Your Nursing Education: Every Step, Explained

Very few careers insist on ongoing education to be successful in them. You might have assumed that things like an MBA are truly essential when it comes to succeeding in the business world, but at the end of the day, smart business strategy and a mind for what you do is often enough to excel. Outside the box thinking and a good grasp on human and organization psychology is all you really need to succeed and make others see your value. 


However, In nursing, this isn’t the case. Your superiors can believe you can handle greater responsibilities all they like, but the fact is that going onto a new role without the right qualifications, such as online nursing programs, is illegal, and comes with severe repercussions. The only way to truly progress is to continue your education, and to further it still with ongoing certifications, lectures, seminars, and workshops. 


This makes progressing in nursing both more difficult and easier. Whereas most have to convince others that they are ready to take the next step, and then compete for the position in question, nurses do not. You are almost guaranteed to find your next position once you advance your qualifications, simply due to the nursing (and physician) shortage


There is a long way before you can be an APRN, however, so follow this guide step-by-step, to help learn about the typical route through nursing education, as well as some tips and tricks to make it easier. 


Get Started in Nursing 

What many of us know as a nurse is actually referred to as a Registered Nurse. It requires several years of education and training to become one. However, you can get started in a nursing role in just a few short weeks. The work you will be doing in this starting position is more palliative and holistic care than anything related to medicine, but it pays around $30,000 per year and can be started very quickly. 


You can work in hospitals or in care homes, depending on the type of environment that suits you best. Your role is very, very important for the patient’s morale and mental health, and it will also allow you to work while pursuing further online nursing programs. 


The next level up, the Licensed Nurse Practitioner, also can be easily finished. The certificate you need only takes around six months to complete,  and in this more advanced role you also earn around $18,000 more than you had as a CNA. 


Alternatively, Transition into Nursing 


You can become a nurse or, specifically, a Registered Nurse, just by completing a BSN. There are many online nursing programs out there that are designed with this in mind. Once you earn that BSN and finish your clinical hours, you can start working as an RN. 

What this means is that when you work and complete online nursing programs, you don’t actually have to be working at a hospital or clinic already. You can bypass the roles of Certified Nursing Assistant or Licensed Nurse Practitioner – and should, if you currently earn more than $48,000 per year. That is the average wage of an LNP, so if your current place of work pays more, then you are better off remaining there until you have completed your choice of BSN online nursing programs. 


It’s important to remember that if you already have a Bachelor degree, then chances are you can use your existing credits towards your BSN to fast-track yourself. This is more applicable if you have a science-related background, but it’s always worth checking in advance. 


Understanding the Associate’s Degree in Nursing 


If you are transitioning into nursing from another career path, then it is best to go the BSN route. The BSN will allow you to transfer over credits from your previous bachelor’s degree, and in turn, fast-track yourself through the degree. Not only that, but a BSN is a prerequisite to earning an MSN. All MSN online nursing programs have this requirement, and it cannot be avoided. 

That being said, there is another way to become a nurse, one that may appeal to those who started as a CNA. This is the Associate’s Degree in Nursing. It usually takes around two years to complete, and once you earn it, you can qualify to become an RN. They usually earn less than BSN-RNs, and many states have a cap of 20% ADN-RNs, but if you have a family to support, it’s a good way to bump up your pay. You will then want to go on and continue your education with a BSN, though it is important to remember that many BSN online nursing programs will allow you to transfer credits over. 


If you have the option, it’s faster and simpler to earn your BSN right from the bat, but if earning that little bit more you would as an RN is essential for the sake of your family, then it’s hard to buckle down for an extra two years. Weigh your options and make the right decision for your individual situation. 


When to Earn your MSN 


MSN online nursing programs are essential to progress your career and become an APRN. They are also where you can start to really specialize and focus on your interests. There are many different kinds, however, which is why it’s important to know a few key things about the MSN degree, first. 

  • You will need to work as an RN for a few years, first. 


Most MSN degrees have a requirement that is tied to your professional career. Either the course or your state requires you to have a minimum number of clinical hours under your belt after you have earned your BSN in order to apply. 

  • You can change specializations later, but it’s better to be sure of your choice 


You are not forever locked into the specialization that you choose, but it is better for your budget, your time, and your efforts to be 100% confident in the specialization that you choose. If you train to be a midwife, but then realize you hate it and want to become a nurse practitioner, you will need to retrain. You won’t need to earn a whole new MSN, but you will need to go back for the certification. This takes a lot of time and money, and will really set back your career goals. 

