CNA to RN: 3 Ways to Transition Into a New Career

Last Updated on October 9, 2023

a CNA or RN wearing blue scrubs and stethoscope caring for elderly patient

CNAs: Have you considered taking the next step in your career to become a registered nurse? If you’re looking to move from a CNA to an RN career, pursuing a nursing degree is crucial. Fortunately, having experience as a CNA beforehand can make your time in school much smoother.

You don’t have to be a CNA to be an RN. However, your foundation as a CNA will help you navigate the transition into nursing with greater ease. So, discover what the journey from a CNA to RN nursing career involves below!

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Is Being a CNA Harder Than Being a Nurse?

As a CNA or Patient Care Assistant, you are on the frontline of patient care as a certified professional to help patients with their basic healthcare needs and daily living under the supervision of a Registered Nurse or any other healthcare provider. Your duties as a CNA include helping patients eat and make their beds, measuring and recording patient vitals, and assisting nurses with their procedures.

In contrast, a registered nurse’s responsibilities consist of more advanced tasks. For example, assessing patient conditions, conducting diagnostic tests, analyzing test results, administering treatment and medications, and more.

How to Transition: CNA to RN

As an aspiring nursing professional, aligning your career path with your personal goals is a great way to support your professional development. Additionally, taking advantage of opportunities to continue your education can open more doors in your career.

Ever thought about leveling up your nursing career to become an RN? It’s a natural aspiration because, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want the autonomy and higher salary that comes with being an RN (in some cases, it’s more than double what CNAs make)!

That said, there are a few options in terms of advancing your career path into the nursing profession. Individuals typically become nurses in a few different ways.

CNA to RN Career Paths

CNAs interested in becoming RNs typically look to earn:

  • A Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN)
  • An associate degree in nursing (ADN)
  • A diploma from an approved nursing program

Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN)

As with most other professions, having a Bachelor’s degree offers you greater professional esteem, higher pay, and more job opportunities than the Associate’s degree or Diploma. However, schooling tends to be higher and it can take up to 4 years to complete your degree. Most employers prioritize BSN holders when hiring nursing staff.

Accelerated BSN Program

Already have a degree in another subject? The accelerated BSN program could be for you, as it is available for those who already have a Bachelor’s degree in another profession. You can complete the program within a year. Note that as a CNA, your certificate isn’t considered a degree. You would only be eligible for this program if you have a degree in any other subject.

CNA to RN Bridge Program

The CNA to RN Bridge program is the fastest and easiest way to advance from a certified nursing assistant into a registered nurse. This program allows you to get your associate degree in nursing (ADN) in just one year while still working as a CNA. The program acknowledges the fact that you already have a background in nursing. However, you’d be required to take a couple of general courses. To get your license as a registered nurse, you must pass the RN licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN. This comes soon after you complete the CNA to RN course.

Now that you have additional information about potential career paths, it could be time to take the next step. Explore some of the best nursing schools to earn your next-level degree.

Best Schools to Get Your Online Nursing Degree Programs

Charting your CNA to RN career? As reported by U.S. News & World Reports, the following are the best schools with online nursing degree programs:

  1. University of South Carolina
  2. Duke University
  3. Ohio State University
  4. Saint Xavier University

After getting your nursing degree, you don’t have to stop there. You can advance your career into a Master’s and even a Doctorate of Nursing. Here are some of the top schools for furthering your nursing degree:

Top Nursing Schools to Get Your Master’s Degree

Are you considering an advanced nursing degree as part of your CNA to RN career path? U.S. News recently updated their rankings of the top DNP programs for nursing masters degrees. For 2023-2024, their top schools for Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees include:

  1. Emory University
  2. Johns Hopkins University
  3. University of Pennsylvania
  4. Duke University
  5. University of Washington

Top Nursing Schools to Get Your Doctor Of Nursing Degree

Additionally, for CNA looking to go even further and pursue a doctorate of nursing, U.S. News mentions the top schools with doctoral nursing programs:

  1. Johns Hopkins University
  2. Columbia University
  3. Duke University
  4. Rush University
  5. University of Washington

Explore CNA and RN Opportunities with CareerStaff

Now that you know all the opportunities open to you with a CNA to RN transition, it’s time to take action and pursue your dreams. Whether you’re a registered nurse or CNA, you’ll have access to a variety of job opportunities with higher pay that offer the potential for continued advancement in the profession.

Looking for flexible nursing opportunities in the meantime? Join the CareerStaff network today and connect with one of our career-minded recruiters. You can search our list of available nursing jobs here, or submit a quick application to get started, below!

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