January 5, 2021 · 7 min read

How to Get Credit for Prior Learning in Nursing Programs

If you’re ready to move to the next level of nursing in school, you may qualify for academic credit based on your experience outside a classroom.

anna giorgi

Written and reported by:

Anna Giorgi

Contributing Writer

nurse staff training at patient bedside
nurse staff training at patient bedside

Getting credit for prior learning can help you save time and money when you advance your nursing education. Whether you’re a certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed nurse practitioner (LPN), or registered nurse (RN), you may be able to apply your knowledge and experience toward credits that can help you complete a nursing program without taking coursework on content you already know.

Credit for prior learning takes into account knowledge and experience gained outside a classroom.

Nursing programs that offer this option recognize that students can gain knowledge from both formal and informal, or experiential, learning.

The Role of Prior Learning Assessments

Programs award credit for prior learning in several ways, including using evaluations called prior learning assessments (PLAs). PLAs measure your knowledge against college-level content.

In a recent study, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) reported that students who received PLA credit saved nine to 14 months of study time by earning credits for about a semester of full-time study. For these students, the PLA credits translated into savings of between $1,500 and $10,200 in education costs.

While there’s a practical advantage to reducing the time it takes to complete a program, this benefit may also support academic success. In the same study, 49% of adult students who received PLA credit completed their postsecondary degree or certificate, while only 27% of students who didn’t receive credit achieved that goal.

“When you’re applying for a program and you have a lot of experience that you think is relevant, it’s always worth asking to see if there are ways to get credit or advanced standing based on what you already know and can do,” says Becky Klein-Collins, CAEL’s associate vice president, Advancement and Impact.

How Credit for Prior Learning Works

Credit you receive for prior learning will depend on a program’s guidelines and your ability to demonstrate your knowledge. You’ll find that programs differ on:

  • The number of prior learning credits they award
  • The types of courses you can skip
  • The total number of prior learning credits you can apply toward a specific program

Some programs may only allow you to apply general education courses or electives to prior learning credits. Other programs may have fewer restrictions and give you credits toward core nursing courses. 

Another consideration: Nursing programs typically align with criteria set by state nursing boards, so your options may vary by state.

  • Pro Tip
    Make sure to verify that any prior learning credit meets the requirements of the state in which you will take your licensure exam. Otherwise, you’ll risk having an education that doesn’t qualify you for licensure.

With so much to consider, make sure to meet with an admissions counselor to figure out your eligibility for prior learning credits and the nursing program’s policies.

“Meeting with an advisor is an absolute must before you enroll or pay one penny of tuition or fees,” Klein-Collins says. “Typically, for adult students who are juggling a lot in terms of a current job, family responsibilities, and other responsibilities that you may have, you’re going to be prioritizing programs that are going make it easy to fit into your life and get you to where you want to go.”

Make sure to meet with an admissions counselor to figure out your eligibility for prior learning credits.

Many nursing programs are designed for students who want to progress from one level of nursing to the next. These programs award credit for formal learning and professional experience by designing curriculum that avoids duplication of coursework.

Here’s a look at some options.

Stackable Credits

If your school offers programs for more than one level of nursing, find out whether it offers stackable credentials. In this scenario, students who have earned a certificate, such as a CNA, may be able to progress to a licensed practical nurse diploma or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) at the same school because the programs build on one another.

Bridge Programs

Bridge programs give consideration to the education, license, and professional credentials you’ve already earned. Some may also allow you to apply your professional experience toward program credits. Popular bridge programs include LPN to RN, and RN to BSN.

Accelerated Programs

Accelerated nursing programs are geared toward students who have a bachelor’s or graduate degree in a non-nursing major. These programs allow students to concentrate on core nursing content and clinical skills without repeating the general education courses they took for their previous degree.

Transfer College Credits

If you have credits from an accredited school, you may be able to transfer them to satisfy some of the requirements in another program. Many schools have online calculators to determine if a course you’ve taken would count toward a course in a program you’re considering.

Find out if your previous school has agreements with other institutions that accept credits toward nursing programs. This is common among community colleges and four-year schools.

Competency-Based Education

If you know most of the material presented in a class, you may be able to leverage your knowledge in a nursing program that offers competency-based education.

These programs allow you to skip semester- or quarter-long courses and test out of sections or units when you’ve learned the coursework, speeding your progress.

Pro Tip
Even if you have transferable coursework, you’ll need to make sure it hasn’t expired. Many STEM courses expire after 10 years due to advances in science and technology. 

“Particularly for occupational programs, where the programs are overseen by state licensing boards, there are likely stipulations about how long your credits are good,” Klein-Collins says.

Credit by Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

nurse student in classroom

If you have relevant knowledge or experience gained outside the classroom, you may be able to earn college credit from a PLA.

“When those opportunities are available, there would have to be some sort of formal evaluation or assessment of the learning that the student acquired from previous work experience, not simply an award of credit or advanced standing because a person held a specific position for a certain number of years,” Klein-Collins says.

This could be a good route if you’re a CNA or LPN without formal college credits but with relevant knowledge that you can demonstrate.

There are several assessments, so check with your nursing program to determine which ones they accept.

The most common assessments include:

CLEP and DSST

CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) and DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests) are approved by the American Council on Education (ACE) to award college credit:

  • CLEP offers 34 exams accepted at more than 2,900 colleges and universities.
  • DSST offers 37 exams accepted at more than 1,900 colleges and universities.

Passing a test by either group can entitle you to three or more college credits, depending on your school’s criteria.

Nursing Challenge Exams

Nursing challenge exams are tests created by nursing programs that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of specific subjects.

The National League for Nursing (NLN) offers five Nursing Acceleration Challenge Examinations (NACE) for standardized evaluation of nursing knowledge. The exams are primarily for LPN students seeking advanced placement in RN or BSN programs and align with courses found in many nursing schools:

  • Nursing Care of the Child
  • Nursing Care of the Childbearing Family
  • Foundations of Nursing
  • Nursing Care of the Adult Client
  • Nursing Care of the Client with Mental Disorder

Nursing Portfolio Assessment

Some nursing programs accept a portfolio to determine whether you qualify for credit or advanced standing in a nursing program. A nursing portfolio typically includes:

  • School transcripts
  • Licenses
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Continuing education certificates

It can also include awards, specialty certifications, and other documentation that proves your range of experience.

Nursing faculty review portfolios to determine if a person’s experience fits the program and the amount of credit or advanced placement they receive.

Credit for Training

You may be able to earn credits or advanced placement for employment, volunteering, or military training.

  • The American Council on Education (ACE) assesses non-college-based courses, exams, and professional licenses and credentials. You can search the ACE National Guide to find out if you’ve completed a program that may qualify for credit toward your nursing program.
  • The National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) assesses training and educational programs offered outside the traditional college classroom. Search the NCCRS online directory to determine whether you’ve completed a course that may be eligible for credit.

Finding the Right Program

If you qualify for credit for prior learning, you’ll want to choose a program that offers the best reward for your knowledge.

“It’s important to ask really good questions about how well the program is connected to local employers where you are, so that they can help you find a job at the other end of it,” Klein-Collins says. “None of it is worth anything if you can’t get a job when you’re done.”

Five Questions to Ask About Credit for Prior Learning

When evaluating a nursing program, ask these questions to find out what you need to know about credit for prior learning:

How does the school award credit for prior learning or prior learning assessments?

What is the maximum number of transfer or PLA credits that I can apply toward the program?

How long will it take to complete the program with any transferred credits or credit for prior learning?

Does the school have a pathway for stackable certificates or degrees that I can apply toward this program?

Do local employers have a strong track record of hiring program graduates?


becky klein collins

With professional insight from:

Becky Klein-Collins

Associate Vice President, Advancement and Impact
Council of Adult and Experiential Learners


  • Is this page helpful?
  • YesNo

Recommended For You

November 30, 2020 · 9 min read

Your Questions About Nursing School, Answered

Wondering about the difference between an ADN and a BSN and what it could mean for your nursing career? We answer that question—and many more.

Written and reported by:

Chelsea Lin

Contributing writer

intense woman nurse working on desktop
intense woman nurse working on desktop

Deciding where, if, when, and how to pursue a career in nursing is no easy feat. Whether you’ve spent years contemplating the profession or are just getting started in your research, we know it can be confusing to navigate the back-to-school experience.

We gathered your questions shared on social media and in our surveys, and here, we present answers to some of the questions prospective nursing school students most commonly ask.

Don’t see your question here?
Email your questions to questions@allnursingschools.com and we’ll do some research for you.  We’re also on Facebook and Instagram. You can talk to us there anytime.


Education and Training

Can I apply my previous nursing or healthcare experience toward becoming an RN and/or earning a higher degree?

Registered nurses (RNs) must have at least an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), but some students decide to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you’re already working in the medical field, there are multiple pathways to work toward becoming an RN.

 Here are two examples:

How much math and science do I have to take to become a nurse?

These subjects appear to be a common fear among prospective students, and the answer depends on the type of nursing you pursue. If you’re interested in the LPN/LVN route, your training program will likely include science courses like anatomy, physiology, human growth and development, and basic nutrition. You may need to meet a math requirement to get into an LPN program.

