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How to Become a Nurse

The career of a registered nurse, or RN, is one of the best known and most well respected in our society today. Nurses are often the people who give us the most care and support when we are ill, or even when we are merely going through a routine checkup. From helping diagnose symptoms, to administering tests and writing reports, nurses are there every step of the way in a patient’s treatment experience.

Nurses, whether Licensed Practical Nurse (LPNs), RNs, or Nurse Practitioners, have the chance to work in a variety of settings and interact with a whole host of patients with varying needs. There are many opportunities for specialization within the nursing field.

For those just getting their feet wet in the nursing field, there is the career of CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant).  These nursing aides work alongside nurses, and this may be a good option for you to try if you are not yet sure if you want to be a full- fledged and licensed nurse.

Nurses need the people skills that equip them to be able to respect authority and follow direction, while at the same time recognizing when to voice their professional opinion for the good of a patient or a colleague.

Registered nurses make up the majority of the nursing field, and most work in hospitals assisting doctors. They must attend a nursing school program, culminating in either a 2 year associate’s or 4 year bachelor’s degree. A program that focuses solely on nursing will take 3 years. Courses combine practical training with academic medical knowledge. The test at the end of the program (the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN) will give you your nursing license. Some continuing education is also necessary throughout a nursing career. RNs have many responsibilities when it comes to patient care, from care plans to drug administration to training LPNs and CNAs.

A Licensed Practical Nurse will have many similar duties to that of an RN, and are often supervised by RNs. LPNs check the vitals of a patient before they see the RN or physician. They will also help with testing and administration of medicines. Training to become an LPN usually comes in the form of a one year program at a community college or vocational school. To obtain your LPN license, under the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN, be sure that your program is approved in your state.

Nurse Practitioner Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average RN salary was $51,640- $76,570. The average LPN salary was $33,360 and $46,710.

The next level of advancement in the field of nursing is to become a Nurse Practitioner. A Nurse Practitioner is an RN who has been board certified in a specialized area and obtained a Master’s degree. Their work is similar to that of a Physician’s Assistant. The average Nurse Practitioner salary is about $66,000 per year, and with experience, it can go as high as to $145,000. These excellent packages also include great benefits.


It’s a great idea to move from LPN to RN, for career and financial reasons. And the transition will be quite simple for most LPNs, as they already have extensive work experience. These transitions usually take a year or less, with the LPN matriculating into the second year of an RN course. Some courses are even offered online. After completing the course successfully, an LPN must follow the traditional steps taken for RN licensure.

Prerequisites for Nursing

Before even starting a course, there are some nursing prerequisites, such as a high school diploma or equivalent. There are also some absolutely necessary courses that must be completed, such as Anatomy and Psychology, to name a few. Sometimes these prerequisites can be completed at the same time as a nursing degree. As explained above, all types of nurses must complete education and licensure requirements in order to practice.

Online Nursing Degree

Perhaps an online nursing degree is the right choice for you. There are several options for those who already work in the field, such as LPNs, to study online while they still earn money in the field. You can even use your established work experience to count toward your degree’s clinical requirements. These online options range from diplomas and certificates to fully accredited degrees.  However, do realize that some bigger hospitals may be a little pickier as to where you got your degree.

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