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How to become a nurse

Qualified nurses are required not only for providing patient care but also for management positions, teaching, and advocacy all across the United States. Caring, knowledgeable nurses have the chance to improve their communities as patient numbers are growing and the population is aging. In this guide, we will discuss steps to become a nurse, top nursing specialties, nurse job description, salary and job market outlook of nurse.

Steps to become a nurse

Image for part: Steps to become a nurse

Obtaining excellent training is the initial step to becoming a nurse, whether you want to be a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical or vocational nurse (LPN/LVN), or an administrator. Each state demands that candidates for nursing licenses complete an authorized program. Here are the steps to become a nurse;

Select a nursing career path

You can climb your way up from a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or staff nurse to a nurse administration in nursing. Consider your preferred working atmosphere before deciding on a professional route. For instance, RNs work in hospitals, doctors' offices, and other medical facilities, but CNAs work mainly in nursing homes. What kind of environment will most motivate you? Also, think about the part you wish to play. A CNA or LPN/LVN may be a good fit for you if you intend to help medical personnel as a team. A profession as an RN or advanced practice provider is ideal if you want to supervise other nurses and assistants or handle systems. Because healthcare has several parts, nurses usually focus on particular fields, such as geriatrics or critical care. Determine the type of education you'll obtain that kind of nursing if you have a desire for it.

Obtain a degree

The kind of nursing program you'll require will largely depend on the professional path you're willing to take. Both academic and clinical training is part of nursing degrees. You can learn by interacting with nurses, and posing questions about actual situations when you participate in clinical training. You'll also get the opportunity to see how a hospital operates. Based on the job for which every degree is intended, each one will be a bit different. You should consider how the nursing course will fit into your hectic life before selecting a program. Do you have enough time to travel if your program is on campus? Most bachelor's and master's degree courses in nursing may be hybrid ones, requiring students to finish some of their courses online and their clinical prerequisites in a local hospital. An associate degree course in nursing enables you to access the workforce faster because it requires less time to finish. A nurse with a bachelor's degree might be more likely to get hired by a company since of their more advanced training. But many nurses with ADNs continue to earn additional qualifications, with the assistance of tuition compensation from the companies.

Get the license

After completing your study, you'll have to sit for a test to prove your expertise in nursing. Examinations are a requirement for licensing, which is also required for nurses to work. The NCSBN created the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which is a step in the structured methodology to become a nurse. The conclusions of the exam are used by state regulatory authorities to decide whether applicants are qualified to apply for a nursing license. Many applicants sign up for the NCLEX-RN six weeks before they graduate from a nursing program and submit their applications for licensure. The candidate must be eligible and apply to their local nursing governing authority to be reviewed. Once registered, applicants can either use the Pearson VUE website for getting test dates and details. The $200 license enrollment price for the NCLEX-RN in the US also includes expenses for altering the exam's format, nursing regulating organization, or language. One month after graduating, a lot of aspiring nurses sit for the NCLEX-RN. Computer-based testing is used to conduct the exam, which has a minimum completion requirement of 75 (out of 205) questions. The exam could take up to six hours to complete. Candidates might want to undertake a practice test, which is accessible on the NCSBN website, to get ready for the vital exam.

Practice with a postgraduate degree or specialty

You might choose to obtain an advanced degree or a specialty once you become a registered nurse.

Board certification

To become board-certified, registered nurses must typically have two or more years of professional experience in a specific discipline and complete a test. Oncology, pediatrics, gerontology, cardiac nursing, and more renowned expertise are available. Getting certificates might increase your pay and boost the demand for nursing services.

Advanced degree

To be an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or nurse practitioner, or clinical nurse leader, you'll most generally have to get a master's degree or a doctorate in nursing practice. 

