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What are the Different Types of Nurse Certification?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 17, 2024
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Nurse certification refers to the formal qualifications a nurse must have. There are several basic types of certification a nurse can complete in order to be qualified and legally allowed to act as a nurse within a state. Once a nurse has completed basic qualifications and become licensed and certified, the nurse can obtain additional experience and education to obtain certification in a specified area of nursing.

In order to work as a nurse, nurses must obtain a basic minimum degree. There is more than one way to do so. Different types of basic education required for certification have different requirements.

A nurse can become a registered nurse, or RN. This can generally be done through taking an associate's degree program at a community college. The nurse must then also obtain work experience, usually through the form of an internship.

Alternatively, a nurse can pursue further formal education by obtaining a bachelor's of science in nursing, or a BSN. This is done at a four-year college. Generally, the nurse will have to fulfill basic educational requirements to get her degree, and she also must take sufficient classes specific to nursing. Work experience is often required in such cases as well.

Once a nurse has obtained an associate's or bachelor's degree, within the United States she must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). This tests her basic knowledge of nursing skills that she will need to function as a nurse. Each of the 50 states within the United States requires that nurses complete this national exam to become licensed and obtain nurse certification.

Once a nurse is licensed, she may obtain nurse certification in a specific field of nursing. For example, a nurse may obtain nurse certification in neonatal nursing if she wishes to work primarily with infants in the neonatal unit. A nurse can also become a diabetes nurse, a nurse midwife, a maternity nurse, an oncology nurse, or another type of specialized nurse. Many hospitals and academic institutions offer coursework that allows a nurse to obtain nurse certification in one of these particular fields.

Generally, both work experience within the particular field of medicine and the passing of an exam to test basic knowledge is required for a nurse to obtain this type of additional certification. Some hospitals will require a nurse working in particular units or departments to have this certification. In other cases, certification can make a nurse a more attractive candidate for a given job.

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Discussion Comments
By Laotionne — On Nov 17, 2014

Nursing is one of the fastest growing professions in the world. Unless there is some miracle cure-all drug that is about to be developed, this is not going to change. People will always get sick and injured, and they will need people to look after them and provide medical attention for them.

I think many people are intimidated by the medical field, but for an averagely intelligent person who has compassion, earning nurse certification is not difficult, and the job has the potential to be very rewarding in many different ways.

By Animandel — On Nov 17, 2014

Because nursing and the medical profession in general involves the use of sophisticated technology that is changing daily, you can understand why nurses have to continue training while they are working. A nurse certification that was earned 10 years ago is not going to be sufficient today, so the nurse has to train with all of the new technology as well as brush up on the basics.

By Sporkasia — On Nov 16, 2014

I have a friend who works in the medical profession. She is an imaging technician. She fell into the profession by accident, but she is definitely happy that she did. Before she started doing this job she was just getting by in dead-end positions.

Anyway, she tells me that one of the most important things you can do once you get into the medical profession is to keep learning. Whether you are a sonar technician or a psychiatric nurse, certification is not a one time event. Once you have the job, you have to continue to train and take classes to earn even more certifications.

Continued training is required and this is the way you can increase your salary. The more certifications you earn and the more duties you can carry out the more money you will take home.

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