Whether in an ADN or BSN degree program, a prospective registered nurse will likely need to take health-related science courses, as well as meet math requirements (and liberal arts, too).

Don’t let math anxiety keep you from pursuing your career goals. Revisit the basics—fractions are your friends!—if you feel like you’ve forgotten them since school. And don’t be afraid to hire a tutor to help you navigate college-level coursework that seems daunting.

I am a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and a certified medical assistant, and I have practiced in both fields. Do I have to go back to school to become an LPN, or can I just take the LPN exam, get licensed, and start work?

Having experience as a CNA is valuable in terms of knowing that nursing is the right field for you but, unfortunately, most CNA programs don’t apply toward course requirements to become an LPN. To become an LPN, you’ll still have to complete an approximately yearlong training program and then take the NCLEX-LPN exam to qualify for a license.  

Can I really get a nursing degree online?

Since nursing is a hands-on profession, even online nursing programs require in-person clinical training with real patients. Programs that combine online learning with real-world practice are called hybrids.

If you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree and already have a combination of clinical hours and a current RN license, you may be able to find a program that is exclusively online.

Do schools help students find placements to meet clinical training hours, or do I have to do that?

Most schools have faculty advisors who will help find students placements for their clinical training hours. This is definitely something you should ask about, though, as you look at nursing programs.

Registered Nursing

What degree do I need to become an RN?

woman nurse holds ipad

To become an RN, you’ll need either an ADN or a BSN. There are pros and cons to each, of course: An ADN can be less of a time and monetary commitment, making it a good jumping-off point for prospective students with financial concerns, another job, or family to take care of.

A BSN, on the other hand, can lead to a job with more responsibility and higher pay.

If you choose the ADN route now, you can always go after that BSN later. You can even pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing.

What’s the best way to become an RN?

“One of the things I love about nursing is that there are so many doors to get into the nursing profession,” says Beverly Malone, CEO of the National League for Nursing, a membership organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education.

Where to start “depends on your situation,” she says. “Match who you are with what you need,” meaning look for a program that suits your personal and family situation but also helps you achieve the nursing goal you’ve set.

If your goal is to be an RN, you’ll have to complete an ADN or BSN nursing program, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, and earn a state license.

An LPN-to-RN program allows LPNs to use their experience and prior coursework toward earning an ADN or BSN. The LPN-to-BSN route will take longer but can pay off better in terms of salary and job opportunities.

International Students

If I’ve already worked as a nurse in another country, what do I need to do to work in the U.S.?

You’ll need to meet several requirements to work in the U.S., a process that can take several years. Before you apply, you’ll need:

  • A degree from an accredited nursing program
  • An RN license in your country
  • An RN license in your country

If you meet these requirements, you can start the application process for a visa. This will involve an English-language test, a review of your credentials, a qualifying exam, and more.

School Search

What should I look for in a school?

Picking a school is not a decision to rush—you’ll want to feel welcomed, inspired, and that you’ve gotten the most for your effort and money. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Admissions requirements
  • Accreditation status, ensuring the program meets requirements for state licensing and professional certificates
  • Graduation rate
  • Pass rates for the NCLEX-RN and the NCLEX-LPN nursing exams, required nationwide
  • Percentage of recent graduates working in nursing
  • Ranking among other state programs

Malone says, besides these factors, “look at the faculty. Examine and investigate what you’re buying. Look to see what kind of relationships (the program) has with the community—that’s even bigger than career placement.

“If you’re looking for a school that recognizes the community and believes in it, you’ll find those kind of relationships (with churches, community centers, and the like.”)

National League for Nursing CEO Shares her Top 3 FAQs

Even after 52 years of nursing, National League for Nursing CEO Beverly Malone still describes her profession with the kind of effervescent joy of a new graduate. “Purpose, passion, and power—that’s what nursing is,” she says. As a nursing advocate, she fields plenty of questions. Here are answers to her top three. 

Is there a shortage of nurses?

“Yes, there’s really a shortage,” Malone says. “Most of us are over 40, even over 50, so there’s this whole issue of how we’re going to replace those who are going to retire or move on.”

Why did you choose to be a nurse?

“I have a great-grandmother who raised me and she was a community healer,” Malone says. “I worshipped the ground she walked on. I thought there was nothing better than to be needed by your community and make a difference in your community,” which Malone says is precisely what nurses do.

Is being a nurse difficult?

Malone thinks it’s the blood people worry about the most, and maybe dealing with accidents where there are multiple things going on at the same time. “But what you find is that you get into your helping mode,” she says. “‘We’ve got to save lives here, colleagues, let’s do it.’ Nurses are such doers, completers of actions. We’ll accompany you through some of the worst things that can happen, and what an honor that is! It’s worth the challenges; it’s so fantastic. We’re one of the few who wake up in the morning and know exactly why we’re here.”

General

Is there a nurse’s oath like the one for physicians?

Yes—while doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, nurses take the Nightingale Pledge, named for Florence Nightingale, who is considered the founder of modern nursing. The pledge calls on nurses to elevate the standard of their profession.

Licensing

Who grants nursing licensure and who can take it away?

After you complete your training, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for a nursing license in the state in which you plan to work. You’ll send your transcripts, application, and fee to the state board that handles licensing. Each state has its own requirements.

If your nursing license is revoked due to violations of your state’s Nurse Practice Act, you might be able to petition the state board to reinstate it

What if I let my license lapse? What do I need to do to start working again?

If you let your license lapse for just a short time, you can generally renew it—perhaps by paying a late fee—without much trouble. But an extended inactive license could require refresher courses. Check your individual state requirements.

Can an LPN with an expired license become a CNA without further training?

While a CNA is a level down from an LPN, you might still be required to take CNA training, which is set by federal law, and a certification exam to be placed on your state’s CNA registry.

If you aren’t on the registry, nursing homes and Medicare and Medicaid facilities can’t hire you, according to Genevieve Gipson, RN, MEd, RNC, and director of the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants and Career Nurse Assistants Programs Inc.

Your state may have a waiver program or make exceptions, however, so check with your board of nursing or state health department to see if it has special requirements for trained LPNs who want to be CNAs.

Costs and Financial Aid

How much is tuition for nursing programs?

Tuition costs vary widely depending on the type of program you choose—private university versus community college, for example. Another factor is what kind of nurse you want to be.

For example, if you want to be an RN, you can choose a two-year ADN program or a four-year BSN program. Your best bet is to reach out directly to the schools you’re interested in and get the most up-to-date costs.

Are there additional costs to nursing school?

Yes—tuition isn’t the only cost you’re looking at. Here are a few others:

  • Scrubs and equipment
  • Textbooks
  • Additional tests and screenings (background check, drug screening, etc.)
  • Licensing fees

How do I get financial aid?

To qualify for financial assistance, including grants and loans, your school must be accredited, and you’ll need to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). But that’s not the only avenue to financial aid.

male nurse with stethoscope holds ipad

Look into scholarships that you may qualify for—there are many options out there, including scholarships specifically for nursing students, single parents, first-generation college students, and more.

Can I go to school for free? I’ve heard about loan forgiveness—how does that work?

“Free” may be a stretch, but there are programs out there, like Nurse Corps, that will pay your tuition, fees, and other educational costs. In return, you must commit to working in an area where there’s a critical shortage of nurses for a set period of time, once you graduate.

Another government program, the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program, has similar terms. It requires nurses to work for up to three years in an area with an underserved population and, in return, it’ll pay off up to 85% of your loan balance.

How do I get tuition reimbursement from my employer?

If your employer offers tuition reimbursement, talk with your benefits representative about the organization’s reimbursement policy. It might have very specific terms for reimbursement, including the types of classes you take and whether you complete a program. Your employer also might require documentation from the school you attend.

Salary

Will earning a BSN make a difference in my RN salary versus whether I just have an associate degree?

Earning a BSN can definitely have a positive impact on your salary: It can make you more desirable to employers, qualify you for a wider variety of jobs, and open doors to leadership opportunities.

Careers and Jobs

What’s the role of a CNA, and can the job vary by state?

Educational and licensing requirements for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) do vary by state, but the role is generally the same everywhere: helping patients with activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, grooming, toileting, and moving around. It can be a physically demanding, though rewarding, profession.

What’s the difference between the roles of an LPN and RN?

The differences are distinct. LPNs provide basic medical care for patients, like checking their vitals, ensuring their comfort, and discussing healthcare issues with them. RNs, on the other hand, may perform diagnostic tests, administer medications, put together treatment plans, and supervise other medical workers, including LPNs.

Can travel nurses work with an associate degree, or is a bachelor’s required? Do they need a specialty?

Travel nurses, who work temporary positions in areas with shortages, must have an RN license, which means an ADN is fine. Having a specialty is not necessary, though it may lead to more destination options and higher pay. 

Applying and Enrollment

I’ve requested information from some schools but haven’t heard back. Who do I contact?

Reach out directly to the nursing programs, if that’s an option. A quick phone call usually will yield better results than an email, especially if you’re following up with specific questions.

