How to Become a Nurse

If you are one of those people that love to help others and have a compassionate heart, then a nursing career might be for you. Perhaps you enjoy watching television shows about hospital dramas, and have wanted to be one of those nurses. Or you might have a role model in your life such as a parent that is a nurse and want to follow in their footsteps.

Whatever the case, you can become a nurse with the proper schooling, and some determination. When making your decision to start this career, it is important to evaluate all of the nursing options available and the time it takes to finish school.

 1. Nursing Education

To become a Licensed Practical Nurse you only need to take about 1 year of schooling. After you graduate you will need to take the NCLEX PN exam. This exam is what allows you to enter the workforce upon passing. The exam is 5 hours long, but if you are well studied and mentally prepared, you can finish it earlier than the 5 hour time limit.

If you want to go strait to becoming a Registered Nurse, then you are going to have to deal with roughly 4 years of school in order to graduate. The NCLEX RN exam is a 6 hour test, but just like the one for an LPN, you can finish it faster depending upon how knowledgeable and prepared you are. There are many helpful ways to prepare for the exam including talking to other nurses, taking a practice or predictor test. The score on this test will give you a good idea how you will perform on the real exam.

Some important skills to have when pursuing a nursing career are compassion, (as already mentioned), critical thinking, good physical stamina, excellent organizational skills, good people skills, and an attention to detail. You never know in the nursing field when you are going to be called upon to have to make quick decisions. If you can maintain a positive attitude while under pressure then that is a plus.

 2. Job Market For Nurses

The availability of jobs for an LPN are very good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the job outlook is 25% from 2012 through 2022 which they say is better than average. In fact, there were 738,400 available LPN jobs in 2012 which means that according to the 25% growth rate there should be even more now. The other nice thing is that an LPN averages an annual salary of $41,540 a year. For an RN the job outlook is very good as well at a 19% growth rate from 2012 through 2022 with an average salary of $65,470 per year.

3. Nursing Industry

The thing that many people don’t understand is that the nursing industry is more diverse than they thought. There are more than just LPN’s and RN’s in this field. In fact, you can get in the door by getting your CNA (Certified Nurses Assistant) certificate with only a few months of schooling. Granted a CNA job won’t pay nearly as well as an RN, but you can also get started very quickly and try it out. If you like the industry you can always spend the time to increase your education to get one of the higher paying jobs. As an RN you have the largest level of opportunity for career advancement though. From there you can continue your education to become a Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthetist, or a Nurse Midwife.

A Nurse Practitioner only has to take 1 more year of school and can earn close to $100,000 per year on average. Duties usually include mentorship, coordinate patient care, perform physical exams, provide family counseling, diagnose health problems, and more. They can perform the typical duties of an RN also. They can branch out into several areas of care including pediatrics, geriatric health, or mental health to name a few.

A Nurse Anesthetist provides anesthesia and similar care before and after basic surgery procedures. A Nurse Anesthetist also provides pain management. Their other responsibilities include talking with the patient before surgery to make sure their will be no complications with the anesthesia from medications they take or any other potential issues. They will stay with the patient during the surgery to monitor their vital signs.

A Nurse Midwife takes care of the needs of women. This usually means gynecological exams, prenatal care, and they attend with the delivery of the baby. Many provide wellness care for the woman and educate their patients on such things as proper nutrition, and how to prevent diseases.

Of the three above mentioned positions the one that pays best is the Nurse Anesthetist at $148,160 per year followed by the Nurse Practitioner at $89,960 and then the Nurse Midwife at $89,600. These figures were the median wages in 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So there are plenty of choices when it comes to the nursing industry. If you have the heart and the drive to succeed you can have a very lucrative career indeed while helping those in need.


Steps To Become A Nurse



Order Steps To Become A LPN or RN
1. To become a LPN you need 1 year of schooling
2. After graduation take the NCLEX PN Exam
3. To become a RN you need 4 years of schooling.
4. After graduation take the NCLEX RN Exam

NCLEX Study Tips

As with taking any other test, you want to prepare enough to feel confident on test day. There many different things that you can do to be ready, but the most important ones are to study effectively and choose the right study materialsLet’s look at what the NCLEX exam is and some good pointers on how to approach taking it.

 NCLEX Exam Overview

So what is the NCLEX exam? The NCLEX exam determines whether you will advance onto becoming either an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) or an RN (Registered Nurse) If you are planning on becoming an LPN you will have to take approximately 1 year of schooling before you can take it, and if you are choosing to become an RN you will have to go to about 4 years of school in order to take it. Since the requirements for either field are different, the contents of the exam will be different as well.

The exam is done on the computer in the facility you scheduled for. The way the test is structured is that you have 5 hours to pass for an LPN, and 6 hours for an RN. You are given two 10 minutes breaks during the test so if you need to stretch your legs or get a drink of water you should do it.

