Nursing graduates

How to Become a Nurse

Nurses provide key support for physicians and champion the well-being of their patients. They are often selfless individuals who dedicate their lives to helping others. In this noble profession, you’ll find various types of nurses. You’ll also find a number of specialties and disciplines. All aspiring nurses, however, begin their careers by pursuing formal training through a diploma or degree program. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is one such degree, and it is highly valued in the healthcare field. However, there are multiple paths aspiring nurses can take to achieve their dream nursing career.

The Three Pathways to Becoming a Nurse

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is a popular and sought-after qualification that many pursue in order to launch or elevate their nursing careers. This degree requires more time in school than an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), as a BSN can open doors for greater salaries, management positions, and career advancement. In fact, you might see more hospitals listing this degree as a requirement for their nurses.

Alternatively, some choose to pursue a diploma program for Vocational Nursing. This path often leads to a career as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). It might be an ideal choice for those who want to enter the nursing profession but do not want to spend years in school. In order to make this decision, aspiring nurses should look at their goals as well as the inherent value of the degree or diploma itself.

Nursing students standing in front of a chalkboard with graduation caps drawn above their heads

Why a BSN Is Important

Several years ago, the Institute of Medicine released a report called The Future of Nursing & Advancing Health. This document included many recommendations for improving the U.S. healthcare system, nursing requirements, and competitive edge over the rest of the world. One of the report’s many recommendations focused on the BSN degree. In recent years, the number of nurses with BSN degrees has hovered around 55%. But by the year 2020, the Institute of Medicine believes that 80% of nurses should hold the degree.

It’s not difficult to understand why the Institute of Medicine places such a high value on the BSN degree:

  1. The BSN degree allows nurses to specialize in certain disciplines. This means more job opportunities and better marketability as an employee.
  2. Nurses with a BSN degree earn significantly more on average than RNs equipped with an ADN. According to, BSNs may earn, on average, up to $30,000 more yearly than the average RN salary.
  3. Multiple studies state that more nurses with BSN degrees mean better patient care overall within a hospital setting.
  4. A BSN is a requirement for most nurse management positions.

How to Get a BSN

Essentially, everything about the BSN degree comes down to leadership. Registered nurses fill a vital, necessary role in the healthcare community, and the BSN degree builds on the skills and clinical experience earned in ADN programs. In addition to clinical skills, BSN students also learn more about communication, critical thinking, and other management skills. Overall, this combination allows BSN holders to take charge and make positive changes in their healthcare settings.

The best nursing schools typically offer three pathways to a BSN degree:

  1. Full Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  2. Advanced Placement
  3. RN-to-BSN

Full – The Full Bachelor of Science (BSN) is a three-year program that prepares graduates for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.

Advanced Placement – If you’re already an LVN, you can complete the BSN through an advanced placement program that usually takes about two years.

RN to BSN – This is a degree-completion program that transitions associate degree RNs into bachelor’s degree RNs. This can take about 1 year to complete.

Whether you have a high school diploma or years of nursing experience, these pathways can lead you to a BSN degree and create a foundation for career advancement.

How to Get an ADN

An Associate’s Degree in Nursing is another valuable option for aspiring nurses. While an ADN takes less time to obtain than a BSN degree, it requires more time than a Vocational Nursing diploma program. In addition, this alternative route does not offer the same benefits or prepare nurses for the same levels of responsibility as BSN graduates.

If aspiring RNs pursue an associate’s degree, they will complete about two years of study at a community college or a vocational school. ADN courses typically include basic nursing skills, anatomy and physiology, emergency care, nutrition, and more.

As with many healthcare degrees, an ADN program tends to blend hands-on training with class work. Graduates equipped with this degree might find work in various medical settings, such as hospitals, outpatient care centers, nursing care facilities, home healthcare services, insurance carriers, or offices of other health practitioners. In recent years, statistics from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) revealed that the average salary of an RN was $66,620, while the average salary for a BSN holder was $75,484.

If you’d like to become an RN, you might want to consider pursuing a BSN degree rather than an ADN. Though a BSN requires more time, it also comes with various benefits. Both degrees can lead you to the registered nursing profession, but a BSN degree creates a solid foundation for your future.

Becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

Nursing student practicing skills with another nursing student standing in as a patient

The licensed vocational nurse profession is another great place to start building a rewarding, beneficial career in the healthcare field. Licensed vocational nursing is a noble and respectable occupation, as LVNs assist patients and support their good health and well-being. This profession is also predicted to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for LVNs are expected to increase by 12% by 2026.

Additionally, LVNs can work in a variety of medical establishments. Some of these facilities include hospitals, nursing homes, private homes, group homes, and clinics. They are often responsible for providing basic medical care to ill, injured, disabled, or convalescent persons and they usually work under the supervision of a registered nurse. The path of vocational nursing can also be a valuable stepping stone for some professionals. Many start as LVNs and later use their experience to return to nursing school, where they might pursue a degree and become an RN.

How to Become a Licensed Vocational Nurse

Aspiring LVNs should be responsible and capable of working under pressure. Candidates to the LVN profession should also be highly motivated and capable of sustaining their professional activity while respecting ethical codes and regulations. In the absence of any previous LVN training and professional experience, aspiring LVNs must complete a vocational nursing program in order to become licensed professionals.

These training programs may differ from one state to another, but they generally include hands-on exercises and practical experience. Program lengths often range from one to two years, which might make them an ideal choice for those that want to enter the workforce as soon as possible. At Unitek College, for instance, you can complete a Vocational Nursing program in as little as 12 months!

Student standing with file folder in hand in front of other students sitting at a table with their instructor

There are plenty of reputed nursing schools offering high-quality vocational nursing programs, so obtaining access to the right form of education is relatively easy. Respectable vocational nursing schools, also referred to as career colleges, exclusively aim to give students the skills required in their future profession; such schools place emphasis on teaching job-specific skills, and thus they should be regarded as institutions devoted to training, not education.

Once you enroll in a reputed and competitive vocational nursing program, you are only one step away from obtaining your license and building a noble career in the medical field. With ambition and hard work, you can obtain your license and pursue your dream job.