There is a shortage of nurses, and a high-paying job is almost assured if you are able to graduate, but having chosen to become a nurse, please be aware that the education required is very challenging. There are multiple pathways into nursing. Community colleges may offer an Associate of Science in Nursing degree, and some diploma programs award certificates in practical nursing. Nursing training usually takes between 12 and 18 months based on your ability, and whether you attend full-time or part-time. University nursing degrees, such as the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, followed by the Master of Science in Nursing Practice, reward graduates with advanced education, additional applied training, and higher starting salaries. However, these programs require 4 years of college, and tuition can exceed $15,000 annually.
Deciding whether to get an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree should depend on your career goals and budget. Most people do not have the means to attend four straight years of college, so by getting an associate’s degree, you can begin working immediately. After you begin work, the hospital or clinic that you are working for may offer tuition assistance to help attain a bachelor’s or master’s degree. An associate degree is a sufficent credential to work in all areas of general nursing. While working as an Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), you will have a limited scope of care that you can provide legally. You can provide basic patient care and perform tasks that do not require nursing judgment or decision-making. You also cannot administer medications, start or provide IV (intravenous) therapy. However, if you want to work as a nurse in a specialized field such as oncology or geriatrics, you’ll need to further your nursing education at a later time, and earn a bachelor’s degree.
If you are already employed in the medical field but want to make a career as a nurse, you can enroll in school to become an RN and not need to start as an Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). As an Registered Nurse (RN) with an associate’s degree, you are able to provide nursing care, as well as assess patients. You may want to contact large hospitals in your area to inquire if they have a school of nursing. No matter where you decide to attend school, make sure that the school is accredited by the Board of Nursing in your state. Working as an RN gives you a much larger scope of practice than that of an LVN. Being an RN also means that you are in most cases responsible for supervising LVNs.