How To Advance Your Nursing Career Without a Master’s Degree

People who work in nursing often undergo extensive schooling to become experts in their field. Although some nurses pursue a master’s degree, there are several other ways to advance your career. If you’re interested in a career as a nurse, you may benefit from learning about the various options available to you without a master’s degree.

In this article, we discuss how to advance your nursing career without a master’s degree and we provide a few tips to help you in your career.

Why advance your nursing career?

If you’re interested in becoming an established nurse and increasing your earning potential, it’s important to try to advance your career. As you begin to advance your career without a master’s degree, you may find various roles that appeal to your experience and education. Doing this also may provide you with opportunities to develop your skills and gain unique experiences in a specialty, such as pediatrics or oncology. Advancing your career may lead to:

  • New job opportunities: You might be eligible for roles in different specialties, such as psychiatry or anesthesia, or work in advanced nursing positions, like an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or nurse practitioner (NP).

  • Increase in salary: An increase in responsibility often accompanies an increase in salary. You may also be eligible for additional perks, bonuses and benefits, such as opportunities to earn a certification.

  • Promotions to leadership positions: You also mat advance to leadership roles, such as a nurse manager or educator. Nursing leadership positions can give you an opportunity to serve as a liaison between the nursing community and policymakers.


How to advance your nursing career without a master’s degree

There are a variety of ways you can advance your nursing career without a master’s degree. Here are seven steps to consider:


1. Develop a plan

Before you attempt to advance your nursing career, it’s often best to create a plan. This may include details like your short- and long-term career goals and the training or certifications you may earn. Consider adding details to your goals by conducting research and consulting other nurses. You may benefit from having a detailed plan you can use to track various milestones along your career path.


2. Earn a second bachelor’s degree

If you want to advance your career without earning a master’s, consider earning a second bachelor’s degree in nursing. These programs often provide a range of applicable knowledge to implement in your work. You also can pursue an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, which typically lasts between one and two years to allow students to complete schooling quickly.


3. Earn your RN license

After completing your nursing degree, you can earn your registered nurse (RN) license if you don’t already have it. To do so, you pass the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCLEX-RN) examination. It’s important to prepare for the exam by studying, taking practice tests or implementing other study tools. Once you complete and pass this exam, you become eligible to apply for work in nursing.


4. Find a mentor

While working in nursing, you may benefit from finding a mentor who has a similar career path to you. Your mentor may provide helpful advice for continuing to advance your career without earning a master’s degree. Consider finding a mentor who has a wide range of nursing experience because they may help you identify areas of improvement to help you continue developing professionally.


5. Earn a specialization certification

After gaining some experience in the field, you may discover you’re passionate about one area of the nursing practice. If this is the case, you can earn a specialization certification. When you specialize, you can become an expert in a specific area of nursing. Earning a certification in a specific area can provide you with opportunities to lead other nurses in the specialty. Some specializations in nursing include:

  • Midwifery

  • Anesthesiology

  • Management

  • Education

  • Neonatology

  • Critical care

  • Psychiatry

  • Geriatrics

  • Ambulatory care

  • Case management

  • Clinical

  • Correctional

  • Dermatology

  • Diabetes


6. Join a professional nursing organization

Another way you can advance your nursing career is by joining a professional nursing organization. Membership in these organizations can provide you with continual education and certification courses, educational conferences and other professional development opportunities. Additionally, your membership in an organization can help you meet other specialists in your field and build your professional network.


7. Update your resume

As you apply for nursing positions with the goal of advancing your career, it’s important to update your resume. Your resume provides potential employers with information about your work history, skills and education. Try to incorporate details from each job description into your resume to demonstrate to employers you’re a good fit for their organization. An updated resume can lead to various employment opportunities because it reflects your experience and communicates your level of professionalism.

Tips for advancing your nursing career

Here are a few other tips to consider if you want to advance your nursing career:


Find your passion

Discovering what you care most about can help you identify new opportunities to advance your nursing career. Implementing your passions into your work also can motivate you to work hard and help you succeed. Your passion can determine your specialty, your workplace or the type of nursing skills you develop.


Take responsibility

It’s important to remember to take responsibility for your personal career development because you ultimately control your career. If you have a list of goals you want to accomplish, try to ensure you accomplish those goals. You can do this by taking initiative in performing new tasks or interacting with specialists in the medical field. Taking responsibility for your career can lead to several benefits, such as potential career advancements and connections in the field.


Research the job market

If you’re looking for a new role in nursing, you might benefit from researching the job market. You can determine the jobs that are in high demand and consider whether any of these openings can help you advance your career. While researching for suitable positions, you may find a nursing role that appeals to you and meets your level of experience, which can help you advance your nursing career.


Shadow other nurses

Before you choose a specialty, you may decide to shadow other nurses in that field. Shadowing senior nurses can provide you with the opportunity to better understand the daily tasks in that field. For example, if you have an interest in neonatal care, you can request to shadow an experienced neonatal nurse. During this experience, you can observe the various tasks they complete, how they interact with their patients and how nursing practices in this specialty differ from other types of nursing.



Another way you can try to advance your career is by volunteering at a clinic or another medical site. Volunteering can provide you with the opportunity to increase your knowledge, learn new skills and further develop the skills you have. It also can help you expand your professional network to include the other volunteers or specialists who work at the clinic, hospital or organization.


12 Tips for Becoming a Nurse at 30


Beginning your nursing career at age 30 can be a rewarding decision. People who become nurses a little later in life may benefit from previous professional experience, greater certainty in their new career path and the flexibility in nursing career options. In this article, we discuss the advantages of becoming a nurse a bit later in life and offer 12 tips for becoming a nurse at age 30.

What are the advantages of becoming a nurse at 30?

Starting a nursing career when you’re a slightly older adult can be a great career decision. Here are some benefits of becoming a nurse at 30:

  • You have more job experience. At age 30, you may have more professional experience than some other nursing candidates. No matter your industry or field, you likely already have transferrable job skills such as communication, teamwork and critical thinking abilities.

  • You can work in a stable career. As nurses are in demand in many fields, they typically enjoy job security.

  • You’re more certain about becoming a nurse. Nurses who begin their careers later in life are often more confident about their chosen profession. When you’re more certain about your career choice, you might have greater motivation to perform well in school and find a suitable career.

  • You can choose your work schedule and environment. Many medical facilities are open later than traditional businesses, so some nurses can choose the schedule best for them, such as night shifts or part-time hours. You can also choose to work at a certain facility or with a certain type of patients, such as children or older adults.

  • You know how to prioritize tasks. Both nursing school and the nursing profession require candidates to successfully balance and complete many tasks within a given period. Becoming a nurse at 30 means you likely already know how to prioritize assignments and accomplish things on time.

  • You get many career advancement opportunities. A nursing career has a variety of developmental and growth opportunities. You can rise to a position with more leadership duties or a role with more responsibilities, such as a nurse practitioner.

  • You can be a role model. If you become a nurse at 30, you might serve as a role model to other people who begin a new career later in life. You can also help nursing students with less professional experience handle their own responsibilities, such as time management.

  • You might earn a higher income. Depending on your current joy, you may earn a higher salary as a nurse. Your increased income can help you pay your mortgage or other costly aspects of your life.

12 tips for becoming a nurse at 30

Here are 12 tips to help you succeed in your career as a nurse:

1. Be confident about your age

Be confident about your decision to start a second career as a nurse. No matter your current age, it is possible to begin a new career that you are more passionate about. Even if you are nervous about becoming a nurse at 30, try to project confidence when writing your personal statement or speaking with admissions counselors. If you believe in your ability to begin a second career, those around you are more likely to believe in your potential for success, too.

2. Consider the effects on you and your family

Think about how your decision to attend nursing school might affect you and your family. Starting a second career you’re passionate about can be a great decision, but it’s important to plan for the possible effects. If you’ve decided to attend nursing school, think over ahead of time logistical factors such as your time commitment, the cost and any schedule or budget changes you’d need to make. Figuring the logistics out ahead of time can help you balance your nursing school with other aspects of your life.

3. Get a GED or high school diploma

If you don’t yet have a high school diploma or GED, obtain these before applying to nursing school. Nearly all nursing programs require applicants to have a GED or high school diploma. If you’ve been out of school for more than a few years, you may want to enroll in GED or basic education classes before taking any diploma examinations.

4. Pick a type of nursing school

Choose the nursing program best for you. There are many types of nursing schools available, each with its own advantages. The best type of program for you depends on your education level, nursing career goals and other factors. Here are the most common types of schools for older adults looking to start a new career in nursing:

  • Licensed practical nurse programs: A licensed practical nurse (LPN) program earns you a diploma in practical nursing and allows you to become an LPN. As these programs typically last only about a year, they’re a great option for aspiring nurses eager to begin their careers.

  • Hospital nursing programs: Some hospitals offer internal nursing programs where students attend for free in exchange for a certain number of work hours. At the end of the program, you typically receive a diploma in practical nursing.

  • Associate of Science in nursing programs: An Associate of Science in nursing (ASN) program gives you the ability to become a registered nurse (RN). RNs have greater earning potential and more responsibilities than LPNs, such as administering medications to patients.

  • Bachelor of Science in nursing programs: With a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) program, you can become an RN. While RNs with bachelor’s degrees may have more career opportunities, an RN with an associate degree can start their career more quickly.

