How to Choose the Right Nursing Career Track for You

April 23, 2023 6:29 pm28 commentsViews: 55

Nursing is a massive industry, with nurses working both on the floor and in the policy room.
Without a doubt, there is a role for everyone in nursing, and if you are willing to work hard to
further your qualifications you can earn massive wages that will do more than just support
your family, but help you all thrive.
Nursing offers very clear-cut career tracks and massive job growth opportunities. With the
national nursing shortage and a growing demand to boot, you will easily be able to find a job
in a variety of settings. Once you work your way up to become an APRN, or even a DNP,
hospitals and other healthcare settings will be scrambling over themselves to hire you.

The Most Popular Nursing Career Tracks

There are hundreds of individual nursing roles, but of these individual roles are six main
nursing career tracks. Though some nursing job positions may fall outside of them, in the
most part you will be looking at positions with these six routes:

Clinical Nurse Specialists

Clinical Nurse Specialists work in a variety of settings and may or may not have prescription
privileges, depending on their type of work. If you want the ability to work in nursing in the
largest number of settings, from trauma all the way to geriatrics, Clinical Nurse Specialist is the route to take.

Nurse Midwifery

Nurse midwives are in great demand and are paid very well because of it. As a nurse
midwife you will be working with patients at all stages of pregnancy, including neonatal and
post-natal care. You can either work in a hospital or clinic, where your patients come to you,
or you can travel to see your patients.
Nurse midwives are currently seeing a huge growth rate in the job market as well, and saw
an increase of 31% in the last year. This high growth rate corresponds to a really fetching
income average of $100,590, making it a perfect position for those who want a position that
is calming and positive.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are another umbrella specialization that allow you to work in a variety of
settings. As a Nurse Practitioner you will be working as a physician, and as such have
prescription privileges. You can choose to concentrate on a certain demographic, a certain
disease or department, or even as a primacy care practitioner.
They are one of the most consistently in-demand positions in nursing, as many of their roles
replace or offset the shortage of doctors in these areas. You will need to specialize your
MSN in the area of NP that you want, but in return you can expect a job market that
increases 31% on average, and offers a wage of $103,880 per year.
When it comes to a nursing role that is as close to a doctor role, this is it. Family Nurse
Practitioners for example often take the bulk of the workload when it comes to family and
preventative health. It’s a big role with a lot of responsibility, but its possibilities are huge.

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse Anesthetists are the highest paid nurses in the entire industry. They often make
between $150,000 to $200,000. Their job is to apply anasthesia to patients regionally,
topically or generally. They work alongside doctors and other specialists in a variety of
settings, and are in big demand.
You will need an MSN in Nurse anesthesiology, as well as prescription privileges in your
state. With those two in hand, you can start to get experience and enjoy working in a very
competitive, well-paid area of medicine.

Nurse Educator

If working in clinical settings isn’t for you, then you can take your qualifications and hands-on
experience to the education sector. Universities need nurses on staff as educators to help
train the next generation of nurses
Not only will it take you out of clinical settings into a great working environment, you can also
fill a much needed position. There are more nursing hopefuls than there are nursing
students because there is a lack of educators available on staff.
By working as a nurse educator you will be helping to fill the massive nursing shortage we
are seeing in the United States of America right now. You will help more nurses train, and
help develop more effective educational programs for your students.
The pay isn’t as high as other nursing roles, but at a median of $73,710 with some great
benefits to match, most are happy as nurse educators.

Nurse Researcher

The last type of nursing pathway to choose is that of a researcher. There are many different
types of settings your experience as a nurse will come in handy. You can work both in
medicine and treatment development, and in health policy. This is another great way to
move away from clinical work into an area of healthcare that is just as important. Rather than
saving lives through direct action, however, you will be working to discover new treatments
or refining healthcare for a better tomorrow.
The average wage depends entirely on where you work, but as a general ballpark you can
expect to make between $57,167 to $81,500 per year, depending on the institution and what
its goals are. Nurses in health research are typically paid at the higher end of the spectrum
in comparison to health policy nurses.

