If you’re looking for a career that offers unparalleled job security, excellent compensation, and the satisfaction of helping others, nursing may be the way to go. By earning a nursing degree, you will open a wealth of opportunities that will serve you well throughout your career.

Although, a lot of hard work goes into earning a nursing degree, however; the payout is considerable. You can take your pick from many educational pathways ranging from half-year certification programs to four-year college degree programs to get the ball rolling. Read on to learn more about the benefits of a nursing degree, the education that’s needed to get there, and the career opportunities that await.

The Benefits of a Degree in Nursing

Here are some of the top benefits of obtaining a nursing degree.

Job Security

We are in the midst of a severe nursing shortage that is only intensifying, so nurses enjoy unbeatable job security. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for registered nurses are expected to increase by 15 percent from 2016 to 2026—and it’s likely to continue well beyond that thanks to the increasingly aging population.1

Compensation

Nurses across all levels of experience and education enjoy exceptional and competitive compensation. In exchange for completing a six-month certified nursing assistant program, for example, you could land a job as a Certified Nursing Assistant earning a median salary of $27,510 per year.2 The farther that you go with your education, the higher your earning potential will grow. Indeed, nurse anesthetists—who possess master’s degrees and doctoral degrees—earned a median salary of $165,120 in 2017.3

Flexibility

If you think that all nurses work red-eye shifts in hospitals, think again. The reality is that a nursing degree opens a dizzying array of career options and provides unbeatable flexibility. You can choose from part-time and full-time nursing jobs; nursing jobs in hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, government agencies and the public sector; travel nursing jobs that take you where demand is highest; and countless other opportunities and options.

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Satisfaction

Earning a good living is nice, but it’s even better when you feel good about what you contribute to society. Although they have demanding roles, nurses also make real and important differences in people’s lives on a daily basis. That’s true not just regarding nurses who work in hospitals and nursing homes but also regarding nurses who work in administrative roles, research, and teaching positions. As an added bonus, the more experience that you have, the better equipped you become to make real differences for people.

Advancement Opportunities

In many careers, moving up the ladder often largely boils down to luck. In nursing, however, the more that you put into your education and career, the more that you can improve and advance. The field is wonderful in that you can obtain a certification to get your foot in the door fairly quickly and then move on to more advanced degrees later as necessary. Whether you want to stick with working as a licensed practical nurse, or LPN, or want to someday work as a nurse practitioner with your own practice, you have plenty of options at your disposal.

Education Required to Become a Nurse

Much is made of all the schooling that is required to become a nurse, but certification programs let you get the ball rolling quickly.4 Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common educational barriers to overcome to become a nurse.

Certification Programs

Certification programs for becoming a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, take only around six months to complete. In only about one year, you could also complete a program to become an LPN, to start earning a salary quickly.

ADN

The shortest route to becoming a registered nurse, or RN, is completing a two-year program to earn an associate degree in nursing, or ADN. Such programs are offered by community colleges, vocational schools, and some four-year colleges and universities. Online programs are readily available as well, but in-person training requirements still apply.

BSN

Although it takes longer, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, is generally the way to go if you want options later in your career. Such programs are primarily offered by four-year colleges and universities, and some of them are highly competitive. With a BSN under your belt, you will command better pay and benefits—and you will also be able to more easily progress into earning a Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN, if you wish to do so someday.

Licensing Exams

To work as a registered nurse in any state, you must take and pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.5 To qualify to sit for this exam, you must complete and pass an accredited BSN program, and you must have completed a certain number of hands-on clinical experiences as well. Note that RNs are subject to continuing education requirements, so you may have to sit for additional exams in the future.

 

Careers in Nursing

Here are the most common and popular careers in nursing.

CNA

CNAs, or certified nursing assistants, are entry-level nursing professionals who assist nurses with basic responsibilities. They work closely with patients, and their duties include feeding and bathing patients; taking vital signs; and, sometimes, housekeeping. According to statistics, CNAs earned a median salary of $27,510 in 2017, which is equal to about $13.23 per hour. The field is expected to grow by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026, with around 177,700 new jobs added.6

LPN or LVN

Licensed practical nurses, or LPNs—which are known as licensed vocational nurses, or LVNs, in a few states—can obtain their licenses by completing accredited, one-year training programs and taking and passing the NCLEX-PN licensing exam. In 2017, the median salary for LPNs was $45,030 per year, which is equal to about $21.65 per hour. The field is expected to grow by 12 percent over the next 10 years, with around 89,000 jobs being added.7

RN

In 2017, registered nurses in the U.S. earned a median salary of $70,000, which is equal to about $33.65 per hour. There are currently about 2.9 million nurses working in the country, and the field is expected to grow by 15 percent over the next decade. This means that approximately 438,000 new RN jobs will be added during that time.8

Nurse Practitioner

RNs who possess bachelor’s degrees can always go back to school to pursue their Master of Science in Nursing degree, or MSN degree. There are many specializations to choose from, but NP, or nurse practitioner, is among the most popular. In addition to earning an MSN, you must pass the NP credentialing exam to be qualified for this position. In 2017, NPs earned a median salary of $110,930, or $53.33 per hour. The field is expected to grow by 31 percent over the next decade, with around 64,000 new jobs being added.9

Nurse Anesthetist

By pursuing an MSN with a specialization in this area and passing the CRNA credentialing exam, you can be eligible to work as a nurse anesthetist. These professionals earned a median salary of $165,120 in 2017, which is equal to around $79.38 per hour.10

How to Start Your Career in Nursing

To get started, find out the licensing requirements for nurses in Washington. From there, search for ADN or BSN programs that are properly accredited and approved by Washington’s board of nursing. Before too long, you will be on your way to earning your nursing degree and will be that much closer to starting a rewarding career as a nurse.