An Introduction to RN Certifications
Registered nurses (RNs) have the option to advance their careers by earning certification in a specialized subject. Online certification programs are designed for working RNs to help them develop the skills necessary for success within a specific medical discipline. Many times, RNs are required to hold certain certifications in order to be eligible for employment at a given medical facility. Candidates seeking to further specialize should first understand the options available to them as well as how such a program will impact their career choices.
Admittance Requirements for Certification Programs
Because RN certifications are designed for those who are already working as nurses within the health care industry, candidates are required to hold at least a bachelor's degree in nursing to be eligible for a certification program. Some online certification programs require candidates to hold a certain GPA, with the most competitive programs demanding at least a 3.0 GPA out of the standard 4.0 scale. While some requirements may differ from institution to institution, most programs abide by the standards set forth by the American Nurses & Credentialing Center (ANCC). According to the ANCC, nurses are eligible for additional certification if they meet the following requirements:
- At least two years of experience as a practicing RN
- At least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the specific area in which they wish to be certified
- At least 30 hours of continuing education in the specific area in which they wish to be certified
Common Certification Programs for RNs
Just as there are numerous medical disciplines, there are a wide variety of certifications available for RNs to pursue. Below are just a few of the most common certification programs available for practicing RNs:
Informatics Nursing Certificate
Nurses operate in a number of different capacities within the health care system, and not all of them involve direct influence over patient care. Certification in nursing informatics, for instance, prepares nurses for their role in the management of health information systems within a medical practice. This includes learning how to effectively use health information systems for strategic planning, impactful decision-making, and project management.
School Nursing Certificate
RNs interested in working with school-aged children in a public education setting will benefit most from certification in school nursing. This program prepares candidates for their role in the health care needs of students. School nurses are responsible not only for administering care to students presenting with moderate illnesses, but for educating students on how best to care for themselves and engage in healthy activities.
Nurse Educator Certificate
With a nurse educator certificate, RNs can work to become instructors within the health care industry. These nurses are responsible for educating future generations of nurses, having influence over curriculum design and best practices taught to fledgling RNs. While programs are designed for those currently holding a bachelor's degree in nursing, those wishing to sit for the National League for Nursing's Certified Nurse Educator certification examination will need to hold at least a master's degree in order to be eligible for the exam.
Ambulatory Care Certificate
Those interested in applying problem-solving and critical thinking skills in a fast-paced environment will do well in ambulatory care. This discipline largely deals with caring for patients who are in emergency situations, requiring nurses to think quickly and administer the best course of action for treatment. RNs will learn how to assess patients' health, review lab test results, and educate patients on how to support continued wellness beyond their stay at a medical facility.
Gerontological Nursing Certificate
Yet another medical discipline for RNs to consider is gerontological care. Certification in gerontological nursing involves administering care to elderly patients. This path is best suited for nurses interested in working in hospice, nursing homes, hospitals, and other medical facilities where elderly patients frequently visit.
How to Choose an RN Certification
Selecting the right RN certification program means candidates must first understand their specific career goals. Depending on the certification obtained, RNs will gain specific skills within a given area of specialization, providing them with specific career opportunities within that area of specialization. In addition to ensuring the program will provide them with the desired career outcome, RNs should also be sure the program is accredited by the proper nursing association (preferably the ANCC). Finally, the online program should provide sufficient resources for working professionals to be successful as they pursue certification.
Available Careers with RN Certification
Depending on the certification RNs obtain, they will be eligible for a number of different career paths. In general, an RN can expect to earn $71,730 annually, according to the 2018 median salary statistics provided by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). What's more, employment in this segment is projected to grow 12% over the 2018-2028 decade — much faster than the national average for employment growth overall. With the right credentials, program graduates can find success in a wide variety of careers, including the following: