How to Become a Nurse
Nursing is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States according the (BLS) the expected growth rate will be 22% from 2008-2018 (1) . With aging populations from Florida to Washington State and everywhere in between, becoming a nurse is an increasingly attractive option when it comes to choosing a career. But with many options for different levels of nursing training, nursing jobs, and nursing licensure, it can sometimes be difficult to decide upon which avenue of nursing to pursue.
So, how to become a nurse?
Step 1 to Becoming a Nurse: Choosing a Training Program
Choosing a degree or certificate program is the first step for a prospective nurse. Everything from month-long Certified Nurse Assistant to four-year Bachelor of Science, Nursing programs are widely available, each with their own pluses and minuses.
For aspiring professional nurses, becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), which typically takes a year, is probably the lowest level of nursing education you will want to pursue. LPNs serve under Registered Nurses (RN) and perform hands-on nursing tasks essential to everyday patient care. One can become an LPN through an early-exit option in an RN program and can earn, on average, slightly over $40,000 per year nationwide says (2).
Alternatively, one can choose to pursue either a two year Associate Degree or four year Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, both of which can lead to licensure as a Registered Nurse. Registered Nurses have more responsibility in the workplace—those with a BSN typically find themselves in superior positions to ADN-equipped RNs—and they can earn up to $64,000 per year as a staff nurse. There are also sometimes more opportunities for RNs outside of traditional patient care settings according to (3).
When deciding on a nursing program, career considerations and time commitment are important, but so too are graduation rates on the NCLEX nursing exams, which can vary by program. Tuition costs can also vary significantly, and when pursuing high-level training, it is important to check that a nursing program offers interesting electives when you begin to move towards more specialized knowledge, particularly when it comes to BSN nursing education.
Step 2 to Becoming a Nurse: Prerequisites
While CNA training and some LPN programs do not require prerequisites beyond a high school diploma, even the quicker education programs can be competitive and good grades are always an asset. When it comes to RN training, and some LPN programs, prerequisites are also usually required, and can vary from around 15-30 credit hours of introductory level college courses in topics like English, biology, psychology, physiology and more. This can vary from program to program, but any program with prerequisites considers them an important part of your nursing application—it is best to excel in your prerequisites to ensure acceptance into your favorite nursing program.
Step 3 to Becoming a Nurse: Clinical Experience
Nursing programs include basic health care protocol and hands-on clinical training related to direct patient care. After the first year, however, it begins to branch out to include specialized topics like nursing theory, management, and research and beyond. And those in a BSN program receive even more options for directed topics from radiology to pharmacology and more. Indeed, nursing programs can be as in-depth as you want it to be—once enrolled, students become increasingly in control of their learning experience.
Step 4 to Becoming a Nurse: The Nurse Licensure Examination
While nurse aides, CNAs, and other entry-level nurses have specific licensure examinations that can vary from state to state, LPNs and RNs take nationally standardized test known as the NCLEX. With both LPN and RN versions, the NCLEX is a comprehensive examination that stands as the last step towards becoming a nurse and entering one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States.
(1) (2) (3) https://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos083.htm#outlook
For More Information
To get detailed information on nursing training, licensure, education and more in your state, visit our state-specific pages on how to become a nurse.
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