Otherwise, contact the program’s admissions department—and remember, staff is there to help sell you on the school, so get your questions answered!


beverly malone

With professional insight from:

Beverly Malone

CEO of the National League for Nursing


  • Is this page helpful?
  • YesNo

Recommended For You

October 23, 2020 · 15 min read

The Top States for Nurses to Work

From salaries and cost of living to educational resources and job prospects, we’ve ranked the 50 states for nursing professionals.


niki stojnik

Written and reported by:

Niki Stojnic

Contributing writer


Whether working in the ER, in a family practice clinic, or anywhere in between, registered nurses are in demand—everywhere. In fact, nurses comprise the largest portion of the healthcare workforce, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing: There are more than 3.8 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide, and they make up one of the largest segments of the U.S. workforce.

All of that means you can be choosy as you’re deciding where to live and work as a nurse. The employment options for nursing are good in all 50 states, but factor in average salaries, cost of living, the flexibility to work across state lines and other information, and some states come out clearly on top. 

We’ve ranked all 50 states based on three main considerations:

  • Average salary of a registered nurse (adjusted for cost of living)
  • Density of RN jobs in a given area (location quotient)
  • Demand for the profession in the region

In each state’s profile, we included the average salary to highlight the cost of living difference, as well as some other helpful data. Combined, these factors fill in a picture of:

  • What you might be able to expect in terms of job availability
  • Where to look for jobs at different salary levels
  • How salaries compare to the state and national average
  • Where you might find more continuing education programs, based on the number of schools nearby

Higher Education May Take You Further, Wherever You Live

Access to education is increasingly important because your options for employment, regardless of where you live, could get even better if you are a registered nurse prepared with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree or higher. 

“Employers are looking for highly skilled nurses able to translate the latest scientific evidence into practice,” Deborah Trautman, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, says about the marketability of earning a bachelor’s degree, especially if you’re looking to make a jump across state lines. “They are also looking for nurses to lead and contribute to team-based care as interprofessional practice takes hold in many settings.”

“All of these new demands underscore the need for a well-educated nursing workforce able to meet contemporary practice expectations,” says Trautman. “Research shows that more highly educated RNs are linked to lower patient mortality rates, fewer medication errors, and other positive care outcomes.”


Growth and Opportunity Across the Country

In addition to representing a big part of the workforce, the nursing profession isn’t slowing down any time soon, either. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 7.2% growth in this career through 2029. Thanks to increased demand for healthcare services from a large baby boomer population, more demand for preventive care, and an increase in chronic conditions, coupled with ongoing nursing shortages that existed even before the pandemic, the need for nurses is bigger than ever.

Nurse Licensing is state specific, but you can currently work across state lines with the same license in 34 states.

The rewards for working as a registered nurse are strong—and some incentives are getting stronger. The national average salary for registered nurses is $77,460 and higher for those working in medical and surgical hospitals ($79,460) and outpatient care centers ($84,720), according to the BLS. In addition to a shortage of nurses with baccalaureate degrees, demand for nurses with master’s degrees also outpaces supply.

And while licensing is state-specific, you’ll be able to work across state lines in 34 states that are part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact.

No matter where in the United States you’re pursuing your nursing degree or looking to land a job—whether you want to stay close to home or embark on a new adventure as a travel nurse—use this guide to help narrow down your options.

State of Demand: Top Five Places that Need Nurses the Most

Where most states expect about a 2.5% change in demand for registered nurses, these five regions have the highest potential demand through 2021, according to Projections Central. And that means more opportunities could exist here for the next generation of professionals.

State

Anticipated Change in Demand for Nurses


Arizona

6.9%

Utah

5.3%

Colorado

5%

Nevada

5%

New York

4.9%

The Rankings

Glossary of terms

(see Methodology for more information)

AACN: American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the national association for nursing academics, which works to establish and implement quality standards for nursing education and promote public support for nursing education, research and practice.

COL: Cost of living

Location quotient: The ratio of the concentration of nurses in an area compared to the national average; above one means a higher concentration of nurses than average, and below one means a lower concentration than average.

Pending legislation: States that are in the process of entering the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact.

50

Louisiana

$65,850
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $34,412
  • Highest average salary: New Orleans-Metairie, $69,500
  • Lowest average salary: Lafayette, $60,940
  • Location quotient: 1.05
  • Change in demand for nurses: N/A
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 12 AACN-member schools

Notes: Louisiana’s highest salary is centered on the well-known New Orleans area but hits below the national average; however, the concentration of nurses is above average.

49

Oklahoma

$64,800
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $35,672
  • Highest average salary: Oklahoma City, $66,510
  • Lowest average salary: Lawton, $56,290
  • Location quotient: 0.95
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.1%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 12 AACN-member schools
48

Virginia

$71,870
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $38,156
  • Highest average salary: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia), $83,370
  • Lowest average salary: Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol (Tennessee, Virginia), $56,330
  • Location quotient: 0.84
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.5%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 27 AACN-member schools
47

Wyoming

$68,690
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $38,792
  • Highest average salary: Cheyenne, $77,680
  • Lowest average salary: Casper, $64,360
  • Location quotient: 0.92
  • Change in demand for nurses: 1%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: One AACN-member school (University of Wyoming)

Notes: The least populous state in the country is filled with natural beauty—but a peak salary at around the national average, a lower-than-average location quotient, one AACN school, and sluggish demand could make it less appealing for new grads.

46

Hawaii

$104,060
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $39,477
  • Highest average salary: Honolulu, $106,550
  • Lowest average salary: N/A
  • Location quotient: 0.88
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.3%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: No
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Four AACN-member schools

Notes: One of two states that breaks $100K for average salary, the high cost of living in this island paradise cuts that number down to size. Demand trends are upward but concentration of nurses is a little below average.

45

Tennessee

$62,570
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $32,873
  • Highest average salary: Memphis (Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas), $66,730
  • Lowest average salary: Cleveland (yes, there’s one in Tennessee, too), $53,360
  • Location quotient: 1.04
  • Change in demand for nurses: 1.9%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 26 AACN-member schools

Notes: Memphis has the highest average salary in this Southern state; the metropolitan area sprawls across three states: Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

44

Iowa

$60,590
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $30,425
  • Highest average salary: Iowa City, $68,920
  • Lowest average salary: Davenport-Moline-Rock Island (Iowa, Illinois), $54,640
  • Location quotient: 1.05
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.2%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 15 AACN-member schools
43

Arkansas

$61,330
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $32,236
  • Highest average salary: Memphis (Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas), $66,730
  • Lowest average salary: Fort Smith (Arkansas-Oklahoma), $59,120
  • Location quotient: 1.02
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.7%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 10 AACN-member schools

Notes: The highest mean salary, per BLS, is actually in Memphis, which shares borders with Arkansas and Mississippi; but two hours west, the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway metropolitan area has a comparable salary that’s just a little lower, at $66,300.

42

Kansas

$62,450
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $32,653
  • Highest average salary: Topeka, $66,270; Kansas City (Missouri, Kansas), $68,130
  • Lowest average salary: Wichita, $57,470
  • Location quotient: 1.07
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.6%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 14 AACN-member schools

Notes: The Sunflower State’s largest metro area, Kansas City, straddles Kansas and Missouri and has the highest salary, but Topeka, the state’s capital to the west, isn’t too far behind at $66,270. A higher-than-average location quotient and healthy demand makes it a solid option.

41

South Carolina

$64,840
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $32,733
  • Highest average salary: Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, $69,620
  • Lowest average salary: Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach (South Carolina, North Carolina), $62,750
  • Location quotient: 1.09
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.1%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 12 AACN-member schools

40

Montana

$69,340
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $33,550
  • Highest average salary: Missoula, $71,980
  • Lowest average salary: Great Falls, $67,140
  • Location quotient: 1.08
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.4%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Three AACN-member schools

39

Maryland

$77,910
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $34,486
  • Highest average salary: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (DC, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia), $83,370
  • Lowest average salary: Cumberland (Maryland, West Virginia), $71,610
  • Location quotient: 0.97
  • Change in demand for nurses: 3.1%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 12 AACN-member schools

38

Idaho

$69,480
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $38,578
  • Highest average salary: Coeur d’Alene, $76,650
  • Lowest average salary: Idaho Falls, $61,740
  • Location quotient: 0.96
  • Change in demand for nurses: 4.3%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Three AACN-member schools

Notes: The highest mean salary here is in Coeur d’Alene, an outdoorsy, scenic panhandle city—and it’s close to the large, neighboring Washington city of Spokane.

37

Georgia

$69,590
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $39,726
  • Highest average salary: Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, $73,610
  • Lowest average salary: Brunswick, $53,200
  • Location quotient: 0.83
  • Change in demand for nurses: 4.3%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 23 AACN-member schools

36

New Jersey

$84,280
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $42,397
  • Highest average salary: New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania), $93,280
  • Lowest average salary: Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton (Pennsylvania, New Jersey), $69,100
  • Location quotient: 0.97
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.8%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Partial implementation, allowing nurses who hold active unencumbered, multi-state licenses issued by Nurse Licensure Compact member states to practice.
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 20 AACN-member schools

Notes: It’s hard to beat the dense metro New York-Newark-Jersey City, which has the top salary spot; but farther south, resort hub Atlantic City-Hammonton holds its own at second place for this state, with an above-average salary at $82,460, plus healthy demand statewide.

