So you want to be a nurse? Pick your path!

NursingMay 20, 2021

Becoming a nurse is not only a great career (and the most trusted profession according to a recent Gallup poll) but training as a nurse also opens up a world of opportunities.  There are a great number of different paths within the nursing profession, allowing everyone to choose their own career goals. When deciding on your own journey, you’ll have to decide how long you want to be in school, the kind of work you want to pursue, whether you want to specialize in a certain area of medicine, what level of leadership responsibilities you’re looking to have, and so on.  
In New York, all nursing career paths begin with successfully completing a career program that’s been approved by the New York State Department of Education that will prepare you to sit for the appropriate National Council Licensure Examination to get your license. After you successfully pass the nursing exam, you have a range of options. Let’s take a look… 

Practical Nursing Diploma (PN, Practical Nurse) 

Time in School: Approximately 1 year 
Potential Careers: Licensed Practical Nurse, Licensed Vocational Nurse 

Practical or vocational nursing programs are often the shortest path to starting a nursing career, often only taking around a year to complete and resulting in a certificate or diploma. LPNs perform a wide variety of tasks in a number of different healthcare settings, like skilled nursing facilities and long-term care. They generally work under and report to a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, or clinical nurse specialist on staff and there are limits to the duties and responsibilities they can take on.  

Associate of Science Degree in Nursing (ADN, Registered Nurse) 

Time in School: Approximately 2 years 
Potential Careers: Registered Nurse 

Registered nurses are the backbone of most hospitals and medical facilities, and becoming a registered nurse requires a minimum of an associate degree from an approved education program. Most programs require around 24 months to complete. After you’ve graduated and passed your NCLEX exam, you’ll be qualified to perform health assessments, manage and treat patients’ diagnosed health conditions, execute medical regimens and orders as prescribed by licensed physicians and nurse practitioners, and contribute to decision-making as part of an interdisciplinary care team. Many RNs specialize in particular areas of medicine, like medical and surgical care, pediatrics, obstetrics, and others. The Associate of Science degree in Nursing is one of the most popular nursing paths because it balances the amount of time you spend in school while still giving you plenty of options for your career. 

Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) 

Time in School: Approximately 4 years 
Potential Careers: Registered Nurse, Nursing Instructor, Nurse Manager 

Another path to becoming a registered nurse is to enroll in a BSN degree program, and in fact, a growing number of healthcare employers are looking for candidates who have BSN credentials or are working on toward their BSN. While prospective nurses can enroll directly in a 4-year bachelor’s degree program, many choose to first get their associate degree and then pursue an RN-to-BSN program, while gaining on-the-job experience. Whichever path you choose, having a BSN can often open up more job opportunities for you in the long run, including the chance to be a nursing school instructor or the manager of a nursing team. 

Master of Science Degree in Nursing (MSN) 

Time in School: Approximately 18 months – 2 years 
Previous Education Needed: A BSN degree 

Potential Careers: Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Practitioner 
For those who already have their BSN and are looking for greater leadership opportunities, the next step is to earn a master’s degree in nursing. Many of these programs can take under two years to complete and often can be completed online, allowing you to work while you are going to school. An MSN is needed to get sit for advanced nursing licensures in New York, like clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner.  

If any of these paths sound like they are what you have been looking for, then St. Paul’s School of Nursing, with two locations in New York— Queens and Staten Island — can help you reach your goals. St. Paul’s School of Nursing has a long history of providing quality nursing programs to meet needs of our diverse community and prepare graduates for in-demand nursing careers. If you’re interested in learning more about our programs, contact us to talk to one of our admissions advisors.  St. Paul’s School of Nursing is also associated with the Denver College of Nursing which offers online programs designed for the working nurse who wants to advance their career.