Choose the Right Path
Beth Anderson, RN
Did you know that there are different ways of becoming a nurse? How do you know which path to choose? Here is some information from the Department of Labor to help you decide:
You can obtain one (or more!) of several degrees in order to become a nurse. The first of which is a Licensed Practical Nurse or Licensed Vocational Nurse. This degree is typically gained through a year of training at a hospital, graduation from vocational-technical school, or through community college. LPN/LVNs can go on to further their educational by obtaining an Associates Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing. An Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) is acquired through graduation from community college and usually takes two years. A Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing (BSN) requires graduation from a traditional 4-year college or university, or completion of one of many available accelerated BSN programs.
Learn More About Nursing Degrees
In all States and the District of Columbia, students must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination, known as the NCLEX-RN, in order to obtain a nursing license. Nurses may be licensed in more than one State, either by examination or by the endorsement of a license issued by another State. Currently 18 States participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact Agreement, which allows nurses to practice in member States without recertifying. All States require periodic renewal of licenses, which may involve continuing education. For more information on RN licensing in each state, please refer to the State Licensure Factsheet.
Some RNs start their careers as licensed practical nurses or nursing aides, and then go back to school to receive their RN degree. Most RNs begin as staff nurses, and with experience and good performance often are promoted to more responsible positions. In management, nurses can advance to assistant head nurse or head nurse and, from there, to assistant director, director, and vice president. Increasingly, management-level nursing positions require a graduate or an advanced degree in nursing or health services administration. They also require leadership, negotiation skills, and good judgment.
Some nurses move into the business side of health care. Their nursing expertise and experience on a health care team equip them to manage ambulatory, acute, home-based, and chronic care. Employers-including hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and managed care organizations, among others-need RNs for health planning and development, marketing, consulting, policy development, and quality assurance. Other nurses work as college and university faculty or conduct research.
Foreign-educated nurses wishing to work in the United States must obtain a work visa. Applicants are required to undergo a review of their education and licensing credentials and pass a nursing certification and English proficiency exam, both conducted by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools. (The commission is an immigration-neutral, nonprofit organization that is recognized internationally as an authority on credentials evaluation in the health care field.) Applicants from Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom are exempt from the language proficiency exam. In addition to these national requirements, most States have their own requirements.