35

Alaska

$90,500
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $47,009
  • Highest average salary: Anchorage, $88,860
  • Lowest average salary: Fairbanks, $85,150
  • Location quotient: 0.96
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: No
  • Ongoing education opportunities: One AACN-member school (University of Alaska Anchorage)

34

Vermont

$70,240
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $31,905
  • Highest average salary: Burlington, South Burlington, $70,630
  • Lowest average salary: Northern Vermont nonmetropolitan area, $69,650
  • Location quotient: 1.13
  • Change in demand for nurses: 1.3%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Pending legislation
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Three AACN-member schools

33

South Dakota

$59,540
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $26,127
  • Highest average salary: Rapid City, $60,600
  • Lowest average salary: East South Dakota nonmetropolitan area, $57,880
  • Location quotient: 1.5
  • Change in demand for nurses: 3.7%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Seven AACN-member schools

32

Maine

$69,760
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $30,421
  • Highest average salary: Bangor, $75,740
  • Lowest average salary: Lewiston-Auburn, $66,020
  • Location quotient: 1.17
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Five AACN-member schools

31

Mississippi

$59,750
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $30,924
  • Highest average salary: Jackson, $64,230; Memphis (Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas), $66,730
  • Lowest average salary: Hattiesburg, $52,500
  • Location quotient: 1.29
  • Change in demand for nurses: 1.3%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Eight AACN-member schools

30

West Virginia

$63,220
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $32,720
  • Highest average salary: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, (D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia), $83,370
  • Lowest average salary: Southern West Virginia nonmetropolitan area, $57,520
  • Location quotient: 1.39
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.4%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Eight AACN-member schools

29

Florida

$67,610
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $34,833
  • Highest average salary: Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, $76,040
  • Lowest average salary: Sebring, $46,520
  • Location quotient: 1.02
  • Change in demand for nurses: 4%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 33 AACN-member schools

28

Missouri

$64,160
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $34,999
  • Highest average salary: Columbia, $68,960
  • Lowest average salary: Joplin, $46,640
  • Location quotient: 1.2
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.6%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 23 AACN-member schools

27

Utah

$67,970
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $35,026
  • Highest average salary: Salt Lake City, $70,040
  • Lowest average salary: Logan (Utah, Idaho), $62,970
  • Location quotient: 0.71
  • Change in demand for nurses: 5.3%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Eight AACN-member schools

26

Nebraska

$66,640
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $36,240
  • Highest average salary: Omaha-Council Bluffs (Nebraska, Iowa), $67,240
  • Lowest average salary: Sioux City (Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota), $58,030
  • Location quotient: 1.19
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.6%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Six AACN-member schools

25

Indiana

$66,560
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $36,428
  • Highest average salary: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin), $77,430
  • Lowest average salary: Fort Wayne, $59,950
  • Location quotient: 1.08
  • Change in demand for nurses: 3.2%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 26 AACN-member schools

24

New Hampshire

$73,880
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $37,152
  • Highest average salary: Boston-Cambridge-Nashua (Massachusetts, New Hampshire), $96,510
  • Lowest average salary: Dover-Durham, (New Hampshire-Maine), $71,420
  • Location quotient: 1.07
  • Change in demand for nurses: 3.4%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Eight AACN-member schools

23

Pennsylvania

$71,410
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $37,361
  • Highest average salary: New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania), $93,280
  • Lowest average salary: Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, (Ohio-Pennsylvania), $58,640
  • Location quotient: 1.24
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.7%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Pending legislation
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 41 AACN-member schools

22

Ohio

$68,220
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $37,820
  • Highest average salary: Cleveland-Elyria, $71,650
  • Lowest average salary: Youngstown-Warren-Boardman (Ohio, Pennsylvania), $58,640
  • Location quotient: 1.13
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.6%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Pending legislation
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 39 AACN-member schools

21

Wisconsin

$72,610
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $40,034
  • Highest average salary: Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington (Minnesota, Wisconsin), $84,400
  • Lowest average salary: Eau Claire, $62,680
  • Location quotient: 1.06
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.4%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 20 AACN-member schools

20

Connecticut

$83,440
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $40,686
  • Highest average salary: Danbury, $92,380
  • Lowest average salary: Waterbury, $76,200
  • Location quotient: 1.03
  • Change in demand for nurses: 1.8%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: No
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 12 AACN-member schools

19

New York

$87,840
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $41,269
  • Highest average salary: New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania), $93,280
  • Lowest average salary: Southwest New York nonmetropolitan area, $63,360
  • Location quotient: 0.92
  • Change in demand for nurses: 4.9%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: No
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 52 AACN-member schools

Notes: The highest mean salary, centered on the New York-Newark-Jersey City metro area, bumps the state average way up. The lowest mean salary is a close call between Ithaca, at $63, 520, just a touch above the Southwest New York nonmetropolitan area.

18

Texas

$74,540
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $43,906
  • Highest average salary: Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, $81,350
  • Lowest average salary: San Angelo, $61,760
  • Location quotient: 0.86
  • Change in demand for nurses: 3.6%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 44 AACN-member schools

17

New Mexico

$73,300
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $44,005
  • Highest average salary: Santa Fe, $75,810
  • Lowest average salary: Las Cruces, $68,120
  • Location quotient: 1.04
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.9%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Four AACN-member schools

16

Oregon

$92,960
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $48,030
  • Highest average salary: Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro (Oregon, Washington), $95,420
  • Lowest average salary: Albany, $80,490
  • Location quotient: 0.95
  • Change in demand for nurses: 3.1%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: No
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Six AACN-member schools

15

Washington

$86,170
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $49,108
  • Highest average salary: Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, $90,730
  • Lowest average salary: Bellingham, $59,300
  • Location quotient: 0.86
  • Change in demand for nurses: 4%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: No
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 12 AACN-member schools

Notes: The highest mean salary centers on the densest economic engine in this Pacific Northwest state, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region. There’s a robust demand for registered nurses here, and additional opportunity in smaller metropolitan regions as well, including Spokane on the agricultural and arid east side of the state, and in and around the state capital, Olympia.

14

Rhode Island

$82,310
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $42,335
  • Highest average salary: Norwich-New London-Westerly (Connecticut, Rhode Island), $84,640
  • Lowest average salary: Providence-Warwick (Rhode Island, Massachusetts), $82,170
  • Location quotient: 1.29
  • Change in demand for nurses: 1.6%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Pending legislation
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Three AACN-member schools

13

Alabama

$60,230
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $30,332
  • Highest average salary: Montgomery, $65,200
  • Lowest average salary: Decatur, $49,980
  • Location quotient: 1.23
  • Change in demand for nurses: 3.8%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 12 AACN-member schools

12

North Dakota

$66,290
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $33,212
  • Highest average salary: Fargo (North Dakota, Minnesota), $68,110
  • Lowest average salary: Bismarck, $62,050
  • Location quotient: 1.14
  • Change in demand for nurses: 4.1%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Five AACN-member schools

11

Kentucky

$63,750
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $33,317
  • Highest average salary: Cincinnati (Ohio, Kentucky), $70,370
  • Lowest average salary: Bowling Green, $59,240
  • Location quotient: 1.14
  • Change in demand for nurses: 3%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 17 AACN-member schools

10

North Carolina

$66,440
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $34,667
  • Highest average salary: Fayetteville, $71,790
  • Lowest average salary: Mountain North Carolina nonmetropolitan area, $60,310
  • Location quotient: 1.1
  • Change in demand for nurses: 4%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 24 AACN-member schools

9

Delaware

$74,100
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $37,908
  • Highest average salary: Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland), $77,640
  • Lowest average salary: Dover, $69,400
  • Location quotient: 1.28
  • Change in demand for nurses: 4.3%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Two AACN-member schools

8

Colorado

$76,230
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $40,875
  • Highest average salary: Boulder, $80,040
  • Lowest average salary: Eastern and Southern Colorado nonmetropolitan area, $64,330
  • Location quotient: 0.97
  • Change in demand for nurses: 5%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 14 AACN-member schools

Notes: In contrast to its similarly sized scenic and outdoor-activity oriented neighbor to the north, Wyoming, this more densely populated state makes the top 10 list of states for nurses, with a higher-than-average increase in demand, 14 colleges for continuing education, and a just slightly above-average cost of living.

7

Illinois

$73,510
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $41,871
  • Highest average salary: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin), $77,430
  • Lowest average salary: Davenport-Moline-Rock Island (Iowa, Illinois), $54,640
  • Location quotient: 1.06
  • Change in demand for nurses: 3%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: No
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 38 AACN-member schools

6

Michigan

$73,200
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $43,436
  • Highest average salary: Ann Arbor, $79,340
  • Lowest average salary: Upper peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area, $63,250
  • Location quotient: 1.1
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.1%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Pending legislation
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 25 AACN-member schools

Notes: The highest average salary here is in the home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Cross-state licensing is pending legislation, while the concentration of nursing jobs across the state and the demand are about average.

