How To Become a Nurse

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 17, 2021 | Published June 26, 2020

Updated March 17, 2021

Published June 26, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are interested in the healthcare industry and enjoy working closely with patients, a career as a nurse may be for you. With the ability to work in a variety of different environments and make a real difference in the lives of patients, many people find this career fulfilling. Learning about the different requirements for being a nurse can help you determine whether this career is a good fit for you.

In this article, we discuss the reasons why many people enjoy a career in nursing, what the requirements are for the role and the steps you need to take to become a nurse yourself.

Related: A Day in the Life of a Nurse: Typical Daily Activities and Duties of a Nurse

Why choose a nursing career?

Very few careers offer the same advantages as nursing and the ability to earn high salaries and significantly impact the lives of others. Here is a look at many of the benefits of pursuing a career in nursing:

  • Make a difference: Nurses save the lives of patients every day, monitoring their vitals and ensuring they receive the care they need. Some nurses also volunteer in their communities to promote the health of the public.

  • Enter the workforce rapidly: Aspiring nurses can take different career paths to become a nurse. While many choose to complete a four-year degree, others participate in accelerated programs that allow them to become a registered nurse (RN) in as little as two years. Others may choose to begin their nursing career by obtaining an associate's degree and becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN).

  • Perform exciting work: As a nurse, every day offers new, exciting challenges. Nurses work with different kinds of patients who have varying types of health concerns. The variety they enjoy in their everyday work makes for an exciting work environment.

  • Specialize in an area of interest: Many nursing students choose to concentrate their studies or pursue a career in a particular area of the healthcare industry based on what's most interesting to them for example, pediatrics, gerontology or anesthesiology.

  • Enjoy a strong job outlook: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing industry has a strong job outlook and employment for registered nurses is expected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028. Demand for healthcare services is expected to increase as the population ages. Growth is expected to be fastest in outpatient care facilities where patients don't stay overnight, such as surgical centers and rehabilitation clinics.

  • Advance their careers: Nurses have substantial opportunities for career advancement in their profession. Nurses can, through continuing education, pursue promotional opportunities. They can also obtain graduate degrees and become nurse practitioners or nurse anesthesiologists.

  • Enjoy a flexible schedule: A nurse's schedule often varies depending on the environment they work in. Many nurses work 12-hour shifts three days per week. This means that nurses often have four days off per week, which gives them a strong work-life balance.

  • Earn a competitive salary: The national average salary for registered nurses is $32.26 per hour. After 10 years, the average nurse earns $38.11 per hour. Nurses can also increase their earning potential through advanced degrees, specialization and continuing education.

Related: 8 Non-Nursing Job Options for Nurses

What are the requirements to join a nursing career?

After earning a high school diploma or GED, an aspiring nurse can choose from a few different career paths depending on whether they want to be an RN or LPN. Many students also choose to start their nursing careers as LPNs and later pursue additional education to become an RN. Here is a look at the primary requirements for all nursing careers:

Associate's or bachelor's degree

A two-year associate's degree is the fastest route for starting a career in nursing. However, it's important to note that a two-year degree does not qualify you for all nursing positions. To qualify for a wider range of positions, you should pursue a bachelor's degree to become an RN. There are some accelerated programs that allow aspiring nurses to become an RN in two years.

The specific coursework that students take in these programs can vary depending on the degree level, program and school. Students should select courses carefully, as the coursework they complete often impacts the specialization they qualify for. These courses also serve as prerequisites for more advanced training that the nurse may want to pursue at a later time. Some of the common coursework that nurses complete includes:

  • Anatomy

  • Pharmacology

  • Health assessment

Professional licensure

All nursing professionals are required to hold an LPN or RN license to practice. While the licensure requirements can vary from one state to the next, candidates are all required to sit for a licensure exam. Advanced degree programs provide specialized training that leads to additional certifications and licensing, such as a nurse practitioner license.

Continuing education

Nurses are generally required to renew their licenses every two or three years. To qualify, they must complete a certain number of hours in continuing education. They may also be required to take specific courses to qualify for renewal. Continuing education can also expand a nurse's professional advancement opportunities.

Related: How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner

How to meet nursing career requirements

Here are the basic steps you need to take to meet the nursing career requirements:

1. Choose a path
The first step you should take is deciding which path you should take to begin your nursing career. You may want to start your career as an LPN and pursue additional education later to become an RN or you may want to obtain a four-year degree and enter the workforce as an RN. You may also want to consider one of the accelerated degree programs to rapidly enter the workforce as an RN. Before beginning your education, consider what area you want to work in when you enter the workforce. If there is a certain type of nursing you're passionate about, you can focus your education and coursework to work in that field.

2. Earn a degree
Next, earn a degree. It's important to note that while an associate's degree takes less time to complete and allows you to enter the workforce more quickly, you may have fewer job opportunities than candidates that hold a bachelor's degree.

3. Obtain a license
Once you've completed your education, take a licensing exam to obtain a license to practice. To become an LPN, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). If you are pursuing an RN designation, you are required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

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