So you've decided you want to pursue Nursing in college. Just like the profession, the path to becoming a nurse can be a difficult process. You know it’s a profession that's rewarding because you get to help people on a daily basis, but you also know it’s a more technical path than some careers, and you’ll need to work hard to learn the information you need to know when you have people’s lives in your hands. The following steps are important to take to make your nursing career a reality.
1. Choose your academic and career path
There are multiple schooling avenues that can lead to becoming a nurse. You could go to school for a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) degree and be done in a year. This path is the most basic, but it means your job opportunities could be restricted to basic jobs. You could also go for an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). This degree usually takes two years and is more advanced than the LPN. In many hospitals, you'll have more jobs to choose from if you finish your LPN degree. Lastly, you can get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The BSN is similar to many other four-year degrees and will open up even more job opportunities. Nurses with a BSN are also eligible to continue with their education to become advanced practice registered nurses.
This is also the time to decide what school you'll be attending. The factors that affect your decision can run from the type of degrees offered to the availability of scholarships for students. Each school should be evaluated to find out whether it fits into your overall education and career goals. When you have a list of acceptable schools, it's usually prudent to apply to multiple options in case you don’t get your first choice. When you hear back, you can decide which option is best for you to enroll in.
2. Study and determine your area of expertise
After you get into nursing school, the real work begins. You'll be expected to spend time learning about theory in the classroom, and you'll also get time to experience the real-world aspects of nursing. It’s important to do well in your studies, just like any other school setting. This is also the time when you'll be able to home in on an area of expertise you want to focus on in your nursing career.
You'll quickly learn what areas of medicine you like the most. You might find yourself enjoying your time with children, which means a career in pediatrics could be for you. Alternatively, you might be more interested in a more specialized area like psychiatric nursing. There are dozens of areas you could get into, and some of your classes will focus on helping you decide what’s right for you. Once you pick a focus, you can tailor your schooling to fit that interest to some degree.
3. Take the test and find a job
When you’re done with school, you have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Much of your studying in school will be tailored to help you pass this exam. It's made of mostly (or all, in some cases) multiple-choice questions about various topics in nursing. Some versions also include long-form questions. Passing this exam is a requirement before you can become a registered nurse and get hired at a hospital.
Once you pass the test, it’s time to find a job. You can start your search on online job boards, or you can visit the places you'd like to work to find out about job openings from the HR staff or job board. Finding a job in nursing can be somewhat difficult, but it’s an area where jobs are growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for registered nurses are expected to grow 6% from 2021–2031, with an average of 203,200 openings for registered nurses projected each year.
It might take some time, but eventually you’ll get some interest from the jobs you applied for. You'll go through an interview process to make sure the job is a good fit. This is your time to ask any questions and find out about things like benefits and salary. When you’re ready, it’s time to formally accept a job offer and get to work! Entry-level nursing jobs can come in many different forms. You might work the night shift or in a high-volume area before you can move your way up into some more senior positions. Whatever you do, be prepared to work hard. The path to nursing can be difficult, but with the right plan, you’ll meet your goals before you know it.
Not sure where to start your nursing school search? Try exploring and connecting with our featured health and medicine colleges!