How to Become a Registered Nurse |

Becoming a file nurse ( RN ) presents an opportunity to join a growing work force of more than three million, make a directly shock on patient outcomes, and earn a respectable wage .
In 2-4 years, students can graduate from a nursing program and take the NCLEX-RN. While an companion academic degree serves as the minimum requirement, some employers and states merely rent nurses with a bachelor ‘s degree .

What is a Registered Nurse?

A accredited RN has completed the educational requirements—either an associate in nursing academic degree or a bachelor ‘s in nursing degree—clinical nurse requirements, and has passed the NCLEX-RN to earn licensure in their department of state .
RNs provide around-the-clock directly wish to patients in hospitals, physicians ‘ offices, outpatient worry centers, and residential care facilities. Their occupation consists of recognizing abnormalities, assessing patients, and administering medicine while maintaining communication with a team of healthcare professionals. They can gain specialized train in oncology, acute and critical care, geriatrics, or pediatrics.

After earning a alumnus breastfeed degree, RNs can advance to become clinical nurse specialists, nanny practitioners, certified nurse midwives, or nurse anesthetists. Learn more general information about what RNs do and where they work in our record nurse career overview .

Steps to Becoming a Registered Nurse

While every RN follows like steps to earn licensure, the specific requirements vary by state. Certain states, such as New York, require RNs to hold at least a knight bachelor ‘s in nurse degree. The following list covers the process necessary to become a register harbor .

1. Complete Prerequisites for an ADN or a BSN.

Whether nursing students choose an ADN or BSN degree, they must complete free arts, mathematics, and science prerequisites. Common prerequisites for nursing school include basic anatomy, physiology, biology, psychology, and anatomy. harbor schools often require that incoming students earn a minimum “ C ” mark in these courses .

2. Earn a BSN or an ADN Degree.

A four-year BSN degree offers an in-depth department of education in multiple disciplines and prepare in leadership, interpersonal communication, and clinical nursing. A biennial ADN degree covers nursing fundamentals and offers the fastest track to becoming a register nurse, away from an accelerate BSN broadcast which lets those who hold a bachelor ‘s degree in a non-nursing field graduate in equally little as one year .
Learn More About Registered Nurse Schooling

3. Pass the NCLEX Exam.

About six weeks before graduate, students can apply for licensure and then register for the NCLEX-RN. This computerize test requires test-takers to complete a minimal of 75 questions. They have up to six hours to finish the examination. See this guide to find more information about the NCLEX-RN .

4. Find Employment.

No matter your department of education path, be proactive in your career search. That means activating your college network and job resources before graduating. While the nurse field continues to grow, graduates must make an impression during clinical rotations with potential healthcare employers .
Read approximately Working as a Registered breastfeed

5. Earn Board Certification.

RNs who want greater recognition in their careers ( and more money ) become board certified. To qualify, RNs normally need about two or more years of clinical experience in a forte concentrate and must pass an examination .
Learn About Registered Nurse Credentials

Featured Online RN to BSN Programs

Registered Nurse Schooling

Expect to spend 2-4 years completing the ask education to become a register nurse. The claim timeline depends on if you choose a biennial companion degree or four-year bachelor ‘s degree. Having prior harbor feel can speed up completion time, whereas programs with more clinical hour requirements and less on-line options can take longer to complete. For the specifics on an ADN vs. a BSN academic degree, keep understand .

ADN Degree

An ADN academic degree provides a flying path to becoming a register nurse. however, the degree can limit career prospects since some healthcare employers require or prefer a BSN degree. RNs besides need a BSN if they want to finally work in an advanced practice nurse function, such as a clinical harbor specialist, certified registered nurse anesthesiologist, or nurse practitioner .

  • Admission Requirements: It takes a high school diploma or GED certificate to enroll in an ADN program. Schools may require a minimum 2.0-3.0 GPA. Required application materials may also include personal essays, SAT or ACT scores, and transcripts.
  • Program Curriculum: Students leave an ADN program prepared to deliver safe and quality patient care in many settings. Courses cover pharmacology, nutrition, health system concepts, growth, development, and aging. Programs also require clinical hours.
  • Time to Complete: How long it takes to complete an ADN program depends on a student’s prior college credits. Students with no other general education credits take about two years to graduate.
  • Skills Learned: ADN courses provide the nursing theory and practical skills to work in a clinical setting. ADN graduates learn how to deliver nursing care across diverse populations and settings through classes in multidimensional care, nursing care of older adults, and maternal and child nursing.

BSN Degree

The route to becoming a file nurse takes longer when you earn a BSN. however, the plan provides a broader education in leadership, critical think, coordinating affected role wish with doctors and early healthcare professionals, and specialized cognition of aesculapian conditions .

  • Admission Requirements: Students enter a BSN program straight from high school or after completing an ADN. BSN admissions requirements often include SAT or ACT scores, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and three letters of recommendation.
  • Program Curriculum: A BSN degree teaches students leadership and management in nursing, cultural awareness, how to integrate evidence into nursing practice, and contemporary issues in healthcare.
  • Time to Complete: Degree-seekers on average complete a BSN degree in four years or less with prior college credit. Nursing students who hold an ADN or transferable college credits can graduate within 2-3 years.
  • Skills Learned: BSN degree seekers not only gain fundamental nursing skills, but also tools in leadership, research, and public health. Students also develop specialized knowledge in areas, such as maternity nursing, pediatric nursing, psychiatric nursing, and acute care nursing.

