Nursing as a profession is not for the faint of heart. There are long working hours, many of which occur overnight, are generally spent on one’s feet. Furthermore, it is one of those jobs that is frequently underappreciated by many. Be that as it may, it is a fulfilling and challenging career path that has its fair share of rewards. Not only are you able to serve those who need the knowledge and care that only you can provide, but you also have the opportunity to advance your career to such a degree that you might be able to help make positive changes in the world of medicine as a whole.

Such a career is something that you need to be ready to work for. Not only is the initial education required of nurses intensive and involved, but nurses but be prepared to spend their entire careers learning better practices for patient care. If you have ever considered a career in nursing but are not entirely sure where to begin, here is a brief guide to how one might become a nurse as well as the different paths that such a career can take.

A Nurse’s Education

The education that a nurse must obtain to practice can vary depending upon what track you take. Some nurses wish to attend a traditional four-year university, but they must do so at an institution that has a college of nursing. Others might take a longer route and attend a four-year university where they major in something relating to medical science, such as biology, only to then apply to nursing school.

Still, others opt to forego a four-year degree altogether and instead earn an associate’s degree in nursing. No matter which route a nurse takes, the end result is that they have become, at the very least, a registered nurse, or RN.

The further education that a nurse decides to earn will depend entirely upon his or her long-term career ambitions. Some might wish to specialize in a specific area of nursing that requires a master’s degree of some sort. Those nurses who wish to distinguish themselves as leaders in a particular field of medicine might earn a doctorate of nursing or a DNP. These degree programs are designed to help nurses achieve more and, in turn, contribute more to the medical community.

A nurse’s education doesn’t begin and end with the earning of various degrees, however. To properly maintain a nursing license, it is necessary to meet the requirements set by each state in regards to continuing education credits. These credits are generally designed to help those in the nursing profession to stay current and up-to-date with the latest medical advancements and applicable procedures. They can be fulfilled in many ways so that some conferences or seminars that a nurse participates in throughout the year can count towards his or her continuing education credits.

Potential Career Paths

The potential career paths that are available to nurses are varied and diverse. While some nurses might wish to work in an emergency department for the entirety of their career, others might choose to specialize in a particular field. Some of the more popular areas of medicine that nurses can specialize in include:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Neonatal Nurse
  • Oncology Nurse

Other paths that a nurse might choose to take aren’t necessarily linked to a particular area of medicine. Instead, a nurse might pursue administrative or executive roles in his or her career. When you choose to become an administrative nurse, you take on several tasks and responsibilities that are more managerial in nature. You will need to have the ability to organize and manage staff in the hospital or medical offices in which you work. This requires that you work on your leadership skills.

For the most part, if a nurse wishes to go down such a path, it is necessary for him or her to earn an advanced degree like a master’s or a doctorate. The high-level responsibilities that you will be expected to handle can only be done if you have been equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to do so. Such degree programs, while challenging, are an essential step to take to reach a goal of this nature.

Earning Potential

One thing that always becomes a factor when someone is looking into potential career paths is the earning potential that a job will allow for. Among its many other appealing attributes, most careers in nursing tend to offer great opportunities for earning moderate to high salaries.

As with most careers, it is generally known that the more education you have, the more earning potential becomes available to you. Registered nurses earn an above-average salary with a median salary of about $71,000 a year. Those who continue in their education and become Nurse Practitioners stand to potentially earn more than $100,000 per year, with different specialties offering different opportunities to earn even more.

For instance, clinical nurse specialists also clear the $100,000 mark. In contrast, certified nurse anesthetists are typically able to earn upwards of $160,00 per year, making them some of the highest-paid nurses out there. When it comes to administrative roles, such earning potential will generally be situationally dependent. An administrator who works at a high level of command for an extensive hospital system could earn quite a bit.

Many factors will contribute to the earning potential that an area of nursing has. Different states have different average salaries for nurses, and specific employers will have their own policies as well. Larger hospitals will have the ability to pay their nurses more than, say, smaller nursing homes will. Your level of education, amount of experience, and other notable skills and qualifications can all play a role as well. For the most part, though, the field of nursing has and will very likely always be considered an excellent one to get into for those looking to earn a reasonable, if not above average, salary.