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Take a job in nursing

You must have a lot of possibilities for the kinds of jobs that are open to you because there is a nurse unavailability that is anticipated to persist. You may have had a sense of the many job settings and situations from your clinical experience, so you will know what type of atmosphere is best for you. There are numerous healthcare facilities where nurses can work, such as;

  • Hospitals
  • Medical offices
  • Nursing homes and extended care facilities
  • Home healthcare services
  • Schools
  • Churches
  • Government offices
  • Community centers
  • Military bases

Maintain your current level of schooling

Every two years, on average, nurses must finish continuing education requirements. Such could be referred to as ongoing training units or contact hours based on where you practice (CEUs). The number of hours and frequency of continuing education requirements vary by state legislation. For qualifications, inquire with your region's nursing board.

Optimize your potential

The healthcare sector is continually changing as a result of new advancements and therapies. Working on the front lines of healthcare demands nurses to keep informed and educated to stay viable as their duties evolve. Businesses also require nurses who are prepared to go above and beyond to specialize in particular surgical and medical specialties and develop their advanced expertise. Nurses who approach their professions with the mindset of lifelong learners may position themselves for new positions and possibilities.


Nursing specialization might lead to greater job chances in a profession that corresponds to your interests and advantages.

Become licensed

Take into account obtaining professional certification if you desire to specialize. It strengthens your dedication to the industry and highlights your abilities to companies. 

Job market outlook for nurses

As per the BLS, there are 3,080,100 registered nurses. An ADN or BSN can be used to start a profession as a registered nurse. Although you can obtain an RN license and a variety of jobs in hospitals and other healthcare facilities with either degree, a BSN offers a broader education and can prepare you for employment in nursing administration. By 2031, the BLS estimates that there will be a 195,400 employment increase in the working population. The predicted prospects span several roles because the BLS incorporates nurses who hold ADNs, BSNs, and MSNs in their statistics on RNs. 

Tips to find nursing jobs

After graduating from college, you should look for an initial nursing position. To assist you to find possible companies, crafting your resume, and passing the interview, many nursing programs offer career counseling. It's crucial to highlight that while businesses generally seek out skilled employees, new nurses may encounter difficulties.


Networking with seasoned individuals in your sector can boost your opportunities of landing the job you want in most professions, such as nursing. Begin by becoming a member of the ANA in your area and participating in local activities. Make connections with other nurses so that when a position opens up at their work location, they may think of you first. Local organizations are also available for specialized nursing organizations like the Emergency Nurses Association. Participate in a local meetup group for registered nurses as an additional networking alternative. 

Identify the states that require nurses

As per research, certain states will see nursing shortages in the years to come, whereas others will experience excess. Transferring to a region where there is a nursing shortage could lead to employment prospects. Throughout 2031, the BLS predicts 195,400 RN job vacancies, although the positions won't be available equally across the nation. California (307,060), Texas (219,330), Florida (183,130), New York (178,550), and Pennsylvania had the most working people during this time (146,640).

Military nursing positions

Another route nurses might choose is to advance their careers in the military. Critical care nursing, OBGYN nursing, family nurse practitioner, and public health nursing are among the potential specialties to think about in the military. As a military nurse on active duty, you may work overseas, on a ship, or a base. You can opt to join the reserves as well. It enables you to keep working from home and only step in when necessary. 

Work as a healthcare volunteer

Another chance to network is through volunteering. Along with gaining patient care experience, networking with other healthcare practitioners is another benefit. Look for volunteer activities in your field if you intend to pursue a nursing specialty. Approach the experience like you'd do a job even if you aren't compensated for your time. A future career link could result from a positive impression.

Establish contacts

You'll probably be allocated to a hospital where you'll observe a nurse when it comes time for you to accomplish clinical sessions during school. Be a diligent learner and a good student throughout this time. Develop relationships with your supervisor and possibly even their superiors. They might be more inclined if a post becomes available.

Top nursing specialties

A few areas where nurses might flourish include technology, and education. Here are 15 professional paths that are rising;

Nursing informatics specialist

In today's technologically focused society, nursing informatics is receiving greater attention, yet the field has been around for a while. Although informatics has undoubtedly altered the nursing field, professionals claim that more needs to be done. As mobile devices and electronic health records (EHRs) grow more common, nurse informatics is a sector with many opportunities. Data is now used by informatics nurses to understand how to enhance workflows and provide care that is of a higher caliber.

Virtual nurse

There are several examples of people managing a health issue based on information they discover online. As a virtual nurse, you can speak with patients on the telephone or via video call and offer them sound advice and care. The role of a virtual nurse can now go beyond basic care with the expansion of telemedicine for patient diagnosis and treatment. A virtual nurse assists in ensuring continuous care for patients who aren't able to leave their homes, either due to illness or other conditions. Virtual nurses must be effective communicators and at least have an ADN or BSN.

Midwife nurse

Beyond just giving birth, nurse midwives also serve as the first line of security for pregnant women and newborns. There is a need for additional nurse midwives due to their specialization. By 2030, the BLS predicts an increase in employment of 11%, more than double the national average. The National Library of Medicine reports that nurse-midwives have played a significant role in enhancing primary healthcare for women in remote and inner-city areas across the country. The even better news is that the National Institute of Medicine advises nurse midwives to have a bigger part in the treatment of women.

Travel Nurse

To address the nurse shortages, travel nursing was developed, and it is still a well-liked career path for those who enjoy the adventure. While some nurses are assigned to picturesque locations, you can also be dispatched to a crisis or emergency. A travel nurse can be required to step in for a normal worker throughout a strike. CNAs, RNs, NPs, LPNs, and other healthcare professionals might collaborate with an organization that matches them with temporary jobs in any other nation. The remuneration for travel nurses is typically above average, and accommodations may be included. Check online at organizations that connect nurses with career possibilities.

Nurse educator

By instructing them, you may impart your expertise and knowledge to aspiring nurses. The AACN reports that in 2020, more than 80,407 competent nursing school applicants were turned away in part owing to a lack of staff, such as a lack of applicants with master or doctoral degrees who were looking to teach. There will probably be an upsurge in the need for nurse educators. According to the AACN, during the course of the next ten years, a sizable portion of nurse educators will retire, leaving openings on campuses all around the nation.

Home-care nurse

Even if hospital visits have decreased, patients still need care after being released. This is the reason that job in home-care nursing is increasing. And patients can now receive more complex treatments at home because of technological advancements. You'll take care of a range of patients as a home care nurse. You might care for the elderly, expectant mothers, accident victims, and persons with long-term diseases. A career as a home-care nurse can be a great option if you prefer to work outside of hospitals and develop relationships with a consistent group of patients.

Case management nurse

There are increased chances for case management nurses as a result of the growing elderly population in the United States. One reason is that, if individuals live longer, they will probably require long-term specialist advice and guidance for chronic conditions. Nurses in case management oversee a patient's care, keep an eye on expenses and available funds, and make sure patients and families are encouraged. These nurses occasionally play a significant decision-making role.

Elderly care/ Geriatric nurse

According to the National Council on Aging, 80% of older persons have a chronic illness. Geriatric nurses will see an increase in employment as the baby boomer generation ages. As a geriatric nurse, you'll do many duties as a staff RN, but you'll additionally concentrate on curing illnesses that are more common in older people, like cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and osteoporosis. You'll also act as a patient advocate because some older individuals could have problems conveying their wishes.

Critical care nurse

For a critical care nurse, sound decision-making abilities are essential. Various people care for patients with burns, heart issues, and other critical ailments in hospital intensive care units (ICUs). Critical care nursing is a developing specialization as more hospitals expand their ICUs and nursing home care for severely ill patients. Critical care nurses should feel at ease using cutting-edge technologies.

