Why go to nursing school?
Currently with the U.S. population aging, and with more and more people needing healthcare, there is a large nurse shortage. Due to the demand of nursing, salaries are lifting and opportunities are opening up everywhere. Job opportunities for registered nurses are expected to experience a 22 percent increase from 2008 to 2018, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that by 2018, approximately 581,500 more nursing positions will pour into the job market. There are also financial rewards and career mobility within the nursing career. It’s always possible to earn more education in nursing and to then advance to positions of higher specializations and authority, which means higher salary. Both rewarding and interesting, a nursing degree is a great career path.
There are a lot of blended nursing programs online, which means a student divides their study time between academic/didactic learning, served in the online environment, and hands-on clinicals which they’re required to either be on campus or scheduled with a healthcare facility local to them. Either way, the online programs make the degree convenient for you. You must be committed and driven though to complete an online degree. You’ll most likely be studying late at night, on weekends, and during holidays, so make sure you’re ready to make those kind of sacrifices for your nursing degree.
The most important thing when looking into an online program is to make sure that the program you’re considering is accredited. The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) is a national organization for faculty nurses and leaders in nurse education. It provides a listing of accredited nursing programs and schools, which you can search by name. Also, the official national accreditation agency—Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)—ensures the quality and integrity of baccalaureate, graduate, and residency programs in nursing, and is an important resource to use.
Prerequisites for getting into nursing school
Prerequisites are different from school to school, and depending on what kind of nursing degree you want to acquire (undergrad or graduate work). There are some general guidelines though that most accredited schools follow.
Undergraduate Nursing School Prerequisites
Undergrad nursing school requirements are very similar to any undergrad program’s requirements. You must have a high school diploma or GED to get into an associates or bachelors nursing program. Additionally there may be GPA requirements for the program of your choice, as well as above than average scores on science and math. Once you know you meet the program’s requirement you must complete the application and submit it by deadline. It’s also important to apply for federal student aid (FAFSA) by deadline, as well as any additional scholarships or grants. You need to check with the school to know what exams you must take for entrance: SAT, ACT, or nursing school entrance exams. A list of nursing school entrance exams include:
- Pre-Admission Exam for RN students (PAX-RN): This test is developed and delivered through the National League for Nursing (NLN). The exam is broken down into 3 major parts: verbal, science, and math skills.
- Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS): This exam includes 4 major parts: reading, math, English, science.
- Nurse Entrance Test (NET): This exam tests candidates in 6 areas: reading, math, stress, social interaction, testing abilities, learning skills.
- Health Education Systems, Inc. (HESI) exam: The HESI specialty exams were developed to assess students’ knowledge and their ability to apply nursing concepts within specific content areas. The exams are grounded in classical test theory and critical thinking theory.
Not all schools will require you to take a nursing school entrance exam, but it’s still good to know what to expect in those exams. There are a variety of helpful study guides to assist you in studying for these exams if you find that you need to take them.
Graduate School Nursing School Prerequisites
To get into a graduate nursing school you must already have an associates or baccalaureate nursing degree, and an RN license. For graduate school you will need past transcripts from your previous education, letters of recommendation, and a statement of career goals or specialization. Most schools will require you to have GRE test scores.
There are graduate programs you can do online through distance education:
- Master’s Degree (MS): Nurse Administrator, Nurse Educator, Nursing, Adult Health Nurse
- Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN): Informatics, Master of Health Administration, Healthcare Education, Nursing, Adult Health Nurse, Nurse Educator Bridge
What are career options after nursing school?
There are many choices of the type of nurse you want to be after acquiring your associate or Bachelor of Science undergraduate nursing degree. Some of the top choices include:
- Licensed Practical Nurse
- Critical Care
- Trauma Nursing
- Ambulatory Care Nurse
- Pediatric Nursing
- Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing
- Oncology Nursing
- Cardiovascular Nurse
- Gynecology Nurse
- Surgical Nurse
- Geriatric Nurse
- Dermatology Nurse
- Domestic Violence Nurse
- HIV/AIDS Nurse
- Holistic Nurse
- Home Healthcare Nurse
- Military Nurse
- Orthopedic Nurse
There are also in-demand specialties that put you far away from the patient’s bed. These types of careers include:
- Legal Nurse Consultant
- Forensic Nurse
- Informatics Nurse
- Nurse Administrator
- Nurse Educator
Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) specializations also exist for both grad and post grad nurses. These opportunities allow nurses to practice independently of physicians. Included are:
- Certified Nurse Midwives
- Nurse Anesthetists
- Nurse Practitioners
- Clinical Nurse Specialists
Career options for a master’s student include, but are not limited to:
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Health Services Administrator
- Long-Term Care Administrator
- Nurse Administrator
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Nurse Educator
- Nurse Midwife
- Nurse Practitioner
- Physical Therapist
The best paying and most unique and exciting jobs in nursing include:
- Flight Nurse: Flight nurse positions are limited, but are one of the most exciting nursing job positions. A nurse needs to have previous experience in a trauma unit or Emergency Department, with excellent skills and at least a BSN degree.
- Travel Nursing: This is an adventurous and exciting way to see different areas while using your professional skills. Travel nurses earn up to $40/hour, but also have to be willing to hit the road often. Most travel assignments last 3 months, but there’s room for extending a period of time if you fit well with a specific hospital. Most of your living expenses are set up and paid for, and if you make your schedule right you have time between assignments to explore new places.
- Forensic Nursing (Nurse CSI): This is one of the newest nursing careers to break out into the industry. You must have at least their BSN in order to become a forensic nurse. A forensic nurse becomes a part of a criminal investigation and must be willing to work with both living and deceased crime victims. You would work in a variety of environments, collecting evidence. You could find a job on a law enforcement department, with public health, or work as an independent consultant.
- Cruise Ship Nurse: If you’re looking for a high seas career adventure, this may be just the choice for you. Although competitive, it’s often overlooked as a nursing job. All cruise ships have a medical staff on board, usually including a physician, physician’s assistant, and various numbers of nursing and allied healthcare staff. In order to apply for a nurse position on a cruise ship you must be RN-licensed, have a BSN degree as well as a few years of nursing experiences under your belt, and be an independent thinker. Experience in trauma/emergency and/or critical care is usually preferred. Salaries are comparable to hospital salaries, but the experience is well worth it and will provide you better career opportunities in the future.
Additional Resources about Nursing Schools