The ABC’s of a Nursing Career

A nurse is a person who helps to take care of patients. It may be in a hospital, a small office, a specialty practice, at home, from the computer, or more. When a person says they want to become a nurse there are many paths to consider. Different letters represent each type of nursing career and path. 

Nursing Letters

  1. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) 
  2. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  3. Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  4. Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  5. Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  6. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  7. Ph.D. in Nursing

1. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

A CNA takes a nursing program of 4-12 weeks, broken into instructional hours and hours of hands-on training. There is also a certificate program and exam before entering the workforce. A CNA helps patients with daily living and other needs, and they work under a Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). There is no degree required for this career path.

Salary: $27,000 yearly

2. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

An LPN is the next step up from CNA. They provide patients with essential care like eating, bathing, and dressing. They can also assist doctors and Registered Nurses. They take vital signs, administer intravenous medication, collect blood and urine, and change wound dressings. LPN training programs take about a year to complete and include an exam, and they apply for their license. Maintaining their license requires continuing education. Some nurses go from CNA to LPN so they get an increase in pay. In many states there is a 40-55% difference in pay.

Salary: $43,000

3. a.Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) and Bachelor’s in Science in Nursing (BSN) – To become a Registered Nurse one day you have to earn a degree. A prospective nurse can choose between an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s in Science in Nursing (BSN). A Registered Nurse (RN) is the profession in which you practice your degree.

3. b. Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)- This takes about two years to complete. If you already have an LPN, you can earn an ADN in 16-18 months. An ADN person focuses on technical, clinical tasks and day-to-day care. This is the shortest route to becoming a nurse.

4. Bachelor’s in Science in Nursing (BSN) – This takes about 36 months to complete. If you already hold a degree in another field, there is a shortened course that is only 16 months. This is faster than earning an associate’s degree. A BSN has more leadership roles, management, and does bigger-picture items for their healthcare institution. Many BSN degree holders work in other facets of the healthcare world that include nursing research or education. Many BSN degree holders go through a 4-year degree college to achieve this.

Salary : $77,000

5. Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) – If a person is a Registered Nurse with an ADN or BSN, they can advance their position by getting an MSN. Getting a master’s can be a good amount of time, money, and work. You can get an MSN if you have a bachelor’s degree in another field. This path takes a person from entry-level coursework to a master’s. The second path is getting a BSN which is traditionally what many do. The program takes around two years and includes training to specialize as a nurse practitioner or general MSN without having to get additional licensing. Some applicants have a two-year RN degree. This program takes a little longer, but you earn an advanced nursing certification. This degree may give you better positions in the hospital or managerial roles. You can earn a higher salary as well with this degree. The salary ranges jump dramatically with a MSN.

Practice roles as an MSN

  • Nurse Practitioner $111,000
  • Nurse Educator $83,000
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Anesthetist $181,040
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Midwife $100,000

Salary: $100,000

6. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

A DNP is a terminal nursing degree rooted in clinical practice and intended for advanced practice nurse practitioners, and the focus is to make leaders for the future in healthcare. There’s no further degree past this. Typical with a DNP, you work in a leadership role or direct patient care.  If they aren’t in management, they can work in certain roles like nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner.

Salary: $150,000

7. Ph.D. in Nursing

A Ph.D. in Nursing degree prepares you for a science- and a research-focused career spent furthering knowledge that is essential to nurses and nursing education at all levels. With this degree, they can still work as a Nurse practitioner.

Salary $160,000 and increasing each year.