Becoming an RN, or registered nurse, is a rewarding job that will allow you to help many people. The first thing you’ll need to do is graduate from a nursing program through an accredited school. Then, you must apply for a license with your state board of nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. With dedication and effort, you can obtain an RN license in 2-3 years.
EditGetting the Right Education
- Take college prep classes in high school. If you know you want to work as a registered nurse, you can get a head start while you’re still in high school. Sign up for college prep classes in math, science, and the medical field. Courses to take include anatomy and physiology, chemistry, psychology, statistics, and microbiology.
- Choose a nursing program. You can choose to obtain a diploma of nursing or an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in nursing. Regardless of which of the 4 options you choose, completing the program will make you qualified to receive an RN license. Typically, higher degrees are preferred by employers and also result in higher pay rates.
- A diploma of nursing can be completed in 1-2 years, depending on the program.
- An associate degree typically takes 2 years to complete.
- Bachelor’s degrees are usually completed in 4 years.
- Getting a master’s degree takes an additional 2 years to complete after receiving your bachelor’s degree.
- Apply to an accredited nursing school. Many colleges and universities offer nursing programs, but it’s essential that the nursing program you apply for is at an accredited school. Most schools advertise their accreditation on their website, and you can also check with the organizations that accredit schools.
- Visit the website for the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education to find out if your school is accredited.
- Choose a school that has a 70% or higher NCLEX-RN exam passing rate to ensure that you receive adequate instruction and preparation.
- Beware of online programs that don’t require clinicals—it’s unlikely the program is accredited.
- Complete and pass all the required coursework and clinicals to graduate. Coursework will differ by program and school, so speak with a guidance counselor to plan out your schedule. No matter what program or school you attend, clinicals will be a part of your studies. During clinicals, you put your newfound knowledge and skills to practice, treating real patients under the supervision of a licensed RN.
- A diploma of nursing program will focus on basic skills like recording patient information and working with medical equipment.
- An associate degree program will focus on technical skills, like educating patients and working with other nurses and doctors, rather than on theory.
- A bachelor of science in nursing program will include lectures, lab time, and practical lessons focused on preparing you to work in public health or educate patients.
- A master’s degree in nursing will prepare you to specialize in a certain field, on clinical training, or on research.
EditPassing the State Board Exam
- Apply for a nursing license from your state board of nursing. Each U.S. state has its own board of nursing. To obtain a nursing license, you must apply with the board of nursing and provide them with your transcripts after graduating from your nursing program. You can find contact information for each state board of nursing here: https://www.allnursingschools.com/articles/nursing-state-boards/.
- There are no time restrictions dictating how quickly you must apply for a license after graduating.
- You will need to become licensed in each state you want to work in, as the license is only valid in the state it was obtained. However, you can apply for a multi-state license that lets you practice in multiple states.
- Register to take the NCLEX-RN exam. The state board will make sure you meet the eligibility requirements, including graduating from an accredited nursing school and passing a background check, before allowing you to register. Your state board will provide you with instructions on how to pay the fee and sign up to take the exam at a time and location that are convenient for you.
- The tests are administered at Pearson Professional Centers throughout the country. To find a testing center near you, go to https://wsr.pearsonvue.com/testtaker/registration/SelectTestCenterProximity/NCLEXTESTING/428113.
- Prepare for the NCLEX-RN exam. There are print books, online tests, and even preparation courses available to help you study for the NCLEX-RN exam. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), along with many other companies and websites, offer NCLEX-RN test preparation. Do an online search to find the right tools to help you prepare based on your personal learning style.
- For best results, study in short intervals and use flashcards and memory games to quiz yourself.
- Pass the NCLEX-RN exam. The same exam is used in all 50 states and each state has the same standard for passing. The exam is multiple choice, graded pass/fail, and is adapted for a computer. Your medical knowledge and nursing competencies will be tested. 
- Pay the licensing fee. The licensing fee varies by state, ranging from $35 to $240. Once you pass the NCLEX exam, you’ll need to pay the licensing fee to your state board of nursing.
- Begin working as an RN. Create a resume that includes your education, experience, and skills. Apply and interview for positions you are qualified for and interested in. As a registered nurse, you can work for a hospital, physician’s office, home healthcare company, or the government. You could also specialize in a certain field, such as emergency medicine, cardiac care, or pediatrics.
- If you know in advance what area you want to work in, you can begin preparing for that specialty while in school. Alternatively, you can choose a specialty and gain experience while working in the field.
- Renew your license and continue your education as required. You must renew your license each year, or every other year, depending on the state you live in. The fee is the same each year. Some states also have continuing education requirements every renewal period, while others do not. Check with your state’s board of nursing to find out the requirements for your area.
- You can also find out the requirements for your area at http://www.nursingcenter.com/ceconnection/ce-state-requirements.