How to Become a Registered Nurse

Have you already decided that you want to study nursing? That’s great! But you aren’t sure about the right career path in nursing? Don’t you worry because in this article I’m going to give as much as possible valuable information about how to become a registered nurse (RN).

After that, you have a much brighter vision whether you want to become a registered nurse (RN) or not.

Before I get started to tell you about the steps on how to become a registered nurse, I give you some background information about myself. Why? Because I think that you are much more likely to trust the information I give you after that.

My name is Ida Koivisto, and I’m a registered nurse and a public health nurse myself. It took me four years to graduate in these professions.

Now it’s time to give you comprehensive information and knowledge on how to become a registered nurse based on my own experiences and reliable sources I’ve found on the internet.

First I think you need to have a clear image of a registered nurses’ and about what we do. If you already know the basic information about registered nurses you can skip straight to the subject “Steps on how to become a registered nurse” or “How long does it take to become a registered nurse?”.

Basic information about a registered nurse’s profession:

Registered nurses, or RNs, are the largest healthcare occupation for good reason; we give patients medical care, educate them about their health issues, and offer emotional support to them. Registered nurses also observe and record their patients’ condition.

We help perform diagnostic tests to make effective plans for patient care. Before patients head home from a treatment or procedure, we registered nurses will explain how to manage the injury or illness.

As a core part of medical teams, we consult with doctors and other health care professionals and may oversee the work of other nurses and assistants.

See also: Are Registered Nurses Exempt or Nonexempt?

Most of the registered nurses work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, home health care services, and nursing homes. Some of us may work in correctional facilities, schools or serve in the military. RNs may also have the opportunity to travel, as we are needed across the world.

Are there any downsides to being a registered nurse? Of course. Risks – such as back injuries from lifting patients or exposure to infectious diseases and chemicals – are part of the job.

This might not be a downside for some of us but it should be taken nevertheless on consideration; registered nurses may work nights, weekends, and holidays, and also be called in off-hours.

If you rather prefer information provided in video format, check out this video down below made by CareerOneStop:

Now that you have enough information about registered nurses it’s time to go through three main paths on becoming a registered nurse. If you are considering also other health care professions, check out this article of ours about Nurse Practitioner vs Physician assistant.

Steps on how to become a registered nurse

There are three main paths on how to become a registered nurse that I’m going to cover in this article. First I’m going to give you the steps that I took to graduate to this health care occupation; via a bachelor’s degree.

Please note that a bachelor’s degree might be a little bit different depending on the country you’re living in. If you are not sure about the meaning, check out this Wikipedia article about bachelor’s degrees.

After that, I’m going to give you the steps to become an RN via an associate’s degree and a diploma from an approved nursing program.

Steps on how to become a registered nurse with bachelor’s degree (BSN)

Like I wrote, my own path was via a bachelor’s degree (BSN). If you want to get more detailed information, scroll straight down to “How to become an RN with a bachelor’s degree?”. But here are the steps I took:

  1. Think about yourself and the career you would like to have. (This step is always going to be the same whether you want to study nursing via bachelor’s or an associate’s degree, or via approved nursing program). If you have read the basic information I gave you about registered nurses at the beginning of the article and that’s how you would like your career to be, you are on the right track. If not, at least at this point you should reconsider. But I assume you want to become an RN because you’re still here so let’s go to the second step you need to make on your path.
  2. Apply to the nursing school to get your bachelor’s degree. Because there are so many universities around the world where you can study to become a registered nurse I can’t give you the exact one school to apply, sorry. The best way to find the right school for you is to use Google with search terms, like “nursing school near me” or “nursing school + your city or state”. If you are considering studying in a foreign country I highly recommend Lapland UAS, Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences or Laurea UAS in Finland.
  3. It’s highly advisable to practice beforehand to entrance exams. You know, it’s not guaranteed that you walk straight to the nursing school on your first try. Please note that entrance exams may vary depending on the university of applied sciences you are applying to. For me, it was just a written exam on mathematics and with the topic “Why do you want to study to become a registered nurse?”. In addition to these, you may also have an interview with a teacher.
  4. Study hard and stay focused at school and during internships. This may be self-evident, but I bet that you are going to forget it from time to time. If you are not sure how to stay focused in class, check out wikiHow’s article about it.
  5. Graduate, and celebrate your bachelor’s degree with your classmates, friends, and family. You have made it, you are a registered nurse. Now it’s time to apply for a job and start working as a nurse.
  6. Get your NCLEX-RN if you want to work as a registered nurse in the USA or Canada. Whether you live in the USA or Canada or you want to move and work there, you have to have an NCLEX-RN. After graduation from a school of nursing, you must pass an NCLEX-examination to receive a nursing license.

