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What To Do After Nursing School: Your Ultimate Guide

As a nursing student, you’ve spent countless hours studying, attending lectures, and completing clinical rotations. Now that you’ve graduated, you may be wondering what to do next. After all, nursing is a highly competitive field, and there are numerous paths you can take to advance your career. In this guide, we’ll explore what to do after nursing school to help you make the most of your education and experience.

Get Your Nursing License

The first step after nursing school is to obtain your nursing license. This is required to work as a nurse in any state in the U.S. To become licensed, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Before you take the exam, make sure to study and prepare thoroughly. Many nursing schools offer NCLEX review courses to help you prepare.

Consider Your Career Options

Once you’ve obtained your nursing license, it’s time to consider your career options. Nursing is a diverse field with numerous career paths. Some of the most common options include:

Hospital Nursing

Hospital nursing is the most common career path for new nursing graduates. As a hospital nurse, you’ll work in a hospital setting and provide care to patients with a wide variety of medical conditions. Hospital nurses often work long hours, including night shifts and weekends.

Home Health Nursing

Home health nursing involves providing care to patients in their homes. This can be a rewarding career path for those who enjoy working one-on-one with patients and their families. Home health nurses often work flexible schedules and may have the opportunity to work independently.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who have completed additional education and training. As a nurse practitioner, you’ll have more autonomy and responsibility than a registered nurse. You’ll be able to diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, and order diagnostic tests.

Nurse Educator

If you enjoy teaching and mentoring others, a career as a nurse educator may be a good fit for you. Nurse educators work in academic settings, teaching nursing students the skills and knowledge they need to become successful nurses.

Consider Furthering Your Education

If you’re interested in advancing your nursing career, furthering your education is a great way to do so. Some of the most common options include:

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN)

A BSN degree is becoming increasingly important in the nursing field. Many employers now require or prefer nurses with a BSN degree, as it provides a more comprehensive education and prepares nurses for a wider range of roles and responsibilities.

Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN)

An MSN degree is required to become a nurse practitioner or nurse educator. It can also lead to career advancement in other areas of nursing, such as nursing administration.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

A DNP degree is the highest level of education available in nursing. It prepares nurses for advanced practice roles and leadership positions in healthcare.

Consider Joining Professional Organizations

Joining a professional nursing organization can be a great way to network with other nurses, stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and best practices, and access continuing education opportunities. Some of the most popular nursing organizations include:

American Nurses Association (ANA)

The ANA is the largest nursing organization in the U.S. It advocates for the nursing profession and provides resources and support to nurses at all levels of practice.

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP)

The NAPNAP is a professional organization for pediatric nurse practitioners. It provides education and resources to help pediatric nurses provide high quality care to children.

National Black Nurses Association (NBNA)

The NBNA is a professional organization for black nurses. It provides resources and support to black nurses and advocates for health equity and social justice.

Build Your Professional Network

Networking is a key component of building a successful nursing career. Make an effort to attend industry events, conferences, and professional development workshops. Joining nursing associations and other healthcare-related organizations can also help you build valuable connections in the field.

Stay Current on Industry Trends and Best Practices

The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, and it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices. Subscribe to nursing journals and attend continuing education courses to stay current on the latest research and advancements in the field.

Take Care of Yourself

Nursing can be a stressful and demanding career, so it’s important to prioritize your own health and wellbeing. Take breaks when needed, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and seek support from friends and family when necessary.


After nursing school, there are numerous paths you can take to advance your nursing career. Obtaining your nursing license, considering career options, furthering your education, joining professional organizations, building your professional network, and staying current on industry trends and best practices are all important steps to take. Remember to also prioritize your own health and wellbeing to ensure a successful and fulfilling nursing career.

What is the average salary for a registered nurse?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for registered nurses in the United States was $75,330 in May 2020. However, salaries can vary based on factors such as geographic location, level of education, and years of experience.

Can I become a nurse practitioner without obtaining a master’s degree in nursing?

In most cases, a master’s degree in nursing is required to become a nurse practitioner. However, some programs may offer an alternate route for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, such as an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program followed by a master’s program.

What is the NCLEX-RN exam, and how do I prepare for it?

The NCLEX-RN exam is a standardized exam that measures the competencies needed to perform safely and effectively as an entry-level registered nurse. To prepare for the exam, it’s important to review content covered in nursing school and utilize study materials such as review books, practice exams, and online resources.

How do I choose the right nursing organization to join?

When choosing a nursing organization to join, consider factors such as the organization’s mission and values, the benefits and resources it offers to members, and the networking and professional development opportunities available. It may also be helpful to ask for recommendations from colleagues or mentors in the field.

What are some self-care tips for nurses to prevent burnout?

Self-care is crucial for preventing burnout in nursing. Some tips include prioritizing sleep, eating a balanced diet, engaging in physical activity, setting boundaries between work and personal life, practicing stress-reducing activities such as meditation or yoga, and seeking support from a therapist or support group if needed.

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