The nursing profession offers a variety of entry-level jobs. Your choice of career path will depend on your interests, educational background, and desired salary.
Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that all nursing occupations will have a positive job outlook over the next decade. Between 2020 and 2030, nurse assistants are expected to see an increase of 8% in their employment. Registered nurses should also expect a growth of 9%.
The guide will help you start your career as a nurse by reviewing the requirements for obtaining a nursing license, educational opportunities and financial aid.
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What are the different types of entry-level nursing roles?
Some nursing jobs do not require you to have a four or two year degree. Nursing students who wish to begin their careers sooner may enroll in programs leading to certification or licensure. They are less expensive and require less time than a postsecondary education. After completing the nursing assistant training — usually 12 weeks long — students can start a career in nursing.
After passing the state certification test, prospective NAs who have a GED or high school diploma can join the workforce. NAs with specialized training can obtain restorative nursing assistant certification (RNA). After gaining experience, many CNAs/RNAs move on to become registered nurses.
LPNs, LVNs and RNs are under the supervision of physicians and registered nurses. The LPNs and LVNs assist in procedures, track treatments and medications, keep patient records and help out with everyday patient care, such as bathing and dressing. They may work in clinics and hospitals, but they also find jobs at nursing homes and care facilities.
While several pathways lead to an RN license, a nursing diploma from a hospital-administered program or an associate degree in nursing (ADN) provide the quickest way to entry-level RN jobs. These programs are usually completed in less than two years before the NCLEX RN test, which is required for licensure. The bachelor’s degree in nursing, which prepares students for RN licensing, is usually completed within four years. Many schools have ADN to BSN programs and other accelerated degree completion programs.
What are the different types of nursing degrees at entry-level?
A college degree can open up more career options, even though students may be able to complete the licensing and certification requirements for NA or LPN/LVN in just two years. No prior experience in nursing is required to earn an ADN degree or BSN. The ADN and BSN degrees are designed to prepare students for entry-level nursing jobs and the NCLEX RN licensing exam. They also provide the background necessary to pursue further education.
Nursing advancement opportunities increase with higher degrees. BSN is the foundational degree for either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or Doctorate in Nursing. Graduate degrees in advanced nursing prepare students for some of the most lucrative and sought-after nursing jobs.
RNs with ADNs have many employment options in a wide range of settings. Their roles can vary depending on their specific workplace. They may be responsible for collecting information about patients, conducting physical examinations and diagnostic tests. They might also administer medication, treat and consult with other nurses and doctors.
While BSNs require learners to complete 120 credits over four years, nurses with ADNs and nursing diplomas can earn their Bachelor’s degree in just two years. The BSN program allows students to take courses that are not covered by the ADN curriculum, such as nursing and general education.
A MSN can take four years or more to finish. Bridge MSN programs allow students to accelerate their time to completion of their masters depending on the previous degree they have earned and their license status. Direct entry programs, for those with bachelor’s degrees in non-nursing* and without prior nursing experience, can take up to 1-3 years. RNs who have a diploma in nursing or an ADN can complete RN to MSN programs within 2-3 years. The majority of BSN to MSN programs last two years.
*Bridge programs require that the candidate for a degree completes the curriculum of an RN before receiving a MSN. Typically, a bridge program is two years long. The first year will consist of the BSN/RN Curriculum and culminate in the NCLEX exam at the end. Second year curriculum is MSN/APRN and includes practicum.
Jobs for Nurses Starting at Entry Level
The employment prospects for nurses continue to be better than average. The fastest way to enter the nursing field is by earning a Nursing Assistant certification. BLS estimates that there will be 174,000 NA positions available in the next decade. These jobs are primarily located in home care and residential care. The average annual salary for NAs is $29640, which is lower than that of nurses who have college degrees.
Both LPNs and nurses can work with NAs in both outpatient settings, as well as the same setting as LPNs. LPNs/LVNs are expected to fill 787.400 jobs by the end of this decade. The median wage of $47,000 is higher than that of NAs, but lower than those with ADNs and college degrees.
Registered Nurses should expect to find about 175900 openings each year until 2029. The median annual salary is $73,300. RNs with a BSN, graduate degree or ADN have better prospects for employment and higher salaries than those without. Employers prefer RNs with some experience and/or a specialty in high demand, such as gerontology.
How to Pay for Nursing School
Prospective nurses should not be discouraged by the high cost of nursing school. There are many financial aid options for deserving students, including those in short-term NA or LPN/LVN courses. Students in nursing can apply for grants and scholarships that don’t require repayment. They may also be eligible to receive federal loans and other private loan options. Work-study programs are offered by some schools to offset tuition.
Filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) will determine if you qualify for any federal student loans, repayment plans or financial assistance for military personnel and veteran. Grants and scholarships can be used to fund specific nursing specialties or programs. Others offer financial assistance based on the applicant’s race, ethnicity or gender.
Common Questions about Entry-Level Nursing
What is an entry-level nurse?
The entry-level nurse’s career begins after they have completed a diploma, associate or certificate program in nursing, or an undergraduate degree. The nurse programs and degrees don’t require any prior experience or nursing training. Entry-level nurses have plenty of job options as LPNs/LVNs and RNs due to the continued demand for healthcare professionals.
What are the best ways to get a job as a nurse without experience?
Some employers will hire nurses with experience, even if it is not compulsory for every position. Students can improve their marketability while still completing their education by volunteering in a hospital or clinic. First-time nurses should take on entry level positions in order to get experience.
What is the average salary of a nurse at entry level?
Nursing salaries are generally in line with cost of living. However, they vary significantly by geography, degree, number of years working, and work experience. The higher the education level, the greater the salary. Top-paid nurses are usually those with MSNs and certification as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.
What is the best way to survive your first nursing year?
As they transition from an academic environment to a real-world setting, new nursing professionals are subjected to a great deal of stress. Prior to starting their careers, first-year nursing students can prepare themselves for the stress by taking part in internships or volunteering. After they are hired, nurses should develop time-management skills and practice self-care. They can also network with other experienced nursing professionals.