Everything That You Need To Know To Start A Successful Career As A Nurse

With significant professional demand for qualified individuals, nursing is a rapidly growing career field option. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) demand for nursing professionals is expected to grow 15% by the year 2026. 

Here is everything that you need to know to start a fulfilling career as a nurse. 

Degree Options

Formal education is non-negotiable if you want a successful career in nursing. Being a nurse is being in charge of people’s health. Fortunately, there is a range of choice as it is a  serious responsibility that requires extensive training in order not to put anyone at risk. 

Here are the most educational channels: 

Associate Degree In Nursing

The associate degree program in nursing is designed to develop individuals in solid foundational knowledge, attitudes, and skills for nursing practice. 

There’s generally only two to three years of required coursework, so the associate degree program often requires the least amount of time. 

Keep in mind that while this will lead to you becoming a registered nurse (RN), a bachelor’s degree -covered next- will give you more career options. 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Another path to a successful career in nursing is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This is an advanced program that requires three to four years of in-depth studying. 

Admittedly, there are a lot more areas studied for in a BSN program, nurses with a BSN generally have a greater chance of securing nursing positions and are often given the top-ranking spots, with more responsibilities and higher salaries. 

You do not need a prior degree or an associate degree in nursing before you can enroll in a BSN. 

Accelerated Nursing Program 

If you’re looking to switch careers or don’t have four years to spare, an accelerated nursing program could be a good fit. An accelerated nursing program is a very specific option for individuals who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field of study, preferably one with a science background. 

The accelerated nursing program is exactly what it sounds like; twelve to sixteen months of intensive studying. 

Participation in an accelerated degree program, along with your resulting bachelor’s degree in nursing, could be very beneficial in the job market, showing employers that you are both qualified plus trained to work in a fast-paced environment. 

License Requirements 

After the training comes to the test of training. The pivotal step that changes you from a student to a licensed professional is earning your nursing license by passing a national nursing licensure examination (NCLEX). 

A valid license is a must-have credential in the pursuit of a nursing career, without which you won’t be able to practice. Licensing requirements vary, depending on factors like the state, your nursing specialty, and the occupation. 

To give you an idea here are three of the most popular examples of national exams:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): A CNA has a fairly limited scope of responsibilities as an assistant and the test reflects that. This examination is a state competency exam designed for individuals who want to work as nursing assistants. 
  • National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN): This exam is designed specifically to test Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). An LPN has a wider range of responsibilities than a nursing assistant. For example, they have the responsibility of administering certain medicines or conducting certain medical tests. Thus, the exam covers these additional responsibilities and the comprehension of more basic assistance. 
  • National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN): Registered Nurses (RNs) are required to pass this test to practice validly. An RN has to perform a variety of tasks requiring specialized knowledge. So of the three described, this exam would be the most in-depth. 


Often, the key to a successful career is specialization. The same is true of nursing. After graduating from a nursing program and passing the NCLEX, there are plenty of nursing specialty options to choose from depending on which education route you choose: 

  • Neonatal Nurses are the nurses who work with patients directly before and after the birthing process. Typically, you’ll work in the neonatal unit at a hospital, but you may also work in related units doing similar work.
  • Nurse-Midwives are the nurses who guide patients through the entire process of pregnancy and delivery. Currently, a career in this branch of nursing means being in demand and well-compensated.
  • Clinical Nurses are nurses with advanced degrees and advanced certifications. Here, you’ll oversee the work of other nurses.
  • Critical Care Nurses are usually employed by hospitals to work in critical care units or trauma centers.  

There are many routes to a nursing career, each with different benefits. For instance, an associate degree means more time and money spent, but a bachelor’s degree means more opportunity to climb up the ranks.