The Life Cycle of a Nursing Career

Lori Johnston | March 1, 2012

One of the most popular fitness instructors at my gym is a mom in her 40s who is graduating from nursing school this year. She’s a former teacher who is excited about the opportunities to work in health care, focused on being an oncology nurse.

Another friend of mine is a recent college graduate in her 20s who is pursuing her next step in her education — getting into nursing school — with hopes to be a pediatric nurse.

Both are joining females and males across the country who are seeking to fill the huge need for nurses nationwide. Being a nurse is the largest health care job, with 2.6 million registered nurses nationwide.

The government projected a 22 percent growth in registered nurse jobs from 2008-2018 (or 581,500 new jobs), and depending on where you live, the opportunities are great, in physicians’ offices, hospitals, nursing care facilities, and home health care services.

You will find three typical paths to becoming a registered nurse:

• Diploma: Typically three-year programs in hospital settings. There are only a few of these programs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

• Associate degree in nursing (ADN): Typically two- to three-year programs offered by junior and community colleges.

• Bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN): Typically four-year programs offered by colleges and universities.

Before pursuing your nursing degree, you’ll want to think about your career path. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that advancement opportunities may be greater for registered nurses who earn a BSN, than a diploma or associate degree.

But nurses who hold an associate’s degree or diploma can go into bachelor’s degree programs later, too (and your employer could reimburse your tuition).

Another option is to earn your accelerated master’s degree in nursing (MSN), which you can earn a bachelor’s and master’s at the same time, typically in three to four years. If you’re coming from another career field, you may be able to earn your accelerated BSN, which last 12 to 18 months.

Through the classes and tests, externships, and other program requirements, I see in my friends their passion to care for patients and assist people, in times of trauma to prevent illness. The job opportunities in nursing often make headlines, and it takes that passion, and a commitment to earning your degree to have a vigorous career as a nurse.

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