You can become a Registered Nurse, RN by following an educational or training pathway that leads to the nursing career, followed by passing a licensure examination.
Registered Nurse Educational Pathway
The education or training to become a registered nurse begins by completing high school.
Although individual nursing schools and colleges have their enrollment prerequisites for admitting candidates, most of them would prefer that candidates take the following classes in high school:
Four years of English, three to four years of math, including algebra and geometry, two to four years of science, including biology and chemistry. Physics and computer science may also be required.
Three to four years of social studies and two years of foreign language are also required.
After completing high school, you could proceed to acquire a diploma, associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree to get into the profession.
Diploma in Nursing Program:
Diploma in Nursing used to be the commonest way people got into the nursing profession; however, today most people start their nursing career with a degree.
Nursing diploma programs are offered by approved hospital based nursing schools.
Graduates usually fill the entry-level job positions in healthcare centers, and also usually move on to advance their career with a bachelor’s degree.
As a nursing student, you will be expected to take courses in microbiology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, psychology, and nutrition.
These are key courses you must do, even though you might be asked to do other courses in the social and behavioral sciences field, as well as in liberal arts.
A diploma program takes two to three years duration to complete.
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Program:
Another way to get into the nursing career is to complete an associate degree program in nursing, ADN.
Most community colleges and hospital-based nursing schools run this program, which has duration of two to three years.
Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) Program:
This is the commonest way people get into the nursing career these days. This might be due to the fact that with BSN you are opened to more opportunities in the practice.
You are given higher responsibilities and the opportunity to work in all areas in the healthcare sector, including administration, as well as the leverage to advance your career by pursuing masters degree in nursing and PhD that provide opportunity to work in research and teaching.
Many colleges and universities offer a four-year degree program in nursing leading to the award of Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, BSN.
Students are expected to take courses in physiology, anatomy, organic chemistry, psychology, human growth and development, microbiology, nutrition, and biology in the first two years of studies.
The last two years are devoted to courses such as adult acute and chronic diseases, pediatrics, maternal and child healthcare, community health nursing, and mental health and psychiatric.
Students may also take courses in humanities, health informatics, nursing theory, physical and behavioral science, leadership, and healthcare economics.
Can I Earn a Nursing Degree Online?
This is a question usually asked by stay at home moms, physically challenged people, as well as those who do not have the time to put to taking nursing classes, but like to become registered nurses.
The answer is that you cannot really earn a degree in nursing by taking courses online.
A large part of nursing education has to do with clinical and laboratory work which are supervised. You will need to be on ground to take such classes.
However, you could arrange with your school to take some courses which are not practical oriented online.
Such courses might include: psychology, nursing theory, leadership and nursing administration.
Getting Licensed to Practice as Registered Nurse, RN:
Having completed nursing diploma, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree, to be able to practice as a registered nurse, RN, in any state, including the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, it is required that you take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, NCLEX-RN.
There might be other specific licensure requirements for each state spelled out by the state’s board of nursing, which you can check out.
Nursing Career Advancement:
You can advance your nursing career by earning a Master’s degree (MSN). This puts you at the level to work as Advanced Practice Nurse, as a nurse administrator, or as an educator.
More employment opportunities are available to Advanced Practice Nurses as demand for nurses at this level is on the increase and is expected to continue to rise.
Registered nurses with advance educational qualification also enjoy better pay package, more flexibility of work schedule and autonomy.
Other higher educational levels in the nursing career are Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Nurses who have PhD are more concerned with research and teaching, while those with DNP concentrate on playing leadership role in clinical practice.
Registered nurses with advanced degrees can also become certified in specialized areas through professional associations.
Examples are such areas include anesthetics, midwifery, pediatrics, gerontology, and ambulatory care.