Pursuing a Nursing Career: Requirements, Options and Job Prospects
Anyone pursuing a career in the field of nursing soon discovers that it is a challenging job, but also one that provides a wide range of interesting and well-paying career options. As with any other type of work, the outlook for nursing jobs is constantly changing due to factors like politics and the economy. However, these are some general principles to keep in mind.
The educational requirements to obtain a degree in nursing will vary depending on the exact type of degree and the requirements of the state in which you attend school. Usually nursing students will study such subjects as science, clinical nursing, quantitative methods and the like.
To become a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) you will be required to complete a one-year educational program that includes both lectures and hand-on clinical training. However, if you want to become a registered nurse (RN) you will have to earn at least an Associate Degree in Nursing. An RN can also have a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Once finished with the nursing program, you will be able to take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse.
Earning a Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) requires you to have first earned a bachelor's degree in nursing or a similar field. An MSN degree is required for anyone who wants to work as an advanced practice nurse (APN).
If you would like to become a mid-level provider such as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) or nurse practitioner (NP), you must earn a specialized master's degree. Most programs for these degrees take between one to two years to complete and are designed for those who are currently working as a nurse.
The highest level of education for nursing is a doctorate degree. Once a person has obtained both a bachelor and master's degree, they can then study for a doctorate in nursing. There are two different doctorate nursing degrees: a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and a Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS).
Once a nurse has their degree and has passed the NCLEX-RN exam, they will be required to meet continuing education requirements. Again, these requirements are different for each state and type of nursing degree.
A nursing education and license gives you the opportunity to purse a wide variety of different career specialties. A few of these possible specialties include:
- A Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP) must have an advanced degree with an emphasis on geriatrics. These nurses are trained to treat and manage patients who have long-term and debilitative conditions.
- A certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) is trained to give patients anesthesia. These nurses work with surgeons, dentists, anesthesiologists and more.
- A nurse practitioner (NP) has been trained to be a primary and specialty care provider. Nurse practitioners provide preventive health care and commonly work in areas that lack medical resources.
People who want to become an LPN or LVN should understand that they will be working under the close supervision of a physician or RN. They are trained in all aspects of patient care, but their educational requirements are less than those of an RN.
An RN will be responsible for performing detailed physical evaluations as well as gathering in-depth information about a patient's history and medical needs. They will also supervise LPNs and other health care team members.
A nurse with a Master's degree can become an advanced practical nurse (APN). An APN works closely with a physician and can provide treatment levels similar to a doctor. Many APNs function as a patient's primary health care provider.
Individuals with a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) will work in various clinical areas of the nursing profession. A Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS) is usually obtained by those who want to do research or be a professor at a nursing program.
According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the median pay for an LPN is about $40,380 or $19.42 an hour. It also reports pay for an RN as well as NP and other nurse careers as $64.690 or $31.10 an hour.
While few individuals pursue a nursing career solely for its monetary incentives, choosing instead to be motivated by the opportunity to help others, it cannot be denied that the field can be quite rewarding financially. Of course, nurses put in long hours of extraordinarily stressful and exhausting work to earn that income. Regardless, with the demand for trained nurses continuing to increase, it appears that this opportunity will not go away anytime soon.