You probably already know that nursing is one of the most stable and steadily growing segments of the current economy. With the demand for well-trained and highly-qualified nursing staff on the rise, now is the time to start planning your career to take advantage of this rewarding and high-paying career opportunity. Becoming a nurse is not as complicated as it may seem. Once you understand the process for obtaining a nursing license, getting started is easy!
While there are several different nursing designations you can consider, this guide will focus on learning how to become an RN or registered nurse. These simple steps are designed to provide aspiring nurses with a clear overview of the process involved with becoming a registered nurse. For more detailed information or answers to specific question, we suggest that you reference other areas of the site that cover some of the individual topics in greater detail.
- Start by examining your current level of education and making sure that you have met all of the necessary prerequisites for a nursing career. Typically, this includes having a high school diploma or GED. You will need to complete this before you apply for your program of choice. Having a strong background in English, Math, and Science courses will give you an advantage.
- Determine which educational path you want to take. The two most common options include an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN program) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN program). An ADN program takes 2 to 3 years to complete and is available through local community colleges and trade schools. A BSN program is what most people consider to be a “traditional” nursing school education. This path takes an average of 4 years to complete and is offered through most major state universities and colleges. These programs can be competitive and often fill up quickly so it is important to be aware of key deadlines and application dates.
- Choose a nursing school. Start by requesting information from a number of schools you are interested in. Usually this can be done online to speed up the process. Carefully compare each program including graduation rates, the availability of financial aid, scheduling flexibility, tenure of the faculty, job placement assistance, and overall reputation of the school or college.
- Apply for admission at your chosen school. As mentioned before, it is extremely important to register early and present yourself as an attractive candidate. Ask you guidance counselor or admissions advisor about any entry exam requirements. Most nursing schools will require that incoming students have an SAT or ACT score prior to admission. Students with higher scores are often given priority so it can pay to take an SAT or ACT prep course prior to sitting for the exam.
- Apply for a state license. This is the final step and will take place upon graduation from your selected RN program. The application process varies by state but generally involves completing an application packet and returning it to the appropriate department of the State Board of Nursing in the state where you intend to practice, sending them a copy of your certified transcript, successfully passing a background check, and passing the National Council Licensing Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN). There are all kinds of great resources online that offer sample test questions and provide study guides for NCLEX exam.