Why Consider a Nursing Certification?

You are a licensed RN in your state — now what? How do you make yourself more marketable, advance your career or earn more money? How do you prove that you have certain knowledge and skills? How can you challenge yourself? How can you help your patients have more confidence in your care? A nursing certification may be the answer to all these questions.

Nursing certifications show employers, patients and the public that a nurse is knowledgeable beyond the minimum entry level of RN licensure, but many certifications can only be attained by BSN-prepared nurses. Certification shows that you have gone above and beyond to obtain additional education and experience, often in a specialty or subspecialty. As healthcare becomes increasingly complex, having specific certifications benefits you, your employer and your patients.

How Does Certification Help You?

With today’s competitive healthcare market, you might need certification to keep your job or even get a job. This applies to several areas of practice: inpatient, ambulatory care, case management, home care and behavioral health. Certifications help protect your employability by increasing your value to your employer.

Non-traditional nursing roles, with pharmaceutical industry or insurance providers for example, often require certification. As you read job postings, look to see how many say “certification preferred” or “certification required.” Notice how many prefer or require a BSN. If all other things are equal, 90% of nurse managers prefer hiring certified nurses over non-certified nurses.

In some cases, certified RNs earn up to $9,200 more per year than non-certified nurses. This may be in the form of clinical ladder points, salary differentials or bonuses. Additionally, when interviewing, your certifications can be valuable for salary negotiation. Employers may reimburse for review courses or test fees, and offer other support.

Learning is strongly linked to job satisfaction and work engagement. Credentialing can provide personal satisfaction or a sense of accomplishment — having letters behind your name can make you feel more confident with pride in your profession.

Lifelong learning extends beyond certification — it gives you time to network with other motivated nurses and experts in your specialty. Take advantage of educational opportunities to advance your career. These opportunities, including a BSN, could qualify you for a leadership role.

How Does Certification Help Your Employer?

Nursing certification helps employers meet accreditation requirements by various agents such as The Joint Commission, American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine). For example, ANCC Magnet Status, requires that hospitals have a certain percentage of certified nurses in their area of specialty. If you don’t have a certification, your employer may give you a certain amount of time to become certified or find another job.

Healthcare organizations must remain fiercely competitive by earning and maintaining a good reputation. Credentialing and accreditation keep organizations in business and help them attract doctors, nurses and patients. It shows that the organization values staff who are dedicated to safe, high quality care.

How Does Certification Help Your Patient?

Patients not only deserve the best care possible, but they need the comfort that comes from knowing they are in expert hands. Imagine your loved one is in the ICU — do you scan the badges for CCRN (critical care registered nurse) or other certifications? Are you relieved to see those four letters behind their name? Even if patients and their families are unaware of what the letters stand for, it provides them reassurance that you have a high level of professionalism with the knowledge and experience to take care of them.

Numerous studies show the impact of specialty nurse certification on outcomes, such as patient complications (falls, infection rates, pressure ulcers, etc.). Although research regarding the value of certification is not conclusive, some individual studies show certification improves patient outcomes.

What Do I Need to Do to Become Certified?

Requirements vary for different certifications. Some require a minimal number of clinical practice hours. Others like OCN (oncology certified nurse) or NPD (nursing professional development) require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Advance practice certifications like the adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (ACNPC-AG) require a minimum of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

The benefits of certifications are numerous — both personally and professionally. The pursuit of certification can be a personal challenge, or driven by the need to improve your chances on the job market. Most importantly, a nursing certification shows patients your dedication to their care and your expertise, so they have more confidence in your care.

Already have one certification? Why not challenge yourself with another? Each certification can help you deliver even better care than you are already providing. Find out more about different certifications here.

Learn more about the University of Southern Indiana’s online RN to BSN program.


American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing: Nursing Certification Position Statement

American Board of Nursing Specialties: Specialty Nursing Certification: Nurses’ Perceptions, Values and Behaviors

Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation: Benefits of Certification

Journal of Nursing Management: New Nurses’ Perceptions of Professional Practice Behaviours, Quality of Care, Job Satisfaction and Career Retention

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses: Get Certified

NCBI: The Relationship Between Specialty Nurse Certification and Patient, Nurse and Organizational Outcomes: A Systematic Review

Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC)

Association for Nursing Professional Development: Participate in an ANPD Nursing Professional Development Certification Preparation Course

American Nurses Credentialing Center: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGPCNP-BC)

Nurse.org: Complete List of Common Nursing Certifications

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