As you probably know, there are three major paths to becoming an RN – by earning a diploma in nursing, receiving an associate degree in nursing, or completing a bachelor of science in nursing.
No matter which educational path you’ve taken, however, once you pass the National Certification Licensing Examination (NCLEX) and your state’s licensing requirements, you can begin working as a Registered Nurse.
The big question is: Are all RNs equal? The answer will depend on the type of career trajectory you plan to pursue, where you work, and how much money you hope to earn. In fact, how you progress and advance in your nursing career might very well depend on pursuing additional schooling. Many top hospitals are increasingly requiring nurses to have a bachelor’s degree.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, advancement opportunities in nursing may be greater for registered nurses who earn a BSN versus a diploma or associate degree. And, a bachelor’s degree or higher is usually necessary for nurses who wish to pursue positions in administration, research, or teaching.
Says the American Association of Colleges of Nursing: “To meet the more complex demands of today’s healthcare environment, the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice has recommended that at least two-thirds of the basic nurse workforce hold baccalaureate or higher degrees in nursing.”
What’s more is that any time you can add a specialization to your nursing career through continuing education – whether it’s becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, a critical care nurse, or legal nurse consultant, to name a few — you’re increasing your job security by opening up new career avenues.
That being said, here are some educational options to consider if you wish to power your nursing career to the next level:
* Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) -The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is specially designed for those who hold a degree in another field or have earned a minimum number of credits from an accredited college or university. The idea is that it can be completed quickly! At Olivet Nazarene’s School of Graduate and Continuing Studies, for example, the ABSN program meets online or on site only one night per week and is completed in less than 2 years.
* Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) – Another popular educational option is to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing after having already completed a diploma or associate degree program. Most nurses choose this track for career advancement purposes since they are already working in the field, but may have encountered not having a bachelor’s as a roadblock to a promotion, or a position with another employer.
* Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – For nurses who wish to really give their careers a boost into a managerial role, the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is designed to prepare them with theoretical and practical knowledge. “You will also critically examine concepts and theories in relation to health issues, initiate nursing research, and practice nursing in multiple dynamic roles,” says Olivet’s MSN program description.
* Accelerated Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) – This unique option combines studies to earn both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees simultaneously. Such programs typically take three to four years to complete.
Whichever path you take, since you’re already working in the field, it’s important to choose a school that caters to working professionals as opposed to traditional students. Older, nontraditional students thrive in smaller, more focused schools like Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois that understand the time demands and responsibilities on your plate. No one wants to waste their time, especially in an educational setting. Experts suggest researching nursing programs heavily in order to land on the one that is right for you.
About the author: Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based writer specializing in education, careers, parenting, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in publications including Family Circle, Parents, WomansDay.com, CreditCards.com, and more. She has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.
Many trajectories do exist for nursing. The American Institute of Health Care Professionals offers many certifications for nurses. Among them include Case Management, Legal Nursing, Forensic Nursing, Holistic Nursing and Nurse Patient Educator. If you are looking for a certification in the health care field, then please review our programs.