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A Guide to Nursing: Steps to Take, Career Options, and Benefits


The healthcare industry is brimming with job opportunities as the demand for skilled professionals is higher than ever. If you want to pursue a career in the field, consider nursing: It is a noble and respected job with increased demand. 

A career as a nurse can have many advantages: Nurses enjoy excellent salaries, job security, and work benefits, and there are ample opportunities to advance their careers. However, it can be overwhelming to determine your starting point for entry into the profession and navigate the various opportunities to advance it.

Becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) is the most common way to start. In this article, we will discuss the steps to take to become an RN, the career options after obtaining your degree, and the benefits of a career as a nurse.

How to become a registered nurse

The three crucial steps required for becoming an RN are:

1. Getting an ADN or BSN degree

The first step to becoming a Registered Nurse is to obtain a degree from an accredited institution. You need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). 

An ADN is the minimum requirement to work as a nurse and only requires two years to complete. BSN requires four years to complete, providing students with more extensive knowledge and experience.

Some states require their RNs only to get an ADN to start working. However, in other states, it's become a requirement for RNs to obtain a BSN before working as a nurse. Even if it's not a requirement, some large hospitals only hire BSN degree holders to work as an RN  due to their extensive knowledge and experience in the field.

There are several pathways to earning a BSN. If you are a first-time college student, you must enroll in a traditional four-year BSN program. However, you can enroll in an RN-BSN completion program if you've already obtained an ADN degree; it requires only 12 to 14 months to complete. Additionally, if you have a bachelor's degree in another field but want a career in nursing, you can enroll in second-degree accelerated BSN programs requiring only 16 to 24 months.

2. Passing the NCLEX exam and obtaining a license

After getting your degree, you need a license to start working as an RN. However, to do so, you must demonstrate your skills and knowledge by passing a nursing exam. Different nursing pathways have various exams. The one necessary for an RN is the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, also called NCLEX-RN.

The earliest date you can appear in the NCLEX-RN varies from state to state; however, in most states, you can appear in the exam approximately 45 days after your graduation date. In case you don't pass the exam, you will have to wait another 45 days before being eligible to appear again.

Once you have passed the exam, you can obtain the license to work as an RN in the state you want to practice in. The time taken to obtain a license varies from state to state, although license numbers are generally issued within one to three business days after successfully clearing the exam. Paper licenses can take 10 to 12 weeks before you can receive them. Licensing requirements also vary from state to state, so if you want to practice in multiple states, obtaining a license from each will be essential unless otherwise specified.

3. Advancing your career

You can still get additional training to get certified in a specialty after obtaining your license to work as an RN to advance your nursing career. You will have to obtain a Master's Degree in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) and become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

APRN programs focus on different areas of specialty in health care. For example, you can specialize in family health care by becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner, specializing in women-specific health issues and becoming a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, or care for patients in critical conditions by becoming an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse. You can do most of these degrees online. For example, here is an online FNP degree available in Florida.

Exploring career options

There are various career paths available for individuals interested in nursing. Nurses focus on caring for patients across multiple healthcare settings. They can also be involved in educational, leadership, and managerial roles. Here are some career options for individuals interested in nursing:

1. Registered Nurses (RNs)

Registered Nurses can care for individuals of all ages, and they can work across multiple clinical settings like physician's offices, outpatient clinics, nursing care facilities, and schools. Their work involves recording patient histories, taking vital signs, helping perform various tests and assessments, and administering medications. Alongside this, they must also provide patients with emotional, informational, and physical support.

2. Nurse Practitioners (NP)

NPs are one of the four types of APRNs. They work in similar settings to RN and handle similar work. However, their comprehensive skill set, experience, and knowledge qualify them to treat many medical conditions without a physician's direct supervision, diagnose, order tests and analyze results, prescribe medications, create treatment plans, and train and manage other nurses.

3. Nursing Educator

Nurse educators work in clinical and classroom environments. They instruct students on best nursing techniques and practices, demonstrate proper procedures and patient care methods, evaluate student work, and guide students in research and lab work. They may also be required to teach relevant physical science or college-level math classes.

4. Nursing Manager

Nursing managers are high-level coordinators holding leadership roles in healthcare settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics. They work in administrative offices, direct organizational activities of their faculty, oversee staffing, budgets, inventory, department goals, compliance policies, database management, and so much more.

Benefits of a career in nursing

Working as a nurse can be very gratifying. Here are some benefits of a career in nursing:

1. High job salary, security, benefits

Nursing is among the highest-paid professions in the healthcare industry. The latest data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that nurses have an average annual income of $77,600. Additionally, nurses are also in high demand. The latest BLS data shows that over 203,200 annual openings are expected for Registered Nurses over the decade, and employment is projected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031. Nurses also enjoy excellent employer-sponsored benefits like paid holidays, vacations, sick leaves, health and life insurance, and retirement benefits.

2. Flexible schedule

Nurses often have a flexible schedule as employers organize their work into weekly shifts instead of specific hours. Depending on the employer, you can work eight, 10, or 12-hour shifts, and working longer shifts will decrease your weekly work days. Some small hospitals offer nurses even greater autonomy and control by letting them self-schedule.

Nurses that work for employers other than hospitals can enjoy flexible schedules in different ways. For example, travel nurses can choose the location for their next assignment, school nurses get two months off in summer, and homecare nurses only work within business hours, with some weekends being on.


If you have decided to pursue a career in nursing, becoming an RN would be the best point of entry. You can become an RN by getting an ADN or a BSN degree. After obtaining your degree, you must pass the NCLEX-RN and obtain your license to practice. After that, you can further your career to become an APRN by completing an MSN degree. 

You can work in hospitals, schools, nursing, and clinics and take on educational and managerial roles. Becoming a nurse will allow you to enjoy an excellent salary, job security, employer-sponsored benefits, and flexible schedules.

How do I get a career in nursing? What are my options for nursing careers? How much does a nurse make in salary? Do nurses get flexible schedules? Career Tips, Jobs, Benefits of having a nursing degree