How to Become a Licensed Practitioner
After earning your nursing degree, you must pass the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN licensure exam to become a licensed practitioner. NCLEX stands for National Council Licensure Examination; NCLEX-PN is for licensed practical/vocational nurses External link and NCLEX-RN External link is for registered nurses. External link
The minimum educational requirement to sit for the NCLEX-RN is an ADN or higher from an accredited program. To qualify to sit for the NCLEX-PN, you will need to complete an approved training program for licensed practical nurses (LPNs). While enrolling in an LPN program can be a good fit for those who want to break into the nursing field more quickly than a BSN candidate, for example, and at a lower cost, the completion of an LPN program does not result in a nursing degree.
Graduate nursing degrees—such as a master’s in nursing (MSN) or a doctorate in nursing (PhD or DNP)—provide nurses with many options to practice at an advanced level, depending on the specialty area in which they choose to practice.
Specialties Available Within Each Nursing Degree
There are many types of specialties available within each type of nursing degree. While nurses can practice across a wide range of specialties with undergraduate degrees, a nurse’s educational level can influence advancement opportunities and their scope of practice. For instance, nurses with an ADN or BSN can work with various specialty populations in different environments, but they are more limited in the types of tasks they can do and care they are permitted to provide than advanced practice nurses who have master’s and doctoral degrees.
Undergraduate Degree Specialties
Nurses with either an ADN or a BSN have the opportunity to obtain additional nursing certification External link to demonstrate their expertise. The following are examples of common nursing specialty areas, and the care practitioners in those areas provide:
Addiction nurses care for patients who are struggling with substance use disorders.
Cardiovascular nurses care for patients who have heart disease and/or have had heart surgery.
Critical care nurses work in various types of critical care units within hospitals.
Genetics nurses provide screening, counseling, and treatment for patients who have genetic disorders.
Neonatology nurses care for newborns, which may include those who are receiving care within the neonatal intensive care unit.
Nephrology nurses work with patients who have health issues related to kidney disease.
Public health nurses promote public health through education, screenings and provision of preventive care.
Rehabilitation nurses care for patients who have temporary or permanent disabilities.
Many registered nurses also work in non-clinical roles such as education or administration.