“Learning is one of life’s most essential activities.” — Annie Murphy Paul

Enrollment in all types of professional nursing programs increased from 2011 to 2012, according to new survey data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. These findings are based on data reported from 664 of the 856 nursing schools in the U.S. with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs.

The survey also saw a 3.5% increase in entry level Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs. The number of students enrolled in RN-to-BSN programs increased by 22.2% from 2011 to 2012, which, according to the AACN, signals a growing interest for baccalaureate-prepared nurses from both nurses and employers.

"AACN is pleased to see across-the-board increases in nursing school enrollments this year, given our commitment to encouraging all nurses to advance their education as a catalyst for improving patient care," said AACN President Jane Kirschling in a press release. "As the national voice for professional nursing education, AACN is committed to working with the education and health care community to create a highly qualified nursing workforce able to meet the expectations and challenges of contemporary nursing practice."

A few other interesting survey findings:

  • Enrollment in master’s and doctoral degree programs increased “significantly.”
  • Survey data indicated an 8.2% jump in enrollments for nursing schools with master’s programs (432 institutions reported data).
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice programs saw a 19.6% enrollment increase (166 schools reported data).
  • Baccalaureate nursing graduates are more than twice as likely to have jobs at the time of graduation than those entering the workforce in other fields.
  • Graduates from master’s degree programs (MSNs) were most likely to have secured jobs at graduation (73%).

"Momentum is clearly building for advancing nursing education at all levels,” Kirschling said in a press release. “Given the calls for more baccalaureate- and graduate-prepared nurses, federal and private funding for nursing education should be targeted directly to the schools and programs that prepare students at these levels."

"Further, achieving the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations related to education will require strong academic-practice partnerships and a solid commitment among our practice colleagues to encourage and reward registered nurses committed to moving ahead with their education."

This post was written by Erica Moss, who is the community manager for the online masters in nursing programs at Georgetown University.