Online Nursing Degree for Non Nurses

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Did you know if you already have a degree in another field you can still make a change and go to nursing school to get a degree in nursing? Numerous online nursing degree programs are tailored to non-nurses, providing them with a wide range of choices. It’s important to remember that many nursing programs, including online options, mandate completing clinical hours or a practicum in a medical setting. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how non-nurses can embark on a nursing career by obtaining an online nursing degree designed specifically for them. 

What is a Registered Nurse?

A Registered Nurse (RN) is a nursing professional who has undergone a designated nursing program and has successfully passed the necessary nursing examinations mandated by the state. If you are currently a non-nurse, not working in the nursing field, or lack a nursing degree, obtaining an RN certification or pursuing an online nursing degree could be a strategic career choice. 

CNA Certificate or Diploma

One possible path toward pursing a nursing career is earning a CNA certificate. This does not give you the credentials for an RN degree, but may allow  jumpstart your career in the medical field while pursuing additional education for an RN. 

What Does a CNA Do?

CNAs typically perform basic medical care and help with keeping medical offices running. They cannot prescribe medicine or perform medical procedures. They may be asked to:

  • Assist with medical procedures
  • Change or apply bandages
  • Prepare rooms and supplies
  • Clean rooms and linens
  • Assist patients with activities of daily living
  • Take and record vitals
  • Document care given to patients

How to Become a CNA

To pursue a career as a CNA, you must complete a training program approved in your state. High schools, tech schools, hospitals, and community colleges commonly offer these programs. You generally don’t need any previous training to enter a CNA program. Some CNA training programs may be available online, but all will have a hands on component that must be completed in person.

Who is it designed for?

A CNA certificate or diploma is perfect for someone who wants to transition to nursing from a non nursing background. The training aims to provide a foundation in nursing and medical care, and it could open the door to pursuing work in the field. Many may use this as a starting point to further education as they pursue RN degree.

How long could it take?

Training for a CNA certificate or diploma may take just a few weeks. One program run by the American Red Cross typically takes four to eight weeks to complete.

Income Potential for CNA

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates an median annual salary for CNAs and orderlies in 2023 was $38,200.

LPN/LVN Certificate or Diploma

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) is the next step up on the nursing career ladder. This is still not a registered nurse position, but it could assist in jumpstarting your career. 

What Does an LPN/LVN Do?

LPNs and LVNs work in healthcare settings to assist doctors and perform some of the roles of a nurse. This may include:

  • Keeping patient records
  • Reporting patient needs to RNs or doctors
  • Caring for patient needs
  • Helping with activities of daily living, like bathing or dressing
  • Feeding patients
  • Basic patient care, like catheter placement or bandage care
  • Discussing healthcare with patients and their families

How to Become an LPN/LVN

To become an LPN or LVN, individuals must successfully complete a suitable course or program, often offered at technical schools or community colleges. While some programs may have online classes, hands-on training in person is mandatory. Once the program is completed, aspiring LPNs/LVNs must take the National Council of State Boards of Nursing examination (NCLEX-PN), a required licensing exam for new nurses in all states. 

Who is it designed for?

People who want to practice as nurses, not simply assist in a medical setting, but want to launch their career could benefit from LPN and LVN training. For many non nurses, this is a first or second step on the path to an RN degree. It may provide higher earning potential and more graduate employment options than a CNA.

How long could it take?

The LPN or LVN training program typically takes about one year to complete. Nurses may choose certification in a concentration, which could add additional time to their training.

Income Potential for LPN/LVN Nurses

The BLS reports a median annual wage of $59,730 for LPN and LVN professionals in 2023. 

Associates Degree in Nursing

The first actual degree for a nurse is an Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN. With an ADN, a nurse may be eligible to take the certification tests for RN licensure.

What does an ADN-RN Do?

A registered nurse with an ADN degree could pursue work in a hospital or clinical setting. They are often responsible for:

  • Assessing the condition of a patient
  • Recording health histories and medical care
  • Giving medication
  • Giving medical treatments
  • Provide acute care to patients
  • Consulting with doctors and lead nurses about patient care
  • Helping patients understand their home care plans
  • Using medical equipment to take care of patients

How to Become an ADN-RN

To pursue a career as an RN with an associate’s degree, you must find a college that offers an ADN program. Choose an accredited school that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Your coursework may be available through online programs or on campus, but all RNs must have clinical hours before they are eligible to sit for their RN license exam. After completing their nursing education, students must pass the requirements for licensure. These vary by state, but usually include:

  • Criminal background check
  • Clinical experiences
  • State board requirements
  • NCLEX-RN examination

Who is it for?

Someone who has no background in nursing but want to pursue a  career as an RN should consider an ADN-RN program. It could be one of the ways to earn your credentials as an RN.

How long could it take?

Completing the ADN-RN program typically takes approximately two years.

Income Potential for ADN-RN Degree Holders

The BLS does not break down income potential for RNs based on degree. The median annual pay for RNs in 2023 was $86,070. 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing aims to prepare students for RN positions, but typically offers more in depth education in nursing theory and nursing practice.

What does a BSN-RN Do?

