Nursing Pathways: How to Choose Your Path to RN

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As a prospective nursing student, understanding all the possible nursing pathways gets complicated. While there are many degree options, the best pathway for most students involves earning a BSN degree. You can finish sooner through an accelerated nursing program. Plus, you’ll be able to advance your career as desired.

nursing instructor standing in front of class of students

Shoutout to all prospective nursing students trying to navigate the complicated world of nursing school admissions. As you may know, multiple roads lead to the goal of becoming a registered nurse (RN), so differentiating them can be a challenge. This blog will introduce you to the various nursing pathways and help you determine which option is best for you.

You likely aim to positively influence your community through a career in nursing. Whatever path you take, CSP Global is here to help. Our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Portland, Oregon, can help you earn your degree in as few as 16 months. As you’ll see, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is the most recommended nursing pathway.

Now it’s time to shed some light on your degree and pathway options as you pursue nursing.

Nursing Career Pathways: Degree Options

To become a nurse, you’ll first need to earn a degree. You have a few options, but generally speaking, we recommend students choose the BSN nursing pathway. Here are the degree options:


The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) generally consists of a two-year program. This degree used to be more popular than it is today, and that’s because the nursing field has begun to place a higher weight on education. In fact, 71.7% of employers strongly prefer that their new hires have a bachelor’s degree.


The BSN degree is the standard recommended degree in most situations. A BSN will set you up to be a competitive, highly qualified nurse able to enter myriad specialties and earn a comfortable living. Plus, if you already have prior experience, you can opt for an accelerated nursing program like ours at CSP Global, earning your degree in as few as 16 months instead of four years.

two nursing students sitting and looking at a laptop

MSN, DNP, and PhD

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) are advanced degrees that you may choose to pursue after you’ve graduated with a BSN and worked as a nurse for a while. If you’re planning to become a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse scientist or another advanced practice nurse, earning a master’s or doctorate becomes essential.

Steps to Become a Nurse with a BSN

Because the BSN nursing pathway is the most common, we’ll walk through the steps for how to become a nurse through this pathway.

1. Choose a Nursing Program

The first step of the BSN nursing pathway is choosing which program you want to attend. With a variety of options, knowing what to look for is key. Pay attention to several factors when zeroing in on the right program for you, such as:

  • Accreditation and state approval
  • Accelerated vs. traditional: Choose accelerated if you have past college experience and traditional if you don’t.
  • Admissions requirements
  • Program length
  • Availability of online coursework
  • Quality of clinical learning experiences
  • Program location
  • NCLEX pass rates
  • Admissions support
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2. Connect with an Admissions Counselor

Once you’ve found a program, you’ll want to set up a time to talk with an admissions counselor, which you can do by completing our online form. During the call, your admissions counselor will ask about your interest in nursing and your educational history. This will help gauge your eligibility for the program.

If you are a suitable candidate, your counselor will help you choose a goal start date and map out any requirements or prerequisite courses you’ll need to fulfill before applying to the ABSN program. At CSP Global, your counselor will be available every step of the way to answer questions and guide you in the admissions process.

3. Complete ABSN Requirements and Prerequisites

Once you’ve formed a plan, your next priority will be completing any unmet requirements. The exact admissions requirements and prerequisites vary by school. We require at least 54 non-nursing college credits or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Plus, you’ll need a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

CSP nursing student sitting at desk using laptop

CSP Global ABSN students need the following prerequisites before starting the program:

  • Lifespan developmental psychology
  • Quantitative reasoning for healthcare professionals
  • Chemistry for health sciences
  • Microbiology (general biology I with lab is a prerequisite to this course)
  • Human anatomy & physiology I with lab (general biology I with lab is a prerequisite to this course)
  • Human anatomy & physiology II with lab

Another requirement for many nursing schools is passing an entrance exam. At CSP Global, we require prospective students to pass the Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) with a score of at least 65%.

4. Apply to Nursing School

Once you’re ready to apply for the ABSN program, your admissions counselor will walk you through the process. To apply, you’ll need these components:

  • Completed online application
  • Official college transcripts
  • Clearance from a criminal background check
  • English language proficiency
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5. Complete Your BSN

After acceptance into nursing school, the next step on the BSN nursing pathway is to earn your degree. At CSP Global, this will consist of a 16-month program comprised of online classes, skills labs and clinical learning experiences. You’ll need to commit to working hard and staying focused to succeed in the program. It will be beneficial to seek guidance from others, including your instructors and peers. You have a strong support system here at CSP Global, and we are committed to helping you achieve your goal of becoming an RN.

6. Pass the NCLEX and Earn Your License

After graduating from nursing school, your last steps to becoming a nurse are passing the NCLEX and earning your RN license. The NCLEX is a rigorous exam that tests patient care decision-making and prioritization. Expect to spend a lot of time studying in the months leading up to the exam. Once you pass the NCLEX and fulfill the other requirements from your state’s board of nursing, you’ll be eligible to receive your nursing license.

7. Start Working as an RN

After completing all these steps in the BSN nursing pathway, you’re ready to start your new nursing career! All the hard work has paid off, and you can now enter the field as a BSN-educated nurse.

8. Optional: Explore Advanced Nursing Pathways After You Earn a BSN

Many nurses look for ways to grow in their careers, from taking on greater responsibility in their current role to advancing into leadership roles over time. Here are a few ways to progress your career as a nurse:

  • Earn an advanced degree (master’s or doctorate) and become a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, clinical nurse leader, nurse scientist, or nurse educator.
  • Get one or more specialty certifications.
  • Rise into a clinical leadership role, such as a nurse manager.
  • Explore administrative leadership roles within a healthcare organization.

As you can see, there are no limits to how you can progress professionally once you earn a BSN. This degree is the launching pad for careers spanning clinical nursing, nursing education, healthcare administration and more.

Summary of Nursing Career Pathways Based on Degree

Here is a summarized view of the most common nursing pathways, separated by the degree you choose. You can also see the advancement options for each degree. Because a BSN opens the door to career growth, is in demand by employers, and can be achieved in as few as 16 months, this is the recommended nursing pathway for most students.


Earn associate degreeEarn BSN degreeEarn BSNEarn BSNEarn BSN
Get RN licenseGet RN licenseGet RN licenseGet RN licenseGet RN license
Start careerStart careerGain RN experienceGain RN experienceGain RN experience
Earn MSN degreeEarn DNP degreeEarn PhD
To become advanced practice nurse, pass certification exam.To become advanced practice nurse, pass certification exam.To become a nurse scientist
Get APRN licenseGet APRN license

Advancement Options

Enter ADN-to-BSN or RN-to-BSN track to advance your degreeNurse managerSome advanced practice nurse specialties (e.g., nurse practitioner or midwife)All advanced practice nurse specialties (e.g. nurse anesthetist or nurse practitioner)
Specialty certificationsSpecialty certificationsSpecialty certificationsSpecialty certifications
Healthcare administrationHealthcare administrationHealthcare administrationHealthcare administration
Eligibility for MSN and DNP programsNursing educationNursing educationNursing education

Start Your Nursing Pathway with CSP Global!

Now that you see your options for nursing career pathways, you can envision how full of opportunity this career is. Whether you aim to work as a bedside nurse in the hospital, a nurse educator or a nurse anesthetist, the first step in your nursing pathway is earning a BSN.

At CSP Global, our ABSN program combines online learning with experiential learning through skills labs and clinical learning experiences. Our 16-month program, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Portland, Oregon, offers three start dates each year. Now is the time to begin your journey so you can start the career you’ve always dreamed of.

Contact our admissions counselors today to learn more about the ABSN program!