  • Accelerated nursing programs: People with bachelor’s degrees in other fields may most benefit from accelerated nursing programs. These programs typically cover prerequisites you may not have taken for your previous degree, such as anatomy or biological classes as well as courses specific to the nursing profession.

5. Research financial aid options

Do research on financing options that can help you pay for nursing school. Here are some of the most common ways to pay for your nursing program:

  • Scholarships: Scholarships grant you money as an award for your achievements or a specific project. Your nursing school may provide scholarships internally to their students, or you can search for external organizations that offer scholarships.

  • Student loans: With a student loan, you can pay for your education after you’ve earned your diploma or degree. Keep in mind that some loans do charge interest while you’re in school.

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines if you qualify for any educational funding from the U.S. government. It also helps specific schools figure out how much internal financial aid to award you.

  • Employer-paid tuition programs: Some hospitals or other medical facilities offer employees tuition reimbursement. This means that, if you agree to work for that medical facility for a given amount of time during or after nursing school, that medical facility pays for part or all of your nursing school expenses.

6. Determine required pre-requisites or exams

Complete any required prerequisites or exams before beginning nursing school. Depending on the nursing program you choose, you may need to fulfill certain requirements before applying or enrolling. For example, you might have to take science classes, finish internal placement tests or complete a standardized national examination like the COMPASS test.

7. Get your vaccination records

Obtain copies of your vaccination records. Most nursing schools require written verification that you’re up to date on all your vaccinations. You may also need to get and document your annual flu shot.

8. Write about your career change in your personal statement

Discuss why you want to become a nurse at 30 in your personal statement. Most nursing programs require candidates to submit a personal statement as part of their application. Use the personal statement as an opportunity to discuss why you want to start a new career as a nurse. This might include describing obstacles you had earlier in your life to pursuing your career goals, explaining how a previous career led you to nursing or detailing experiences from later in your life that inspired you to pursue nursing.

9. Discuss nursing school with your family

Make sure that everyone in your family understands why going back to nursing school is important to you and how it might affect their lives. Talking about expectations and changes related to your new career or education can prepare you and your family for success. For example, discussing with your family the hours you’ll need the house quiet may help them figure out alternative activities while you study.

10. Create a supportive network

Build a group of people who can emotionally support you during this career change. This supportive network may comprise friends, family members, an academic counselor or fellow nursing students. Your support group can help you pursue nursing courses and career options with confidence.

11. Take classes on nursing as a second career

Enroll in classes, workshops or other events about pursuing nursing as a second career. Some nursing programs offer courses related to starting a new career as a nurse, such as how to advance a nursing career. You might also look for classes offered by a local community center or professional nursing association.

12. Set realistic goals and expectations

Create achievable goals for yourself. Starting a second career as a nurse can require a lot of hard work. Help yourself by making smaller objectives related to your larger nursing career goals. Separating your more ambitious nursing goals into smaller tasks can help you celebrate your progress and increase your motivation.

FAQs about becoming a nurse at 30

Here are some frequently asked questions about becoming a nurse at 30:

What is the work environment like for nurses?

Most nurses have unpredictable work environments. A patient’s needs can sometimes alter a lot or unexpectedly, which may make create continual changes in a nurse’s work environment.

Nurses can work in a wide range of medical fields and facilities that affect their individual work settings. A nurse at a private clinic, for example, likely has a different work environment than a nurse at a large hospital. Nurses can also find jobs at places such as universities, rehabilitation facilities or in a patient’s home.

How much can I make if I become a nurse at 30?

Nursing salaries vary based on many factors, including their education level, nursing license and geographic location. For example, as of 2021, the average annual salary for an LPN in the U.S. is $48,704. By contrast, the average income for an RN is $78,453 per year.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Studies (BLS), employment opportunities for both LPNs and RNs will grow faster than the average for most professions. The BLS projects that jobs for LPNs may increase by 9% and jobs for RNs could raise by 7% from 2019 to 2029.

What kinds of responsibilities could I have as a nurse?

A nurse’s duties depend on their license, job role and work environment. For example, an LPN in the cardiology department at a hospital has different responsibilities than an RN at a private sports clinic. Here are some nursing duties you might have when you begin your new career:

  • Providing basic patient care, such as checking vital signs or monitoring a patient’s overall health condition

  • Assisting with diagnostics tests

  • Discussing a patient’s medical procedures and treatments with them and explaining any healthcare terminology

  • Administering medications to patients

  • Discussing a patient’s care procedures or treatments with their medical team

  • Maintaining and updating patient records

  • Helping patients with their basic needs, such as bathing, feeding or walking down the hallway



How To Advance Your Nursing Career Without a Master's Degree
How To Advance Your Nursing Career Without a Master’s Degree

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