To pass the test, you must complete 75 questions accurately within a set time period. There is a maximum of 256 questions on the exam, but if you have been deemed competent after answering 75 questions. you will pass. If you reach the 75 question mark and have not demonstrated that you are competent enough, you will be given more questions. Then a determination is made by the computer after answering more questions on your competency and you will pass or fail accordingly. You will also fail if the time expires and you have not answered the required 75 questions correctly. Learn more about the exam details here.


  1. One of the best NCLEX tips is to make sure that you take the exam as soon as possible following your education and training. Retention rates are always better when the information is fresh in your mind.
  2. Try to schedule the exam at a time when you are not going to have too much going on in your life. You want to minimize distractions in order to be clear headed for the exam.
  3. Make sure that you schedule the exam at a time of day when you are most productive. If you are a person that gets up before the birds, you might want to schedule fairly early in the day. Scheduling late in the day might leave you tired and could impact your performance.
  4. Make sure that you study well in advance of the exam. Having to cram right before the exam will only raise your stress levels and could severely harm your score. When you are stressed it is easy to forget information.
  5. To avoid any further stress before the exam make sure that you arrive at the location a day or 2 before so you aren’t scrambling to find it and risk being late. You want to be able to comfortably arrive at least 30 minutes early so you are more relaxed.
  6. If you are one of those people that need a good cup of coffee in the morning to get started, make sure that you don’t overdo it. A huge coffee buzz won’t help you and could hurt your performance.
  7. Don’t clutter your day with other activities during the day of the exam. Having too many obligations can bring unwanted stress so schedule these things for another day.

NCLEX Advice

  1. When preparing to do something such as take an exam that will earn you a designation, such as the NCLEX, it is always a good idea to talk to others that have taken it. Of course the people that have taken and passed the exam are all nurses so they will be able to relate to what you are going through. It also important to consider some of the very helpful NCLEX review courses that are available.
  2. Review courses are designed to help you cover all your bases when preparing for the exam. They give you a very good idea of how the actual exam will look in terms of structure and type of questions asked. This is probably the best NCLEX advice you can get since you will be able to better determine areas you need to study up on more, and areas that you are more confident. Also, If you take a predictor test and get a good score on it, then that should alleviate much of the stress before the real test.
  3. If you take the proper steps to make sure that you are prepared for the test, you should do well. Getting advice from graduated nurses, using review courses, taking predictor tests, and making sure you are well rested will ensure you a much better chance to pass.



NCLEX Exam Tips & Advice 



Steps Helpful Tips To Pass The NCLEX
1. Choose the right study materials
2. Study effectively and well in advance of the exam
3. Schedule the exam when you have the least distractions
4. Arrive at the test location the day before so you know exactly where to go and park


NCLEX Registration and Preparation Tips

As with most careers that require specialized learning, there is most always a test or exam to pass at the end of that education. It doesn’t matter if the schooling was for 3 months or for 4 years.

The end of that schooling period usually concludes with a exam that you must pass to become a recognized member of that work field. In this case we are talking about the NCLEX or National Council Licensure Examination for nurses. Here are some things to look at before you take the exam.

NCLEX Registration And Application

In order to take the exam you need to first apply for it. The NCLEX application is obtained in a few steps. The first is to submit the application of registration to the board of nurses where you want to be licensed. You then have to meet all of the nursing boards eligibility requirements for the exam. Then you pay for the exam at the Pearson VUE website. The cost for the exam is $200. Last, you need to be eligible from your board of nursing. After that it is time to take the exam.

In order to sit for the exam you will have to get your ATT or Authorization to Test once the board of nursing declares you eligible. This will come to you via email. In fact, you cannot even schedule the NCLEX exam without having first received this email. After you have this email you are required to take the exam within a specific time period. The average time given is 90 days, but can extend up to 1 year depending on where you registered. Since the dates cannot be extended you need to be ready to take the exam before it expires.

 Scheduling Your Exam

After you have the ATT email there are a couple of ways to schedule your exam. The NCLEX exam dates are given out when you contact Pearson VUE by phone or from the internet. If it is your first time taking the exam you will be granted a 30 day window to take it. If you are a repeat candidate you will be given a 45 day window for completion. You do have the option of declining the first test window if you feel unprepared, but you shouldn’t wait too long.

 Preparing For The Exam

One of the first things that you should do in preparation for the exam is to look over the Candidate Bulletin on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website. Within this bulletin you will find information on how to register, contact information, and the rules for the exam. Next, you will want to get a test plan and you can find these on the website as well.

The test plan includes helpful information such as definitions of client needs, nursing activity information, detailed content information, and samples of NCLEX items as well. Once you are more familiar with the test plans you should be a little more comfortable with taking the actual exam since you will have a sense of what will be on it.

