Nurses arrive at their positions in a variety of ways. Some immediately get their bachelor's degrees after high school and jump right into being registered nurses. Others start out as CNAs or LPNs and work their way up over time. Some even decide that working as RNs isn't quite right for them, and they return to school for master's and doctoral degrees to pursue more advanced roles. By mapping out your nursing career from the start, you are far more likely to achieve your career goals. Learn how to do this below.
1. Take The Right Classes In High School
It's never too early to start preparing for a career in nursing. Even if you are still in high school, you can start laying the foundation by taking the right classes. Take all health-related classes that your school offers, including advanced options like AP Human Anatomy and Physiology. By the time that you graduate, you will understand the fundamentals of the human body, and that will help immensely throughout your career.
2. Become A CNA
Nurses often arrive at their first job with absolutely no experience, which can be a bit of a liability. A great way to gain some experience while you are still early in your career is by becoming certified as a nursing assistant. Community colleges typically offer certification courses that are generally quite affordable and easy to complete. With your certification in hand, you can start working in healthcare settings and gaining important experience.
3. Upgrade To LPN
Like many nurses, you might even start working as a CNA while you are still in high school. The next logical step, if you aren't ready to start college, is to become an LPN. To do so, you must complete an LPN training program and then pass the NCLEX-PN. The great thing about this, in addition to gaining yet more work experience, is that you will become familiar with how these standardized tests work. If you decide to become an RN later, the NCLEX-RN won't seem so foreign to you.
4. Earn An ADN To Become An RN
It won't take long for you to discover that there are many advantages to being an RN as opposed to an LPN. RNs command better pay and better benefits, and they have more opportunities for advancement as well. If you are eager to become an RN and don't want to deal with four years of school just yet, you can always get there by earning your associate degree in nursing, or ADN. This typically takes two years. If you are already an LPN, you might even use an LPN-to-RN bridge program to get there more quickly.
5. Earn A BSN To Become An RN
If you have the time and ability to focus on your education for a longer stretch, it is generally best to go ahead and earn a bachelor of science in nursing, or BSN. This is especially true if you are thinking about eventually earning a master's degree or doctoral degree, as you usually need at least a BSN to enroll in such programs. Once again, if you are already an LPN or have an ADN, a bridge program may help you leap ahead faster.
6. Get Your MSN To Move Into An Area Of Specialization
After working as an RN for a decent amount of time, you may decide to move into an area of specialization. Whether you aspire to be a nurse practitioner, a nurse anesthetist, a nurse midwife, or another advanced role, you will need to earn your master of science in nursing, or MSN, to get there. BSN-to-MSN bridge programs are readily available, and they may present the fastest opportunity for moving ahead in your career in this way.
7. Earn Your Doctorate For Even More Opportunities
Later in your career, you may find yourself gravitating toward administration, or you may become fascinated by clinical research. For these and certain other endeavors, a doctorate degree in nursing is necessary. With a PhD, you will be able to pursue even more advanced specializations as well. Most people who earn master's degrees find it fairly straightforward to progress into earning their doctorates. If you are already in the mindset of advancing your education, there is no better way to go. Once you have your doctorate degree, the sky will really be the limit when it comes to your nursing career.
Although there are no guarantees when planning out a lifelong career, making a plan now increases the odds that you will achieve your long-term nursing goals. By knowing what you want to do later, you can take the necessary steps now.