Neonatal/perinatal nurse

Since they do it differently, perinatal and neonatal nurses care for both mothers and their newborn children. Women are cared for by perinatal nurses before, during, and following childbirth. Up to 28-day-old infants are typically cared for by neonatal nurses as part of standard newborn afterbirth care. Also, neonatal nurses care for infants who were born prematurely or with major medical issues in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). During the labor and delivery process at a clinic or birth center labor and delivery nurses, tend to act as the patient's advocate and mentor. Since part of their job involves educating patients and their families on pregnant and infant care, both neonatal and perinatal nurses need to be proficient communicators.

Pediatric nurse

To be a successful pediatric nurse, you must have a great deal of patience and a love for kids of all ages. Pediatric nurses usually have to inspect and treat patients who are confused about why they are being pushed, so you will need to win their trust and consent to complete tasks. Plus, you'll have to feel at ease conversing with parents and other decision-making caregivers. Pediatric nurses operate in a range of medical contexts, including doctor's offices, children's hospitals, and child critical care centers. They provide normal care, emergency assistance, and illness treatment.

Psychiatric nurse

As a psychiatric nurse, you can support giving patients who require more access to mental healthcare. As per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a lack of skilled mental health specialists means that only 44% of adults and less than 20% of children and adolescents with clinically diagnosed mental health issues receive the assistance they require. Such nurses support doctors and psychiatrists during patient evaluations and diagnoses. The position demands familiarity with mental health concerns and the empathy and emotional stability needed to work with the mentally ill. 

Trauma/ER nurse

Patients with severe injuries or diseases are cared for by trauma and ER nurses. A trauma or ER nurse's life is never boring, and many days are hectic. Particularly in trauma units, nurses are regularly forced to make split-second judgments as they deal with patients who have catastrophic and life-threatening wounds. They have to be capable of carrying out a variety of tasks, including intubation, and surgical preparation.

OR/ Perioperative nurses

You will look after patients before, during, and after the operation in this position. There have been more procedures as a result of the aging population expansion. An OR nurse must be dedicated to cooperation, pay close attention to details, and be calm under stress. 

Labor and delivery nurse

Labor and delivery nurses support women during childbirth by counseling them through occasionally challenging contractions, giving them medicine, keeping an eye out for any potential difficulties, and assisting new mothers with their first attempts at nursing their infants. It's a nurse position that may alternately be demanding, stressful, and enjoyable. Labor and delivery nurses need to be critical thinkers who can swiftly shift from supporting a laboring mother to taking charge if a complication occurs since each new mother's delivery is unique. They must also be capable of accepting defeat and be prepared for the unfortunate consequences that occasionally occur.

What is the salary of a nurse

The average salary for a nurse can vary depending on factors such as the type of nurse, level of experience, and location. In general, registered nurses (RNs) tend to earn higher salaries than licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or certified nursing assistants (CNAs). According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for RNs in the United States was $73,300 as of May 2020. LPNs earned a median annual salary of $47,480, while CNAs earned a median annual salary of $29,660. Salaries for nurses can also vary depending on the specific setting in which they work, with those working in hospitals typically earning higher salaries than those working in nursing homes or other healthcare facilities.

Nurse job description

The duties of a nurse include giving medical attention and support to patients who are ill, hurt, or otherwise in need of healthcare services. Nurses can be found working in a range of places, such as clinics, hospitals, and patients' homes. Assessing the health and medical needs of patients is one of the main duties of a nurse;

  • Formulating and carrying out nursing care plans
  • Delivering therapies and medications
  • Evaluating the health and vital signs of patients
  • Interacting with patients, their families, and other medical personnel.
  • Giving patients and their families moral support and direction.
  • Keeping thorough and reliable patient medical records.
  • Prescribing therapies and auxiliary medical equipment
  • Documenting the health data and vital signs of the patient
  • Ordering clinical and diagnostic tests in medicine
  • Taking note and documenting symptoms or adjustments in a patient's health.
  • Collaborating with healthcare team members to evaluate, plan, administer, or organize nursing care for patients
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