Nursing is a great career option for everyone. It may be your first career, your second, or even your fifth. The fact is nursing is a universally essential career at all levels. This means that there is always going to be space for more nurses, and with nurses being used to offsetting physician shortages, their roles are becoming increasingly complex. You can earn a good salary as a nurse, can work both in and out of healthcare, and of course, can adapt your approach to suit your needs. There are so many ways that you can get into nursing and so many job options out there (even for RNs).
If you have ever thought about becoming a nurse but then weren’t sure if you wanted to work in a hospital your entire life, stop that thought train now. There are so many exciting opportunities for nurses that you can truly customize your career to suit your needs, your goals, and your priorities.
The Many Paths into Nursing
There are many ways to get started as a nurse. To start, know that there are, technically, three entry-level positions. Though they are entry-level, meaning you won’t need to work as a qualified nurse beforehand, they all require that you earn a certificate or degree and pass an exam.
Something else that you need to keep in mind is that you cannot work your way up the nursing career ladder. If you want to change roles, you will need to go back and train and then pass the state exam.
You can start as a Certified Nursing Assistant, for example, but to become a Licensed Nurse Practitioner or a Registered Nurse, you will need to go back and invest further into your education.
That’s why, unless you have personal reasons, you will always want to work towards an RN license. Even here, there are different ways to get started.
The Full-Time BSN
If you are just starting out and want to become a nurse, then finding a full-time, on-campus BSN can give you not only the training you need but also the on-site life experience that many people get when completing their bachelor’s degree. These types of degrees also suit those who don’t fare well with online education and prefer being physically in their learning spaces.
The Intensive Accelerated BSN
If nursing is a second-career choice and you already have a bachelor’s degree in your pocket, then you can fast-track through the BSN. ABSNs are a great way to cut down time and cost, but do be aware that they are intensive for a reason. Unlike other degree options, you won’t be able to work and study while completing this degree. In exchange, you get to graduate earlier than some of your counterparts and get started as a BSN-RN sooner.
This option is a great choice for those living at home. If you were a stay-at-home parent, for example, and your children are finally reaching the age where you can go back to work, you can jumpstart your new career by completing an ABSN to catch up and get started in a thriving new career option.
The Part-Time BSN
If you need to juggle your time between your responsibilities and your degree, then know that there are part-time degree options. These are usually online, with a few exceptions. They are designed to be completed while you work or while you are a full-time parent. This can make the transition from your current job into nursing smoother. They do, of course, take longer as a result.
Do note that though these degrees are designed to be completed online and around a career that there will always be components that are in-person. All nurses need to complete so many training hours, where you will work in training hospitals or clinics. By the time you reach this stage, you will likely want to consider quitting your original job and focusing entirely on finishing your degree and earning your license.
The final option is being phased out, but it can still be a good choice if you are strategic enough about it, and that is to earn the Associate’s Degree in Nursing. This was the first-degree option for nurses, and it was the only degree necessary for several generations. The reason why it is being phased out is that several studies have witnessed a direct correlation between BSN-RNs and lower patient death rates.
BSN-RNs are typically better prepared to advance their career since they will have all the prerequisites necessary to earn an MSN.
If you need to become an RN soon, however, the ADN can be a good choice. ADN degrees usually take two years instead of a BSN’s four. The key, however, is not to stop there. You will need to fast-track through a BSN by transferring credits over. There are also occasionally ADN-to-MSN programs. These programs are longer than normal MSN options because you will, essentially, be earning your BSN and MSN in one program.
The Many Job Opportunities for Nurses
There are so many exciting job opportunities for nurses at all levels of nursing. This means that you can start to customize your career and make it your own from day one. Further your qualifications and your options only expand.
Opportunities for BSN-RNs
There are so many exciting careers for BSN-prepared nurses. In many cases, you will need to earn a few additional certificates, but these are relatively easy to acquire. It is, after all, your BSN that will qualify you most. With a BSN, you can work as a Bedside Registered Nurse, a Triage Nurse, a Telemedicine Nurse, a School Nurse, and so much more. Click here to see a list of 10 top careers for BSN prepared nurses and what you would need to get started in these unique roles.
Opportunities for MSN-APRNs
If you work your way up to become an APRN, then you can work in your specialization either in a hospital or in a clinic. The exciting news is that many states allow for autonomous practice. What this means is that you do not need a physician beside you to sign off on your work. You will be able to write prescriptions, send for tests, and more. What this means is that you can open up your own clinic, work privately, or work in leadership.
If you want to change your specialization, you can, but do know that you will need to earn a post-graduate certificate. What this means is, essentially, you take on the specialization-specific courses of an MSN. This means you will be able to earn your post-graduate certificate sooner than your MSN.
Opportunities for Nurses Outside of Healthcare
If you ever start to feel burned out working directly with patients, know that there are so many exciting options that take you out of the front lines. You can work as a nurse educator, for example, and train the next generation of nurses. You can work privately as part of the health-and-safety team on many projects, from concerts to movie sets.
You can work in research. You can work in policy-making. There are so many great opportunities outside of the healthcare industry, though they are harder to get into. If you want to get started in any of these roles, you will need to start networking. Getting your name out there and knowing the right people is what is going to help you get your dream job in many of these scenarios. The only exception, of course, is education. You will usually need a doctorate in order to work as a professor.
Higher Education Options
While RNs make up the bulk of nurses, it’s just the start of your career as a nurse. If you want to progress your career further from there, you have so many options, but unlike when you worked towards becoming an RN, you will need to be confident in your specialization in advance.
You could work towards becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner, for example, or work towards becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. Both routes pay well and open up unique opportunities (and great salaries). In order to reach that stage, however, you will need to earn an MSN at a minimum.
The MSN, however, is not the highest level of education you can receive. You can also pursue a Ph.D. or a DNP. Both of these options are doctorates, but the outcomes differ. If you wanted to transition into education and train the next generation of nurses, you would be better off with a Ph.D. If you want to lead in nursing and work, for example, as the Director of Nursing at your hospital, then you may want to earn a DNP.
Having a doctorate does technically mean you can be referred to as “Dr”, but since there this does open up confusion to your patients, you will want to clarify that you hold a nursing doctorate, not a medical doctorate.