ABSN Degree

Individuals who hold a knight bachelor ‘s academic degree in another field can earn an accelerate bachelor of science in nursing academic degree ( ABSN ) and graduate in 12-18 months. This route appeals to those who want to switch careers cursorily and become a registered harbor. however, the broadcast ‘s rapid pace can be challenging, and the admissions process can be rigorous .

  • Admission Requirements: Eligible applicants need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school and a 3.0 GPA. Prospective students must also complete all prerequisites with a minimum “C” grade. Online applications typically must include personal essays, letters of recommendation, and resumes.
  • Program Curriculum: ABSN degrees cover research methods, assessments and interventions, and healthcare ethics, and leadership and management. Labs and clinical rotations allow students to apply nursing theories and gain experience in areas, such as pediatrics, mental and behavioral health, and acute and critical care.
  • Time to Complete: On average, it takes about 12-15 months to earn an ABSN degree when students study full time. Students can graduate faster when they possess transferable credits or have earned an associate degree in nursing.
  • Skills Learned: ABSN graduates have mastered nursing competencies enough to take the NCLEX-RN. The curriculum covers how to deliver quality patient care, use healthcare information technologies, incorporate evidence into your practice, and improve patient outcomes.

Registered Nurse Credentials

entirely accredited RNs can practice in healthcare settings. RNs who meet the educational, clinical, and examination qualifications can get licensed to work. Certifications—while not required for employment—acknowledge a register nurse ‘s expertness in speciate areas, such as pediatric acute critical manage or cardiac medicine. It can besides boost a registered harbor ‘s career in terms of give and responsibility .


Earning licensure serves as the last tone to becoming a register nurse. prospective nurses can get licensed by their state board of nursing after they complete their degree, clinical hours, and pass the NCLEX-RN. Each state of matter board sets unlike standards and may require extra train courses to qualify for a license. Some states allow unaccredited RNs to practice if they get a let. RNs must typically renew their license every 1-4 years. To renew their RN license, individuals must complete aim courses and/or continuing education hours .


nursing does not require certifications, but getting these optional credentials provides greater opportunities for professional development. The american Association of Critical Care Nurses ( AACN ) offers certifications for RNs. Qualifying RNs must complete a specific phone number of clinical hours and pass an examination. Having the certificate validates a read nurse ‘s skills in a specialized area. The AACN offers certifications in acute care, cardiac medicine, and progressive care .

Working as a Registered Nurse

nursing students find positions through their schools or other democratic job boards. nurse organizations, such as the American Nurses Association besides offer career centers where members can find candid positions. RNs earn a intend annual wage of $ 82,750, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. many earn more when they find jobs in the top nurse industries, such as nonscheduled air transportation system, pharmaceutical and medicine fabricate, merchant wholesalers ( nondurable goods ), and government healthcare. These fields pay RNs an annual think of engage of $ 112,630- $ 97,600. See the acme paying careers for RNs on this page .

Hospitals (State, Local, and Private)

In hospitals, RNs ferment in the operating board, intensive manage unit of measurement, and neonatal units. They administer medication, do assessments, establish patient care priorities, and intervene in emergencies to save lives .

Nursing and Residential Care Facilities

In nurse and residential care facilities, RNs work day and night shifts to advise patients and their families, enforce infection-control policies, administer medication and treatments, align care plans, and monitor residents .

Ambulatory Healthcare Services

RNs in ambulatory healthcare services collaborate with doctors and nurses. They collect healthcare data for patients, provide hand brake wish, and organize patient worry .

Becoming a Registered Nurse: FAQs

Can you become an RN in 2 years?

Yes. You could earn an ADN or an ABSN degree and calibrate in 1-2 years. The particular length of time depends on your former college work. prospective harbor students must besides factor in compulsory clinical hours. Studying for the NCLEX-RN besides requires extra time .

What is accreditation and why is it important?

accreditation means an autonomous body, such as the Commission on the Collegiate Nursing Education or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, has determined a nurse plan meets diligence standards. This matters because employers often entirely hire graduates from accredit nursing programs .

Where do I start to become an RN?

The first pace to becoming an RN happens in the classroom. Find a program that suits your interests and career aspirations, whether it be an ADN, BSN, or ABSN degree. Identify a platform that can prepare you to take the NCLEX-RN and enter a specific healthcare area that interests you .

What advancement opportunities are available after becoming a registered nurse?

Becoming a register nurse offers the luck to advance in healthcare. To do indeed, RNs must continue their education. If they want to become an advance practice breastfeed, they must earn a victor ‘s or a doctor’s degree in nurse. Earning credentials in speciate areas of harbor besides requires continue education credits .

Learn More About Registered Nurses

Reviewed by:

Anna-Lise Krippaehne is a board-certified family harbor practitioner at Oregon Health & Science University ’ s Family Practice Department in Portland, where she practices with a distinct interest in preventive manage and health promotion. She earned her BSN and DNP from the University of Portland. Krippaehne is a pay extremity of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners .
Page last reviewed May 12, 2021

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