Many people think that all nurses have the same level of education. However, the truth is that there are multiple rungs on the nursing professional development track, which represent different levels of education, salary, and responsibility.

You can enter the nursing profession via a short education program to become a nursing assistant. If you continue your nursing education and obtain an associate degree, Bachelor of Science, and masters in nursing, you can eventually reach the top level of nursing through a Doctor of Nursing (DN) degree. Nursing is a great profession for someone who wants to continue their education and career advancements throughout their life.

Step #1: Become a Nursing Assistant

The first level of entering the nursing occupation starts with becoming a nursing assistant. Nursing assistants often referred to as CNA or a Certified Nursing Assistant. Nursing assistants must complete an education program that is approved by their state and then pass an exam to earn a CNA certification, which is issued at the state level.

These programs are not that long and can be completed in a month or two, depending on if you take the course in-person or remotely, and how quickly you advance through the courses.

Nursing assistants help with actives such as measuring vitals, writing down the patient's reasons for visiting the doctor, and transferring patients between beds and wheelchairs. Nursing assistants also take care of things such as bathing, eating, and using the restroom for patients who need this type of assistance. Nursing assistants often work in nursing homes and similar types of care facilities.

Step #2: Become a Licensed Practical Nurse

Licensed practical nurses are referred to as LPN. To become an LPN, you must complete additional education beyond that required of a CNA.

LPNs must earn a practical nursing diploma. Practical nursing diplomas are programs that are generally offered by community colleges. You can also earn this degree at a career and vocational schools. This program takes a year with a full course load. It is also possible as an LPN to earn specific certifications that show you have special training.

LPN are allowed to take care of more medical tasks than CNA. They can do things such as start IVs, change bandages, and insert catheters.

Step #3: Become a Registered Nurse

A registered nurse, referred to as an RN, is the type of nurse that comes to mind when most people think about a nurse. RNs must either earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing. RNs with bachelor degrees usually have more employment opportunities than RNs with associate degrees.

RNs do things such as administering medication, taking medical histories, running diagnostic testing, and working together with doctors to develop care plans for patients.

Step #4: Become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Advanced practice registered nurses, also known as APRNs, you are going to need to obtain a Master's in Nursing degree and pass national certification exams.

To become an APNR, clinical experience is required as well, which is why most people who pursue their APRN certification have already worked in the nursing field. APRNs can work and run their own medical practices without a physician being present. They can order more tests and can refer patients to specialists for treatment. 

Step #5: Become a Nurse Practitioner

If you want to be a nurse practitioner and run your own medical practice, you need to obtain a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. If you want to work in a research institution or teach the practice of nursing at a college level, you need a DNP.

A DNP represents one of the two highest educational levels you can obtain within the nursing field, with the other being a Ph.D. in nursing. A Ph.D. in nursing is designed more for individuals who want to work as scholars within the field of nursing, and a Doctor of Nursing is the highest level of education for those who want to work in the field with patients.

If you want a career in a field where you can continue to work as you reach the highest level of education possible, consider entering a career in the nursing field. Contact services with information on a Doctor of Nursing program to begin your journey.