Nursing programs vary widely in scope, from certificate programs of several weeks to graduate degrees that require years of study. We've listed below the full range of programs available at accredited U.S. nursing schools. In particular, we've profiled several potential pathways for aspiring registered nurses.

There are more than 2.7 million registered nurses (RNs) in the United States. The majority of RNs work in medical and surgical hospitals, while the rest are employed by home healthcare services, skilled care facilities, outpatient care centers, and physicians’ offices. As the largest group of healthcare professionals in the medical industry, RNs provide vital care and treatment.

Registered nurses (RNs) make up the largest group of healthcare professionals in the United States. More than 1.5 million RNs work in general medical and surgical hospitals, while another 1.2 million RNs are employed by home healthcare services, nursing care facilities, offices of physicians, and outpatient care centers. Registered nurses administer medications and treatments, perform diagnostic tests, monitor and operate medical equipment, establish care plans, record medical histories, and teach patients and caregivers how to manage illnesses at home.

There are nearly 740,000 healthcare professionals across the U.S. who hold the title licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). These terms are actually synonymous: 133,000 nurses in California and Texas use the title “LVN,” while those in the remaining states are called “LPN.” An aspiring LVN must enroll in a state-approved education program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN).

The U.S. is home to around 1.5 million nursing assistants. Most work in skilled nursing facilities or hospitals. Regardless of the setting, aspiring nursing assistants must complete a state-approved education program and pass their state’s competency exam. Passing the exam places them on their state’s registry and allows them to use state-specific titles. While some states such as South Dakota and Indiana use the title “certified nurse aide” (CNA), the most common title is “certified nursing assistant” (also CNA).