How Do You Become an RN?


Becoming an RN, or registered nurse, is often a decision made early in life by those who feel the desire to help others better. Individuals who wish to fulfill this desire must complete training and pass an exam. Training programs for aspiring RNs are found in many colleges and universities. This exciting career can begin after only a couple of years of education. We have a whole article breaking down the differences between RN, LVN, and LPN licenses in case you’re curious.

Training Required

Becoming an RN requires completing formal training from an approved nursing program or school. An individual can become a registered nurse in one of three ways.

  • Completing an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) – This two-year program is offered at community colleges, technical schools and vocational schools.
  • Completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) – This four-year program is offered at four-year colleges and universities.
  • Completing a diploma program from an accredited nursing program – This program is offered at community colleges, medical centers, and hospitals, and can take from one to three years to complete.

Regardless of which option candidates choose, they will have a similar curriculum, which includes coursework, lab studies, and clinical education. Course topics include physiology, anatomy, psychology, nutrition, chemistry, and microbiology. Students in the bachelor’s degree programs typically complete additional courses in social and behavioral sciences, liberal arts, communication, and leadership.

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A big and very important part of the nursing program is the clinical education, which provides students with hands-on training working in medical facilities. Nursing students must complete clinical rotations working in different departments of a hospital or clinic. To successfully complete this component of the program, students must complete a designated number of hours of clinical education. The amount depends on the school and on the state’s requirements.

Certification/Licensure Requirements

Registered nurses must be licensed in every state. To be eligible for licensure, the students must complete the training program, apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination(NCLEX-RN) and pass the NCLEX-RN. Students have six hours to complete the computer-based exam. The exam consists of up to 265 multiple-choice questions.

Aspiring RNs should check with their state’s board of nursing, which can be found at National Council of State Boards of Nursing, to see what other requirements their state might have for RNs. Many states require criminal background checks.

In addition to the licensing exam, RNs may also obtain certifications in other areas of nursing, such as pediatrics, gerontology, oncology, and ambulatory care, among others. These additional certifications are not required but can really enhance a resume and open up a lot more job opportunities for the RN.

Career Outlook for Registered Nurses

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states the career outlook for RNs is very good. Those with additional certifications may see even more opportunities. A job growth of 15 percent is predicted for RNs during the 2016-2026 decade. The bureau also reports that average yearly wages of $73,550 were earned by RNs as of May 2017.

Becoming a nurse requires a lot of study and commitment, but most feel the result is more than worth it. Once a candidate completes the process it takes to become a registered nurse, he or she is in a position to not only help patients but also feel the satisfaction of knowing they’re in a rewarding and fulfilling career. RNs are the backbone of nursing. But there are even greater heights. Just so you’re aware, a master’s and doctorate are both great options for nurses. Positions like nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and nurse practitioner are both well compensated and more and more essential in modern medicine. If you’re interested in what kinds of doctor of nursing practice options are out there, check out our ranking on the cheapest online DNP programs.