Nursing Careers: Which Choice Is Right For You?

You may have known that you wanted to become a nurse ever since you were a child, but you probably didn’t realize that there are so many career paths you can take. Some nursing careers don’t require much schooling, but you also face lower salaries. Others require over five years of higher education, but you’ll be just a step below a medical doctor when you graduate (and have the salary to prove it). If you’re interested in a career in nursing, take a moment to learn about all of your career options.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

As a CNA, you won’t be a registered nurse, but you can provide basic care to patients. This is the fastest way to break into the nursing field, as programs only require 150 hours of theory and clinical training before you can be licensed. Every two years, you must complete an additional 48 hours of education to maintain your license as a CNA. In this role, you can’t treat patients, but you can record vital signs, turn bedridden patients to prevent sores, help patients eat and bath, prepare patients for surgery, clean patient rooms, and perform other non-procedural tasks.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Also known as licensed vocational nurses in some states, LPNs complete educational programs that last one to three years and have more authority than assistants in the nursing field. They can administer medications and perform basic care procedures, as well as do all the tasks typically done by CNAs.

Registered Nurse (RN)

You can become an RN in as little as two years, but many students choose to go on to get their bachelor’s degrees in the field. As an RN, you’ll have many more hours of clinical training and can perform all the tasks of an LPN plus additional, more advanced tasks. RNs with bachelor’s degrees are usually top candidates for positions overseeing teams of CNAs or LPNs.

Advanced Practice Nurse (APN)

If you go on to get your master’s degree in nursing, you can work as an APN. There are four career paths as this type of nurse:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Certified Nurse Midwife

In many states, advance practitioner nurses can even work independently of physicians, so you can have your own practice or consulting firm. As an advanced practice nurse, you can also go on get a doctorate degree, which is great for nurses who want to do research or get into education. At the master’s degree or doctorate degree level, you can also specialize in one area of medicine.

So which career path is right for you? That depends on how quickly you want to enter the workforce. If you’re willing to spend more time and money on your education, you’ll qualify for higher-paying jobs with more responsibilities.

Online Nursing Education Programs

Kaplan University
MSN: Administration
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Kaplan University - The mission of Kaplan University's College of Nursing is to educate the next generation of healthcare professionals via an advanced online environment. The university features a bachelor's degree and master's degree for RNs, which includes the specializations of Nurse Administrator and Nurse Educator. Courses are taught by experienced professionals that bring their real-world skills into the classroom.
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Grand Canyon University
MSN: Health Informatics
MSN: Nurse Education
Grand Canyon University - The Grand Canyon University College of Nursing and Health Sciences is the Southwest's leader in healthcare education. Courses feature academic and clinical rigor with Christian values to graduate committed healthcare professionals. Obtain a BSN, MSN Health Informatics Degree, or a nurse educator MSN.
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South University
South University - South University offers students both a Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Nursing. The on-campus bachelor's program prepares students for careers at acute care hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and community-based clinics. The online master's program develops advanced clinical teaching skills and research.
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