How to Become a Nurse: Your Quick-Start Career Guide

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Sep 17, 2020

Sep 17, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

As of 2019, there are an estimated 2.86 million registered nurses in the United States alone. Working in a nursing career is interesting and rewarding. This is because it is a job that will always be necessary and make a difference to hundreds of lives throughout their working life.

But why become a nurse? Nurses are an essential aspect of the healthcare industry, it provides you with a salary that pays well, and gives an opportunity to learn a range of new skills and challenge you to grow in the workplace. 

Read on for insight on how to become a nurse and the types of nursing careers available to work in. 

How to Become A Nurse

The path to becoming a nurse is a long one. But, it always starts with getting educated on the nursing standards of care.

  1. Get a nursing degree: Four options needed to pursue an education in nursing 
    • Nursing Diplomas that are attained in community colleges and vocational schools
    • Associate's Degrees in Nursing (ADN) that get received through a community college education. This degree requires two to three years of study. It can also be the quickest way to enter the workforce as a registered nurse.
    • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degrees gained after graduating from a college or university, which takes 2 years for those who received an associate's degree or 4 years for newer undergraduate students.
    • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degrees are important to have when entering a specialized nursing career, while entry-level nursing jobs are required for those who received an ADN or BSN.
  2. Get a license and take an exam to practice in your desired field. One of the most common exams to take is the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). This exam is legally required to pass in all 50 states.
  3. Depending on the state you plan to practice in, you may need to take additional exams to earn your state license. Also, you may need to pass background checks and continuing education requirements. (Note: You will need to take continuing education every two years.)
  4. If you want to work in a specific field, you may need to get an advanced certificate.

If you follow this educational path, you will be on your way to starting your nursing career and utilizing nursing standards of care in every job you are a part of.

Types of Nursing Careers

Due to a variety of factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, American hospitals are experiencing nursing shortages. However, nursing careers are not limited to caring for patients during an emergency.

There are hundreds of specialty nursing careers anyone can go into, whether it's for working in a nursing home or for women's health.

  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) are entry-level positions open to people wanting to work as a registered nurse. They usually need to complete certificates, ADNs, and the NCLEX-PN in order to work in the position. LPNs typically give patients basic care and administering medicines (this depends on the state).
  • Registered Nurses (RN) are the most common type of nurse you may encounter. A typical job description requires RNs to work on patient care, administering medication and education, assisting physicians with exams and surgeries, promoting general wellness, and managing other nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses. An ADN is required, though BSNs are the basic criteria.
  • A Nurse Practitioner is an advanced-level position that allows them to make decisions regarding exams, treatments for patients, open their own offices for practice, and diagnose illnesses. These are also the types of nurses that may usually be in a rural area if there is a shortage of primary care physicians. This job requires receiving an MSN. However, Doctorates of Nursing Practice (DNP) will become required to practice by 2025.

Working as a nurse means working in a very diversified field that goes beyond the typical hospital job. Any experience you might have can potentially work for the better and provide skills you might not know you needed in a nursing job.

Provide Skilled Nursing Care, No Matter Your Experience

Let this guide on how to become a nurse help you decide which path you want to take in your nursing career and change peoples' lives for the better. Take a look at our articles for more career and job advice.