These are the five (six in the USA and Canada) main steps you need to take to become an RN with a bachelor’s degree.

Steps on how to become a registered nurse with bachelor's degree (BSN)

But how about with an associate’s degree? That’s coming up next.

Steps on how to become a registered nurse with an associate’s degree (ADN)

An associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) is the minimum amount of school and education needed to become licensed as a registered nurse. Here are the steps for you:

  1. Think about yourself and the career you would like to have. (This step is always going to be the same whether you want to study nursing via bachelor’s or an associate’s degree, or via approved nursing program). If you have read the basic information I gave you about registered nurses at the beginning of the article and that’s how you would like your career to be, you are on the right track. If not, at least at this point you should reconsider. But I assume you want to become an RN because you’re still here so let’s go to the second step you need to make on your path.
  2. Apply to an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN). Sooner the better because there might be a high demand for nursing programs via an associate’s degree. As a result, you may have to wait for places to open in the waiting list. First come first served!
  3. Get approved to the ADN to become an RN. Now it’s time to study hard and learn some new valuable skills.
  4. Graduate, and celebrate your associate’s degree in nursing. If you are going to be working in the USA or Canada, this not the last step. In any other country than these, now you are ready to start looking for jobs and start working as a nurse.
  5. Get your NCLEX-RN to receive a nursing license (the USA and Canada only). After graduation from a school of nursing, you must pass an NCLEX-examination to receive a nursing license and to be applicable to work in the USA or Canada.

That’s it! These are the four (five in the USA and Canada) main steps on how to become a registered nurse with an associate’s degree (ADN).

Next, I’m going to give you the steps on how to become a registered nurse via a diploma from an approved nursing program.

Steps on how to become a registered nurse via a diploma from an approved nursing program

The third way on how to become a registered nurse is to get a diploma from the nursing program. Now you might be thinking about how this diploma differs from associate’s or bachelor’s degrees? Let me tell you.

The degrees are mainly completed at school, university or university of applied sciences. But a diploma from an approved nursing program is the emphasis in most cases is on a patient or clinical practice and care.

That basically means you are working in a hospital or nursing home as a nurse or nursing assistant while you earn your diploma.

If you like practical work more than the old fashioned way of studying, this might be a good option for you! Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Think about yourself and the career you would like to have. (This step is always going to be the same whether you want to study nursing via bachelor’s or an associate’s degree, or via approved nursing program). If you have read the basic information I gave you about registered nurses at the beginning of the article and that’s how you would like your career to be, you are on the right track. If not, at least at this point you should reconsider. But I assume you want to become an RN because you’re still here so let’s go to the second step you need to make on your path.
  2. Find the right program for you and submit your application. I can’t provide the right programs for you because there are so many depending on where are you living. But here’s a quick tip for searching programs: use Google with search terms like “diploma for nursing near me” or “nursing diploma + your city or state”.
  3. Get approved to the program and start working as a nurse or nurse assistant to get your nursing diploma.
  4. Earn your diploma and celebrate it with your colleagues, friends, and family. If you are working in the USA and Canada, there’s one more step to go. If you are working in any other country, apply to jobs and start working in your dream job.
  5. Get your NCLEX-RN to receive a nursing license (in the USA and Canada only). After graduation getting the diploma, you must pass an NCLEX-examination to receive a nursing license.

With these four (five in the USA and Canada) steps you are ready to be working as a registered nurse.

Now you might be thinking how long does it take to become a registered nurse, or more specifically how many years to become a registered nurse. And you guessed it right, I’m going to give you the answers to the questions at next.

How long does it take to become a registered nurse?

How long does it take to become approved to be working in your dream job? I’m sorry but there is not a simple straightforward answer to this question.

Why though? Simply because if you read “Steps on how to become a registered nurse” from above you know that there is three main paths to become an RN. And all of these three paths have different approximated time estimates.

How many years to become a registered nurse?

Let’s start with the path I personally took to become a registered nurse – with a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) usually takes three to four years to complete. For me, it took a whole four years because I completed a public health nurse education as well.

If you are looking to complete only to become an RN, usually it’s only three to three and a half years.

Of course, it also depends on how effectively you are taking courses. And/or if you have completed some of the general courses while studying another field at the university of applied sciences, it might positively affect on time needed to study nursing degree.

An associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) usually takes up to two years to complete. An associate’s degree is often also referred to as a “two-year” degree. But can you make it even faster? Yes, scroll down below to “How to become an RN fast?” to get the answer.

Last but not least, a diploma from an approved nursing program. Typically it takes one to three years to complete your diploma. It varies depending on the nursing program you are in and your previous experience and studies about nursing. The best bet is to ask about it from your principal at the nursing program.

As you can see, it usually takes at one to four years to complete your studies to become a registered nurse.

