Nursing is an ever-changing and evolving field.
There was a time when nurses with just Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees could count on a very satisfying career with high pay and easy advancement. Many nurses who entered the profession fifteen or twenty years ago could point to decades of work — and job security — ahead of them, but today’s nursing students might not be so fortunate. The good news is, as a BSN graduate, your options for future careers and continuing education are nearly limitless! Let’s discuss all these prospects.
Pursue Advanced Education
There are a variety of specialty degrees that can be pursued after completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). These include:
Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN):
The MSN is a two-year degree that requires students to complete more than 60 credit hours. This degree is designed for nurses with a BSN who want to advance their career by gaining additional knowledge and skills to become leaders in the healthcare field. Courses cover topics such as leadership skills and quality improvement initiatives. So the question that arises is what can you do with an MSN? It is important to understand what the future holds before pursuing MSN and investing your money, time, and energy.
Here are some career paths you can consider:
- Nurse Educator – An MSN can help you become an educator in nursing, so your work might include teaching students at the college level.
- Specialized Care Options – Advancement through an MSN may lead to additional specialization opportunities within your chosen field. Specializations can include family health, maternal-child health, psychiatric-mental health, or gerontology care. As the population ages, more nurses are needed who specialize in gerontological care. If this sounds like something that interests you, then getting an advanced degree would allow you to pursue these specialized roles with greater knowledge and experience than someone with only an entry-level degree would have.
- Administrative Roles – This is a great next step for those interested in executive or managerial titles like nurse manager or director of nursing. An MSN is an essential credential for those who want to move into clinical leadership roles. It can also be beneficial if you are considering a career change to administration.
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
A doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) is often viewed as the highest academic achievement among nurses. Earning a DNP means you have completed rigorous coursework and clinical training that allows you to take on greater leadership roles within healthcare organizations and/or academia. There are several different types of DNP programs available based on the focus area you want to study, such as adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) or family nurse practitioner (FNP).
Ph.D. for research careers
A Ph.D. allows students to become experts in their field, developing new knowledge and advancing the science of nursing practice through research. Less than 1% of registered nurses in the US hold a Ph.D. but work is being done to increase this number. This advanced degree is ideal for those who want to pursue careers in academia or research. Similarly, nurses who have a Ph.D. are an extremely valuable asset to the lawmakers that develop policies for the healthcare sector.
Certificate programs allow nurses who have already earned their bachelor’s degrees to get additional training in areas such as critical care management or rural nursing practice. These courses are typically offered on weekends or by distance education, allowing students to continue working while studying them. With these certifications, nurses can specialize in their desired field and can progress along with it. There are many types of clinical specializations certifications for practicing RNs, such as:
- Adult critical care (CCRN)
- Pediatric critical care (CCRN)
- Cardiac surgery (CSC)
- Progressive care (PCCN)
- Dialysis (CDN)
- Gastroenterology (CGRN)
Get Professional Experience
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for registered nurses (RNs) is expected to increase by 9 percent between 2020 and 2030 — much faster than average for all occupations — as the population ages and demand grows for preventive care services. The BLS projects that there will be nearly 2 million job openings for RNs during this timeframe due to growth and replacement needs. This automatically means higher salaries for nursing. According to BLS, the average median salary of RN in May 2021 was roughly 70% higher than the average salary of all workers in the country.
If you’re interested in working in clinical settings, consider joining a hospital or clinic after graduation. Hospitals will often hire new grads right away. You can also work as an outpatient nurse at places like walk-in clinics or urgent care centers. If you want to gain professional experience by joining a nursing home or home health care agency, there may be more opportunities available since these facilities employ more nurses than hospitals do.
Nursing allows you to make a difference in the world – a privilege few professions can offer. So after you complete your BSN program, don’t forget that this is just the beginning. And remember to remain open-minded and optimistic as you learn more about this field, keeping your mind truly open and ready for expansion.
The career paths for nurses are varied, and there are plenty of opportunities for career advancement. And since the field of nursing will continue to grow, choosing nursing as a long-term career option is a sensible move to make. Think about your skills, education and experience, personal interests and values, and finances. Then make an educated choice of where your healthcare career should go next. The field offers plenty of options, and whatever you choose will be well worth it.
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