CNA, LPN, RN, ADN, BSN. Which Nursing Degree is Right for You?

Wait, those do stand for something, right? You might have guessed that these are all different credentials, or levels of education in nursing. Here’s a rundown on each. We’ll go over the salary, advantages, and disadvantages of each one.


CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)

Also known as: PCT (Patient Care Tech)

Description

Certified Nursing Assistants take an 8-16 week class to receive a certification. They work under LPNs and RNs and assist patients with day-to-day activities. In layman’s terms, you can think of the CNAs as doing a lot of the “dirty work.”

Being a CNA can be hard work, but if you can brave being one, you’re definitely tough enough to be a nurse (or just about anything, for that matter).

A CNA class is a prerequisite of most nursing programs except some 4-year Universities. Even though you take the class and get your certificate, it doesn’t mean you ever have to work as a CNA. However, many do and it’s good experience.

The class includes the classroom setting, practice lab, and on-site clinical rotations. Think of it as a miniature nursing school. There’s even a State Exam at the end to qualify for certification.

Salary

CNA’s make $10-14/hour. Nursing homes are a common starting point for new CNA’s. Hospitals also have many CNAs, but depending on your area, they might be looking for CNAs with experience. Many work at a nursing home then seek a hospital job.

LPN – Licensed Practical Nurse

Also known as: PNC (Practical Nursing Certificate), LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse)

Description

LPNs go to school for 1-2 years to get their license. If you want to get started and working quickly, this is the fastest and shortest nursing degree out of the three.

Technically, LPNs don’t receive a degree, they receive a license. A lot of people get an LPN, then bridge to getting an RN or BSN afterwards. That way, they can start working earlier.

On the job, the main difference between LPNs and RNs is something called the scope of practice.

The scope of practice means what tasks a health care worker is qualified to do. On the most basic level, the scope of practice means the level of responsibility you are accountable for.

For example, hanging blood, transcribing orders from doctors, and working in specialty units are often outside the LPN scope of practice, but inside an RN scope of practice. Scope of Practice is determined by the state you live in and varies from area to area. In general, though, LPNs have a narrower scope of practice.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report in 2011 shows that LPNs make a mean (average) hourly wage of $20.21 nationally, making a median yearly salary of $41,150.

LPNs often work in different settings as well. LPNs are less common in hospitals and more common in rehab settings, nursing homes, home health, and doctor’s offices. LPN’s often take a more central role in rural areas.

Advantages:

  • Takes the shortest amount of time.
  • You can get it for great prices at Community Colleges.
  • Less legal responsibility at work.
  • There are many LPN-RN Bridge Programs for further education.

Disadvantages:

  • Less Income
  • May cost more time and money for school in the long run if you plan to get your RN or BSN.
  • May limit job opportunities. Most LPN’s work in nursing homes, home health, rural hospitals, and rehab care settings.
  • Less independence: you might work under the supervision of RNs

“What type of school should I go to?”
Read about Community Colleges, Universities, or Private School Pros and Cons.

RN – Registered Nurse

Also known as: ADN (Associate’s Degree in Nursing)

Most RNs go to school for 2-3 years and receive an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). A lot of people use the terms ADN and RN interchangeably.

Description

RNs are the mainstay of the nursing workforce. When you think of a typical nurse you see at the hospitals, they are probably an RN

As an RN, you would have a variety of job opportunities. RNs work in hospitals, nursing homes, home health, and many other settings.

The RN scope of practice is different from the LPN and more focused on critical thinking, assessments, and making nursing judgements. Since you’d be specifically trained to do this, you’ll be allowed to handle more “risky” job situations, such as administering potentially dangerous medications and working with critically ill patients.

There are many paths you can take once you become an RN. Although most work on hospital floors, nurses can be seen doing research, working with healthcare information technology, management, legal nursing, and more. A nursing career can be truly diverse.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that RNs make a median hourly wage of $31.71, with a median annual salary of $65,950. (This was the report for 2011, numbers may vary slightly since then.)

Advantages:

  • Takes a reasonable amount of time
  • You can get it for great prices at Community Colleges
  • Very little difference in income between RNs and BSNs (unless in a management/specialty position).
  • There are many RN-BSN Bridge Programs. Often, your workplace helps you pay for them.
  • Many job opportunities.