Are there any faster ways on how to become a registered nurse? Yes! And that’s coming up in the next down below.

How to become an RN fast?

Like I just said, there are ways on how to become an RN fast.

One option is to get your degree from ECPI University. Here is a video made by ECPI University for you on how to become an RN fast.

With ECPI University’s accelerated programs you can complete:

  • A diploma from practical nursing in 15 months
  • An associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) in 18 months
  • A bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2.5 years

That’s crazy fast! At least compared to my four years.

How to become a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree?

I have already given you the main steps on how to become a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree. Now it’s time to dig in a little bit deeper into this subject.

As you know, this is the route I personally took so the information is going to be as specific as ever possible.

My journey to becoming a registered nurse starts in high school. At that time I already knew that I wanted to help out others so a nursing career was a good fit for that. Only the field of nursing had to be clarified. How did I do that?

Opened Google and started my research with the search query “How to become a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree?”. Like you might have done a while ago before you found this article about it.

I found out that it’s going to take three to four years to complete nursing studies at the university of applied sciences. That’s fine because I wasn’t in a hurry.

After that, I researched the possible universities of applied sciences near me where I could complete my studies. Lapland UAS was the best fit for me because I lived in Kemi back then.

Then it was time to send my application to the school and prepare myself for entrance examinations.

How did I prepare for the entrance examinations? I found previous years’ most asked questions on the internet. I tried to learn from those, plus I trained my mathematical skills from my old high school books. It worked! I was accepted into the school!

During my studies, there was enough variation between going to school and internships. My first internship was at the health center where I learned the basics about healthcare. If you are more interested in learning healthcare in Finland, please read this article of ours.

Note that because I graduated also as a public health nurse my internships also included those kinds of practices. Typically, nursing internships include the following topics:

  • Basic healthcare
  • Internal medicine
  • Mental health and substance abuse
  • Children and adolescents
  • Surgery

Of course, at the university of applied sciences, we prepared our skills for these internships ahead.

After four years of hard work and studying, I graduated as a registered nurse and a public health nurse. Then it was time to start looking for nursing jobs.

Please note that to be able to work in the USA and Canada you must pass an NCLEX-RN examination. For me, working in Finland, this was not necessary.

That was my journey, on how to become a registered nurse. Hope you will get your own as soon as possible! Next up I’m going to give you the answer on how to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, and how that might differ from a typical registered nurse.

How to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist?

How to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist?

To become a registered nurse (RN), you can earn with an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, or get a diploma from an approved nursing program. To get permission to work in the USA and Canada, you must pass an NCLEC-RN examination also.

But to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) you need to complete a master’s degree. If you are not sure what a master’s degree means in your country, check that out on Wikipedia.

It usually takes a minimum of seven years of post-secondary education and experience in the USA to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. Seven years? Is it really worth it?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CRNAs earned the mean hourly wage of $84.03 and the mean annual wage of $174,790 in May 2018. That’s more than double compared to the mean hourly and annual wages of registered nurses (RN).

If you interested to know some more, check out this article of mine: Do Nurses Make Good Money?

How to become a registered nurse …

To this point, I have gone through a ton of valuable information about how to become a registered nurse.

Now it’s time to go a bit deeper and answer more specifically on, how to become a registered nurse in California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, New York (NYC), and Finland.

in California?

According to the California Board of Registered Nursing, you can become a registered nurse with five steps. But I’m going to give you one extra step you should take so there would be six steps in total.

  1. Think about yourself and the career you would like to have. (This step is always going to be the same whether you want to study nursing via bachelor’s or an associate’s degree, or via approved nursing program). If you have read the basic information I gave you about registered nurses at the beginning of the article and that’s how you would like your career to be, you are on the right track. If not, at least at this point you should reconsider. But I assume you want to become an RN because you’re still here so let’s go to the second step you need to make on your path.
  2. Prepare yourself for nursing school. California Board of Registered Nursing recommends that you prepare for nursing school by attending to the following courses in high school: English – 4 years, Math – 3-4 years, Science – 2-4 years, Social studies – 3-4 years, and Foreign language – 2 years. That way you can get ahead in college studies early on.
  3. Choose your path; whether you would like to become a registered nurse, via an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, or via a diploma from an approved nursing program. Usually, an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) takes two years, a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). A diploma from an approved nursing program might be the fastest way to become a registered nurse, approximately 1-2 years. Just keep in mind that the way you earn your degree might affect your salary or postgraduate studies.
  4. Send the application to the school or path you’ve chosen. Here you can find the possible options to become an RN in California: RN Programs in California.
  5. Apply for financial support if you need it. There are a lot of opportunities for scholarships, loans, and loan forgiveness programs. You can find more information about it here: Financial Support.
  6. Take the NCLEX-RN examination and complete fingerprint background check. To be able to work as a registered nurse in California, you must be licensed by the California Board of Registered Nursing and you must pass the NCLEX-RN examination.

