There is a growing demand for workers in the health care industry. The demand is only expected to increase as baby boomers age, increasing their need for health care while at the same time retiring from these positions in record numbers. The outlook for those interested in a career in nursing is very good. Although the education required to become a nurse is intensive, the pay scale is lucrative and many hospitals provide tuition reimbursement.
The education requirements for nursing include both theoretical and practical experience. The theoretical work includes classroom education, and covers subjects such as chemistry, nutrition and anatomy. The practical work provides the student nurse with hands-on supervised training in the clinical setting. Once you have completed the nursing training from an approved nursing school you are required to take, and pass, the NCLEX-RN, a licensing exam. Upon passing the exam you are awarded your RN license.
There are a variety of roads to becoming a registered nurse. Many community colleges offer an associate program. Using this program, you can have a nursing license in two to three years. It is also an economical choice, as most community colleges are substantially less expensive than a traditional four year state or private school. If you choose the four year degree, you will graduate with a B.S.N. or Bachelor of Science in Nursing. You will still be a RN, and must still pass the licensing exam before earning the right to wear your scrubs. The benefit of obtaining a bachelor’s degree is that the four year degree is required for many supervisory positions within the nursing field, and you must have a B.S.N to receive your master’s degree. Many colleges now offer a fast track program to allow those with their RN to complete their B.S.N. in a short amount of time, attending classes part time or over the internet.
Master’s degree programs in nursing allow a nurse to receive a higher level of compensation as well as the capability to work with more autonomy. A master’s program also allows the nurse to specialize in the type of nursing that he or she prefers. There are master’s programs available in clinical specialties, such as a nurse anesthetist or a nurse practitioner. Many schools also allow a nurse to enter the teaching field with a master’s degree. A master’s program in nursing, regardless of the specialization, typically requires two years of coursework. A nurse may also choose to earn his or her doctorate degree in nursing, which would open up many administration level jobs as well as the ability to teach in any college.
Nursing programs are approved by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. To ensure that you are properly prepared for the licensing exam that you must pass before becoming an RN, choose a school that is fully accredited. This means, among other things, that their curriculum has been examined and determined to cover the material that is included in the NCLEX-RN exam.
Given the fact that there is a shortage of nurses, and the demand is growing, it may seem that getting accepted to nursing school should be easier; this is unfortunately not the case. In fact, one of the reasons that there is a shortage of nurses is because there is also a shortage of nurse educators. Because nursing requires such detailed and extensive education, it is important to have a low student to teacher ratio. With a shortage of nurse educators, schools are limited in the number of nursing students that they can accept. The shortage of nursing educators is partially due to the fact that nurses can earn much better wages working in the clinical setting than in the college setting.
With the shortage of nursing educators, acceptance to nursing schools has become very competitive. There are several things that you can do to increase your odds of being accepted to nursing school. The first, of course, is to have the highest GPA and standardized test scores as possible. If you are seriously considering nursing school, it may be too late to improve your GPA, but if your standardized tests are not where you want them, consider investing in a test prep course and retake the exam.
Another way that you can make yourself more attractive to a nursing program is to take some classes at your local community college. Showing that you have the ability to complete college level work can go a long way in persuading the admissions board that you are a good candidate for their nursing program. Finally, consider spending time as a volunteer in the health care field. Many people want to enter nursing because of the ready supply of jobs and lucrative pay. When they realize the hard work that is required, they drop out of the nursing program. By volunteering in the field, the acceptance committee will feel more confident that you will remain in the program.