Starting a Career in Nursing
Becoming a nurse is one of the most rewarding career paths a person could ever choose, especially today when the need for nurses is so high. Nursing is a career that offers not only endless job opportunities and possibilities, but unlimited jobs as well. Every day that you work as a nurse you will have the opportunity to make a difference in a person's life, feel wonderful about helping a stranger, and make a very good living for yourself and your family. There are many different ways of becoming a nurse, and we'll talk about them here, but the very first thing you must do is decide whether or not it's the right career choice for you personally.
Making the Decision
Making a career choice at any point in life is a big step and one that shouldn't be taken lightly. Whether you are just graduating from high school or have already been in the workplace for 20 years, there are many things to consider when thinking about whether or not a nursing job is the right choice for you. Consider the following factors:
- Unlimited Jobs. Does the thought of being able to choose from literally thousands of jobs all across the country sound good to you?
- Income. The average registered nurse earns an annual salary of $65,000 while the top nurses earn over $100,000 a year.
- Growth Potential. Once a nurse has gained experience, there are many paths and directions that their nursing career can go. Many choose to specialize or get advanced certifications in an area they're passionate about.
- Prestige. Nurses have the highest ranked profession in ethics and honesty in the nation, and are well respected in every community.
If you're a person who would enjoy these benefits plus many more, then nursing might be the right career decision for you.
Did You Know? Registered nurses (RNs) constitute the largest healthcare occupation, with 2.6 million jobs.
Taking the Prerequisites
So, what does it take to get your career as a nurse started? After making the decision to be a nurse you'll have to ensure that you meet the prerequisites. Essentially, the basic thing needed today to qualify for a nursing school program of any kind is a high school diploma. With a minimum of a diploma you will able to apply to almost any nursing school or college degree program.
But it's important to know that even though a high school diploma is all that's needed to apply, admittance is very competitive, so the better your GPA the better your chances are of getting into the program that you want. If you’re still in high school, try to focus on science and biology classes to give you an extra edge against other applicants.
Going to Nursing School
A typical nurse will take one of three different paths to become a nurse. You can complete a diploma program that's offered at many hospitals, and that will have you working in the field the quickest. You can also complete an associate's degree (ADN) in nursing or take the longest option and earn a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). The goals of all three paths are to get students ready for both the state and board exams so you can begin working successfully in the nursing field.
The hospital-based program is an entry-level course that prepares students to perform basic nursing duties. This program usually lasts for one year, but can be shorter or longer in certain cases. The associate's degree is usually a two-year program that trains students in all they need to know to sit for the national registered nurse exam known as the NCLEX-RN. Earning a BSN is a four-year commitment that provides both the most classroom and hands-on experience. The benefits of taking the extra years in school usually amount to earning a higher salary when starting to work as a nurse.
Did you know? In 1846 the first hospital training school for nurses, the Institute for Protestant Deaconesses, was established in the town of Kaiserwerth, Germany.
Passing the Test and Becoming Licensed
The key to credibility as a nurse is not just in all of the training that's required, but also in passing the licensing exams, state boards and eventually earning specialty certifications. Proving you have a solid knowledge of nursing skills will open up many doors to both new and experienced nurses wanting to advance their careers even further. Each state has its own nursing board so a nurse must pass the exam in the state they wish to practice in. The state boards are responsible for maintaining the scope of practice for all nurses nationwide.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) also plays a pivotal role in creating standards for nurses across the nation. They administer exams such the NCLEX-RN for registered nurses, as well as the NCLEX-LN for licensed nurses. The RN exam is good in all states, and may be taken anytime of the year. Once a person has passed this exam they can work as a licensed nurse or RN in any state.
Now that you have decided to become a nurse and understand the basics of becoming qualified to work, let’s take the next page to look at some of the job and specialty options that will be available to you as a nurse.
Summary - 5 quick steps to becoming a nurse
- Make the decision to not only help people but also have a great career.
- Review the prerequisites needed and make sure you have them completed.
- Decide which school path fits your needs and lifestyle the best - hospital diploma, ADN or BSN.
- Register and complete the nursing program of your choice.
- Take the state board exam and the national exam relevant to your degree.