Disadvantages:

  • You only get your Associate’s Degree. May need more schooling to continue your education.
  • May limit advancement opportunities. Less qualified for management, education, and specialty nursing positions.
  • Update (2013): May also limit your job opportunites. Hospitals who apply for Magnet Nursing Status have a certain quota of BSN nurses to meet. They will often only hire BSNs

BSN – Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Degree

A BSN is a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. Bachelor’s degrees usually take 4-5 years of schooling. There is more emphasis on a well-rounded degree with general education and nursing theory.

There are many ways to get your BSN Degree.

There are online schools, technical schools, and universities that bridge from an RN to BSN. They are often called RN-BSN programs. Some bridge from LPN-BSN also.

Universities, on the other hand, are 4-year schools that award you the BSN at the end. You skip your Associate’s Degree and get right to the Bachelor’s.

For a more in-depth look at the types of nursing schools, read my article Community College or University?

As a nurse with a BSN, you’d be more eligible to take on management responsibilities. Most areas of specialty nursing require a BSN as well. There is very little concrete change in the BSN’s scope of practice compared to an RN.

There is a trend in some hospitals for hiring more BSN’s, or requiring nurses to get their BSN within a number of years after being hired there. However, RNs with associates degrees are still extremely common and will have no serious disadvantage in the initial job search.

If you are thinking about going to school for an advanced degree, seriously consider getting your BSN right from the start. A BSN opens many opportunities for advanced and specialty nursing. All graduate programs (programs that offer master’s degrees) require a BSN first.

Salary

This is a tricky one, because nurses with BSNs don’t automatically make more than those with ADNs. Some employers do pay a higher starting hourly differential, but some don’t. The main difference is that those with BSNs are better qualified for higher-level or more competitive nursing jobs that often pay more than a ‘regular’ staff nurse job. Examples are ICU, higher education, and management positions. To sum it up, getting a BSN will help you make more money and open up opportunities throughout your career rather than give you an instant pay hike.

A BSN is also required if you want to get your MSN (Master’s degree) and become a nurse practitioner. Being a nurse practitioner does give you a big instant pay increase (but that may be a subject for another article).

Advantages:

  • You can get your Bachelor’s Degree all at once, or bridge from LPN or RN.
  • Most are at State Universities. Good for high school graduates.
  • Eligible for management, education, and specialty nursing
  • Eligible to enter a Master’s Degree in Nursing Program
  • As many job opportunities as an RN, possibly more.

Disadvantages:

  • Takes at least 4-year commitment.
  • Universities can be very expensive.

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Tweetable Takeaways and Post-able Phrases

Being a CNA can be hard work, but if you can brave being one, you’re definitely tough enough to be…anything. Tweet Post

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66 Comments

  • CNA Guy says:

    I’m a CNA, and I switched over from a BSN program. In the end, it was just too much school, and WAY too much money.

    I’ve been a CNA for a while, now and I run a little CNA blog.

    I WISH I had had something like this when I was looking at schools. Would have saved me about a year! Haha.

    Anyway, keep up the good work here.

    All the best
    Perrin

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Thanks, Perrin! Very nice blog. I like the simple and clean design, and there’s a lot of relevant information about CNA salaries, school, and tests. You keep up the good work as well!

  • CNA Courses says:

    Getting adequate information on CNA training and test online is not so difficult,one just need to do more research to ensure that he or she has enough information on CNA. There are many information here that can be helpful for people want who are interested in CNA career.I get more information on register nurse and BSN.
    Thanks for this wonderful article.

  • Student says:

    I am in 10′th grade, and my high school is an early college high school so next semester i go to a community college. I’ve been trying to sort out what i wanted to do and reading this I decided to be an RN and then later get my BSN. Thanks this was really helpful.

  • MOM says:

    Hi, I’m a stayhome mom and I’ve been thinking of becoming a CNA. Now that my kids are going to go to school all day I want to start doing something. I just don’t know how to get started. I just got my GED last May, so if someone could tell me how to get started, I would really appreciate it. After reading this article(information), I now know a little more than what I knew. Thanks

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Hello! Thanks for the feedback, and congratulations on your GED! I would inquire at whichever community college is in your area. They usually have the best prices and reputable CNA programs. Come back and let me know how it goes : )

    • Ketki Singh says:

      I can relate to you. I was also a stay-at-home mom for thirteen years. i took a free course at a community college for free and took my GED. Once I got my certificate,I started looking into taking a course in becoming a CNA. I took a 6 week course,then took the state exam. I received m licence and have been looking for a job. I wish you lots of luck!