5

Arizona

$78,330
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $45,854
  • Highest average salary: Arizona nonmetropolitan area, $85,510
  • Lowest average salary: Lake Havasu City-Kingman, $69,450
  • Location quotient: 0.94
  • Change in demand for nurses: 6.9%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Yes
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Eight AACN-member schools

Notes: Prescott, located in central Arizona a couple of hours north of the state’s capital, just edges out the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metropolitan area in salary ($79,370 vs. $79,200). But ultimately the highest salary goes to the state’s nonmetropolitan area, the only state on our list where that is the case.

4

Minnesota

$80,130
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $46,114
  • Highest average salary: Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington (Minnesota, Wisconsin), $84,400
  • Lowest average salary: Duluth, $68,040
  • Location quotient: 1.21
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.7%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: No
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 23 AACN-member schools

3

Massachusetts

$93,160
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $49,100
  • Highest average salary: Boston-Cambridge-Nashua (Massachusetts, New Hampshire), $96,510
  • Lowest average salary: Massachusetts nonmetropolitan area, $79,720
  • Location quotient: 1.1
  • Change in demand for nurses: 2.6%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: Pending legislation
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 25 AACN-member schools

Notes: Cross-state licensing is pending here, so keep an eye on it if you are keeping your travel options open. Demand here is above average, and the concentration of nurses is also above average.

2

California

$113,240
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $62,451
  • Highest average salary: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, $140,740
  • Lowest average salary: Chico, $85,080
  • Location quotient: 0.86
  • Change in demand for nurses: 3.6%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: No
  • Ongoing education opportunities: 51 AACN-member schools

Notes: This large state has a salary swing that reflects the diversity of landscape and living throughout. Sleepy college town Chico in the north has dramatically different needs than Silicon Valley’s sprawling San Jose area.

1

Nevada

$88,380
Average RN Salary
  • COL-adjusted salary: $52,054
  • Highest average salary: Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, $91,330
  • Lowest average salary: Reno, $78,800
  • Location quotient: 0.81
  • Change in demand for nurses: 5%
  • Cross-state licensing permitted: No
  • Ongoing education opportunities: Six AACN-member schools

Notes: Our number one state just beats out its neighbor to the west in a few areas: Cost-of-living takes a smaller chunk of change from the mean salary here, while it logs a slightly higher percentage demand trend through 2021.


Methodology and Sources

To determine the best states for nurses to work and live in, we ranked all 50 states on three main considerations: salary adjusted for cost of living, job opportunity, and change in demand for nurses. We then sorted by each of our three factors, to see how states were distributed in each category—for example, how many states had average (mean) salaries of $40,000 or above, how many had a 2% change in job demand, etc. Based on that, we assigned points to number ranges for each.

We added each state’s points together, and then sorted based on their totals. Naturally, there were ties (except for one state that earned 10 points!). To break those ties, within each grouping, we sorted further by salary, weighing states with higher mean salaries more heavily.

Salary adjusted for cost of living

This number comes from the average cost of living for a single adult in the U.S. ($33,480, the total cost of food, shelter, transportation, and utilities—calculated from a 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) multiplied by the cost of living (COL) index in each state, which is then subtracted from the average annual salary of a registered nurse in each state, according to 2019 figures from the BLS. The resulting figure demonstrates remaining disposable income.

Points Assigned

$50,000–$60,000 or higher = 4 points
$40,000 = 3 points
$30,000 = 2 points
$20,000 = 1 point

Location quotient

This number is the ratio of the concentration of nurses in an area to the national average, from the BLS. It is a measurement of job opportunity available in a state. A value of one is average; above that means a higher concentration of nurses than average, and below that means a lower concentration than average.

Points Assigned

1.1–1.5 = 4 points
1–1.09 = 3 points
0.6–1 = 2 points

Change in demand for nurses

This number, sourced from State Short Term Occupational Projections (2019–2021) from Projections Central, demonstrates the need for nursing in an area by comparing the number of nurses employed in a state in 2019 to projected numbers through 2021.

Points Assigned

5%–6.9% = 4 points
3%–4.9% = 3 points
0%–2.9% = 2 points

We added further details to each state’s profile, including the average salary to illustrate the cost-of-living difference, as well as areas in each state with the highest and lowest mean salaries (note: the BLS often groups regions and states with some figures, especially if a metropolitan area borders multiple states). We also highlight employment projections and added other insights where applicable.

In addition, we include the number of schools available where you can pursue additional training, but did not use it to rank. Access to ongoing education—based on the number of colleges in each state that offer nursing training, per the American Association of Colleges of Nursing—is included because continuing learning is an integral part of maintaining a nursing career. Note: the figure does not include non-member colleges or colleges with associate degree programs.


How Nursing Licensure Varies by State

If you’re considering a move out of state to start your career as a registered nurse, it’s important to keep licensure in mind. Nursing licensure is very state specific, so take a look at the credentials needed to get a job in the state you are aiming for by checking its board of nursing; the National Council of State Boards of Nursing has a drop-down menu linking to each state’s board, which has licensing information and industry news.

In addition, 34 states are part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact. If you have a license in one of these states as your primary residence, you can practice with your license across participating state lines (another six states are in the process of enacting legislation to join the compact). This is an especially good option for those who want to consider travel nursing or similarly mobile specialties.


State-Specific Financial Aid

Financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, or loans vary greatly by school—and by state. While some states offer residents enticing incentives to start your education, there are other place-bound opportunities that can help pay for current schooling or help pay off loans once you’re out in the workforce. (Don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA to receive any financial aid!)

Loan Forgiveness

Options vary by state and school, but some states offer loan forgiveness for agreeing to work in specific areas or facilities in need for a couple of years. Because of this requirement, you will want to consider this option carefully if you’re looking to move out of state.

Grants and Scholarships

There are many scholarships available for nursing students, and many state-specific scholarships have emerged to address nursing shortages in certain areas. Your school’s financial and merit aid office will be one of the best sources of information for finding such scholarships in your area.

You can also look into options that reward you for pursuing certain specialties in a specific state. For example, in Washington, the Washington State Opportunity Baccalaureate Scholarship provides up to $22,500 in financial aid, along with career-launching support services, to students pursuing high-demand STEM and healthcare majors.


deborah trautman

With professional insight from:

Deborah Trautman, PhD, RN, FAAN

President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)


  • Is this page helpful?
  • YesNo

Recommended For You

October 13, 2020 · 7 min read

Is a DNP the New MSN?

A doctorate may be replacing the master’s as the go-to degree for some advanced nursing programs. Is yours one of them?

Written and reported by:

Stephanie Behring

Contributing writer

woman works on laptop in dimly lit office
woman works on laptop in dimly lit office

Working toward advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) licensure is a common goal for many nurses looking for an elevated position that offers increased autonomy, more opportunities to advance, and potentially better pay. For years, the Master of Science in Nursing—or MSN— has been the go-to degree for nurses seeking these advanced roles.

But change is in the air. A doctoral degree will be the entry-level degree mandated for nurse anesthetists (one of several APRN nursing roles) by 2025. Requirements for nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists may not be far behind: while the MSN is currently the standard, many nursing associations are recommending a move to a doctorate as the entry-level degree requirement for these advanced nursing roles.


What’s a Doctorate and Why the Shift?

A doctoral degree—most often, the Doctorate of Nursing Practice in the nursing profession—is an advanced degree that allows nurses to broaden their scope of practice. The degree takes a few years longer to earn than an MSN, but it also goes more in depth than an MSN degree. A doctorate will build on the nursing knowledge you already have and can prepare you for high-level and leadership roles.

The move to a DNP and other doctoral degrees reflects both the increasingly complex knowledge APRNs need and the increased role of nurses in healthcare leadership.

The move to a DNP and other doctoral degrees reflects both the increasingly complex knowledge APRNs need and the increased role of nurses in healthcare leadership. Because of this, “it makes sense for nursing to have its own practice doctorate, especially for those who are working in advanced practice, leadership levels, and teaching,” says Sara Hunt, DNP, MSN, FNP-C, PHN, a family nurse practitioner who holds a doctorate.

Patient safety and quality of care are other huge factors in the push toward doctorates, especially following an influential report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) back in 1999 that highlighted the significant physical and monetary cost of errors made in hospitals and suggested ways to mitigate them. Hunt believes the IOM recommendations have made a significant impact on the growing push toward doctoral degrees.

Some other factors driving the shift, according to Hunt, are:

  • The rapid expansion of knowledge in the field of nursing
  • The increased complexity of basic patient care
  • Shortages of nursing personnel
  • Demands for a higher level of preparation for leaders who can design and assess care
  • Shortages of doctorally prepared nursing faculty

What APRN Roles Are Affected?

Nursing association recommendations that encourage nurses pursuing an advanced practice role consider a doctorate instead of a master’s can be confusing. Is a doctoral degree required or not? The answer depends on the nursing role you’re seeking. 

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs)

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are the only APRN-level job with a definitive change in directive. Right now, an MSN degree is sufficient, but you’ll need a doctoral degree to earn APRN licensure in the field after 2025. While a DNP is a popular option, students can also choose to earn another doctoral degree, including:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Doctor of Education (EdD)
  • Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS or DNSc)
  • Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP)
  • Doctor of Management Practice in Nurse Anesthesia (DMPNA)

Because of this change, all CRNA nursing programs are making the shift from MSN programs to doctorate programs starting January 1, 2022.

Nurse Practitioners

Right now, aspiring NPs can graduate with an MSN and earn their APRN license. An MSN will allow you to take a certification exam in any specialty from any licensing board and apply for licensure in any state. However, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has been advocating DNP degrees for NPs since 2004, and in 2018, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) backed up this position and committed to DNPs as the new entry-level standard for NPs by 2025. That said, the nurse practitioner community has not taken the final step of requiring the DNP as the entry-level degree for nurse practitioners—yet.

Clinical Nurse Specialists

Clinical nurse specialists can still enter the field with an MSN. This could change in coming years, however, given the movement toward doctoral degrees for nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists. In fact, the National Association of Certified Nurse Specialists has recommended the DNP as an entry-level degree for CNSs by 2030.

Nurse Midwives

The MSN has been—and remains—the degree requirement for nurse midwives, with no active movement to shift to a doctorate. The American College of Nurse-Midwives does not endorse any proposal that the DNP become a requirement for entry into midwifery practice. Their position statement emphasizes that “no data are available addressing the need for additional education to practice safely as a midwife” and that “the requirement of an additional degree would result in a substantive increase in expense and time to students and educational institutions.”


What if I’m Already Enrolled in an MSN Program?

Don’t worry: You can finish any MSN program you’re already in, earn your APRN license, and be able to practice. This includes students currently enrolled in MSN-level CRNA programs. Your program meets the current standards, and you’ll be able to apply for licensure with your state as well as certification when you graduate. Both an MSN and a doctoral degree will prepare you to work as an APRN.

However, keep in mind that if your goal is to be a CRNA, you’ll only be able to start an MSN program through the end of 2021. You’ll need to enroll in a doctoral degree program if you start your CRNA program in 2022 or later. All other aspiring APRNs have a choice.

APRN Degree Requirements: At a Glance


Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)

Current degree requirement: MSN or higher

Upcoming changes: A doctoral degree will be required by 2025

When you can enroll in an MSN program: Until the end of 2021

When you need to enroll in a doctoral degree program: 2022 and later

When you’ll need a doctorate to practice: 2025 and later


Nurse practitioner

Current degree requirement: MSN or higher

Upcoming changes: The DNP is recommended as the entry level standard by 2025

When you can enroll in an MSN program: Anytime

When you need to enroll in a DNP program: No date set currently

When you’ll need a DNP to practice: No date set currently; recommended by 2025


Clinical nurse specialist

Current degree requirement: MSN or higher

Upcoming changes: The DNP is recommended as the entry level standard by 2030

When you can enroll in an MSN program: Anytime

When you need to enroll in a DNP program: No date set currently

When you’ll need a DNP to practice: No date set currently; recommended by 2030


Nurse midwife

Current degree requirement: MSN or higher

Upcoming changes: No changes announced

When you can enroll in an MSN program: Anytime

When you need to enroll in a DNP program: N/A

When you’ll need a DNP to practice: N/A


What If I Just Earned My MSN?

You should be all set if you’ve already earned your MSN. The coming degree changes won’t affect the license you already have. Even current MSN-level educated CRNAs will be able to keep practicing, but all CRNAs who apply for licensure in 2025 or later will need a doctorate.

Firm doctorate requirements for other APRN professions haven’t yet been announced, but it’s a good idea to keep up-to-date in your specialty to keep an eye on the rules and recommendations. There are many ways to make sure you know what’s happening currently, including joining nursing organizations, staying in touch with your alumni association, and following nursing news on social media. You can check out our resources guide for more ideas.


So…Should I Earn an MSN or a Doctorate?

It’s up to you. Right now, you can complete an MSN program and earn the same APRN licensure as if you’d completed a DNP. You may want to consider cost, time, and future goals as you make your decision.

“There are a lot of factors for a student to consider when choosing a healthcare program,” says Hunt. “The role needs to align with (a student’s) personal needs and wants, and the education needs to be realistic for the personal circumstances and finances. Getting an MSN or a DNP can be very expensive, both with time and money, so they need to decide what works best for them.”

Hunt, who earned a DNP as a family nurse practitioner, explains she decided what was best for her career by looking at the current market and trends in nursing.

“I saw the trends early on and the DNP looked like it would quickly saturate the market. So, to remain competitive in a competitive market, I knew I would get my DNP,” she says. “The education was in alignment with my personal goals. I have a passion for health policy, teaching, and advocacy and prefer taking a more global perspective on topics. [Plus], I knew a doctorate would open doors for me.”

So, what’s best for you? Only you can decide, but there a few questions to ask yourself that might help you choose:

  • What are the requirements for APRN jobs in my area?  You can search for jobs in your local area and see what the educational requirements are. See how many jobs ask for a doctoral degree and if there is a pay difference for any jobs that do.
  • What type of APRN licensure am I interested in? Right now, CRNAs, NPs, and CNSs are part of the doctoral degrees discussion; nurse midwives aren’t.
  • What are my APRN goals? Consider if you’re interested in nursing leadership roles, in direct care, or both.
  • How much time am I willing to spend in school? The time it will take you to earn doctorate or master’s depends on the degree you start with, but in general, earning an MSN will be much faster.
  • Are there any bridge or fast-track programs in my area? There are some schools that offer a BSN-to-DNP bridge program that can help you complete your education faster.
  • What is the cost of programs in my area? Look into programs you can afford and research what financial aid is available.

“Ultimately, each nurse will have (to) assess what they want and what works for them,” Hunt says. However, in her opinion, if you can make earning a DNP work for your budget, life, and goals, now might be a great time to go for it.

“The longer you wait to go back and get it, the rustier you’ll be as a student, and you may enter a hyper-competitive market when it becomes a mandate.”


sara hunt

With professional insight from:

Sara Hunt, DNP, MSN, FNP-C, PHN

Family Nurse Practitioner


  • Is this page helpful?
  • YesNo

Recommended For You

March 20, 2020 · 7 min read

Gear Up for National Nurses Week—and Nurses Year!

Recognize and honor the contributions of nurses in our communities May 6–12.

stephanie behring

By Stephanie Behring
Stephanie Behring is an education and healthcare writer living on the east coast. 

female nurses giving instructions to team of nurses
nurses collaborating on patients on ipad

You probably know that every year in May, National Nurses Week honors nurses for their work caring and advocating for patients and their families. But did you know that 2020 is being celebrated as the year of the nurse as well? It’s especially fitting given the need to recognize and appreciate healthcare professionals with this year’s pandemic crisis. There will be events all year to honor those dedicated to this demanding profession, and we’ve compiled many of them here to help you celebrate your chosen career.


When Is National Nurses Week?

As always, National Nurses Week will run from May 6-12, timed with Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12. This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the woman considered the founder of modern nursing, and in her honor, the World Health Organization has declared 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

Nursing organizations across the country are planning special celebrations throughout the year, and the American Nurses Association (ANA), one of the oldest associations of professional nurses in the country, is even dedicating the entire month of May to honoring nurses.

“A month allows greater opportunities to promote understanding and awareness of our profession, encourage young people to consider nursing as a career, and recognize the vast contributions of nurses,” says Deborah Plumstead, an ANA senior campaign specialist.


What is the History of National Nurses Week?

Various groups have been lobbying to recognize nurses dating back to 1953 when U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare’s Dorothy Sutherland unsuccessfully proposed a day for nurses to President Eisenhower. But it wasn’t until 20 years later when the International Nurses Council (ICN) proclaimed May 12 as International Nurses Day. It wasn’t until another 8 years later, in 1982, that President Reagan signed a proclamation declaring May 6 National Recognition Day for Nurses, and since then the ANA, which has supported the profession since 1896, has been the driving resource behind the celebrations. They’ve added more reasons and ways to celebrate and honor the contributions that nurses make to the community—including May 8 as National Student Nurses Day.

All this means that it’s a great year to celebrate nurses (and being a nursing student) beyond grabbing an extra cookie from the break room during a week in May. From self-care to national contests, there’s something for every nurse who wants to participate.


How to Participate

Attend a Conference

Attending a conference or another nursing event can help you learn something new and build your network. There are a number of special events scheduled this year, so treat yourself to a career boost—or better yet, see if your employer will cover the cost of attending. However, before booking arrangements, be sure to double check whether the events are still happening, due to travel and social distancing restrictions related to current healthcare concerns.

Presented by Sigma and the National League for Nursing, this conference takes place in Washington, D.C., March 26–28.

This summit focuses on palliative care training and will be held April 15–16 in Charleston, South Carolina.

Held April 27–28 at the Cleveland Clinic in Mayfield, Ohio, this conference is for nursing professionals interested in clinical research.

Held May 3 in Athens, Ohio, this conference will provide the chance for nurses to earn seven continuing education units with a focus on serving vulnerable populations.

This conference will be held in Reston, Virginia, June 11–14 and will focus on the role of psychopharmacology in clinical care.

NAHN’s conference is dedicated to advocacy and is being held in Miami June 14–17.

This event is focused on increasing diagnoses in primary care settings and will be held in Naples, Florida, July 11–12.

This conference in Las Vegas is for a wide range of traveling healthcare professionals and will be held September 13–16.

This event is October 19–21 in Orlando, Florida, and features over 250 speakers.

Recognize a Nurse (or Yourself!)

The year of the nurse is also an excellent time to get involved in your professional community. You can find events locally, at the state level, and nationwide.

Two large nursing organizations are offering special recognition for nurses:

  • The Daisy Foundation’s Award for Extraordinary Nurses (Daisy Award). The Daisy Foundation has been honoring nurses since 1999. It works with 4,000 healthcare organizations globally to celebrate nursing with awards for individual nurses, teams, and nursing leaders. Winners are nominated by their peers and patients throughout the year. The foundation helps organizations set up ceremonies to present winners with an award package that includes a framed certificate, a daisy pin to wear on your badge showing you’ve received this honor, a hand-carved stone sculpture, and a spotlight page on the Daisy Foundation website. Winners are also eligible for exclusive career development opportunities.
  • The International Council of Nurses’ Nightingale Challenge. In 2020, the International Council of Nurses (INC), one of the most respected and longstanding global healthcare organizations, is challenging employers to identify 20 nurses for leadership and personal development. The goal is to encourage organizations worldwide to promote nursing leadership. Selected nurses will receive free training to advance their careers and have the opportunity to take on leadership roles. Participating organizations will have access to classes and seminars from global nursing leaders and to unique networking opportunities.

Enter a Contest

There are also a range of contests nurses can enter. Some might require a little creativity when it comes to entering, while others are as simple as filling out a form. Keep in mind that some contests are limited to certain specialties or regions, so make sure you read the rules carefully. Here are some ways nurses can win this year:

Nurses at all levels, including CNAs, are eligible to win a Range Rover by filling out an entry form by August 1.

Though the name wouldn’t suggest it, this contest is open to members of the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA) and the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) (but residents of Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New York and Wisconsin are not eligible). Winners are picked quarterly for a $1,000 award toward a fun night out.

Ten lucky nurses will take the field at Fenway Park during Nurse Night on May 20. One winning nurse will also throw the first pitch of the game. Nominations for this contest close on April 9.

Though the February deadline has passed for 2020, bookmark this one for next year. You can win up to $1,000 for submitting a photograph that highlights the challenges of your work in nursing.

Get Freebies and Discounts

Show your badge during National Nurses Week, and many businesses will honor your work with free or discounted items. You can also sign up for free classes, including an ANA webinar on May 10 titled Magnify Your Voice — Use Storytelling to Advance Nursing. While most 2020 deals haven’t been announced yet, you can generally count on:

  • Uniform discounts
  • Free coffee from national chains
  • Free meals and snacks at participating restaurants
  • Discounts on housewares
  • Discounts on classes or free continuing education credits

Watch for discounts on the Nurses Week website.

Join in on Social Media

Nurses are joining the festivities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, using the hashtags #YON2020 or #yearofthenurse. Share stories about your favorite nurse, nurse educator, mentor, or colleague with us on our Facebook Page to pay it forward for everything they’ve done for you.

Jump Start Your Career

Find a Mentor

A mentor can help you figure out where you want your career path to go over the long run. It can be helpful to talk to someone who has been in the field longer than you and has accomplishments similar to your goals. Not sure how to find a mentor? You can begin by reaching out to a professor, starting a conversation with a coworker in a leadership role, or networking.

A mentor can help you figure out where you want your career path to go over the long run.

Get a Credential

Adding a new credential to your resume is a great way to boost your career. You can find courses in a variety of specialties that can help you gain knowledge and stand out in your field. You might even be able to get financial assistance from your employer toward a course. You can start by checking out the many credentials offered by The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). With more training, you can join nurses who maintain high credentials and are honored on March 19, Certified Nurses Day.

Go for an Advanced Degree

Have you been meaning to go back to school? Nurses Week is excellent motivation to earn that degree you’ve been thinking about. Whether you’re looking to earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or turn your licensed practical nurse (LPN) training into a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN), now is a good time to get started.


Remember to Practice Self-Care

As medical professionals who are often in a high-stress environment, nurses experience a personal toll in their line of work. Nurses often work long shifts caring for the medical and emotional needs of multiple patients. In fact, 15.6% of nurses in a 2019 national survey reported feelings of burnout. Self-care can ease this frazzle, helping you recharge and deliver your best patient care. You don’t need an elaborate ritual, but you do need to make time to nurture your resilience. Some ways to do that:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Unplug from social media for a while
  • Take time to exercise
  • Eat healthy meals
  • Spend time with friends
  • Read a favorite book or watching a favorite movie
  • Is this page helpful?
  • YesNo

Go for the Next Level

From an LPN to a Doctorate in Nursing, explore a variety of programs that will energize and educate you.

work life balance guide cover

Guide to Achieving School / Work / Life Balance

Download our free guide with tips to help you juggle School, Work and Life.

March 18, 2020 · 6 min read

Nursing Career Trends for 2020 and Beyond

Set your sights on these growing areas of nursing to tee yourself up for success in the coming years.

joanna nesbit

By Joanna Nesbit

community health nurse vaccinates neighborhood kids
neighborhood nurse vaccinates kids

Whether you’re a high school graduate considering a nursing career or a seasoned nurse looking to advance your career, one thing is certain: there is an increasing number of jobs available in nursing. Some positions are in newer areas, such as a nurse navigator, and some are in traditional areas such as a nurse practitioner.

There are a few reasons for the growth: older nurses plan to retire in coming years, the physician shortage is increasing, and the U.S. population is aging. By 2029, in fact, all baby boomers will be 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. According to Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, and CEO of the National League for Nursing, changes in community demographics are also driving the need. As a result, from 2018 to 2028, registered nursing is projected to experience a 12% growth rate, putting it among the top occupations for growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Healthcare is shifting from hospital settings to outpatient settings—and the need for these nurses follows.

These five nursing careers, especially, are surging in demand and can help position you for success in the coming years.


Community Healthcare Nurse

With advances in technology and telemedicine, as well as an increased focus on preventive and primary care, healthcare is shifting from inpatient (hospital) settings to outpatient settings. That’s partly in response to increased costs of care, and it may become more prevalent in times of public health crises such as the Covid-19 epidemic. “We need more nurses to move into community-based settings to deal with population health and in places where we need primary care,” says Robyn Nelson, PhD, MSN, RN, and dean of the College of Nursing at West Coast University. Nurses will be needed most, says Malone, in the following settings:

• Primary care clinics

• Retail “minute clinics,” like Walgreens or CVS

• Home healthcare agencies

• Long-term care facilities


Nurse Practitioner

By 2030, the country will face a projected shortage of 120,000 physicians. With an expanding patient pool, the need for nurse practitioners (NPs) working in community health is going to spike. These healthcare providers are viewed as the professionals to fill the physician gap, particularly in underserved areas, such as rural and low-income communities, Nelson says, where nurse practitioners provide primary and preventive care, including women’s care, pediatrics, and geriatrics. In many states, nurse practitioners operate independently from physicians. “That’s an attractive feature to students considering a career in nursing,” Nelson says.

In the states that allow “full practice authority” (working on their own), nurse practitioners examine patients, prescribe medicines, order tests, and make decisions about patient care. They can establish their own practice or work in urgent care, hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, nursing homes, and other primary care settings. Other states allow nurse practitioners “reduced” or “restricted” practice, requiring some degree of partnership with a physician. However, as the physician shortage increases, these states might change their practice laws. Research shows that patients do as well under NP care as those who receive care from other providers.

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). These professionals have a master’s degree or post-master’s education. Under the umbrella of APRN, you’ll find four specialties:

• Certified nurse practitioner

• Certified registered nurse anesthetist (more on this field below)

• Certified nurse-midwife

• Clinical nurse specialist   


Certified Nurse Educator

You might already know that being accepted to a nursing program is competitive, even for qualified applicants. That’s in part because programs don’t have enough faculty to handle the demand. If you’re interested in educating future nurses, you can teach in the classroom or clinical setting. Becoming a certified nurse educator (CNE) or a certified clinical nurse educator (CNEcl) comes with a special credential verifying your competence as an academic nurse educator, and it’s a plus for the institution, Nelson says. Most frequently, teaching requires an advanced degree, though in some states you can provide clinical supervision with a bachelor’s degree and two or three years of experience. “Typically these clinical supervisors have a regular job and then do clinical education one day a week,” Nelson says. “These educators really inspire the next generation.”

