If you’d like to become an RN but aren’t exactly sure which steps you need to follow before you’re actually allowed to work as one, then this guide is for you. We will walk you through all the aspects of obtaining a registered nurse degree and license, as well as highlight potential choices and educational features to consider before making your final choice from the multitude of registered nurse programs and registered nurse schools.
According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS), the median wage for these nurses was $66,640 per hour in May 2014, and the employment for this occupation is expected to rise by 16% from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Becoming an RN is therefore a sound career choice if you think you would enjoy this type of work.
Here is what you need to know about registered nurse schools and degree programs. There are 3 main career paths you can choose from in order to become a registered nurse. You need to complete and graduate from any of the following:
- A Bachelor of Science degree in the nursing field (usually abbreviated to BSN);
- An Associate’s Degree in Nursing (usually abbreviated to ADN);
- A diploma from an approved nursing study program (provided that you already have a Bachelor’s degree in another field).
A BSN program usually takes 4 years to complete, while an ADN program typically takes 2-3 years. No matter what form of study you opt for, you will be required to complete supervised clinic duty before graduation. Also, before you can actually work as an RN, you will need to obtain a license from the state you live in. (You can see more info about the requirements for your state here).
Most working RN’s typically need to have a bachelor’s degree completed (especially if they work is supervising positions or have some administrative tasks as well), as the required education level. Usually, large employers (like hospitals) tend to not hire RN’s without bachelor degrees, in recent years. Here is what you need to know further, before choosing a school for your studies.
All of the schools or registered nurse programs that you will consider need to be properly accredited by the government. You should definitely enquire about the school’s accreditation before deciding to sign up for any study program, and this information should be transparent and available to all prospective students. An unaccredited study program is virtually useless on the job market, no matter how interesting the information being taught within it may seem.
Many workers already employed as RN’s tend to go back to school in order to obtain their bachelor degree, since the requirements of most employers have changed in recent years. This is why we would recommend you to opt for a bachelor’s degree to start with. There are many RN schools to choose from (and we will elaborate on that below). What is important to remember is that after completing your basic nurse training, you can choose between some programs for further study, in order to obtain a nursing specialization. Here are some of the popular paths:
- Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNCs): To qualify as a CNC, you need to complete a Master’s degree in nursing and have at least 1 year of working experience;
- Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs): These nurses specialize in a particular area (they can be nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists or nurse practitioners and so on), and this usually requires just an extra program or course to be completed, in addition to the work experience.
Registered Nurse Schools
You can opt for a traditional RN school or choose one of the accredited online nursing programs, if this is more convenient. The second option is especially recommended for those already licensed (and who have completed a traditional registered nurse degree), and now only seek to advance their training in order to specialize.
There are countless offers of registered nurse schools and registered nurse degree programs across the country, to choose from. You should take location into account first and foremost and search for nursing schools in your state, then sort them down according to their ratings and reviews from former students and graduates. You can get started with your searches by using one of the major school search portals, like this one.
Choosing a Program or Degree
If you already found a school for an RN that seems to have all its accreditations and is convenient for you to attend, all that remains is opt for a program or a degree. We recommend you to start with a Bachelor of Science in nursing (if you don’t already have one), for the reasons explained above (easier to get and keep jobs when you have one). Then, you can consider opting for some specialization according to your personal affinities and interests. If you work as a registered nurse for a while, you can also get a good sense of what specialties are more demanded in your area, and take this factor into account as well.
Here are some of the most popular specialization options for RN’s (advanced programs):
- Rehabilitation nurses (recovery for patients with temporary physical disabilities caused by accidents or illness);
- Addiction nurses (working with addiction recovery patients);
- Critical care nurses (working in the ICU – Intensive Care Units – of hospitals);
- Cardiovascular nurses (working with heart disease patients);
- Psychiatric nurses (working with mentally ill patients);
- Genetics nurses (help genetic disease patients with both treatment and screenings);
- Neonatology nurses (caring for newborns);
- Nephrology nurses (working with kidney disease patients)
- … and more. The examples can really go on for a while, so it’s important to see what type of registered nurse programs for advanced training are offered at a school near you, and decide based on this availability, as well as your own interests.
Last, but not least, you should also consider the facilities of a school before deciding on it. Before becoming licensed as an RN, you will need to complete a lot of hours of hands-on training and working in actual clinical conditions, so the RN schools that have more to offer in that department are obviously a better choice.