  • Jenn says:

    I’m a cna now and currently attending school for lpn. I can’t decide what is better after I get my lpn… Associates or bachelors degree….? Hmmmmm do you know if you have to wait a year or can I go right away for rn after lpn?

    • Kevin Pan says:

      I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be able to immediately bridge to another program. Check the requirements for whichever school you plan to get into to be sure! Thanks for reading!

      • Rachel says:

        No reason to wait a year, at least not in the state of Ohio. I passed LPN boards in the month of February and began taking courses to start a LPN to RN bridge program in August that same year. By the time you take required pre-reqs like more science (i.e. more in-depth anatomy/physiology, and microbiology, and at my school pathophysiology) and some math that year would be up anyways! Good luck to you. I will finish my RN in December and am soo glad I went back.

    • Patricia Keys says:

      I was enrolled in an ADA program at a community college. It was required that all student take their LPN boards before they could continue with the second year of the program. This is the state of Iowa. I can’t imagine any state having a waiting period for this progression.

  • alicia says:

    I have a ba in alternative medicine interested in being a pa but I need to have some form of cna or medical work experience. Which is my best option cna certification or lpn or volunteer at a hospital

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Is having this experience part of the requirements of the PA school you are going to go to? It would be a good idea to ask them this question, too.

      I would not do LPN, since that is a career program all in itself. It would take too long and divert you from your goal of becoming a PA. You will need to consider two things: 1) How much time you want to spend, 2) The quality of the experience. If you want to just get through this requirement and get into school as soon as possible, volunteering would be your quickest and easiest route. However, you won’t really be getting into the nitty gritty of the hospital experience. On the other hand, CNA school takes 8-16 weeks and getting a CNA job is a big commitment, but you’re interacting with patients on the front line. You’ll really learn how to deal with patients, co-workers, and all that comes with a health care setting.

      So basically, ask yourself what you want from this experience and choose accordingly.

  • Single Dad says:

    I have recently become a single parent and have been looking into going to college for the first time. A healthcare career entices me because I do like helping people but I am a bit nervous because here’s the kicker… I am a 44 year old father. I have thought about entering either the RN or Surgical Tech field, but I have heard some horror stories of being a male in these fields. One of the reasons why I have chosen those two fields is that I can start working earlier, thus providing for my 2 girls.

    So, I was curious if you have any thoughts on 1) being a male in a female dominated profession, and 2) pros and cons of either field. If I chose Surgical Tech I would try to specialize in organ transplantation or open heart. If Rn I would definitely get my BSN.

    Thank you for any feedback.

    • Kevin Pan says:

      My opinion on your first question is that it’s not as bad as you’ve probably heard. When I was in school, I did feel like there was a small undercurrent of discrimination, but nothing to tell a story about. As far as the workplace, I find the opposite to often be the case. As a male nurse, you have a few advantages: you stand out from the crowd, you contribute to a gender-diversified team, and…we’re generally stronger physically, which can make us valuable to have around.

      Don’t shy away from nursing because you’re a male. Two of the graduates from my class were men above 40.

      As for surgical tech, doing a quick search it seems like they make a bit less money, averaging around $20/hour. However, you would only need your associate’s degree, while getting your BSN would take a bachelor’s degree. More importantly, think of how you like to work. With nursing, there are tons of options on what type of jobs you want. You can get a desk job, or you can get a busy hospital job and everything in between. There’s even opportunity for advancement. Surgical techs, on the other hand, are surgical techs. You’re locked in. I would think the job market is smaller too. Take a look at this “day in the life” of a surgical tech. If you like it, then do it! It sounds like a great job. If you’re not sure, think about nursing, because your options will be wide open.

      One more thing: think about how flexible you want your schedule to be. Nurses work days, evenings, and nights. Surgeons, and surgical techs, typically operate only during the day. I do have to say, though, that nursing school did not seem very family friendly. They will work you hard and expect you to conform to their schedules. I’m not sure about surgical tech school.

