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Nursing is a career in which skilled healthcare professionals combine the science of medicine with the art of caretaking. This career field is consistently described as both challenging and rewarding, and anyone interested in pursuing a career as a nurse should be aware of the education required for nursing.

Overview of Nursing Education

There are several educational pathways that could lead to a nursing career, with the level of education attained directly impacting the type of nursing position you could acquire after graduation. Nurses looking to kickstart their careers and begin practicing as soon as possible may prefer a shorter associate degree program, while those looking to specialize in a particular practice area may want to consider a more advanced degree.

The Importance of Education in Nursing

Nurses must rely on a broad range of knowledge and a well-developed set of skills in order to provide patients with the personalized care they need, which highlights the importance of education in nursing. A nursing degree program offers aspiring nurses the opportunity to explore the nursing profession while completing extensive studies that allow them to successfully navigate the ever-changing world of healthcare.

Different Paths to Becoming a Registered Nurse

A registered nurse, or RN, is a licensed nursing professional who can provide direct care to patients in various clinical settings. Commonly employed by hospitals and doctor’s offices, RNs are responsible for treating patients and serving as a liaison between the patient and the physician.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for qualified RNs is expected to increase, particularly as current nurses look to retire or pursue a different career. If you are interested in a career in nursing, it is crucial to understand the several educational pathways to becoming an RN.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An associate degree in nursing, or ADN, is a two-year degree program that provides an introduction to the field of nursing. By covering the basics of patient care and clinical practice, and being the shortest in terms of education, this degree program offers the fastest entrance into the workforce.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, is a four-year degree program that provides an in-depth look at the nursing field and covers additional topics relevant to the profession, such as clinical leadership and interpersonal communication. The BSN degree program is preferred by aspiring nurses who want to take on more complex clinical tasks. However, for aspiring nurses, it is worth checking your state’s requirements due to some states requiring a BSN.

What Are Accelerated Nursing Programs?

An accelerated nursing program is available to students who have previously earned a bachelor’s degree in a different area but are now considering a career in nursing. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, accelerated nursing programs allow students to build upon their existing knowledge and begin completing nursing coursework as soon as possible. Accelerated programs take anywhere from 11 to 18 months to complete, providing non-nursing bachelor’s degree holders with the fastest possible pathway toward their new career.

What Does Nursing School Curriculum Encompass?

The curriculum of your nursing degree program will vary based on the type of degree you pursue and the school where you study. However, all nursing degree programs include a curriculum that provides an overview of the profession and in-depth instruction about specific and relevant nursing skills. In addition, all nursing degree pre licensure programs require students to complete clinical hours in numerous healthcare settings to receive the hands-on training required to practice after graduation.

Crucial Subjects Covered in Nursing School

Whether you are pursuing an ADN or a BSN, these are some of the most critical subjects covered within your nursing degree program curriculum:

Nursing Fundamentals

Nursing fundamentals is a course included in almost every nursing degree curriculum, and it is often one of the first in which students enroll. This course often provides an overview of the nursing profession, touching upon subjects such as basic patient care and common roles for nurses in healthcare.


Physiology is a biology course that focuses on different aspects of the human body and how it functions. This intensive course involves a deep dive into all the various parts of the body, allowing you to learn every part of the body and connect how each element interacts with others. A comprehensive understanding of physiology is necessary for nurses who work with injured or ill patients.

Psychology and Mental Health

Psychology is a common nursing school prerequisite because it helps aspiring nurses better understand cognitive behavior and personality development in patients. An understanding of psychology is necessary for nurses, as mental health can have a significant impact on an individual’s physical health.


Microbiology is a niche field within biology focused on microscopic organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. This prerequisite course provides students with an opportunity to understand the critical role that microorganisms play in human health.


Gerontology is a course focused on the human aging experience. It is not required, but it is a recommended specialized course, particularly for nurses who may be working with older adults or senior citizens as part of their nursing practice.


Pharmacology is a scientific course that focuses on medications. In this class, nursing students learn about common medications, their uses, and how to safely administer them to patients.

Women and Infant Health

This is a foundational course that nurses often take as part of their nursing degree program. It focuses on reproductive health, pregnancy, childbirth, and infant development and emphasizes the interpersonal skills required for this type of patient care.

Ethics in Nursing

Considered a required, core class within a nursing program curriculum, ethics in nursing covers a vast set of topics with information about professional conduct, patient management, diversity in healthcare, and healthcare equity.

Care Transitions

Care transitions is a course that teaches nursing students how to effectively and efficiently transfer patients from one type of care to another.

Population Health

Sometimes available as a capstone course, population health provides an overview of the public health industry and the role it plays in society today. It may cover a wide range of topics, such as access to health care, epidemiology, and improving health behaviors among the public.

Clinical Theory and Study

Clinical theory is one of the final courses nurses take within their program, offering in-depth information about clinical practices and how to implement them in a healthcare setting. Clinical study, commonly known as clinicals, is the portion of the curriculum in which nurses practice patient care under direct supervision in a variety of clinical settings.

Importance of Licensing and Certification in Nursing

Nurses play a crucial role in providing patients with the care necessary to live a healthy, productive life. As a result, it is essential that all nurses are licensed and certified to practice in their respective states. Licensure is one of the most efficient and effective ways to verify that all practicing nurses have developed the skills and knowledge required to safely care for patients.

Understanding the NCLEX-RN Examination

Nurses who are interested in practicing as RNs must take and pass the NCLEX-RN Examination, which is an exhaustive exam that tests the knowledge and skills of entry-level nurses. The NCLEX exam is required by all state regulatory boards in the United States. Generally, most nursing students take the exam within a month of graduating—and according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, just more than 74 percent of nurses in 2022 passed the exam on the first attempt.

Are There Prerequisites for Nursing School?

Most nursing degree programs have prerequisite courses, but many students complete these during the first year or two of their degree program. The prerequisites required may vary based on the school you attend or degree program you choose, although science and math courses typically play a key role in the curriculum.

Preparing for Nursing School Entrance Exams

Colleges and universities that offer nursing degree programs may require nursing school entrance exams. Some of these focus primarily on academic knowledge, while others test a candidate’s skill set as well as their personality development. The best way to prepare for the entrance exam at your school is to learn more about what test will be used, begin studying in advance, and rely on supplemental resources to help prepare you for your specific entrance exam.

How Do Online Nursing Programs Work?

Online nursing programs provide students with a flexible and versatile alternative to traditional, in-person nursing degree programs. In an online nursing program, students take their coursework virtually and are able to complete assignments on their own time. Similar to in-person programs, courses are taught by skilled nurses and industry experts, giving students a comprehensive educational experience before they pursue careers in nursing. While coursework can be done online, clinical hours must be completed in-person at medical facilities in the local area.

Pros and Cons of Online Nursing Education

Students who enroll in online nursing degree programs often find that their flexibility is the biggest advantage. They still receive a nursing education, yet they can more easily balance existing personal and professional responsibilities. Though there is limited in-person interaction with professors and peers, clinical experience allows you to develop the practical and interpersonal skills to succeed in nursing.

What Are the Continuing Education Requirements for Nurses?

Most state licensing boards require that nurses continue their education in order to maintain their nursing licenses. The continuing education requirements for nurses vary based on the state in which they practice, but most states require nurses to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education every two or three years.

Earn Your Master’s Degree and Become a Leader in Nursing

If you feel that now is the right time to specialize your nursing practice , then it may be time to consider a Master of Science in Nursing from Post University. Our MSN degree program is uniquely designed to provide advanced nursing instruction, allowing you to refine your skills and focus on a niche aspect of nursing.

Request more information about our MSN degree program today.

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