Kickstart Your Career in Nursing with This Ultimate Guide

Nursing is a well-respected role that has so many different branches. You can customize your career and take it to never-before-seen locations. Your specialization, after all, will be in human health. This means that you can, technically, work wherever people are. 

While working outside of healthcare is difficult, it is an option. This means you can take your nursing background and work in healthcare settings, privately, or in unique locations like a remote research station all the way to a music festival. 

If you are considering a career in nursing or want to finally give your current nursing career a push into a new direction, use this guide. It will help you understand your options so that you can finally take the plunge and find the perfect nursing role for you. 


Is Nursing Right for You? 

Nursing is as much a vocation as it is a profession. You need to be passionate about it and strategic. There are so many interesting routes that you can take in nursing, and all of them are important. Even in roles that you truly love, however, there are going to be difficult days. You will, at the end of the day, be working with people who are sick, injured, or even dying. 

This puts a lot of pressure and strain on anyone, which is why nursing isn’t for everyone. If you are someone who is compassionate and caring, but is also able to put aside your own worries and stress for the sake of others, however, then nursing could be the perfect fit. 

Nurses need to be organized. They also need to be able to take care of themselves physically and mentally. To give your patients your all, you need to be at your all. This means having a routine that helps you feel your best while also having a support system that can support you through the stressful and even sad parts of the job. 

That being said,

with so many roles in nursing, you can still find your place outside of acute or emergency care. There are many areas of healthcare where you won’t be working with those in high-stress situations. You could work as a family nurse practitioner, for example, and provide preventative care instead of emergency care.

Before you can get to that stage, however, chances are you will work in a hospital. While you don’t need to commit the rest of your life to this environment, you do need to be prepared for all that nursing can entail. 

Nurses are the backbone of healthcare, and for a reason. They provide the patient-focused care that patients need to feel safe. It’s a big role, and if you are someone who can put aside their own needs temporarily to provide that care, then you will make an excellent nurse. 


Online Nursing: The New Tool in Nursing 

Thanks to the rise of online degrees, there are more opportunities than ever to get started in nursing. Being able to stay at home while you learn opens up doors. You no longer need to relocate to expensive areas while you complete your degree. You can stay with your parents, or find cheap accommodation, and then study from home. 

Do keep in mind that even though online nursing degrees offer 100% of the coursework online, there are usually in-person elements. Many degrees today have an on-campus residence that lasts a week or two. There will also be a clinical placement. When it comes to clinical placement, know that your university will try to find you a placement that is local, so you won’t have to relocate just to complete your on-site training hours. 

Though online degrees come with plenty of tools already, it doesn’t hurt to invest in your own. From establishing a productive home office to finding and installing productivity tools, there are many different ways that you can improve your online education. 

Combine these tools with a good routine, and you will be well on your way to starting or furthering your nursing career. 

Getting Started in Nursing 

If you are just getting started with nursing, then know there are multiple paths you can choose. 



The best degree to earn to become a Registered Nurse is the BSN. Earning the BSN will not only let you take the state exam to qualify as an RN, but it will also prepare you to later earn the MSN so that you can progress your credentials. 



The Associate’s Degree in Nursing is another route into nursing that you could take. Do be aware, however, that states are trying to phase this out. Earning an ADN will also trap you in the RN role until you complete a BSN. U



If nursing will be your second career and you already have a bachelor’s degree, then always see if you could apply to the accelerated BSN program. These programs are intensive, meaning you must commit yourself to them full-time, but in exchange, you can typically finish in around 16 months. 

You will need to have several prerequisite credits already to transfer over from your previous bachelor’s. You can also earn those missing credits elsewhere if necessary. 


Progressing Your Career in Nursing 

If you want to move forward and advance your career, then you will need to earn a master’s – at a minimum. Earning an MSN means that you will then be eligible to take the state exam and become an APRN. From there, you can then look for jobs based on your specialization.  

Unlike your BSN, where the focus is primarily on the route and speed at which you complete it, your MSN is focused. You will need to know what area you want to specialize in before you get started. 


APRN Specializations 

There are four main categories that APRNs fall under. 

  • Nurse Practitioner 

Nurse practitioners typically focus on a specific patient demographic. A few popular examples are the Family Nurse Practitioner and the Adult Gerontology Practitioner. There are also specific roles. You may work as an NP in oncology, for example, and care directly for patients with cancer. 

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist 

Clinical Nurse Specialists work to improve patient care across the board. They usually work in a specific area of medicine and will work in a behind-the-scenes role in comparison to their NP counterparts. Rather than directly treating patients, you will be working to improve care treatment regimens as a whole. 

  • Nurse Midwife 

One of the oldest professions in the world is the midwife, but nurse midwives today are far more than just the local woman with experience. These nurses are clinically trained and offer an essential mother-first approach to pregnancy and birth that can improve the entire experience. Midwives have been gaining in popularity over the years, meaning there is a growing demand for them. 

  • Nurse Anesthetist 

Nurse anesthetists work directly with doctors or dentists in medical settings. They are the ones who administer anesthesia during the operation. They usually work in multiple locations where they are needed. 


Choosing Your Specialization 

There are many sub-categories of NPs and CNSs, which can make it feel daunting when it comes to choosing your specialization. A good way to avoid making a mistake and instead picking the role that best suits what you want out of your career is to try to work in those departments or under those specialists as an RN. 

In some cases, this will be a requirement before you can enroll in your MSN. Many midwife programs, for example, request that you have worked on a mother-baby unit before applying. 

The role you specialize in will also come with its own set of privileges and opportunities. These will change depending on the state you are in. In some states, for example, a Family Nurse Practitioner must work under a physician and get their sign-off. In other states, FNPs can operate independently. 

The good news is that not only do you have options, but you can go back and add to your skillset later if needs be. You could train in one specialization, for example, and then specialize in another role with a post-graduate certificate. 

These certificates are relatively affordable and usually take just four semesters. Of course, if you know you want to be an FNP for a fact, then it will always be better to enroll in a top program like this Rockhurst University Online MSN-FNP program from the start. 


Furthering Your Education 

The MSN is not the highest level of degree that you can earn in nursing. That title goes to the doctorate. 

You will want to earn a doctorate in a few situations. If you want to become a nurse educator, for example, you may find that many positions require you to have a Ph.D. or DNP before you apply. If you want to transition into a leadership role, especially one that oversees either a whole hospital or an even larger scope, then you may want to consider earning a DNP. 




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