How to Become a Registered Nurse?

Nurse with computer
Copyright: Irwan Iwe

Becoming a nurse is far more than a career choice – it’s a calling. This unique profession calls for individuals with an innate sense of compassion, unwavering dedication, and an earnest commitment to serving others. In today’s ever-evolving healthcare landscape, registered nurses stand as the cornerstone, playing an indispensable role in delivering the pinnacle of patient care. Their vast range of responsibilities, from direct patient care to health education and from advocacy to emotional support, ensures the smooth functioning of the healthcare system. They are the healing hands and comforting voices that can turn a stressful hospital stay into a journey of recovery.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to become a registered nurse. It delves into the specifics of the academic journey, the timeline, and the practical steps you need to take to enter this profession. The intent is to give you a clear roadmap for this demanding yet profoundly rewarding career path. Besides the pragmatic aspect, this guide also explores the deeply human side of nursing – the part that can make a significant difference in people’s lives and bring immense personal fulfillment.

The path to becoming a registered nurse is one of diligence, perseverance, and, as highlighted here, constant learning. But for those who heed the call, the rewards – both personal and professional – are immeasurable.

Understanding the Requirements to Become a Nurse

Embarking on a journey to become a nurse necessitates a distinctive blend of academic prowess, finely honed skills, and innate personal qualities. A commitment to lifelong learning is paramount, as the healthcare field is dynamic and consistently evolving. Simultaneously, impeccable communication skills are essential, as nurses are often the primary liaison between patients and the rest of the healthcare team. Equally important is the ability to demonstrate empathy, as this lies at the heart of patient-centered care and helps build crucial patient-nurse relationships.

However, the path to becoming a nurse goes beyond these essential soft skills. It involves a rigorous academic journey designed to equip you with the knowledge and clinical competence needed to thrive in this demanding profession.

Aspiring nurses typically initiate their academic expedition with a solid foundation at the high school level, concentrating on core subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, and math. These provide the necessary groundwork for the advanced medical and scientific learning that lies ahead, as explained in this guide.

medical students hospital

Post-secondary education forms the next step, with two principal pathways leading to becoming a registered nurse. The first and most conventional path is to undertake a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. This program, typically four years in duration, offers an in-depth understanding of nursing theory, research, public health, and clinical practice, preparing students for a broad spectrum of healthcare settings.

Alternatively, some individuals opt for an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). This is a shorter program, usually two to three years long, and focuses on essential technical nursing skills. It provides a quicker route to enter the nursing field, after which you can opt for an ADN-to-BSN program if you choose to advance your education.

Whichever route you take, the aim remains the same – to prepare you for the challenges of the nursing profession and to meet the ever-changing needs of the healthcare landscape.

Steps for Becoming a Nurse

Embarking on the path to becoming a nurse is a journey of personal and professional growth, which can be mapped out in three fundamental stages: acquiring the necessary education, obtaining the requisite licensing, and accumulating invaluable experience.

The first stage is all about laying a solid academic foundation. To do this, you must enroll in a nursing program accredited by your state’s nursing board, as outlined here. These programs offer either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). The choice between these two routes depends largely on your career goals and the time you can commit to your studies. BSN programs typically span four years, while ADN programs can be completed in two to three years. This timeframe provides a general answer to the often-asked question: “How long does it take to become a nurse?” Regardless of the path chosen, these programs deliver a robust blend of theoretical knowledge and hands-on training, equipping students with the skills they need to excel in the multifaceted world of nursing.

Upon completing your nursing program, the journey transitions to the second stage: licensure. This critical step involves passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), a standardized exam that serves as a gateway to your nursing career. The NCLEX-RN evaluates your ability to apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to practice safely and effectively as an entry-level nurse. It’s a rigorous test, but passing it demonstrates your readiness to tackle real-world nursing challenges.

Once licensed, the third stage commences – gaining practical experience. Real-world experience is often the best teacher, especially in a profession as hands-on as nursing. According to this article, the process often begins with internships or externships completed during your nursing program, which offer a first-hand glimpse into the nursing profession. The learning continues as you step into the professional world, starting with entry-level nursing positions. These early-career experiences refine your nursing skills and deepen your understanding of patient care, fostering growth and proficiency as a healthcare professional.

Each stage builds on the one before, creating a well-rounded nursing professional ready to provide high-quality care in any healthcare setting.

Advancing Your Nursing Career

Becoming a registered nurse is not the end of the journey but rather the beginning of many possibilities. Once you’ve entered the nursing field, many opportunities for advancement, specialization, and even international practice open up. Whether your passion lies in pediatric nursing, emergency care, oncology, or mental health, a specialty area could benefit from your unique skills and interests.

For those inclined toward leadership roles, research, or advanced practice, pursuing a Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) can be an invaluable step. An MSN not only provides deeper clinical expertise but also equips nurses with the knowledge needed for roles in management, policy development, and education. Similarly, becoming a Nurse Practitioner (NP) offers an even higher level of autonomy, allowing nurses to provide a comprehensive range of healthcare services, including diagnosis and treatment.

Furthermore, the global demand for nursing expertise is high, presenting opportunities for international practice. As per the information available from a credible resource, the United States has reportedly welcomed thousands of nurses educated abroad into its healthcare workforce since the year 2007. Such opportunities can provide unique cross-cultural experiences and can expand your professional network, further enriching your nursing career.

Continuous learning and professional development are fundamental in nursing. The field of healthcare is in a state of constant flux, with new research, methodologies, and technologies continually emerging. Regular professional development ensures that you stay current, enabling you to deliver the best possible care to your patients. This could involve attending seminars, undergoing further training, or staying updated through nursing journals and publications.

With a willingness to learn, the capacity to adapt, and a commitment to quality care, the potential for growth in this profession is boundless.

The Future of Nursing

As you contemplate this career path, understanding the prospects of becoming a registered nurse is paramount. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides encouraging data, with the nursing profession projected to experience significant growth, outpacing the average for all other occupations in the coming decade. This expansion is largely attributed to an aging population and escalating healthcare needs, placing registered nurses at the forefront of demand.


Why become a nurse, you may ask? Becoming a nurse is about more than job security. It’s about making a difference in people’s lives every day. As a registered nurse, you have the opportunity to provide care, comfort, and support during some of the most challenging times in people’s lives.

Becoming a registered nurse may be a challenging journey, but it’s filled with opportunities for learning growth and immense personal satisfaction. With these steps for becoming a nurse in mind, you can plan your path and look forward to a rewarding career in healthcare.