Typically, you can earn your state's registered nursing license with just a one-year nursing diploma from an accredited college program. However, you gain several key benefits from taking a more thorough two-year Associate of Science in Nursing degree path. Along with the increased knowledge and background, you gain credentials that make you more valuable to potential employers.

Increased Knowledge

To become licensed, you need an A.S.N. or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. In general, the more education you get, the more technical skills and nursing knowledge you acquire. Compared to a diploma program, an A.S.N. degree provides more advanced technical skills and the ability to develop basic nursing skills in preparation for entry-level nursing jobs. Along with technical skills, nurses also get instruction on bedside manners, working in various facilities and dealing with more types of health conditions.

More Career Options

Your A.S.N. also gives you greater career options relative to a diploma. Some doctors and facilities only hire nurses that have at least an associate degree. While you gain clinical experience in a diploma program, you can get a chance for extended clinical time and the ability to work in multiple settings in an A.S.N. program. Experience in hospitals, general offices, pediatrics, surgical centers, ERs and mental health facilities improves your flexibility and makes you more employable in a variety of areas.

Transition to a Bachelor's Degree

One of the simple benefits of getting an A.S.N. is that it puts you on the path toward the B.S.N. degree. Similar to the A.S.N., a B.S.N. expands your learning, flexibility and career options. Additionally, many RNs take the route of getting an A.S.N., working in an entry-level career and having an employer pay part or all of their tuition for a bachelor's This process requires a work commitment of one to three years, but you not only get tuition support, you increase your earning potential.


A one-year diploma program offers the basic skills and background needed for an RN. However, it doesn't typically give you specialized skills in a particular area. If you want to specialize in pediatrics or ER nursing, for instance, you can take specific classes and gain necessary clinical training during an A.S.N. A combination of the associate degree and significant hands-on experience in a pediatric office or unit, for instance, gives you a great chance to get hired into various pediatric facilities.

2016 Salary Information for Registered Nurses

Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, registered nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,190, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,955,200 people were employed in the U.S. as registered nurses.

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