How to Start a Rewarding Career in Nursing

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By Eric Kelly.

If you want to work with people and you’re keen to work in healthcare, becoming a nurse is a great choice. There are a number of different career paths open to nurses, whether it’s working in a nursing home or in a hospital emergency room. Use this guide to learn about how to get a nursing degree, what paths are possible, and how to find your first job as a nurse.

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Getting your education

Almost all nursing professions require an education, so it’s important to know what training is needed based on the type of career path you’re interested in. Many nursing careers will require you to become a registered nurse or RN, which requires either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. However, you can take the shorter path of becoming a licensed practical nurse, or LPN, by completing a one-year program.

We’ll start with the easiest pathway to start working as a nurse as soon as possible. Becoming an LPN will get you working quickly and only takes about a year to complete the educational component. LPNs have fewer responsibilities but do work directly with patients in clinics. While you’ll be working bedside duties, you won’t be allowed to do tasks such as administering IV medications. Also important to note is that the salary for an LPN is about half of what an RN makes.

The most common nursing career path is to become an RN. You’ll need two to four years of education to become an RN, along with clinical experience before getting certified. It’s important to note that if you choose to get a two-year associate’s degree instead of a four-year bachelor’s degree, your salary will be capped at a lower amount than for RNs with a bachelor’s degree. There will also be career growth restrictions for RNs with a two-year degree — management and leadership positions are usually reserved for those with more education.

If you want to pursue higher education and improve your earning potential, you can enroll in a master’s degree in nursing. Fortunately, you can earn a master’s degree online, which will allow you to keep working throughout your studies. The possibilities are varied: you can get your master’s in nursing education, nursing leadership and management, or nursing informatics — to name a few.

Career options

When you’ve decided what level of education you want to pursue, it’s also important to know what environment you’d like to work in. If you’re interested in a high-paced work environment, you might be suited for nursing in an emergency room. Or if you like working with children, working in a pediatric clinic or children’s hospital would be ideal. For those who want a more mellow and low-stress environment, working in a small neighborhood clinic could be perfect.

Finding your first job

Once you’ve completed your training, finding a job is the next step. While nurses are typically in demand, it still requires some know-how and resourcefulness to find a job in an environment that suits you and your training.

Start by perusing nursing job websites and search using keywords such as “nurse” or “RN” and the location where you’d like to work. Lean on your college career center for help with networking opportunities and inquire about alumni contacts in your field. If you can connect with an alumnus, an informational interview will help you learn more about where to look for work and what to expect on the job.

Nursing associations can also be helpful for job seekers, as can networking events and conferences. If you’re having trouble finding a full-time job, consider working per diem or in temporary positions until you find something permanent.

Becoming a nurse can happen in a variety of ways with different education requirements, depending on your goals. Keep in mind that there’s always growth potential as a nurse, so long as you don’t mind getting further education. Think about what type of nursing environment would be best for you, and get resourceful when it’s time to look for your first job.

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