    • Patricia Keys says:

      Single Dad, I was 54 when I started the ADN program. Out of the 30 class members that started with me 12 were males. The entire class ended up being 22 at graduation and 6 were males. My study group was myself and 2 males. I would strongly encourage you to pursue your degree in nursing and not a surgical tech. Besides the obvious reasons that have already been given, one of the biggest benefits of the ADN program is that you can start working full time and earning money while you continue your education for your BSN. Most hospitals offer a bridge program that works with your schedule and does tuition assistance and reimbursement as long as you agree to stay with them for x amount of years. In the meantime you can be earning up to $65k while you continue your education. If you are really interested in surgery, after your BSN look into a CRNA program. That is an area of nursing that is male dominant and makes HUGE money.

  • Sharon says:

    I just finished my associate in nursing and preparing myself for nclex for RN. After getting license i m not sure if i wanna continue nursing. I was very interested in public health before. Is it good to have BSN and then go for masters in public health or should i do my bachelors in public health. What will be a better choice and better demand infuture ??

    • Kevin Pan says:

      I think both of these choices will have great demand and offer you a good career. I’m not sure, however, what you mean by public health. There are many different career choices in public health; it encompasses many different kinds of jobs from health educators to inspectors to attorneys. Some public health jobs are closely related to nursing. There are even public health nurses. Are you interested in going down that path? Your choice of degree will depend on that. There’s no point in getting your BSN if you won’t be practicing anything nursing related. In that case, it’d be better to focus on whatever public health degree you’re going after. If you want a more accurate answer, comment again and let me know what part of public health you are trying to get into. Thanks for reading and asking!

      • Sharon says:

        Thank you for the reply.
        As looking towards my future, i do not see myself as being a bed side nurse my whole life at all. And i am not at all interested in being an educator. So i really need a serious suggestion on my carreer decision. Hope you will help me with that. To tell you the truth, i am not a good public speaker at all.

        • Kevin Pan says:

          If you don’t want to do bedside nursing, but would like to work with the public, I can suggest some nursing career options. Nurse Case manager, Nursing Informatics, Psychiatric Nurse, School Nurse, Tele-nursing. Look those up and see if you would like doing those. You can also be a nurse manager, but that will take a good amount of bedside nursing before you can advance in rank.

          If none of those sound good to you, don’t get your BSN. Get your bachelor’s in something that does. You have an associate’s degree. There are many bachelor’s programs that you can branch off into. I’m not an expert outside of nursing, so my help will be limited there. Just keep researching, exploring, and just go for whatever sounds interesting to you. Good luck!

  • Kyle says:

    Thank you for your site. I found good amount of information at here.

    I am currently working in non-nursing field. I do have a B.A. degree in liberal art which I earned about ten years ago. I am interesting in getting into nursing field. I spoke with an academic adviser at my county college to study for LPN.

    Then a different adviser suggested me to look into become a BSN. She said I maybe able to go for BSN since I already have a B.A. degree. She said, though, I will probably have to take some pre-requisite courses at county college.

    Switching a job field is not a problem for me at this point. I make about 50K / year at my current job.

    Do you think I should just go for LPN and do part-time job along with my current job, or invest more time/money to become BSN?

    Thank you.

    • Kevin Pan says:

      A typical BSN means two years of general education + two years of Nursing Program. Since you have a bachelor’s, you have already met the requirements for those first two years. You would only have to complete some prerequisites, then the Nursing Program. Getting your LPN, on the other hand, means doing some prerequisites, then going through an LPN program for a year or so.

      Either way I would think you’d need some prerequisites. It’s only a year’s difference in schooling, but the difference in credentials is immense. With an LPN, you have no degree. With a BSN, you have a bachelor’s which puts you way ahead if you were to try to advance in your nursing career. So if you think you would like to do nursing for a long time, I would advise going for that BSN. It provides much wider job opportunities, plus you get your schooling done all at once (rather than LPN->RN->BSN).

  • Deme says:

    Great article!
    I currently work as a medical assistant and love what I do but decided to start an RN program this past semester. I want to start out specializing in some form of fertility. (I am currently a MA at a fertility clinic). Any advice on what I should focus on or study to do this, etc? Thanks for any feedback!

