What Are the Qualifications To Become a Nurse?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 15, 2021 | Published November 5, 2020

Updated December 15, 2021

Published November 5, 2020

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Being a CNA

In this video, Aleysia, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), shares everything you need to know about being a CNA including common role responsibilities and requirements to become one.

If you're considering a career in nursing, one of the primary decisions you'll make is the level of nursing you want to pursue. There are many different nursing levels and specializations, each with its own set of educational requirements. Learning about the different nurse qualifications can help you decide which path you want to take or whether you want to pursue additional education to advance your current nursing career. In this article, we discuss the different types of nursing and the requirements for those positions.

What are nurse qualifications?

Nurse qualifications are the requirements that someone needs to fill a specific role in nursing. Nurse qualifications include formal training, certifications and experience levels nurses must have to have to qualify for job openings.

Nursing assistant

A nursing assistant, or certified nursing assistant (CNA), is a health care professional who helps patients to perform everyday activities and maintain their hygiene. They monitor a patient's vital signs and overall health and report all observations back to the nurse. They also help patients with bathing, feeding and other activities. Depending on the state that they work in, some nursing assistants may also dispense medication.

To qualify for a position as a nursing assistant, you need to complete a state-approved educational program. This type of training program typically takes between three and eight weeks. After finishing, the aspiring CNA is required to pass a certifying exam.

Read more: Learn About Being a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)

Licensed practical nurse (LPN)

LPNs are responsible for a variety of tasks related to patient care, including taking patient blood pressure, starting IV drips, changing bandages and inserting catheters. They also perform ongoing monitoring of patient health and provide basic patient care.

To become an LPN, you need to complete a practical nursing program, which is usually found at community colleges, technical schools and career colleges. These programs usually take 12 months to complete, at the end of which you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to obtain a state license.

LPNs can also pursue certifications in specializations like developmental disabilities, IV therapy, childbirth and other areas. A specialized certification can help give them a competitive advantage over other candidates.

Read more: What Is a Practical Nurse? LPN vs. CN vs. RN, Average Salary and How To Become a Practical Nurse

Registered nurse

A registered nurse (RN) is responsible for monitoring patients, administering medications, updating patient records, consulting with other medical professionals and educating patients and their families on their illness and treatments. An RN's specific responsibilities can vary depending on the types of patients they work with and the environment that they work in. They also sometimes have responsibilities outside of patient care. For example, some run health screenings or blood drives or work at health fairs to promote public health.

To qualify for a position as a registered nurse, you must obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This degree is usually completed in four years. If an aspiring registered nurse already has an associate's degree in nursing, then it can take as few as 18 more months of education to complete a bachelor's degree. After completing the nursing program, aspiring RNs must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

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

Advanced practice registered nurse

An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is a nurse who has an advanced education and is allowed to perform many of the tasks that are often reserved for physicians. APNs can see patients without a physician overseeing their work, can order diagnostic tests and are allowed to make clinical diagnoses.

To become an advanced practice registered nurse, you need to first become a registered nurse. That means you need to start by completing a bachelor's degree program in nursing. After that, you need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). If you plan to pursue a specialization as an advanced practice registered nurse, there are additional requirements, such as clinical experience and advanced training and certifications. Some of the different specializations include nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife, nurse anesthetist and clinical nurse specialist.

After graduating from your master's program, you need to pass the certifying examination. The certification requirements can vary from one state to the next, so it's important to review the requirements for your state.

Read more: What Is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse?

Clinical nurse specialist

A clinical nurse specialist is a registered nurse who can work as a primary care provider. They have advanced training in pharmacology and other advanced health care practices. Clinical nurse specialists manage teams of nurses, participate in medical research and develop and implement research to improve the quality of the care that patients receive in a medical facility. They often work as part of a multidisciplinary medical care team.

Clinical nurse specialists must hold the designation of registered nurse and complete a master's degree. Many clinical nurses also choose to complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in order to further advance their careers.

There are a number of different specializations that clinical nurses can pursue, including pediatrics, cardiovascular disease, adult health, child and adolescent psychiatric and mental health, women's health and rehabilitation. In order to take part in any of these programs, aspiring clinical nurse specialists must meet the prerequisite requirements for each specialization.

The prerequisites typically include an RN license, master's or doctoral degree and a specific number of hours working in a clinical setting. Aspiring clinical nurses also may have to complete graduate coursework in specific subjects, such as advanced pharmacology or advanced health assessment.

Read more: What Is a Clinical Nurse Specialist? What They Do and How To Become a CNS

Other nurse qualifications

There are also other qualifications that nurses need in order to succeed in their roles. These qualifications are the personal characteristics and attributes that nurses must develop outside of their formal education and certifications, including:

  • Strong interpersonal communication skills

  • Ability to remain calm in a crisis and to help others remain calm

  • Strong attention to detail

  • Highly organized

  • Attentive to the welfare of others

  • Strong critical-thinking and problem-solving skills

  • Authoritative and assertive when necessary


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