NCLEX Review Courses are also a great source of preparation. Be sure to try and get some good rest before the exam so you feel fresh and alert. Nerves can get in the way of any exam so try to make sure that you limit your other activities right before the exam day.

Exam Day

The first thing you need to bring when you come in to take the NCLEX exam is proper identification. You will need to dress comfortably as they will require you to leave all hats, gloves, scarves, and coats out of the exam room. You do not want to be late so the best rule of thumb is to arrive a half hour early. If you are late you will forfeit the exam and have to reschedule and on top of that will have to pay the exam fee again since it is non-refundable. You will also have to provide the following biometric data: a photograph, your signature, and a palm vain scan.

Since this is a computer based exam you cannot bring in any paper or writing utensils. Instead they will provide you with an on-screen calculator and an erasable note board and marker for making notes. Since the lives of sick people are being placed in the care of Registered Nurses, they want to make extra sure that there is no cheating on the exam. A nurse has to really know what they are doing.

If you are taking the PN exam to become a Licensed Practical Nurse, the exam time is 5 hours. If taking the RN exam to become a Registered Nurse, the time for completing the exam is 6 hours. There is a short tutorial for the exam, and you can take an optional break after the first 2 hours. You can also take another optional break after 3.5 hours of testing.

After completing the exam comes the wait for the scores. If you pay a $7.95 fee on the Pearson Vue website you can have the results in 48 hours if you are a U.S. citizen. If you fail the exam you will have to wait a minimum of 45 days to take it again. The NCLEX pass rate in 2014 for all RN candidates was 73.87% and 69.76% for PN  candidates, according to NCSBN’s 2014 exam statistics.


Scheduling & Preparing for the NCLEX Exam



Steps Helpful Tips To Schedule & Pass The NCLEX
1. Find a suitable NCLEX exam dates from the Pearson VUE website
2. Read the Candidate Bulletin on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website and get a test plan to get started
3. Take a NCLEX Review Courses to prepare for success
4. On test day ensure you have proper identification & arrive early

Comprehensive Comparison of an LPN vs RN – Which is Best

In the medical field, there are several career paths to choose from, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. These can include time for training, pay, and overall job availability.

Near the bottom of the rung are careers such as CNA which don’t pay much more than $10-$12 per hour, but the positions are always in demand. It usually only takes a few months to get a certificate as well.

For those that want a better paying job, however, exploring a career as either an LPN or an RN is a much better option. So let’s look at the differences between the two.

LPN vs RN Salaries

An LPN or Licensed Practical Nurse typically earns less than a Registered Nurse (RN). On average an RN earns about 30-40% more than an LPN with an average median wage of over $64,000, while an LPN earns around $40,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Therefore, the obvious choice for getting a higher paycheck is to go for a career as an RN.

Of course your pay will ultimately be decided by which health care facility you end up working in, and there are plenty of different options available. They can include hospitals, nursing homes, adult family homes, and more. There are also different options such as hospice care to look at as well. You can learn more about Nurse Salaries here.

Job Description

The good news is that new RN’s and LPN’s have little to worry about as far as job availability is concerned. There will be no shortage of work for either field in the foreseeable future. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that RN jobs are expected to grow by 26% through the year 2020 which will add 711,900 jobs in that time period.

For an LPN the numbers are almost as promising and quite strong as well at a 22% growth estimate for the same time period. So the good news is that either way you go, there is plenty of job availability. Since people inevitably get older and get sick, choosing a career in either field makes a lot of sense since there will never be less demand for nursing care.


When making the decision between becoming an LPN or an RN one of the determining factors should be how much time it takes to earn your certificate and begin working. In short, it takes more time to become an RN than an LPN. However, the pay is much better so it works out better financially in the long run.

If time is against you and you don’t have as much time to devote to schooling than taking the path to becoming an LPN might be the better choice for you. Typically it takes about 1 year to become an LPN while it can take up to 4 years to become an RN. Both designations require candidates to pass their level of the National Council licensure Examination or NCLEX.

The one advantage you get when becoming an LPN is that you can start your career early and then study to become an RN in your spare time and then move up the pay scale later on. Depending on how demanding your first job is as an LPN will determine how much time you can devote to pursuing your RN career.

You also need to factor in family time and things like that as well. So these are some of the things you should think about when pursuing either your practical nursing degree, or your professional nursing degree. Whichever path you choose make sure to do some research on the best schools to pick from because it can make a big difference on your quality of education.

Other Determining Factors

One of the disadvantages of becoming an LPN is the fact that you are under constant supervision of the RN above you. Also, as an RN you have even greater flexibility to pursue other careers with nursing. These can include a Bachelor or Science in Nursing (BSN) which is a 1 year program.

Getting this degree gives you more marketable nursing skills such as quality and safety education for nurses, management of information and communication, evidence-based treatment, and leadership skills. Each of these skills makes you more marketable for top notch employers. Also, the starting salary for a nurse with this degree is over $70,000.

