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Public colleges and universities are institutions of higher education that are financially supported by taxes or other public funds. Alabama's two largest public educational institutions are the Alabama Community College system and the University of Alabama system. Public colleges and universities offer a wide variety of traditional two-year and four-year nursing programs, and they typically charge lower tuition for state or county residents than private institutions.

Vocational, career, and community colleges offer job-specific technical training for students launching careers in the so-called “white collar” disciplines. One of the tremendous benefits of these two-year institutions is that they provide a streamlined, rapid path to nursing employment versus a traditional four-year college. Within 12-18 months, candidates can complete a licensed practical nurse (LPN) certificate program; within two years, they can complete an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) program.

Nursing employers are demonstrating a growing preference for applicants with a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in their chosen field. These advanced nursing degrees can be obtained through a four-year college or university. Four-year colleges confer a bachelor’s, or baccalaureate, degree as their highest undergraduate honor. A bachelor’s degree typically requires four to six years to complete. In addition to bachelor's degree programs, many universities offer graduate nursing education including a master's of science in nursing (MSN) degree program.

The path to a lucrative career in nursing in the state of Alabama begins with obtaining the proper education and training at an accredited nursing school. The state, which is home to an impressive population of more than 80,000 nursing professionals, also requires licensing, registration and/or certification, plus continuing education for every nursing career path. Some of the most common nursing career paths include certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), and registered nurse (RN).