A nurse who holds a BSN degree typically performs many of the same roles as one with an APN degree. However, they may be more likely to be asked to perform leadership roles. They may:

  • Help with diagnostic tests
  • Analyze results from tests and labs
  • Teach patients and families how to take care of their medical needs
  • Operate advanced medical equipment
  • Set up patient care plans with the oversight of a doctor or head nurse

How to Become a BSN-RN

To pursue a career as a BSN-RN, you will need to complete a nursing bachelor’s degree program. Some students may start with an APN, then begin working, and then add their BSN courses. However, for those who do not have any nursing background, starting with the bachelor’s education directly may be an option.  to enhance your career. Online programs may make this a little easier.

Another option for non nurses who already have a bachelor’s degree is an accelerated BSN programs. An accelerated BSN program typically provides the nursing education without the general ed coursework that the student already learned. These accelerated programs are designed to allow the previous bachelor’s degree to count toward many prerequisite courses.

After completing the BSN program, a nurse will need to earn licensure as an RN. This typically includes passing criminal background checks, any state requirements, and passing the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.

Who is it for?

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program may work for someone with no nursing education or experience, but who wants to pursue a career as a Registered Nurse.

How long could it take?

With no medical background, a BSN degree program usually takes about four years to complete. An accelerated BSN program may take as little as 15 to 18 months to complete. Online nursing programs may take less time if the students progresses through course work quickly.

Income Potential for BSN-RN

The BLS reports the median annual pay for all RNs is $86,070 per year as of 2023. However, those who hold a BSN degree are more likely to make higher income than those with an APN. 

Master of Science in Nursing

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree may be required for advanced nursing professionals. It may be possible for non nurses to enter a direct entry MSN program, letting them earn this graduate degree from the start of their nursing career.

What does an MSN Nurse Do?

Holding an MSN degree could open the door to positions as an RN as well as a nurse practitioner. Some common roles filled by MSN graduates include:

  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Anesthetist

MSN nurses could pursue work in many concentration areas. They may also provide primary care to patients under the direction of a doctor.

How to Become an MSN Nurse

Many people who have an MSN start with a BSN and an RN license, but Direct Entry programs for non nurses could allow people with other degrees to earn an MSN. These typically require an undergrad degree in another field, but may cover basic nursing skills in addition to the advanced nursing practice common with an MSN. Many Direct Entry MSN programs are available with online components or as fully online degrees, with the exception of the clinical practice requirements.

Who is it for?

A Direct Entry MSN program may work for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in a non nursing field, but who want to change careers and pursue an RN. These programs typically include the necessary nursing courses to make up for the lack of nursing education on the bachelor’s degree level.

How long could it take?

Many MSN programs generally take between 15 months and two years to complete. Many may require clinical experiences or a practicum, but may offer online classes.

Income Potential for MSN Nurses

The BLS indicates the median annual wage for advanced level nurses is $129,480 in 2023. Nurse anesthetists earned the highest median annual salary of $212,650, followed by nurse practitioners at $126,260 and nurse midwives at $129,650. 

Choosing a Nursing Concentration

RNs may have the option to choose a nursing concentration with many nursing programs. A concentration usually requires them to study a particular nursing area more in depth. This may help provide greater job security and income earning potential. Choosing a concentration requires careful thought and answering these questions:

What interests you? 

Because your career as an RN may focus a lot of your time and energy on your concentration, consider your interests and choose one that fits well. Do you thrive on adrenaline? Then working in emergency care or trauma may work well. Do you love children? Pediatrics could be a good fit. This is one important questions to ask when deciding on your nursing concentration because your concentration may direct your entire career.

How much patient contact do you want?

What does the daily work look like for a nurse in that specialty? Does it fit your goals and interests? Do you want to work closely with patients or work in an office, and could this career path open that door for you?

What job setting do you want?

Do you picture yourself in a hospital or a doctor’s office? Does in home health care seem to be a good fit for your career goals? Different specialties may create different opportunities, so consider this carefully.

What salary is typical for the concentration? 

The median annual salary for RNs varies significantly based on concentration. The BLS indicates those working in hospitals earn a median annual salary of $88,430, while those working in residential care earn a median annual salary of $79,280, for instance. Research the career potential of the concentration you’re considering. 

What does your local job market need?

Unless you’re open to moving, you may want to focus on the demand in your local market. Is geriatrics in demand, or do you have a baby boom requiring obstetrics and pediatric nurses?

Do you love technology? 

If you love technology, you might want to focus in nursing informatics. This teaches RNs how to manage electronic health records.

Does the concentration require additional certs?

 Some concentration may require additional certification. Are you willing and able to pursue these in order to jumpstart your career as an RN?

Registered Nurse Career Outlook

Curious about the future prospects if you decide to embark on a career change and pursue your RN certification? The demand for registered nurses is expected to continue growing, particularly due to the aging population’s increasing need for nursing care. As per the BLS data for 2022, there were 3,172,500 employed nurses in the United States. Looking ahead from 2022 to 2032, the projected job growth is 6%, faster than the average rate. During this ten-year span, an estimated 3,349,900 new nursing positions are anticipated to be created. If you’re considering various paths to kickstart your nursing career, pursuing an online nursing degree for non-nurses could be a viable option. By completing the necessary coursework online, fulfilling your clinical hours, and passing the nursing examination, you can successfully initiate this rewarding career change. 

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Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

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