North Carolina Board of Nursing

Nursing Education

Programs in North Carolina

Approved Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs

Various types of nursing education programs offered in NC are described below. Only entry level, pre-licensure programs are under the jurisdiction of the NC Board of Nursing. These programs include practical nursing and registered nurse diploma, associate degree, and bachelor of science in nursing (same as baccalaureate degree). Post-Licensure programs are listed for information only.

Practical Nurse Programs-(dependent practice)

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): A nursing program leading to a diploma is generally 1 year in length. The nursing curriculum includes classroom and clinical experiences for patients across the lifespan. Clinical practice settings are primarily long-term care or outpatient clinics upon graduation. The program prepares a competent, dependent nurse who functions under the supervision of a registered nurse or other qualified health care provider for these settings. Graduates of approved diploma programs earn a diploma and are eligible to apply to take NCLEX-PN. A PN license is awarded upon successful “Pass” on NCLEX-PN and satisfaction of other licensure requirements.

Registered Nurse Programs-(independent practice)

Associate Degree (AD): A nursing program leading to an associate degree is generally 2 years in length and is offered by a college that awards associate or applied science degrees. The nursing curriculum includes classroom and clinical experiences for patients across the lifespan in hospital and community settings. The program prepares a competent, independent nurse for these settings. Graduates of approved associate or applied science programs earn a college degree and are eligible to apply to take NCLEX-RN. A RN license is awarded upon successful "Pass" on NCLEX-RN and satisfaction of other licensure requirements.

Diploma: A nursing program leading to a diploma is generally 2-2 ½ years in length and is offered by a college that awards diploma degrees. The nursing curriculum includes classroom and clinical experiences for patients across the lifespan in hospital and community settings. The program prepares a competent, independent nurse for these settings. Graduates of approved diploma programs earn a diploma and are eligible to apply to take NCLEX-RN. A RN license is awarded upon successful "Pass" on NCLEX-RN and satisfaction of other licensure requirements.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): A nursing program leading to a bachelor degree is generally 4 years in length and is offered by a college or university that awards baccalaureate degrees. Typically the first two years of the program are spent fulfilling general education requirements, while the last two years are spent on nursing courses. The nursing curriculum includes classroom and clinical experiences for patients across the lifespan in hospital and community/public health settings. There is also a special focus on community health, research and leadership skills. The program prepares a competent, independent nurse for these settings. Graduates of approved BSN programs earn a college degree and are eligible to apply to take NCLEX-RN. A RN license is awarded upon successful "Pass" on NCLEX-RN and satisfaction of other licensure requirements.

Advanced Nursing Education Beyond the Pre-Licensure Entry Level:

RN to BSN: For Associate Degree or Diploma graduates wishing to continue their nursing education. The RN-BSN programs usually take 1-2 years to complete. RNs gain additional education in the areas of community health, research and leadership skills.

MSN: For nurses completing a BSN degree and desiring to specialize in a particular area such as advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). The APRN has four different specialties such as nurse practitioner (NP), certified nurse midwife (CNM), certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), or clinical nurse specialist (CNS). There are also MSNs that specialize in nursing administration, education, clinical research, informatics, etc.

Doctorate: For nurses desiring a terminal professional degree at the doctorate level. In NC there are two nursing doctoral degrees. A Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) is an academic degree that prepares nurse scientists to assume roles primarily in academic and research settings. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a professional degree that focuses on the clinical aspects of nursing rather than academic research.