How to Advance Your Career from CNA to RN

How to Advance Your Career from CNA to RN

There comes a time for many Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) when climbing the

ladder to become a Registered Nurse (RN) just makes sense. Whether you’ve hit the

point where you’re ready to learn more and advance, you’re motivated by the

additional opportunities and bump in pay, or a little of both, taking the next step

in your career can be a smart move. That being said, actually navigating that

journey can be confusing and intimidating. To follow are some expert tips to clarify

what your options are and help set your expectations.

What is a Registered Nurse?


An RN is a nursing professional who has completed the specified level of education

via an accredited nursing program and successfully passed his or her local state

licensure exams. While the total scope of practice for an RN may vary based on

geographical location, there are certain general responsibilities that are typically

consistent across the board. These responsibilities include:

  • Analyzing medical situations

  • Performing diagnostic tests

  • Administering medications

  • Utilizing medical equipment

  • Assisting physicians and other medical personnel with various procedures

  • Maintaining accurate patient records

Benefits of Becoming an RN


Transitioning from CNA to RN can open a number of new and exciting career

opportunities as well as the chance to explore a number of different specialties.

Registered Nurses across the board enjoy a variety of career-enrichment benefits,

including but not limited to:

  • Job Security

  • Career Flexibility

  • Excellent Salaries

  • Flexible Scheduling

  • Travel Opportunities

  • Continuing Education Assistance

  • Comprehensive Medical, Dental and Vision Coverage

  • Generous Vacation and Sick Pay

  • Overtime Pay

  • Retirement and Investment Packages

Occupational Outlook


For those interested in becoming an RN, the future looks overwhelmingly positive. In

fact, according to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing jobs are

expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 15% between now and 2026.

Furthermore, the demand for skilled registered nurses is expected to surge to an

eye-popping 3.6 million by the year 2030. In terms of salary, the BLS puts the

current median pay rate at just under $72k per year.

RNs most often work within a hospital setting, though there are plenty of career

opportunities in other health care settings as well. For instance, facilities like

private practices, specialty clinics and skilled nursing facilities are just a few

of the many organizations that have a need for RNs. There’s also the opportunity to

become a traveling nurse as well. And, of course, once you’ve successfully achieved

your credentials as a Registered Nurse, you’ll have the option to expand into

certain specialty and niche areas, such as:

  • Emergency Room/Critical Care/Trauma Centers

  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

  • Psychiatric Care Nursing

  • Labor and Obstetrics/Midwifery

  • Occupational Nursing

  • Dermatology

  • Burn Centers

  • Correctional Facility Nursing

  • Forensic Nursing

  • Flight/Transport

In other words, the possibilities are virtually endless.

Types of Registered Nursing Programs


In terms of obtaining a degree as a Registered Nurse, there are a number of

different options available, such as the following:

Accelerated BSN Programs – These programs are designed for individuals who already

have a Bachelor’s Degree. In addition to the BS degree, qualifications for an

accelerated program typically include a minimum GPA. With this type of fast track

program, students can achieve their BSN in as few as 12 months.

Bridged BSN Programs – For graduates who began their career in a different

health care capacity (i.e. CNA, LPN or LVN), or who didn’t enter into a nursing

career immediately, a bridged BSN program is typically the recommended course of

action. It’s called a “bridge” because it’s designed for individuals who need to

bridge the educational gap. This type of program generally uses both traditional as

well as online educational tools.

Full-Time BSN Programs – Full-time nursing programs are best for individuals

who are able to commit to a full-time schedule of coursework. There are currently

more than 670 BSN programs available across the US, including a significant number

of online options.

Part-Time BSN Programs – These programs are ideal for aspiring nurses who

don’t have the time or availability to commit to a full-time program, such as

individuals who are already employed. Part-time BSN programs offer more flexibility,

including classes held at night, on weekends and online.

Online BSN Programs – For those interested in pursuing their nursing education

100% remotely, there are a number of BSN programs that are carried out entirely

online. Increasing demand and improved technology have made the option of online

education much more feasible. Those with other commitments, such as full-time jobs

or family responsibilities, may find online learning to be a much more viable option

as opposed to traditional campus-based programs. Some online accelerated programs

even offer the ability to complete a BSN in just 12 months.

RN Program Requirements


As mentioned above, becoming an RN requires a BSN as well as successfully passing a

licensing exam carried out by the authorizing state. Obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree

in nursing requires the completion of all necessary classes and coursework outlined

in the selected program. With the exception of accelerated and bridged programs,

most BSN programs take an average of four years to complete.

In order to be accepted into a BSN program, certain college preparatory coursework

and other standard prerequisites may be required. These typically include the


  • Cumulative G.P.A. of 2.75 or higher from High School or Associates Degree program

  • Prior coursework in laboratory-based science related classes such as Biology,
    Anatomy, Chemistry, and Microbiology

  • Documented volunteer efforts

  • Completion of a personal essay

Cost and Payment Options


The total cost of an RN program may vary based on a number of factors, such as where

you are in your educational journey. For instance, students who already have their

Bachelor’s Degree may have the option of enrolling in an accelerated program, which

would require less time and subsequently cost less. Accelerated programs range

anywhere from $20k to $90k. Conversely, a complete, four-year BSN program can cost

anywhere from $40k to $200k.

The good news is, there are plenty of options for paying for your education. These

options may include:

  • Student Loans

  • Federal-Based Financial Aid

  • Grants

  • Scholarships

  • Employer-Sponsored Tuition Assistance

When it comes to advancing your career as a CNA, pursuing your RN credentials can be

a wise and lucrative decision. Hopefully this guide provided some valuable

information to help you take that next step in your nursing career journey.