Tips for Achieving the Necessary Qualifications

All of these roles will require you to have a BSN at minimum, with many of the clinical
positions and higher paid non-clinical positions expecting a MSN or DNP. If you want to
keep your options open and be able to negotiate the highest tier of pay in your position, then
always try to earn as high a qualification as you possibly can.
Always Go the BSN Route
You can specialize without a BSN. You can become a RN without a BSN. You cannot,
however, go any further than that. APRN roles will be locked to you, as will the potential to

become a DNP. Higher level nurses and even the best nursing jobs will be beyond you
simply because going the formal route is more attractive to employers. If someone who is a
RN with a BSN applies for a job at the same time as a RN without a BSN, the nurse with the
BSN will get the job.
This is because they can still move up. There is the possibility that RN will become an
APRN, and that their skills will advance and provide more benefits for their employer. By
committing to the effort of a BSN, you have a future ahead of you and are well on your way
to becoming an APRN or DNP.

Specialize Your MSN

You will want to specialize your MSN degree. Family Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Midwives,
and all the way to Nurse Anesthetists will want to specialize their MSN degree to get the
most out of their career.
Some roles will only need a certification from the right nursing board, but for the most in-
demand positions where you will enjoy the greatest amount of benefits and decision-making
power, a specialised MSN is essential.

Work Your Way to the DNP

An MSN is not the end of your education. If you want to earn the top tier of wages in your
position, or even be amongst the top candidates for leadership positions, then your best bet
is to earn a DNP. A Doctorate of Nursing Practice is the highest level of nurse you can apply
for. You might be wondering, then, do graduates of a DNP get paid more than an NP? The
answer is a resounding yes. There is a wage range for every nursing role, and those who
qualify for the upper tier in wages are those with DNP certifications.
The median wage for DNPs currently sits at $135,000 per year, with certain positions
pushing that up to even as high as $200,000 per year depending on what role you work in.
The payoff, especially when you consider the cost of DNP tuition is only an average of
$31,000 for the entire degree, is worth it. Opening yourself up to the highest tier of nursing
will pay off the cost of your tuition and allow you the most freedom when it comes to deciding
your future.
Work as a DNP in a hospital, and then when you want to slow down move on to the
education or research sectors. The freedom is yours because very few individuals will have
the qualifications that you do, which makes you invaluable.

Striking the Right Balance Between Work and Study

The specialization you work towards isn’t the only thing you will want to consider
beforehand. How you will balance your job and your education is just as important for your
future success. Being very aware of your personal limitations in striking that balance will be
the winning factor when it comes to your career. Some ways to help you do this include:

Find the Right Work/Study Balance

Working and studying up to 30 hours a week is a tough ask, and high-paced jobs like
working night shifts at the hospital can feel impossible.

That is why you should actually be open to changing your workplace beforehand. See if
there are any clinic positions available, or consider moving out to a smaller town where the
workload is less purely through volume of patients. A lot of great nursing programs are
offered online, with the only in-person requirements being your clinical hours. By changing
your workplace, you can better accommodate your career and your education.

Stay Healthy to Support Your Higher Learning

A healthy body is a healthy mind, but all that extra work per week can make things like
preparing healthy meals at home a trying task. Good ways to avoid the extra effort are to
either sign up for a healthy meal plan, or to prep meals in advance.
If you can, try to stick to a very consistent schedule. You will be able to naturally regulate
energy levels better, and in terms of sleeping you may find you get a better night’s rest when
you are on the clock.

Work With Other Students and Nurses

Work with other nursing students both in your program and in your workplace to help you
study. If they are taking the same degree as you, share notes and spread the workload out
so you can all benefit and support each other. Those connections will matter in your career
and make studying much more engaging.

Be Prepared to Earn Further Certifications

Even with a DNP it is possible that you will need to earn further certifications. Thankfully,
when you have a BSN, MSN, and DNP under your belt additional certifications will be easy
to apply for, or may not be necessary at all. You will only really need them if you are looking
to change your area of medicine (for example, as a Clinical Nurse Specialist moving from
trauma to oncology).

Remember to Be Patient

There are many benefits to being patient when looking to both choose the right nursing
career track and actually pursuing it. You never want to rush into the wrong decision, and
more importantly you don’t want to burn out in the process. If you don’t feel excited about
your career trajectory, something in you doesn’t like the idea.
Taking a year or even a decade to work in different settings and departments as an RN is
perfectly acceptable, because at the end of the day there is the perfect role for you out there,
and your experience as an RN will only serve to aid you in all your future endeavors.
When you do know, then you have all the resources outlined in this guide to help you get
from point A to point B. Commit to the hard work and remember to find that perfect balance
between work and study so that you can consistently work towards your MSN, or even your
DNP qualifications.


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