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Whether you have recently been inspired to enter the healthcare field or becoming a nurse has been one of your lifelong dreams, it is important to know what steps you need to take to accomplish your goals.

This guide will give you a step-by-step look at everything you need to do to begin caring for patients and having an impact on the healthcare field.

Steps to Become a Registered Nurse

If you are wondering how to become a nurse, you should know that there is not necessarily one path forward. The steps you take will depend on the type of nurse you want to become, the healthcare setting you prefer, and whether you want to provide specialized nursing care.

Educational Pathways to Nursing

There are several educational pathways to nursing, allowing you to find a program that best aligns with your nursing career goals and your current availability. It is worth noting that there are many bridge programs available that will help you streamline your educational path forward should you choose to pursue additional nursing degrees.

Associate Degree in Nursing

An Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, is an undergraduate degree program that takes approximately two years to complete. This degree program focuses heavily on foundational knowledge, providing an overview of the nursing field and covering basic nursing care. In addition, students will receive comprehensive clinical training that allows them to perform basic nursing tasks and responsibilities.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, is an undergraduate degree program that takes approximately four years to complete. The BSN degree includes both a classroom curriculum component as well as advanced clinical training. The comprehensive nature of this degree program uniquely prepares students for the dynamic field of nursing, with coursework and clinical training often emphasizing the importance of evidence-based practice and nursing informatics.

Accelerated Nursing Program

Accelerated nursing programs are available to individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field but are interested in pursuing a nursing career. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, accelerated nursing programs are gaining popularity because they allow non-nursing graduates the opportunity to streamline their nursing education and begin working in the field more quickly. These programs also help to address the nursing shortage crisis in the United States.

Master of Science in Nursing

Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN, is a graduate degree program that can be completed in about two years. This degree program is designed to provide practicing nurses with an advanced curriculum that focuses on:

  • Advanced nursing concepts
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Patient-centered care
  • Patient safety
  • Creating quality patient outcomes
  • Employing strategic change in healthcare

In addition to the core curriculum that focuses on leadership development in nursing and advanced, patient-centered care practices, you also have the ability to specialize your MSN. With specializations in areas such as case management, nursing education and family nurse practitioner, you can customize your degree program to align with your nursing career goals.

Navigating Nursing School

Nursing school is an experience that can be both challenging and rewarding. Regardless of the educational pathway you choose, you will find that your nursing degree program includes a didactic component as well as a clinical training component.

Pass the NCLEX Exam

The NCLEX is the premier nursing licensure exam, and it is used nationwide. The NCLEX is a licensing exam that has been standardized across every state. If you aspire to work as an RN, you will need to pass the NCLEX exam after completing your nursing degree program.

Develop Essential Nursing Skills

When you are enrolled in an graduate nursing degree program, you will develop and hone critical nursing skills that you will rely on every day in your position as a nurse.

These are some of the top skills developed through nursing degree programs:

  • Personalized patient care techniques
  • Health technology skills
  • Patient medication management
  • Infection control techniques
  • Patient safety practices
  • Electronic medical record charting skills

In addition, your nursing program should help you perfect the soft skills required to be an effective and empathetic nurse. These include:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Communication skills
  • Resilience and adaptability
  • Collaborative skills

Clinical Experiences and Hands-On Training

Many nursing degree programs require students to complete clinical training hours in order to graduate. These clinical training hours, which are often logged in different types of hospital units and care facilities to provide you with a range of experiences, allow you to work directly with patients under supervision and guidance. The number of clinical hours required may vary based on the level of your nursing degree program. Some BSN degree programs can range between 400 and 1200 hours depending on the state while many MSN programs average around 600 clinical hours.

Licensing and Certification

Licensure is required for all nurses for them to be able to practice in a healthcare setting. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), licensure requirements will vary by state, but all requirements are designed to verify that the nurse applicant has the skills and knowledge necessary to provide patients with reliable and effective care.

Job Opportunities and Career Advancement

Nursing is one of the most diversified fields in healthcare, with job opportunities for nurses of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses commonly work in healthcare facilities such as clinics, private practices, hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, and more. A registered nurse is one of the most common positions for nursing graduates, and RNs can be employed in a variety of settings, providing you with the flexibility to pursue a position that fits your lifestyle.

In addition to the many job opportunities in the nursing field, there also are many ways to pursue career advancement opportunities. One of the most common ways to advance in the nursing field is to pursue an advanced degree, such as an MSN or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). In addition, you also can complete professional certification courses to specialize in a particular area, such as pediatric care, cardiology, or orthopedics.

Pursue Training in a Specialization in Nursing

If there is a particular aspect of nursing that interests you, such as hospice care or emergency care, you can pursue additional training to specialize in a niche area of nursing. In many cases, extended clinical training in one particular area will qualify you to specialize, but you also may be able to become certified in a specialization or include a specialization as part of your MSN program.

Consider Becoming a Registered Nurse

One of the few caveats to specializing is that you must first become a registered nurse. Earning an ADN, BSN, or MSN degree will provide you with the education and clinical training required to become an RN. Once you have completed your degree program and logged your clinical hours, you can take the NCLEX exam and work to meet all licensure requirements for your state.

Is Being a Nurse Worth It? Examine the Rewards

Becoming a nurse is no small feat, it requires a commitment of your time, energy, and financial resources. As you explore how to become a nurse, you might be wondering, is being a nurse worth it?

These are some of the benefits that many nurses enjoy:

Personal Fulfillment in Nursing

Nursing can be an incredibly rewarding career, as you often have the opportunity to work closely with your patients and provide them with the compassionate care that they need. Nurses spend a significant amount of time with their patients, and they often take on the role of patient advocate. Many nurses report that they experience a deep sense of personal fulfillment from their jobs, whether they work in an office setting, as a home nurse, or in a hospital.

Testimonials From Experienced Nurses

Experienced nurses will be able to provide you with anecdotal information and insight about their own experiences caring for patients and practicing in healthcare. These testimonials can provide you with reassurance about your choice to pursue a degree in nursing.


These are a few of the frequently asked questions that nursing students have before they enroll in a degree program:

What Qualifications Do I Need to Be a Nurse?

The following qualifications are required to become a nurse:

  • A nursing degree (ADN, BSN, or MSN)
  • Clinical experience

If you want to become an RN, you will need to pass the NCLEX licensing exam and meet all additional requirements to obtain a nursing license in your state.

What Type of Nurse Should You Become?

When deciding what type of nurse you would like to become, you should consider your own interests in healthcare as well as the type of patients you want to work with. There are many types of positions within the nursing field, allowing you to find a nursing role that is the right fit for your personal strengths and professional interests.

How Can I Prepare for Nursing School and What Should I Expect Once I Start?

The best way to prepare for nursing school is to become aware of your personal learning style, carve out time to study in a way that works best for you, and make plenty of time for self-care. Once you start your nursing degree program, you will be immersed in your coursework and working on clinical training, which can be an overwhelming experience. Be sure to build a support system and rely on university resources if you need additional help during your degree program.

What Happens After Nurse Training?

After you complete your nursing degree program and log your clinical hours, you will be able to apply for available nursing positions in your area.

Take the First Step Toward Becoming a Nurse Today

Your continued nursing journey starts today. At Post University, we have continued educational paths for RNs looking to take the next step. Our nursing degree programs are available and will allow you to customize your path forward and align your education with your career interests. For nurses beginning their post-licensure education, we offer a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. For those who want to pursue advanced practice nursing education, our MSN degree has eight specialization options, giving you a chance to personalize your degree program in a way that suits your interests and professional goals.

Request more information about our nursing degree programs today.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a list of accredited online nursing programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and its outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.