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Thanks, Deme!

      I think having the MA experience on your resume will put you way ahead of the curve already. Most companies that hire fertility nurses will probably put a lot of weight on previous experience because it is so specialized. I advise just paying special attention during your OB/GYN clinicals, and keeping that career goal in focus. Having your experience, plus a nursing degree, will really make you valuable. Great job!

  • Naana says:

    I really like this site thanks Kevin .I took my Teas test for nursing yesterday and i pass with 83.3% but right now i can’t decide where to start.My question is, should i go to community college for Rn associate degree or just go straight to the University for Bsn .Please advice me

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Thank you very much, Naana!

      Not sure if you were able to read this one: Nursing School: Community College or University?

      Look at your long-term goals. If you want to enter a higher-education level of nursing eventually (nurse practitioner), definitely go for the BSN. If you’re not sure, and want to keep your options open, an RN might be better. Basically, getting your BSN is a larger investment of both time and money. However, it can be the right investment as long as your are committed to this career.

  • uche says:

    wow,this is beautiful…I love this article.I believe if I do cna program and obtain the certificate it will grant me to do requisite for one year before continuing to RN program on 18months…Please reply I love to be a nurse

    • Kevin Pan says:

      That’s a good and realistic plan! That’s actually what I did to become a nurse. I got my CNA, did a year of prerequisites, and did a two year nursing program.

      You seem like you really know what you want to do, and that’s great! My only advice is to get started and have fun :)

  • DM says:

    Ok where do I start… I started working with a home health care agancy after I got my home health aide certificate. Been working for them for about 4-5yrs now. Then during that time I got my STNA training with them and took my state test not to long ago and got my licence. During these years I got a lot of experience in the field. Through a client I was able to get trained by the VA hospital to do bowel care, trach, and working with a coughalator, and now I’m an independent provider paid by the VA. I’m also going to get trained by them to put IV antibiotics for my client.

    Because I’ve gotten some experience along the way does it help to put all of this in my resume? And also I’m not quiet sure where to go from here. I was thinking about taking some classes to be either LPN or RN I’m not quiet sure yet? I’m kinda clueless on what to decide, I kinda stumble along the way. I’m surprise of how far I’ve got with this career path because it started by just being a job to me and I’m glad to have found out that I enjoy it. One more thing with all of my experience does it help to get into a specific program more easily?

    • Brett says:

      Go to RN-better for your career.

    • Kevin Pan says:

      In a nutshell, I agree with Brett. Go for your RN. You do have great experience and it will help you throughout nursing school. Put it in your resume, and your nursing program application! It will definitely improve your chances of getting into nursing schools. It depends on each school’s candidate-selection process, of course, but ALL nursing schools want students who 1) show they are committed to being a nurse and 2) have the ability to do it. Having that experience shows that you meet both of those qualities.

  • nani says:

    Thanks to share that with us
    I am so undecided about going for my lpn which is 2 years or going for my rn ADN which is very competitive and requiers some prerequisites. This are my two options but I really would like to get my bsn, for economic reason I need to start with something. If I get my lnp how many years will take me to get my bsn?
    Thanks so much

    • Kevin Pan says:

      If you get your LPN, it will take about a year to get your RN, then another year to get your BSN. This is the best case scenario. I can almost guarantee it would take longer (finding a job as an LPN, transitioning between programs, matching prerequisites). If money is holding you from starting, and you already know you want your BSN, look into student loans, and get the highest degree you can to start with (either RN or BSN). Bridging from program to program takes a while and often costs more in the long run.

  • Anthony says:

    Hello -

    Since you’re in the medical profession and have been offering great advise to people that posts on your forum, I wanted to see what you thought about the path I am about to take.

    For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to become a surgeon. Somewhere along the way I got caught up with the wrong crowd of people and my thoughts no longer were focused on school and a promising future. Now that I’m 34 years old, married with my first kid on the way (very excited!). I’m back thinking about my future and how to support my family while doing something I enjoy doing, and that’s caring for others.

    To get started I’ve considered taking the 2 year track at my local community college to obtain a Nursing Associate of Science Degree to become an R.N. Take State Boards (NCLEX) to work as an R.N. in the ICU department at one of the local hospitals in my area for about two years. Apply for one of the local universities that have a strong BSN background and obtain my BSN, then apply to a Masters program to become a CRNA.