Other options include becoming a nurse educator or nurse practitioner. As a nurse educator you get the privilege of being a role model to other aspiring nurses as well as a trainer, and a teacher. As a nurse practitioner or ARPN (advanced practice registered nurse) you can expand your field to becoming a patient’s primary healthcare provider. In some states you don’t even need the supervision of a physician. According to US News and World Report the average median pay for a nurse practitioner was $89,960 in 2012.

So whatever field you choose you are in a noble profession. The need for nurses has not decreased but instead increased. Many times the work is very demanding, but also rewarding. There are many nurses around the world that help save lives, care for the elderly, and make life more comfortable for those that are ill.

What is the difference between a RN and LPN? 

Criterea RN LPN
Salary $64,000 $40,000
Forecasted Job Growth by 2020 26% 22%
Minimum Education Requirement 4 Years 1 Year

Nurse Salaries

Salary-moneyThe desire to become a nurse is a noble one. It requires a person to be compassionate, attentive, and discerning. A nurse must have good attention to detail, and be willing to listen to a patient’s needs.

A nurse must also be willing to work hard because the work can be quite demanding. While the work can be demanding, it is also quite rewarding. One of the more basic reasons for becoming a nurse is the fact that it pays well.

The rate of pay however, differs based on what nursing career you choose. The three that we will look at now are LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) RN (Registered Nurse), and NP (Nurse Practitioner). We will start with the one that pays the least, and go up from there.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Becoming an LPN is the easiest of the three above mentioned nursing careers. It is easier because getting through the schooling only takes about 1 year. The benefit here is that you can start your career pretty quickly.

The demand for LPN’s are increasing every year so getting immediate work is highly likely. As an LPN you will be under the supervision of another Registered Nurse. An LPN can do many tasks including basic bedside care which includes recording the patients vital signs, weight, temperature, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and checking their pulse. The job may also include giving injections, dressing wounds, giving baths, monitoring catheters, and feeding the patients if they need assistance.

LPN Salary

Out of the gate a Licensed Practical Nurse can earn on average around $41,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The actual figure for median pay for an LPN in 2012 was $41,540 per year or $19.75 per hour. These figures will differ for each LPN based on several factors including the state they live in, the facility they work in, and years of experience and pay increases.

Registered Nurse (RN)

The career path to becoming a Registered Nurse is a longer one than for a LPN, but the rewards are well worth it. The duties of an RN can vary depending on their work environment, but includes more responsibility than an LPN. One of the biggest differences between the two is that the RN coordinates the patient’s care.

Their typical responsibilities can include keeping records on their patient’s medical history and any symptoms they have. They can give medicine, set up a plan for treatment or modify an existing one. Their job involves keeping a close eye on the patient and record any changes. A Registered Nurse can operate medical equipment, perform tests, and work with family members when needed. Of course they can perform all of the duties of an LPN if needed, but usually don’t have to.

RN Salary

The beginning salary of a Registered Nurse is significantly higher than that of a Licensed Practical Nurse. The average median salary is $65,470 a year, or $31.48 per hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012. This is over 30% higher than what an LPN makes. It may take up to 4 years to become a Registered Nurse vs. 1 year to become a Licensed Practical Nurse, but the difference in wages is significant.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner is not something that you can just take a little schooling for and walk out with a degree. In order to become and NP you already have to be a Registered Nurse. The good news is that after becoming an RN, it is not too big a leap to advancing your career as an NP as it only takes about 1 more year of school. This is an average total of 5 years, but very well worth doing that last year of study.

NP Job Description

In general, an NP has duties such as treating chronic or acute illnesses, focusing on preventing disease, or promoting health. Many do lab work and can prescribe medication. Many NP’s work independently as well, but some work in teams.

RN vs NP Salary

The pay for an NP is much higher than an RN. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in 2012 the median pay was $92,670 which translates to $44.55 per hour. Some NP’s can earn as much as $117,300 per year depending on where they work. Becoming an NP gives you opportunities to work in physician’s offices, an outpatient care center, hospitals, and more. The highest paid positions are in personal care services that vary by the city and state the job is located in.

So if you are ambitious enough to pursue the schooling you can earn a very comfortable wage. Depending on your situation you can choose to advance slowly and start as an LPN and start working quickly. Then you can study in your spare time to advance to RN and perhaps beyond. Or, you can take the plunge and set off on your RN career with 4 years of schooling and advance to your NP career a year later.

What is the average salary for a nurse? 

Nurse Type
Average Salary
LPN $41,000
RN $65,470
NP $92,670

Additional Salary Resources to Get You On the Right Track

If you’re still considering other career options, check out how these Nursing Salaries compare with Lawyer Salaries.

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved.