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Like many Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs, you probably have long-term career goals you'd like to achieve. Whether you would simply like to advance into a role as an LPN or RN or if you'd like to go as far as your ambition will take you, you'll need to acquire the right educational credentials to get there. Fortunately, CNAs can take their pick from a variety of exciting educational advancement opportunities. As an added bonus, most can be achieved while holding down a full-time job, so you can maintain your career as a CNA while gaining the education you need to progress further.
Even if you just became a CNA or are still working on obtaining your license, it's never too early to think about your long-term career plans. Keep these five educational advancement opportunities in mind to make an informed decision.
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A logical next step for a CNA who is ready to progress in their career is earning an LPN license. As a licensed practical nurse, you will have more responsibilities and will qualify for better jobs and better pay. LPN programs, which are typically offered at community colleges and vocational and technical schools, usually take around a year to complete. You must then take and pass the NCLEX-PN.
Associate Degree in Nursing
Many people begin as CNAs, but ultimately aspire to be Registered Nurses (RNs). If you have such a goal, consider earning your associate degree in nursing (ADN). Most ADN programs take two to three years to complete. After that, you'll be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN. From there, you can earn your RN license and start applying for jobs.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Another way to become an RN is by earning your bachelor of science in nursing, or BSN, which involves completing four years of study at a college or university. The primary advantage of pursuing your RN license in this manner is that it leaves the door open for additional advancement opportunities later, including advanced degrees.
Many colleges and universities offer so-called bridge programs that essentially give credit for previous educational or work achievements, allowing students to progress in their educations more quickly. For example, a CNA-to-LPN program might allow you to sit for the NCLEX-PN sooner because some of the credentials you've earned as a CNA will be taken into consideration. LPN-to-RN programs are also widely available.
If you'd like to become a nurse educator, a researcher, an administrator, or assume other advanced roles in the nursing community, an advanced degree is essential. Many RNs go on to earn their master of science in nursing, or MSN, in order to quality for advanced nursing roles. Such positions command higher pay and typically come with better benefits and other perks. Depending on your long-term goals, you might also consider earning your doctor of nursing practice, or DNP. For example, if you want to be a nurse practitioner and someday have your own practice, earning a DNP is the way to go.
As you can see, earning a CNA license is often merely the first step in a very rewarding career in nursing. Whatever your long-term aspirations may be, knowing your options in terms of educational advancement will help you achieve your goals more easily.