    I’ve checked into the cost, I’m aware of the time and dedication it will take to accomplish my aspirations, but do you think it’s worth it at the age 34? Also, do you have any suggestions as to any other areas in the hospital that would increase my chances of getting into a CRNA program because of experience in a particular critical area.

    Thanks for your feedback!
    .

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Sorry for the delay, Anthony! Caught a bad cold this week.

      Sounds like you have a good plan. It’s good that you’re aware of the time and dedication you’ll need to to this, because you’ll need quite a bit of both! 34 is definitely not too old to start down this path. Nursing is a great way to support your family, even if you don’t get all the way to the CRNA position right away. I do know of nurse practitioners, also men, that have started nursing ‘later’ in their lives. It’s worth it.

      As for CRNA experience, you’re right that ICU is the best kind of experience. It’s hard (not impossible) to get a ICU job starting out. I would advise starting out in a general medsurg floor at a good hospital for a year, then transferring to the first ICU job that opens up. I stress ‘at a hospital’ because depending on where you live it could be hard to get into a hospital in the first place. Search for residency programs, get your foot in the door during nursing school, and get a hospital job. It’ll save you time. (the alternative is starting from a nursing home -> hospital -> ICU). I don’t think there are any alternatives quite as good as ICU experience in a hospital.

  • Jill Delay says:

    Did I miss the salary of the BSN?

  • [...] Not sure what all those Nursing Degrees mean? Read CNA, LPN, RN, ADN, BSN. Which Nursing Degree is Right for You? [...]

  • Blanca says:

    Wow! Thanks for a lot of ur infos! Id learned from ur infos too! I wanted to ask u so if im going in the right direction.I have 2 ITT computer Associates Degrees.In networking and web design-last graduated in 2009. I also have a PCA, I’m very interested in working in the nursing or medical field or rather in the health department.I just got an app to fill out as a volunteering to help in the office.Am i heading in the right direction for this? I was interested in getting my BSN. I do know that there’s Nursing Informatic and varies postions for that title.What shud i do in the meantime? Also i’m like in my 40′s(is it a little too late?)Will i be wasting my time?
    Thanks for your time.
    Blanca

    • newkpanablog says:

      I think it’s great that you have experience in web design and networking! If you’re comfortable with technology, it will really help you thoughout your nursing career. No, it’s definitely not too late (a third of my graduating class was 40+ years old). If you want to be a nurse, go for it. Start looking at nearby schools, like community colleges or universities, and search for what they have to offer for their nursing programs. Then start! A nursing informatics job usually requires at least a BSN, and possibly a Master’s degree. So as long as you’re working towards your BSN you’re going in the right direction.

      Were you able to get a web design/networking-related job? Or was it not right for you? In any case, if you’re wanting to be a nurse, it’s never too late and it’s definitely not a waste of time.

  • Raya says:

    Thank you for this, it def helped me out. I’m thinking of starting off as a CNA since I just graduated from high school. If I took this program at a community college, do you think I would have to take general education first though?

  • Dan the Man says:

    Hello Im a 29 yr ole single father. Ive been a cna for 4-5 yrz in various depts of hospitals…. my goal is to become either a CRNA or PA.. I was thinking of getting my RT first just so I can #1 provide more for my son & #2 to get to knw nurse managers in a ICU so when I get my RN it would be easier to get in as a new grad… I here in so cal where all of the schools are crowed with waithing lists… I knw that I need my BSN to reach my goal… But my problem is that I dont wanta go to a juco for my ADN if its going to take me 4yrs to get a 2yr degree.. Should I just go str8 for my BSN still wrking as a CNA OR should I just go the juco route? If I go the juco route I would earn while I learn I do understand that but I knw I wont get into a ICU as a new grad… As for becoming a PA it was a suggestion from a few Doctors that ive worked with over the yrs… I woulld most likely try to get in the ER as a new grad RN or PA… I value your opinion & I hope you could lead me in the right direction….Thx alot for your time & information…!

