This study compared Korean senior nursing students enrolled in associate degree programs (n = 119) and baccalaureate programs (n = 115) on measures of critical thinking ability and clinical decision-making skills. Samples were drawn from three associate degree programmes and four baccalaureate programmes accredited by the Korean Ministry of Education. 'Critical thinking ability' was determined by the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal and 'clinical decision-making' in nursing was measured by the Nursing Performance Stimulation Instrument. Independent sample t-tests comparing the associate degree group (mean score 41·98) and baccalaureate group (mean score 47·22) on the critical thinking measure yielded significant mean differences favouring the baccalaureate group. The baccalaureate group (mean score 26·53) also scored significantly higher than the associate degree group (mean score 23·49) on clinical decision-making. Within the total sample (n = 234) the relationship between critical thinking and clinical decision-making was weak but significant (r = 0·19, P = <0·003).