The industry also needs faculty with PhD-level education, and it has a vision for growing doctoral degrees in the 2020s, Malone says. All three pathways prepare you to teach future nurses:

Doctor of nursing practice (DNP), which is a clinical practice-focused or education-focused degree

• PhD of nursing, which prepares you to conduct research, teach and develop policies

• EdD, a specialized degree in knowledge related to teaching overall


Specialty Nurses

As baby boomer nurses retire (some 1 million by 2030), the profession needs younger nurses to take their place in specialty areas beyond critical and acute care. More nurses are needed in all areas of the profession, but the following specialties have the greatest need:

  • Psychiatric mental health nurse. A psychiatric mental health (PMH) nurse by training, Malone says the industry needs more psychiatric nurses to address the increase in mental and behavioral health issues. These include anxiety, depression, substance use disorders, bipolar disorder, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease in older patients. Research shows that 96% of U.S. counties don’t have enough mental-health clinicians, particularly in rural areas. PMH nurses can fill the gap, though in many states they’ll need to work in team-based settings as APRNs do. However, some states have very few PMH programs, according to The American Psychiatric Nurses Association, which is one reason there’s a shortage of nursing students interested in this field. Explore the options.
  • Nurse anesthetist. These nurses—nurse anesthetists or certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA)—play a key role in patient care during surgery, obstetrical care or dental care, and are important in rural settings that might not have an anesthesiologist. They also enjoy top salaries in their field. To become a nurse anesthetist, you need advanced education, including a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) and at least a master’s degree.
  • Perioperative nurse. These professionals assist with surgery, providing patient care prior to, during, and after the surgery in the recovery room. During the procedure, they assist the surgeon, assess patient needs, and monitor patients after they’re awake. Nelson sees a need in this specialty, especially as older nurses retire.
  • Geriatric nurse. Experts say gerontology doesn’t draw enough students, but over the next 15 years the aging population will need specialists who understand their needs. Nursing students can study to be a nurse practitioner (APRN) with a specialty in gerontology.

Nurse Navigator

With the next decade’s emphasis on preventive and primary care, nurse navigators will play an important role as a bridge between the hospital and community setting. “A good navigator can assure the patient of the best possible outcome,” Malone says. They provide personalized attention for the patient, family, and caregiver, helping them navigate specialized treatment, such as cancer care. Navigators explain treatment plans, coordinate care across available services, and address barriers that might interfere with access. This could be helping a family understand their insurance or providing paperwork in their native language. Navigators need to have good communication skills to serve as a liaison between medical providers and the family and be open to diverse cultures.


Diversity in Nursing

In addition to the growing need for specialized nurses, emphasizing diversity is an increasingly important factor in nursing, and the healthcare industry needs more of it, Malone says. And that means diversity of all kinds of attributes: race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and more.

Diversity is an important factor in nursing, and the healthcare industry needs more of it.

“We have patients from all kinds of backgrounds, and we don’t have enough diversity in nurses and nurse navigators who know the community and the needs of our vulnerable populations,” she says. “We also need diverse faculty to attract diverse students.” Being more attuned to the needs of various populations will make the healthcare and educational setting more inclusive and welcoming, Malone says. To attract students to the field, Malone recommends developing a pipeline with scholarships and counseling support that leads to a career in nursing, hiring faculty from a variety of backgrounds, and offering summer opportunities for involvement with universities and other schools of nursing.


Meet Our Contributors:

Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, and CEO of the National League for Nursing.

Robyn Nelson, PhD, MSN, RN, and dean of the College of Nursing at West Coast University.

  • Is this page helpful?
  • YesNo

Recommended For You

work life balance guide cover

Guide to Achieving School / Work / Life Balance

Download our free guide with tips to help you juggle School, Work and Life.

October 7, 2019 · 3 min read

Differences Between a Doula and a Midwife

Learn the differences between nurse-midwives and doulas.

All Nursing Schools Staff

When it comes to having a baby, a mother-to-be will have her own vision of the kind of birthing experience she wants. And many women are choosing to include a doula, a midwife—or both—as part of their plan for pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the crucial early months of learning to care for newborn.

But exactly what role does a doula or a midwife play in a birthing plan? Read on to learn more about how midwives and doulas contribute through the course of pregnancy and childbirth, and discover the differences between these two professions.

The Role of a Midwife From Pregnancy to Delivery

Responsibilities of a nurse-midwife

According to The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), here are the many duties that a nurse-midwife carries out during a woman’s pregnancy:

  • Perform regular exams through the course of the intrapartum period
  • Help women make decisions about their birthing plan, including whether or not to use anesthesia and what measures to take if complications arise.

After childbirth, a nurse-midwife helps a woman with the following newborn care needs:

  • Teaching her to breastfeed
  • Helping her find ways to soothe an infant through colic
  • Providing postpartum medical care to women and their newborns, if necessary
  • Recommending coping strategies to women and their partners for all the changes that come with having a newborn

The Role of a Doula From Pregnancy to Delivery

Doulas in the delivery room

Like nurse-midwives, doulas have significant experience in the delivery room. Doulas specialize in providing mothers with the emotional support and physical comforts they need through the course of pregnancy, labor and delivery.

DONA International explains the important role doulas play in helping women carry out their birthing plans and in facilitating the most positive experience of childbirth possible. Among other things, this may include:

  • Helping a woman and her partner understand what to expect during labor
  • Holding the mother’s hand and helping her breathe through contractions
  • Getting the mother more pillows when she asks

After the delivery, a postpartum doula can provide a number of services to a mother:

  • Offer companionship and nonjudgmental support as the mother goes through the postpartum period.
  • Educate mothers on breastfeeding, infant soothing, sleep schedules and other facets of newborn care.
  • Assist mothers with newborn care tasks, from diaper changes to rocking the little one to sleep.
  • Help the family adjust to the new baby, perform light housework and prepare some family meals.
  • Suggest coping skills for new parents and refer families to resources and other professionals who can provide additional support during this time.

Education and Training Standards for Nurse-Midwives and Doulas

Nurse-midwife qualifications

Nurse-midwives have advanced clinical nursing training. They typically hold a Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN) and have passed a national certification exam. Their training and medical expertise qualify nurse-midwives to deliver babies independently in hospitals, clinics, birthing centers, and private practice. Further, a nurse-midwife can recognize when the circumstances of a woman’s pregnancy or delivery require the attention of a medical doctor.

Doula Qualifications

Doulas have received training on the birthing process and/or postpartum period and have met the requirements of a rigorous certification program. However, doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks. Instead, doulas hone in on a mother’s emotional and physical needs, working to create a calm environment during the most trying moments of labor, helping to ensure that a woman’s birthing plan is carried out, and providing a communication link between a mother, her partner and medical staff.

Learn more about certified nurse-midwife programs and degrees, and request more information from the midwifery schools that interest you most.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; DONA.org; Midwife.org.

  • Is this page helpful?
  • YesNo

Recommended For You

October 6, 2019 · 3 min read

Paramedic to RN Careers and Opportunities

Learn about paramedic to RN education and job opportunities.

All Nursing Schools Staff

nurse and paramedics working together with injured patient on gurney

Paramedics stand on the front lines of emergency care. Their extensive medical training and quick reactions in crises save lives each and every day. But those days can take their toll, and many paramedics, dedicated to providing medical care to others, turn to registered nursing as a means of expanding their healthcare knowledge and career opportunities.

Job Opportunities

The experience paramedics gain on the job provides an outstanding foundation for work in registered nursing (RN), a field that continues to thrive in the midst of a struggling economy.

Add to that, the ongoing nursing shortage across the United States has created a high demand for paramedic to RN candidates in a wide range of areas. In particular, paramedics who transition to RN careers in specialized practice or who are interested in practicing in rural areas, inner cities or other medically under-served areas will find strong job opportunities.


Search Paramedic to RN Programs

Paramedics earn your ADN or BSN degree online in up to 1/2 the time and cost of traditional programs. All applicants must already be a Paramedic.

Are You a Paramedic?:

Paramedic to RN Education

While paramedics obtain a significant number of training hours in emergency care and hold state-approved certification, moving from a paramedic to RN career requires some additional education that typically comes in one of two forms:

  • Paramedic to RN Bridge Programs—A paramedic to RN bridge program presents an educational fast track to certified paramedics looking to transition to a career as an RN. These programs can take 18 to 24 months to complete, with some schools offering online learning options.
  • Traditional RN Degree Programs—Traditional nursing college programs offer the most common entry-level credentials for RNs, the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Many RNs enter their field with a 2-year associate’s degree; however, earning a 4-year BSN qualifies graduates for supervisory nursing roles and helps them build a foundation for an eventual master’s in nursing (MSN) degree.

Paramedic to RN Certification

The paramedic to RN degree program you choose depends on your career goals and how much time you can dedicate to school. Of course, any program you select should be accredited and should prepare you to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination—the national licensing exam for registered nursing candidates.

Also, different states may have established their own nursing licensure requirements in addition to national standards. Before you decide on a paramedic to RN program, research and understand your state’s regulations to ensure that you choose a program that provides the essential training and clinical experience you need to practice as an RN in your state.

Explore Your Career Options

Transition your emergency care training and experience to a career as a registered nurse. The inherent compassion and practical experience you possess gives you an edge not only in your classwork but in the care you can provide patients from the first day of your RN career. Take a closer look at what registered nursing jobs have to offer, and start your search for the right paramedic to RN training program for you.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; AllNurses.com; Fresno City College

  • Is this page helpful?
  • YesNo