    • newkpanablog says:

      Hey Dan, sorry about the delay. I’ve had my hands full changing the name of this website :)

      It’s hard to balance needing an income now, vs getting education for the future. The ideal situation, of course, is to be able to go for a four-year degree, either toward your PA or BSN. But like you said, you need to provide for your son. So here’s my suggestion: if you can find a reliable income source that will last four to six years while you go to school (student loans comes to mind first, paired with tax credits and Pell Grants), then do it.

      Look into how much student loans you can get. Apply for your FAFSA. With tax credits (like the American Opportunity Credit), you can get up to $2500 off your education per year. Your CNA income is probably low enough (plus you have a dependent) to qualify for more grants. And of course, more student loans. That all comes with filling out your FAFSA. Yes, you’ll end up with a lot of debt, but you’ll also have a nice income in about 6 years (PA route) or 4 years (BSN route). You’ll have to do your own research to figure out whether to go PA vs CRNA. In my honest opinion, PA seems like less of a pain. Nursing programs really like to make you jump through a lotta hoops.

      Hope this helps :)

      • Dan the man says:

        Ok kool… So the PA route would be better? R should I just do my RT for starters? I agree about the nursing programs would send me thru more hoops… I can see that now.. I need to earn while I learn tho.. Will I be able to do that in PA school?

        • Kevin Pan says:

          I really don’t feel like I’d know the answer to that, Dan, sorry. Like I said, investigate into ways you can get loans and grants so you don’t have to work so much while you earn. That will free you up to be able to pursue a higher degree.

  • Jenny says:

    Hey Kevin, can I get some advice. I’m in grade 12 right now, my last semester actually. I’ve applied to Mohawk college for Practical Nursing and BScN. I also applied to Sheridan for Practical Nursing. Now I thought that Practical nursing is better – which it is if I wanna get out early right? I was told by my guidance counsellor that if I wanna continue on to be a RN then I’d have to go into another 3 years to become it. I recently just found out that RN is only 4 years. So if i stay with PN and bridge onto RN then that would be a 5 year total. So basically, what should I do? Should I just stay in with PN and then bridge onto RN. Cause applications are over now.. Thank you!

    • Kevin Pan says:

      You’re right the practical nursing will be faster in the short term. You’re also right that bridging onto RN would take longer in the long run.

      In my opinion it’s better to get it all done and go for the highest degree starting out (in your case, getting the RN). That’s especially for you since you’re starting form high school. Getting the LPN first is great for people with kids or who have to support others or themselves, but if you can get your RN that would probably be best.

      Ask your guidance counselor if there are any options right now that could get you into an RN or BSN program. They will give you your options. I don’t think it’s absolutely too late to apply for RN programs, but to be sure I would definitely make an appointment with your counselor and ask them.

  • SAHM says:

    I have been researching nursing school and just ran across this site, thank you so much for clearing information up for me! I was wondering if you could help me figure out what I should do…
    I currently have a Bachelor’s in Psychology that I received in December 2012. I have not done any work since graduating because I have been staying at home taking care of my two little boys. I am looking to get out into the workforce and make decent (good) money and thought maybe nursing would be something I could be interested in. I have been doing some research and can’t decide on if I should just go to a community college and get an associates in nursing or if I should just bite the bullet and go to a private school at get my BSN. The private school I am looking into I had attended in the past and I love it there and they have a 12 month nursing program (obviously after some pre-requisites). So if I go the associates degree way, it will be cheaper and after one year of schooling I can get LPN. On the other hand I already have a bachelor’s so I wouldn’t have to do too much schooling before doing the nursing classes and in the end have a BSN. But it will be a lot more expensive and more work which I don’t know if I can handle right now with a 3 and 1 year old at home. Please help me figure out what I should do! Thanks!

    • Kevin Pan says:

      I think you’d be on the right track utilizing the bachelor’s degree you already have. Can I ask why a private school is your only choice? There are a lot of public BSN programs out there that accelerate your education if you already have a bachelor’s degree. Look around at some university websites that are near you!

  • idris says:

    What is the difference between a facility based and none facility based cna classes?

  • idris says:

    What is the difference between a facility based and none facility based cna class program

    • Rysmom says:

      Nursing homes will sometimes teach their own CNA classes, the one I took was free. The only ‘clinical’ I did was on the job training in that facility. “non facility” classes you will have to pay for – but you probaby will get better clinical experiences at different facilities (hospitals, home health agencies, ect) which can probably lead to better employment opportunites.

