To become a nurse, you must complete a nursing education program and pass the NCLEX exam.
Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN / LVN)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed practical nurses (LPNs), or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), care for people who are sick, injured, convalescent, or disabled under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. They provide basic bedside care, measure and record patients' vital signs such as height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration, or prepare and give injections and enemas, monitor catheters, dress wounds, and give alcohol rubs and massages. The BLS passing the NCLEX-PN is required to get a LPN or LVN license, in addition to completing a nursing degree program. Each state has its own standards of eligibility to take the exam. Contact a state's individual nursing board for more details.
Registered Nurse (RN)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses (RN), regardless of specialty or work setting, treat patients, educate patients and the public about various medical conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients' family members. RNs record patients' medical histories and symptoms, help perform diagnostic tests and analyze results, operate medical machinery, administer treatment and medications, and help with patient follow-up and rehabilitation. The BLS states that there are three popular educational paths to registered nursing: a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Individuals then must complete a national licensing examination (NCLEX-RN) in order to obtain a nursing license. Other eligibility requirements for licensure vary by State. Contact your State’s board of nursing for details. Some may choose to pursue a master's or Ph.D. program as well. Further training or education may qualify nurses to work in specialty areas, and help improve advancement opportunities.
Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN)
RNs with a diploma or associate's degree often pursue a bachelor's degree through a RN-to-BSN program. Advancement opportunities increase for nurses who hold a bachelor's degree, and some positions require a bachelor's degree. A BSN program is a popular choice for those looking to break into the nursing field. Many nursing positions in the job market require a BSN degree.
Master's of Science or Doctorate in Nursing (MSN or Ph.D.)
An RN with a bachelor’s degree may go on to obtain a master of science (MSN) or Ph.D in nursing, with the option of taking an accelerated master degree program.
Continuing Education (C.E.) Requirements
Each state requires that licenses be renewed. Continuing education requirements and license renewals vary according to state.