That is why you should wait and explore your options as an RN. You can try shadowing different departments, asking APRNs you work with what their job entails and what it’s like, and of course, just reading are all great ways to be certain of your choice when it comes to MSN online nursing programs. 


Another great way to do this is to really explore what job opportunities there are for nurses. You don’t have to work in a hospital or clinic for the rest of your life. You can travel, you can work on movie sets, you can work alongside your favorite sports team – the list is almost endless. You can work next to explorers, humanitarian aid workers, and more. By knowing what is out there, you can better train yourself so that you, too, can apply to work in that more niche role. 


The Four Main Nursing Types 

There are many, many different types of online nursing programs, because there are many different types of nurses. It’s easier to start figuring out what you want from your nursing career by first understanding the four main types of APRNs. These are not specializations, so much as they are types of nursing roles. You will specialize further within that nursing type with your degree: 


Clinical Nurse Specialists 

CNS-APRNs are specialists in a certain topic, but it’s a mistake to assume that they work directly with patients. Instead, they will work more in managerial or administrative roles. Their goal isn’t to improve the outcome of just one patient, but every patient that enters that department, clinic, or even hospital. Their role is essential for improving the overall quality of healthcare. 


Nurse Practitioners 

Nurse Practitioners also specialize, and they can specialize in an area of medicine (like oncology) or in a demographic (like gerontology or pediatrics). Nurse practitioners work directly with the patient and will be the one who provides many different services. The level of responsibility depends entirely on the state. Some states allow NPs to write prescriptions and even open their own clinic, for example. 




Nurse-midwives do exactly what you expect a midwife to do. They have a few patients or clients and will help expecting parents through the entire process. They can either work alongside a doctor or by themselves, and again can be there for the birth either at home or in a hospital. Their role has really expansive, thanks to the rise in popularity of midwives. 


Nurse Anesthetist 


Amongst doctors, surgeons earn the most. Their work is the most technical and the most difficult, and on that line of thought, so too is the work that the nurse anesthetist does. They work with surgeons, with doctors, and even with dentists. They are in the most critical rooms of healthcare, and they are paid accordingly. While a surgeon will make the most out of all other physicians, so too will a nurse anesthetist earn more than any other nurse. Their high wages can even compete with doctor wages. 


How They Specialize Further 


A nurse practitioner can be an adult gerontology, primary care nurse practitioner. They can be a family nurse practitioner. They can be an oncology nurse practitioner. If they are working directly with patients, then their expertise will be of extreme value. They are one of the most popular types of a nurse because there are so many applications. If you wanted to go beyond the healthcare industry, for example, your best bet is to become a nurse practitioner and specialize in a demographic. 


That isn’t the only way that they can specialize. You will have plenty of ongoing opportunities to learn. This may just be something you do to keep up your requirements necessary to renew your license, to it may be something you do to use a new tool. 


How You Choose the Right Specialization 


Learn. Ask. Explore. From shadowing other nurses to trying them out first hand to even going to different workplaces to see what and how you feel there. Give yourself space and opportunity to really try out and see what you like and where your passions lie. 


How to Successfully Work and Study 

It isn’t possible to take time off work to study. You’ll be doing yourself a disservice, and right now, the country needs every nurse it has to help with the influx of patients. This may seem like the absolute worst time to earn a degree, but it is actually one of the best. If you can manage to juggle your work and your education, you have a better chance of being accepted now than at any other time. Many nurses feel like it will be too much to take on a degree, and you can take advantage of it. 

The fact is there are more prospective students than there are open positions. This means even highly experienced nurses can be rejected, and not because you failed in some way, just because they ran out of space. By applying now, you increase your chances of being accepted so that by the time the pandemic is well and truly over, you can emerge with a new degree and a new job title. 


It will be hard, of that there is no doubt, so it is important that you make your routine work for you and, most importantly, that you get your friends and family on board with helping. If they can be there to help you prepare your meals for the week, you can eat healthier and be more energized throughout the day. If they are there to help with chores, or even just to keep you company while you study, you can do so much more. 


Don’t do it on your own. Do it together, and put your health and wellbeing first. This way you can successfully pursue your next level of education and smash through all the online nursing programs that come your way. 

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