With the world population living longer and needing more care, the healthcare field is one of the best places to get a job, and will likely stay that way for many years to come.

With over 100,000 vacant positions and an ever-growing need for healthcare workers, the career outlook is excellent for the nursing field. Because of the increasing need for nurses, some hospitals are offering signing bonuses of up to $14,000 for experienced nurses.

With such a strong need for nurses one would think it would be easy to get into nursing. The reality is it may be harder than many people think. There is a shortage of nursing educators and this makes many nursing programs hard to get into often with long waiting lists.

The three major educational paths to registered nursing are a bachelor?s degree, an associate degree, and a diploma from an approved nursing program. Nurses most commonly enter the occupation by completing an associate degree or bachelor?s degree program. Individuals then must complete a national licensing examination in order to obtain a nursing license. Further training or education can qualify nurses to work in specialty areas, and may help improve advancement opportunities.

There are three major educational paths to registered nursing?a bachelor?s of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate degree in nursing (ADN), and a diploma. BSN programs, offered by colleges and universities, take about 4 years to complete. In 2006, 709 nursing programs offered degrees at the bachelor?s level. ADN programs, offered by community and junior colleges, take about 2 to 3 years to complete. About 850 RN programs granted associate degrees. Diploma programs, administered in hospitals, last about 3 years. Only about 70 programs offered diplomas. Generally, licensed graduates of any of the three types of educational programs qualify for entry-level positions.

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