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Registered Nurse Requirements

Learn about the necessary education and requirements to become a registered nurse. Get a quick overview of the degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

If you want to become a registered nurse, you will need to complete an associate's or a bachelor's degree in nursing. You will usually be required to work in the field in a supervised setting to gain practical experience as part of completing your degree. You must pass a licensing exam upon completion of the registered nursing program to be licensed/registered.

Essential Information

Registered nurses work alongside physicians in hospitals or other medical settings to treat patients in need of medical assistance. Education for this career is obtained by completing an associate's or bachelor's degree program. The final requirement to become a registered nurse is passing a licensing examination.

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree
Other Requirements National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16%
Average Salary (2015)* $71,000

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for Registered Nurses

Aspiring RNs can choose to pursue an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing. Some educational programs can be interwoven; an individual who has earned an associate's degree, for instance, may pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at any point in their careers by enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program.

Individuals who have completed an ADN program and have obtained licensure as a registered nurse are equipped to work in the field. However, a BSN is required if a nurse wants to advance in the profession. Obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree may lead to career advancement opportunities, such as clinical nurse specialist, anesthetist nurse, midwife nurse and nurse practitioner.

Curriculum for RN Education Programs

Coursework in many RN programs cover the common work duties a registered nurse is expected to perform. Initial courses are heavy on basic healthcare principles and science. Common programs courses include:

  • Health assessment
  • Nursing types
  • Patient care
  • Child and infant care

Supervised Clinical Work Experience

One of the requirements for becoming a registered nurse is completing a supervised employment experience at a hospital, clinic or healthcare facility. An experienced professional oversees the student's work and offers additional instruction on nursing duties, protocol and other procedures.

RN Duties

Registered nurses perform duties ranging from medical to clerical to managerial. They assist in treating patients with injuries, illnesses or other medical conditions and advise them on how to take care of themselves. Clerical duties come in the form of filling out and delivering charts or test results. Additionally, other workers, such as nurse's aides, may be under the guidance and direction of RNs.

National Licensure

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (www.ncsbn.org) requires all nurses who work in the United States to be licensed and/or registered. These requirements involve graduating from an approved educational program and completing the licensure examination. The National Council Licensure Examination includes both written and practical tests, to ensure that future RNs are properly educated and prepared to perform work duties. Additional licensure requirements may vary from state to state.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that RNs earned $71,000 as an average annual salary in 2015. RNs are expected to have a 16%, or faster than average, employment growth for the years 2014-2024. An aging population with advanced healthcare needs and a greater usage of outpatient locations both contribute to RN job growth.

You can become a registered nurse by completing an associate's degree and passing the exam, but many career advancement opportunities require a bachelor's degree. Registered nurses who choose to pursue an associate's degree can pursue a bachelor's degree later in their career. According to the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth outlook for registered nurses is much higher than the job market as a whole.

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