  • Rysmom says:

    I have been a RN-ADN for 9 years. I worked acute care for 1.5 years, 4 years ago and am currently working in a state facility for DD population.

    I would like to try working M/S again in the hospital but I know there is a preference being given to BSN’s. I also know from experience that acute care hiring managers do not seem to like to hire nurses that come from “nursing facilities” and am concerned I would be looked down upon. I read that they may actually prefer a new graduate.

    I am thinking about getting my BSN but am wondering if it is worth it, considering my employment history. It seems that the job market is getting really competitive as nursing schools are popping up on every corner.

    Any thoughts?

    • Kevin Pan says:

      It depends partly on where you live and the demand/surplus of nurses there, but I don’t think having good experience should prevent you from getting a hospital job at all!

      Many hospitals, and I’d venture to say most, still hire ADNs. Yes, there is a recent push for BSNs, but it’s not the end for all nurses with Associate’s Degrees. In my area, I could get a hospital job pretty easily with 1.5 years of acute care experience, even if it was a few years ago.

      I would say go for it. You might be worrying prematurely. Make some applications, go to a few interviews, and if you hit a wall, THEN start worrying about going back to school. But not until then!

  • Tatsia says:

    I’m a junior in high school, and I still haven’t been able to decide what I want to do. what would be my best choice CNA or LPN ? Could I get certified as a CNA and then get a job to pay for my LPN classes or would it be better to just start my LPN classes right away.. why do you say that lpn’s have limited job opportunities? I wanted to be a medical assistant but wasn’t sure what’s the procces for that, how long it takes and how much they get paid and hour..

    • Kevin Pan says:

      To answer your question as simply as simply as possible, you should go for your LPN or RN eventually. A CNA class is really quick and isn’t really a degree major. A lot of LPN programs actually require you to get your CNA license before you start school anyways. My counsel for everyone to get through school financially intact: go to a public school (either a community college or public university) and get student loans to pay for tuition, rather than paying your way by hopping your way up the degree ladder. Your school experience will be much more focused without having to work, you’ll waste less time and money in transition, and will end up with a higher level degree. Talk closely with your high school counselor about this! Use them, because they are a great resource that a lot of students don’t take advantage of.

  • Breana Draudt says:

    Hi. I just wanted to add that nurses do not have to stop at a BSN. There are plenty of Master’s degrees for nurses For example, there are several specializations of nurse practitioners, nurse educators usually have a masters degree, CNL, CNS, ect. Nurses also get doctorate degrees (PhDs, DNPs). I think by limiting this list to BSN, we’re selling nursing short.

  • Cajsa says:

    This was great. Thank you. My hope is to work in the maternity ward. I want to get in that area of work as quick as possible (I have not yet started college). I am not opposed to continuing my education after I start work though. What is the best route for me? Is it doable as an LPN and I can go from there? Or is it best to power through school to RN or BSN?

    • Patricia Keys says:

      First of all, many hospitals no longer employ LPNs for patient care. Because most hospitals utilize total patient care it is almost always an RN that is needed to do bedside nursing. Secondly, no matter what area you want to work in I strongly encourage all new graduates to do one year minimum of basis medical/surgical nursing. While it has a bad wrap of being the arm pit of nursing care, med/surg nursing teaches invaluable skills to new graduates. It gives you the opportunity to hone your basic nursing skills. You have the chance to learn procedures like caring for PICC lines, inserting NG tubes, caring for a chest tube, doing g-tube feedings. If you go directly from graduation to any specialized area like OB you won’t have the opportunity to learn most of these skills. And most hospitals have a float policy so even though you’ve never done it, you may be required to take care of a patient with a chest tube. Do you see my point? Unless you don’t mind spending the rest of your career working in a doctor’s office or long term care facility, you are wasting your time getting an LPN . And a benefit of getting an ADN is that you can work full time and start earning money while you continue your education to pursue your BSN. Most hospitals even offer a bridge program, tuition reimbursement etc.

  • tom says:

    I am thinking of a bsn I received 75 credits from community college. With ep,chem,micro, ect. For a ban do I have to have an associates in nursing or one at all to get a bsn in nursing?

  • law says:

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I

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