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RN Requirements and Prerequisites

Prerequisites for registered nursing prepare students for RN course requirements and generally consist of general education and science courses. Learn more about what education is needed to become a registered nurse here. View article »

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  • 00:01 Essential Information
  • 00:31 Career Outlook & Salary
  • 0:47 Education Prerequisites
  • 1:20 Education Requirements
  • 2:46 Licensing Requirements

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Video Transcript

What Prerequisites Do I Need for Registered Nurse?

Prerequisites for registered nursing (RN) vary based on degree level and school. Most prerequisites for RN include general education courses and GPA requirements. Some nursing school prerequisites may only be completed on-campus, such as labs, while other online nursing prerequisites may be acceptable, such as English. Some common course prerequisites for RN program may include:

  • English
  • Statistics
  • Anatomy and Physiology (with lab)
  • Microbiology (with lab)
  • Chemistry (with lab)
  • History
  • Algebra
  • Humanities

Many programs require students to have a 2.0 GPA or higher in these prerequisite courses and/or an overall GPA of a 3.0. Some of these standards may be higher for science-related courses.

Other prerequisites may be specific to the degree level. For example, associate degree in nursing requirements are not usually as extensive as requirements for Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree programs. BSN programs may require applicants to already hold an associate's degree in nursing, and RN to BSN programs require applicants to have their RN license.

What Education is Needed to Become a Registered Nurse?

Students wondering how to become a nurse must first decide on the level of education they wish to pursue. RNs entering the field can hold a nursing diploma, associate's, or bachelor's degree.

The level of education determines the answer to 'how long does it take to become a nurse?'. Diploma programs may be offered through hospitals or medical facilities and may take 1 to 3 years to complete, depending on the program. Associate's degree programs in nursing may take 18 months to 2 years to complete, while BSN programs typically take 4 years to complete. However, there are some accelerated BSN programs, including an RN to BSN program, that may allow students to earn their BSN in 12 to 33 months. Many RN programs are also available in part-time formats, which may increase the time it takes to graduate.

All of this education helps prepare aspiring RNs to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in order to obtain their state license. To prepare for the exam, RN course requirements usually include extensive hands-on clinical experience and courses in subjects like:

  • Pharmacology
  • Communication
  • Nursing care/practice
  • Family health
  • Mental health

Other Registered Nursing Qualifications

Depending on their specific position, RNs may need to obtain additional certifications, such as basic life support (BLS) certification and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. It is also important for RNs to further develop their critical-thinking skills and have control over their emotions as they work with patients. They must stay calm and collected as they communicate with patients and doctors and have the physical endurance needed to work long, and sometimes busy, hours. RNs must also demonstrate compassion as they treat patients and work closely with the patient's family.

RN Career Overview

Degree Required Diploma, associate's, or bachelor's degree
Degree Field Nursing
Other Requirements Licensure
Annual Mean Salary (2018)* $75,510
Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026)* 15%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

RNs help provide quality patient care around the clock in a variety of medical facilities and organizations. They may also work in schools, community centers, and more. Nurses may specialize in various areas of medicine, including public health, rehabilitation, or critical care. RNs may perform duties such as:

  • Evaluating and observing patients
  • Recording medical information
  • Running medical equipment and tests
  • Educating patients and their families
  • Assisting with treatments and medications
  • Communicating with doctors and other health professionals
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