Following a Nursing Career Path: Three Ways to Become a Nurse

NursingNovember 13, 2013


A single nursing career path doesn't exist because there isn't just one way to become a registered nurse. Once you become a nurse, the path you take depends entirely on what you want to do, and how far you want to go. Once you have earned your high school diploma or your GED, you can seek out a nursing career path and find out how to become an RN.


Starting out as a licensed practical nurse offers the shortest training time for becoming a nurse and working with patients. While it consists of a certificate rather than a degree, schooling typically lasts from one to two years, depending on the program. LPN programs can be found online through LPN schools and community colleges. Upon completion of the program, you will be required to pass the NCLEX-PN, to get licensed. If you decide that becoming a registered nurse is right for you, then an LPN to RN bridge program can be your next step.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs

A registered nurse has greater responsibility to delegate, creating more nursing diagnosis and care plans than an LPN. An associate degree in nursing can be earned through online or blended programs, community colleges, and nursing programs offered by hospitals. These degrees can take two to three years to complete. Upon passing the NCLEX-RN, you will be able to practice as a registered nurse. With this option, you can even continue your education through an RN to BSN program.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A bachelor of science in nursing differs from the ADN degree with regard to the addition of a few core classes such as community health and research methods. It also requires the student nurse to take other courses to fulfill the university requirements for graduation. The bachelor's degree can take four to five years to complete and the NCLEX-RN is still required in order to practice as a nurse.

Once you have earned your RN license, you can earn specializations and other certifications in specific fields of nursing such as wound care, critical care, and school nursing.

Beyond a BSN

After you earn a bachelor degree, you can pursue master or doctorate degrees, which allow you to teach nursing at a nursing school, or to become a nurse administrator. Other occupations with advanced degrees in nursing include a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife or nurse anesthetist. These professionals can prescribe medications in most states, and function like a doctor for primary care, women's health and pediatrics.

Clearly, the nursing career path can take you as far as you want to go. How far will your nursing degree take you?

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