How to Become a
Registered Nurse (RN)

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3 Steps to Become a Registered Nurse

Career Development
Herzing Staff
November 13, 2018

Nursing continues to be a high-growth field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for registered nurses will increase by 16 percent by 2026, more than double the average growth rate of all occupations.

A growing emphasis on preventative care and an aging Baby Boomer population is driving increased demand for healthcare services and creating a greater need for qualified, skilled nurses and other healthcare professionals.

The U.S. is also expected to encounter a critical nursing shortage, as many current nurses reach retirement age. The BLS has projected that 1.2 million nurses will be needed in order to replenish the workforce and account for rising demand by 2022.

Interested in joining this fast-growing profession? Follow these three steps to learn how to become a registered nurse and begin your career as an RN.

1. Enroll in a bachelor’s degree nursing program

A bachelor’s degree is becoming the new educational standard for nurses, as hospitals and other healthcare organizations respond to the Institute of Medicine’s call to increase their bachelor’s-prepared RN staff to 80 percent by 2020. A bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) will generally take between three to four years to complete, depending on your prior learning experience. While a bachelor’s degree is not required in order to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), it will offer you a competitive advantage in the nursing job market and increase your earning potential.

Do I really need a bachelor’s degree or can I get an associate’s degree?

You can get an associate’s degree in nursing and become a registered nurse. You should really get a BSN and put yourself in the best position for potential job opportunities and make more money. The average salary for a BSN will trend above average compared to the field of RN’s without a bachelor’s degree. More and more nursing employers are encouraging and sometimes requiring nurses to attain their BSN, and you will make your resume much more attractive by doing so.

Paths to earning your BSN and becoming a registered nurse:

Earning your BSN can open many doors to pursue the nursing specialty right for you and help you advance your career. ASN/ADN-prepared nurses may consider an online RN to BSN program to earn their bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1 year or less.

2. Earn clinical experience

Clinical experience is a critical part of your nursing education. Through your clinical rotations, you will have the chance to apply the skills you’ve learned in class to real-life nursing situations. Clinicals are also a great opportunity to gain experience in different healthcare settings as well as to expand your professional network.

3. Take the NCLEX-RN exam after you graduate

In order to become a registered nurse in the U.S. and Canada, you must first pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Graduates who successfully pass this national examination will be eligible to practice as registered nurses in the state in which they took the examination and will also be qualified to apply for licensure in all 50 states. This exam is very different from those you will take in your nursing classes, so be sure to check out these NCLEX-RN study tips beforehand.

As a registered nurse, you have ample opportunities for advancement. After completing your bachelor’s degree in nursing, you can accelerate your career by earning a graduate nursing master's degree (MSN) and position yourself for advanced practice, management and nursing faculty positions. Follow these steps to start your nursing path today!

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