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Top Nursing Courses in the USA

Nov 11, 2022

Study Nursing in the USA: Courses, Universities, and Requirements for International Students

With the expansion of the healthcare industry in the United States, the demand for medical professionals is on the rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a total growth of 398,100 in various nursing jobs until 2030. This data presents an excellent opportunity for international students to make a career in nursing.

Nursing courses in the U.S. are available as short-term certifications, diplomas, and degree programs. The duration of these courses can range anywhere from 4 weeks to 4 years. Not all nursing courses have the same entry requirements. Becoming a nurse in the U.S. is subject to clearing various license examinations. This article explains the popular nursing courses in the U.S. and the colleges and universities offering them. 


Programs Available CNA, LNP/LVP, ADN, BSN, MSN, DNP
Program Duration 4-12 weeks (short-term); 1-4 years (long-term)
Program Cost $1,200-2,700 (short-term); $6,000-70,000 (long-term)
Basic Eligibility High school diploma (undergraduate), ADN/BSN (graduate)

Popular nursing courses in the USA

Nurses in the U.S.can be grouped as

  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse
  • Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse
  • Registered Nurse
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Each type requires specialized training. Some of these professions require short-term coaching, while others need years of training.

Currently, the American education in nursing provides the following certifications and degree programs

  • Certified Nursing Assistant course
  • Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse course
  • Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse course
  • Associate Degree in Nursing
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing/Bachelor of Nursing
  • Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Nursing
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice

Keep reading to know more about the differences in each profession and the best courses for training.

Certified Nursing Assistant Course (CNA)

Basic Eligibility: High school diploma

Program Duration: 4-12 weeks

Average Program Cost: $1,200

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) work under the supervision of Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) or Registered Nurses (RNs). CNAs, or simply nursing assistants, work in medical settings and provide patient care. Their responsibilities are primarily entry-level.

Some students work as CNAs to assess if nursing professions are a right fit for them. Some CNAs progress in their career by taking up LPN or RN. 

To become a CNA, one does not need a college degree. Many institutions provide short-term certification programs for training. Students should ensure the program or course is accredited by the Nursing Accredited Commission.

Eligibility criteria for Certified Nursing Assistant courses

  • High school diploma
  • Intermediate/Advanced English proficiency
  • Health certificate/Immunization certificate
  • Good conduct

Best colleges for Certified Nursing Assistants courses

Institution/College Duration Program Type Program Cost
Elgin Community College 12 weeks Offline 2,772
Cochise College 12 weeks Offline 2,000
American Red Cross 4-8 weeks Hybrid 1,250
Hutchinson Community College 12 weeks Offline 1,066
City College of San Francisco 6-10 weeks Offline 1,004
Pratt Community College 12 weeks Hybrid 985
Miles Community College 10 weeks Hybrid 882
Century College 12 weeks Offline 800
Elizabethtown Community and Technical College 12 weeks Offline 732
Fox Valley Technical College 12 weeks Offline 602

After completing training, CNAs must clear the CNA certification examination which is held in two parts: multiple choice test and clinical skills test.

Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse Course (LPN/LVN)

Basic Eligibility: High school diploma

Program Duration: 12-18 months

Average Program Cost: $6,070

Licensed Nurses perform primary patient care, such as helping them bathe, dress, eat, etc. Many LPNs’ responsibilities overlap with those of CNAs, although they also perform some advanced services. LPNs usually work under the supervision of RNs. Experienced LPNs may supervise other newer LPNs or CNAs. 

Many students choose to progress to LPN after working as a CNA and continue toward becoming an RN. All courses for LPN should be accredited by the respective state or relevant accrediting organization.

Eligibility criteria for Licensed Practical Nurse courses

  • High school diploma
  • Subject prerequisites: Mathematics, English, Anatomy and Physiology
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate obtained in the past 5 years or active CNA license

Best colleges for Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse courses

Institution/College Program Cost
Santa Barbara City College 4,690
Lake Area Technical College 6,862
Northland Community and Technical College 5,715
Holmes Technical College 6,010
North Central Texas College 7,080

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Basic Eligibility: High school diploma

Program Duration: 2 years

Average Program Cost: $6,000-$20,000

An Associate Degree in Nursing is pursued by students who are interested in a career in Nursing but do not have the time for a four-year Bachelor’s degree. An associate degree often presents a good starting point for students. It allows them to take their career in whichever direction they need. 

