of Science in Nursing and doctorate nursing degrees, such as a Doctorate of Nursing Education or Doctorate of Nursing Science, are higher nursing degrees.