How to Choose a Nurse Career Path

SimpleNursing Editorial Team May 1, 2023
High angle view of nurse walking around hospital while looking at a medical chart on tablet

As a nursing student, your chosen nurse career path will shape your future as a health care professional. There are many opportunities in nursing, ranging from critical care to public health, and deciding which path to take can be overwhelming. 

Every nursing career does require graduating from an accredited school, licensure, experience, and passing an exit exam (such as the NCLEX). 

It’s a lot to go through – but it can be well worth it in the end.

What’s the Best Path to Become a Nurse?

The best path for you to become a nurse comes from these factors:

1. Interests and Passions

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a nursing career path is your interests and passions. What do you enjoy doing? What motivates you? What type of work gives you a sense of fulfillment? 

For example, if you are passionate about helping children, consider a career in pediatric nursing. And if you have a strong interest in mental health, consider exploring a career in psychiatric nursing.

2. Salary and Job Outlook

Another critical factor to consider is salary and job outlook. While money should not be the only motivator for choosing a career, it’s important to consider the financial implications of your decision. 

Research the salaries and job growth rates for the different nursing careers you are interested in. This information can help you make an informed decision about which path to pursue.

3. Education and Training

Different nursing careers require different levels of education and training. Consider your current level of education and your willingness to invest time and money in further education. 

For example, if you are pursuing an associate’s degree in nursing, you may want to explore careers requiring a bachelor’s degree in nursing, such as a nurse practitioner.

4. Work Environment

Consider the type of work environment you prefer. 

  • Do you enjoy fast-paced, high-stress environments? 
  • Do you prefer a more relaxed, low-stress environment? 
  • Do you want to work in a hospital or clinic setting, or would you prefer to work in a school or community setting? 

These are important questions to consider when choosing a nursing career path.

Types of Nursing Career Paths

Registered Nurse (RN)

As a registered nurse, you will provide patient care, educate patients and the public about health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their families. RNs work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices. 

To become an RN, you must complete an accredited nursing program and obtain RN licensure.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who provide primary and specialty care to patients. They can diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medication, and perform procedures. 

To become an NP, you must complete a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, as well as additional clinical training. NPs can work independently or in collaboration with physicians.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced practice registered nurse specializing in a specific healthcare area, such as oncology, pediatrics, or critical care. They provide direct patient care, educate healthcare professionals and patients, and participate in research and quality improvement initiatives. 

To become a CNS, you must complete a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

Certified nurse midwives provide primary care, gynecological care, and prenatal and postpartum care to women. They can also attend births and provide newborn care. 

To become a CNM, you must complete a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing with a specialty in midwifery. CNMs can work in hospitals, clinics, or birthing centers or have their own private practices.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Certified registered nurse anesthetists are advanced practice registered nurses who provide anesthesia to patients in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and surgery centers. They work in collaboration with physicians, dentists, and other healthcare professionals to administer anesthesia and monitor patients during procedures. 

To become a CRNA, you must complete a doctoral degree in nursing. CRNAs with a Master’s degree must obtain their doctorates by 2025, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). 

Let Us Help You Along Your Nurse Career Path

The NCLEX exam is a critical step in becoming a licensed nurse, and many nursing students find the exam challenging. Digital tools are available to help nursing students prepare for examination and build confidence on test day. 

SimpleNursing helps nursing students prepare for the NCLEX with tons of engaging, memorable content. We provide practice questions, videos with rationales, study guides, and much more.

Get your nursing career on the right path, starting today.

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