Ready to start a career in nursing - Which path should I take?


  • Career Columnist / Author
    Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development. Has 30 years experience.

Hi Nurse Beth,

I am 28. I've been in more jobs than I can remember but I want to buckle down and start a career in nursing. I was indecisive all growing up and I don't want anymore mistakes. I'm torn on where to start. I have done my research though, I know the differences between LPN/RN/NP, etc. I also have a bachelor's degree in another field (obtained with student loans (ugh...)

I am hoping you can advise me and help me make an informed decision.

My options:

  • Go for LPN. I have been accepted into a program where I only have to pay for prerequisites.
  • Go for an associate RN program. A bit more of a stretch financially but somewhat doable.
  • Work on getting a second bachelor degree in nursing. This sounds like the best choice but I would have to pay fully out of pocket or take out additional student loans. I've already been accepted into an accelerated program but the more I think about it, the less appealing the 40K price tag.

In your opinion, what is the best path for a new nurse to take? I don't want to be limited professionally, don't really want to go backwards into an associate degree, and I honestly can't afford much out of picket at the moment. I am also scared of obtaining any more debt.

Can you help me?

Dear Which Path,

The best option for a new nurse to take is getting your BSN. An ADN will qualify you for clinical practice but will limit you later on from qualifying for other roles.

You've already been accepted into an accelerated program, so one option is to bite the bullet and forge ahead. You will never regret getting your BSN.

Of course, you can always get your ADN with the plan to get your BSN later. The benefit is that your future employer may help with tuition reimbursement, and you can do most of it online, so it's flexible. Do make sure that employers in your area are hiring ADN grads. You don't want to find yourself unable to land a job as a new grad.

I would not recommend the LPN route as it is the most limiting career-wise. However, friend, know that when I started out with 3 children under the age of 9 and a dissolving marriage… I chose the LPN route as a means to support myself and my children while obtaining my RN. The end goal was always BSN, but the path was circuitous due to life situation.

You can tell that I lean toward a BSN degree but not necessarily immediately. Your financial situation is real, and only you can weigh the qualitative parts of this equation- which is more important for you at this time in your life?

A (pricey) BSN that guarantees the the most professional options..or

An (affordable) ADN that limits your professional options?

Best wishes and wisdom in your decision,

Nurse Beth


Specializes in Critical Care. Has 3 years experience.

Honestly, if you already have a Bachelor's degree, getting through a "second Bachelor in nursing" program will take no more time than getting an ADN. I know people who got it done in a year, others maybe a year and a half. Your time is valuable too...not just your money. Do you really want to spend as much time getting an Associate's degree as it would take you to finish your BSN at this point - and then still have to go back to finish your BSN later? I would seriously consider that question. I am finishing my BSN right now, and employer reimbursement is of little help - you may not be able to count on it in the future. At my old job, they only covered a set amount per year unless you were willing to sign a 3 or 4 year contract effective upon graduation. I think it was around $3,000 without a commitment, or $7,500 with a commitment. At my new job, you have to attend 1 of 2 schools approved by the organization, and neither one is the university I go to.


209 Posts

Specializes in Psych,LTC,. Has 20 years experience.

there are a alot of factors. if nothing else, the salary bump, near me, NJ, from LPN to RN is significant. The pay bump from RN to BSN is usually little, off the bat. the RN will pay for itself quickly, and may let you sit for lpn boards partway. The BSN will take a longer time to pay off because the salary bump isn't big. Maybe down the road with a few years experience the BSN will get you in finer institutions, But, I'd rather get caught up in my loans first.


29 Posts

Have you tried nursing yet? Please do and not just shadow but actually spend a week or two everyday different shifts. There is not a nursing shortage. Become a CNA first and then decide. Great invaluable experience and will help you decide if that is the direction you may want to take. You say yourself "I've have had more jobs than you can remember" well try nursing before committing and spending more money on education.


838 Posts

I echo the advice to look before you leap. Nursing is hard. I obtained my ASN first, with the intention of getting my BSN immediately after through a RN-to-BSN program online. In my area, acute jobs are hard (but not impossible) to obtain without a BSN. I obtained an acute care job about two weeks after I finished my BSN. By doing it this way, I saved money but I gave up the ability to be part of a new grad program. My ASN was less than $10,000 and then I finished my BSN through WGU in less than 6 months for less than $4,000. It worked well for me. The ASN and BSN took me less than 2 years total. The RN-to-BSN program was 100% online.

I've met some amazing LPNs, but I wouldn't recommend that route. At the school I attended, LPNs receive only 5 credits toward the 75 credit community college nursing program. The bridge program, going from LPN to RN, is not online where I went. It was three semesters with clinicals, almost exactly the same as what I had to do. I think the LPNs got credit for the first semester of clinicals.

LPNs make significantly less than RNs too, even though in a nursing home, assisted living, rehab, etc., they do exactly the same job. LPNs are also pretty limited in job opportunities (but in my area, would have no trouble getting a job). If you need to get working ASAP, then it might make sense.