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What degree do I need to be a nurse?

Nurses are some of the most diverse employees in the medical realm: You can find these skilled workers in almost every health care setting. Though duties vary by workstation, licensed practical and vocational nurses are generally responsible for hands-on care procedures: They give medications and deliver IV medication, feed people who can't eat on their own, educate family members on the care of a loved one, help care for infants and new mothers just after birth, collect samples for laboratory tests, and more. The employment of nurses is slated to grow 22 percent in the next decade, and working on a relevant degree today could help prepare you for a nursing career tomorrow.

There are two steps to a nursing career at the LPN/LVN level: Completing an approved degree or educational program and obtaining state licensure. Nursing degree programs can usually be completed in about a year through community and vocational colleges and these lead to licensure as either a licensed vocational or licensed practical nurse (the name varies, but the credential is similar). The BLS reports that coursework in these degree programs generally includes both classroom and hands-on clinical learning. Classroom work will likely comprise classes in topics such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and biology; clinical work is generally performed under the supervision of experienced nurses and program instructors. After completing the degree program, future nurses will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN, to obtain a license. Though each state issues its own credentials, every nurse is required to pass the exam.


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