Are you happy working as a nurse but anxious about getting stuck in a rut? There are lots of different roles out there, but if you really want to expand your options, you should consider getting new qualifications. Online learning and the option of building up clinical hours through your day-to-day work make this easier than it has ever been, and you’ll have the choice of part-time or full-time study. This article explains how the different options available could reshape your career.

A bachelor’s degree

After spending time as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LSN), most people seek to advance their careers by taking bachelor’s degrees, enabling them to obtain RN status after taking the NNCLEX exam. Doing this means you’ll be able to carry out the tasks you’re already used to without immediate supervision, as well as undertaking some new ones. You’ll be able to take medical histories and contribute to the development of care plans for your patients, as well as carrying out a wider range of diagnostic tests.

A master’s degree

Getting a master’s degree lets you take your career to the next level as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). This gives you the option of working independently in some situations, without having to answer to a doctor. It also enables you to start developing a specialty, such as gastroenterology or midwifery, though you will need to amass relevant clinical hours and (in most cases) pass an additional exam in order to qualify as a specialist nurse. Often employers are willing to fund RN to MSN programs in order to skill up their staff.


With a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), you’ll be primed to move into leadership positions: everything from managing a department to heading up an agency team or participating in the design of healthcare systems. You’ll also have the options of getting involved in the design, management and integration of clinical trials. If you’ve ever experienced frustration with approaches to healthcare provision which you don’t think are in the best interests of your patients, this will give you the authority to start changing them.


Considered the gold standard for positions in academia, a PhD in nursing will empower you to take a leading role in nursing-related research, designing and running your own studies aimed at improving healthcare standards. You’ll learn how to use different types of research methods, handle statistics and data processing, and develop and explore your own theories. You’ll also be able to gather and use evidence to support positive changes in healthcare environments.

You don’t need to have great high school qualifications in order to start studying as a nurse because there’s a strong practical element to most courses and the experience you’ve gained in your job will help you get a place. Once you get onto that educational ladder, nothing will be able to hold you back, and you’ll find that your career gets more and more interesting.


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