Explore Nursing Careers

What nursing career is right for you? Learn about the fulfilling opportunities nursing has to offer, from traditional roles in hospitals to innovative positions in healthcare technology.

Nursing Careers

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Nursing Career Paths

Becoming a nurse is a great way to combine your passion for helping others with your desire for a career with strong job growth, earning potential, and security. With over 100 areas of specialization and 180 available credentials, nursing offers career flexibility that allows you to choose the path that suits you best.

Entry Level Nursing Careers

When starting your nursing career, it’s best to remember that everyone starts somewhere. Not all career paths require extensive schooling, and several options allow you to enter the workforce relatively quickly so you can start earning an income and building real-world experience.

Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN) Careers

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) hold at least a master’s degree in nursing, in addition to the nursing education and licensing they initially obtained to become a registered nurse. APRNs are at the forefront of technological and methodological developments in the field, which affords them the broadest scope of all nurses’ practice.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Nurse?

The minimum qualifications needed to become a nurse depend on what type of nursing occupation you seek. Regardless of what type of nurse you want to be, there are a few pivotal requirements in any nurse’s career – formal education and nursing licensure. Without the correct credentials, you will not be allowed to practice nursing.

Education Requirements

If you wish to be a licensed practical nurse (LPN), you need to complete an accredited LPN program, offered by vocational schools, community colleges, and private colleges. Students entering an LPN program can expect to take courses in nursing, biology, and pharmacology while also participating in hands-on clinical experiences. LPN certificate programs take about one year to complete.

The minimum education requirements to become a registered nurse (RN) are an associate degree or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). However, requirements within nursing are expected to change as states push to expand the qualifications for nurses. In many states, every position in the nursing field may soon require a bachelor’s degree. A BSN degree requires three to four years of coursework to complete.

Nursing License Requirements

Earning your nursing license by passing a state competency exam or national nursing licensure examination (NCLEX) is mandatory for any individual who wishes to practice nursing. The three most common exams are listed below:
  • National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) Exam: Individuals who want to work as a nursing assistant must pass a state competency exam. CNAs have a limited scope of responsibility compared to registered nurses, which is reflected by the exam.
  • National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN): Individuals pursuing roles as licensed practical nurses must pass this exam. LPNs have a slightly expanded range of job duties than their CNA counterparts. For example, they are often tasked with conducting medical tests and administering medication. The NCLX-PN will cover a nurse’s comprehension of these additional responsibilities and test their understanding of basic nursing concepts.
  • National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN): To become a registered nurse (RN), individuals must pass this rigorous, knowledge-based exam. The NCLEX-RN is the most comprehensive exam of the three listed on this page. The format integrates four major Client Needs categories and eight subcategories to determine if it’s safe for individuals to practice as entry-level nurses.​

Nursing Career Resources

Nursing Careers FAQ

What kind of nurses get paid the most?

Earning an outstanding salary while doing something you love is an obvious perk of many nursing careers. Registered nurses make an annual mean salary of $80,010 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, that’s only the average across all nursing specialties. The highest paying nursing careers pay over $181,000 per year.

Is it hard to become a nurse?

If you’re on the path to become a nurse, you are headed for a great career that is fulfilling and always exciting. But nursing school is known to be difficult. Most nursing programs require two to four years of rigorous study, and clinical rotations. Students who make it through nursing school must still pass the notoriously difficult NCLEX exam.

How can I become a nurse fast?

The answer depends on what type of nurse you want to be. Nursing school can take years, but some career paths allow you to enter the workforce relatively quickly without spending an extensive amount of time in school. If your goal is to become a nurse as soon as possible, consider an LPN program, which can take as little as 12 months to complete.

Why do nurses quit?

The most common answers from nurses who report that they’ve thought about leaving the profession include frustrations about staffing, work schedules, burnout, stress, and injuries.

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