That’s how to become a registered nurse in California.

After the lovely picture of California’s Golden Gate Bridge, you find the mean annual wage of registered nurses in California.

How to become a registered nurse in California?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the state of California, the mean annual wages of registered nurses was $106,950 in May 2018. To learn some more about nurses’ salaries and annual wages, check out an article of ours: Do Nurses Make Good Money?

Did you know that registered nurses can also work as a neonatal nurse? More information about that you can find via these two articles of ours:

in Florida?

Steps on how to become a registered nurse in Florida are pretty much the same as California above.

One thing to keep in mind, when working as a nurse in Florida; remember to renew your nursing license every two years.

How about the mean annual wage in Florida? It was a lot less than registered nurses’ mean annual wage in California. In May 2018 it was $66,210, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that’s mostly because the cost of living is much higher in California than in Florida.

in Texas?

How to become a registered nurse in Texas successfully? The first thing you need to know is that there are six schools operating in Texas without the approval of the Texas Board of Nursing.

What does that mean?

It means that you can’t take the NCLEX-RN examination if you graduated from some of these six schools.

So be aware of that and check out these approved professional nursing education programs in Texas instead.

The steps on how to become a registered nurse in Texas are – you guessed it right – pretty much the same as in California and Florida. Only be sure to apply to the schools that are approved by the Texas Board of Nursing. Here you can find more state-specific information about nursing education programs in Texas.

The mean annual wage as a registered nurse in Texas? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it was $72,890 in May 2018.

in Arizona?

How to become a registered nurse in Arizona with five easy steps?

  1. Think about yourself and the career you would like to have. (This step is always going to be the same whether you want to study nursing via bachelor’s or an associate’s degree, or via approved nursing program). If you have read the basic information I gave you about registered nurses at the beginning of the article and that’s how you would like your career to be, you are on the right track. If not, at least at this point you should reconsider. But I assume you want to become an RN because you’re still here so let’s go to the second step you need to make on your path.
  2. Apply to the nursing program approved by the Arizona State Board of Nursing. Here you can find the full list of approved pre-licensure nursing programs in the state Arizona.
  3. Study hard and learn new valuable nursing skills. You can check out this wikiHow’s article on how to focus in class if you have trouble with it.
  4. Graduate and celebrate it with your friends and family. Congratulations, you have almost made it! Just one more step to go.
  5. Get your NCLEX-RN if you want to work as a registered nurse in the USA or Canada. After graduation from a school of nursing, you must pass an NCLEX-examination to receive a nursing license.

Now that you have a degree or a diploma and you’ve passed NCLEX-RN examination, you are ready to work as an RN in Arizona and any other state in the USA and Canada.

in Finland?

In Finland, you can study nursing in various universities of applied sciences across the country. As you might already know, I completed my studies to become a registered nurse (BSN) and public health nurse (PHN) in Lapland UAS.

Other great options to study nursing and in Finland are:

Here is a video for you about nursing studies at Satakunta University of Applied Sciences.

Liked what you saw? Don’t hesitate to apply to any of these universities of applied sciences in Finland. You are going to have a great time here in the land of thousand lakes.

Can you become a registered nurse online?

Do you need more time with your family or would you like to study while working at the same time? These might be good reasons to think about why and how to become a registered nurse online.

But can you become a registered nurse online at all? Yes, you can study nursing online!

There are several universities and colleges where you can complete your nursing studies online. In the next chapter, I’m going to give you different options on how to become a registered nurse online.

How to become a registered nurse online?

The country and the state might affect where you can or want to study to become a registered nurse. So to make things easier for you, here are the available online nursing studies categorized by the countries.

in the United States of America?

You can find multiple options to study nursing online in the USA here.

in Australia?

You can study in Western Sydney University to become a registered nurse (BSN) in Australia. Other universities and colleges where you can study nursing can be found at Open Universities Australia.

in Canada?

On DistanceLearningPortal you can find almost anything to study online – including nursing.

DistanceLearningPortal brings together over 14 000 online learning degrees. In addition to Canada, the USA, and Australia, you can find online study possibilities available also in the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Finland, Belgium and many more.

I really hope that this article helped you find out how to become a registered nurse. You might also find these articles valuable on your journey to becoming a nursing professional:

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<a href="https://normalnurselife.com/about-us/ida-koivisto/" target="_blank">Ida Koivisto</a>

Ida Koivisto

Ida is a both registered nurse and public health nurse. Her passion is to provide as much as possible valuable information about nursing to the world. In her spare time from work and blogging, Ida loves to workout at the gym and spend time with relatives and friends.

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