How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

Posted by Admin on August 23, 2010 under Nurse Education, RN Careers | Comments are off for this article

Becoming a registered nurse (RN) is a smart, rewarding professional move that will pay off for years after you’ve graduated from nursing school. Registered nurses have many career options open to them, making becoming a registered nurse a wise career move for travel nurses, and in general.

how to become an rnThere are three main paths to becoming a registered nurse. The most recommended is getting a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), a broad, 4-5 year college program covering an array of theoretical and technical nursing skills. BSN programs are a minimum requirement for many RN positions, making this the most recommended path.

Another option is the associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), which is usually a two-year program covering the technical aspects of nursing. Registered nurses often finish an ADN program to gain entry-level RN employment, then use their employer’s tuition reimbursement benefits to finish their BSN degrees.

Less common, but still in use is the diploma, a 3-year program covering basic nursing skills.

All three credentials can be earned at a college or university, while diplomas may also be administered through hospital training programs. All three will prepare you for an entry-level position as an RN, though the BSN path provides the best opportunity for advancement and expansion in the field. Registered nurses holding associate’s degrees and diplomas sometimes pursue further education in the form of an RN-to-BSN program. Of course, the level of education you choose to pursue will depend on the type of nursing you wish to go into.

Registered Nurse Prerequisite Course Work

A typical BSN curriculum consists of two parts: the science component, which includes the biological, physical, and social sciences of nursing; and the liberal arts component that develops the intelligence, social, and cultural aspects of nursing. (ADN and diploma programs, which are shorter and more condensed, may not include all of the same course material.)

Some typical prerequisite course subjects include:

  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Biology
  • Social Sciences
  • English I & II
  • Psychology
  • Life Span Psychology
  • Chemistry
  • Pharmaceuticals

Nursing school requirements differ from school to school, but most require 1-2 years of prerequisite study before enrolling in the core nursing program.

Registered Nurse Core Entrance Exams

After completing the prerequisite courses (or transferring the equivalent prior units), students apply to the nursing core program. However, each student must first complete an entrance exam, which the school uses to gauge the student’s eligibility for the nursing program. Two tests are available: the Nursing Entrance Test (NET), a three-hour test covering basic math, English and reading skills, or the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS), which gauges the student’s abilities in math, English, reading and science.

Information on the NET test can be found at, and the TEAS test is explained at

Nursing Core Program

Once students enter the nursing program, the curriculum becomes heavier and more intense. Most nursing programs contain courses such as:

  • Introduction to Nursing
  • Theoretical Foundations of Nursing
  • Family Nursing Theory
  • Statistical Applications
  • Health Assessment
  • Health and Disease Management
  • Nursing Leadership and Management
  • Contemporary Issues and Health Policy

This portion of a registered nurse’s education can last 2-3 years, during which time nursing students are sometimes employed as nurse assistants and other medical professionals.


After graduating, RN students become licensed by passing the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses).

Administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), this computer-based, multiple-choice examination measures a student’s competence in the key areas of nursing, such as safety, patient care, physiological and psychosocial integrity, risk reduction and other areas. Many students take preparation classes to score higher. Upon passing the NCLEX-RN, nurses are licensed to practice as entry-level RNs in the state they are licensed for.

Since travel RNs often work in other states, they must additionally pass the NCLEX-RN for any other state they plan to work in. The only exception to this rule is if they are moving between two states that are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). As of June 2010, the NLC consists of 24 states that recognize the same regulations in nursing, making a license for one of the states applicable to all of them. A list and map of the states currently involved in the Nurse Licensure Compact can be found at

(For additional information, also see How to Become a Registered Nurse at

Comments are closed.