An ADN is a fast track for students looking to become Registered Nurses. After an associate degree, students can prepare for clearing the NCLEX-RN. This exam can help them get a license to practice as a Registered Nurse.

Eligibility criteria for Associate Degree in Nursing

  • High school diploma
  • Subject Prerequisites: Chemistry and Biology
  • Academic recommendations
  • Application essay
  • SAT/ACT/HESI/ATI TEAS/NLN-PAX test results
  • English proficiency

Best colleges for Associate Nursing Degree programs

Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN)

Basic Eligibility: Candidates should have an unrestricted Registered Nurse License

Program Duration: Not Applicable

Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse requires specialized training. CPAN’s provide care for patients who have undergone surgery or procedures requiring anesthesia. The care can range from physiological to psychological assistance. CPANs must be trained to handle equipment used to monitor patients, such as ventilators and drug drips.

The American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification states the following qualifications for CPAN

  • Unrestricted Registered Nurse License
  • 1,200 hours of clinical work experience in direct perianesthesia (within two years of applying)

CPAN does not have any specific courses. The need for an RN license for CPAN indicates the need for an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree before a CPAN certification.

However, some online review courses are available for the CPAN exam preparation.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Basic Eligibility: High school diploma

Program Duration: 4 years

Average Program Cost: $40,000-$80,000

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is an undergraduate degree to become a Registered Nurse. Students with an associate degree in nursing may choose a BSN to continue their education. A BSN is a four-year degree and is much more advanced than ADN. The first two years focus on theoretical classes and the last two on clinical training.

Although most students pursue BSN to become RN, the BSN degree has the potential for jobs with higher responsibilities. Jobs with a BSN degree can involve clinical work or administrative/managerial work. Students can have a higher scope of securing supervisory positions with a BSN degree.

BSN is also a prerequisite for higher education in nursing, such as an MSN degree.

Eligibility criteria for Bachelor of Nursing programs

  • High school diploma (with minimum GPA as specified by the university)
  • ACT/SAT scores
  • TEAS test scores (some universities may require)
  • English proficiency
  • Academic Transcripts
  • Recommendation letters
  • Personal statement/motivation letter
  • Work experience
  • Interview

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Basic Eligibility: Bachelor’s in Nursing

Program Duration: 1-3 years

Average Program Cost: $35,000-$70,000

Master’s in nursing programs are an excellent opportunity for further education. Registered nurses can pursue a master’s to advance their career to supervisory roles.

A master’s in nursing is also needed to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

APRNs can be further specialized into

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP), 
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), 
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), and 
  • Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)

A BSN degree is required to enroll in MSN programs. Some universities offer RN-to-MSN direct entry programs.

Eligibility criteria for Master of Nursing programs

The general entry criteria for MSN programs are

  • Completion of BSN degree
  • Academic transcripts
  • GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Application essay
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Copy of active Registered Nurse License
  • Interview

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Basic Eligibility: Master’s in Nursing

Program Duration: 2-3 years

Average Program Cost: $40,000-$70,000

A doctorate in nursing is the highest possible education in the nursing field. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) opens doors to advanced job positions in clinical and research work.

With a DNP, students can pursue professions in 

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • Certified Nurse-Midwife
  • Adult-Gerontology – Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

The list is not comprehensive and includes many other specializations.

Typically, a DNP requires students to complete a master’s program. But direct entry programs such as BSN-to-DNP are available. It takes one to three years to complete doctoral education.

Eligibility criteria for Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Bachelors in Nursing/Masters in Nursing
  • Academic Transcripts
  • Personal statement
  • Recommendation letters
  • Resume
  • Copy of active unencumbered RN license
  • GRE test scores
  • English proficiency

Best universities for BSc/MSc Nursing programs

Apart from the universities mentioned above, some community colleges also offer BSN degrees. 

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Yes. Most colleges accept international students to their ADN programs. International students can sit for the NCLEX-RN after completing their ADN. 

One can become a registered nurse either through an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. But a bachelor’s degree in nursing offers better prospects. Registered nurses with a BSN tend to earn higher and quickly transition into supervisory roles.

International students can enroll in a Certified Nursing Assistant course, Associate Degree in Nursing, or Bachelors in Nursing. All three programs state a high school diploma as the basic eligibility. ADN and BSN can help students become registered nurses.

To apply for a BSc in Nursing or BSN, students should have a high school certificate. SAT or ACT scores are needed. Universities may state additional test scores of TEAS. Application essays, recommendation letters, and CVs should be ready. Universities may conduct interviews. International students should prove their English proficiency.

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