How to Become a Nurse in 6 Steps

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The steps to become a nurse include finding the right nursing school, such as an accelerated nursing degree or ABSN program, and talking to an admission representative. You’ll then complete degree requirement courses, submit your application, earn your degree and pass the NCLEX.

nurses sitting at a table

Are you thinking of transitioning into a second career as a nurse? Many great reasons exist to consider how to become a nurse, including a strong job growth rate, high earnings potential, and, of course, the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. If you’re excited about pursuing a career in which you can give back to your community, all that’s needed is to learn more about the job’s specifics and follow the six steps below to become a nurse.

What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

Before determining how to become a registered nurse (RN), understanding what they typically do is helpful. The day-to-day life of an RN often depends on their workplace setting and nursing specialty (see below). However, in general, an RN may do the following types of tasks:

  • Patient assessments
  • Medical history and observation note-taking
  • Patient treatment plan development or adjustment
  • Administration of medications and treatments
  • Wound care
  • Patient and family caregiver education
  • Discharge planning
  • Medical equipment operation
four nurses smiling

Thinking about becoming a nurse later in life? Here’s what you need to know about making the transition.

What Are the Types of Nurses?

Before diving into how to become a nurse, you may want to consider the vast range of career pathways available to you. With a BS in Nursing, an RN could pursue work across diverse workplace settings. As well as hospitals, RNs are hired by outpatient clinics, oncology treatment centers, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, schools, hospice agencies, cruise ships, and more.

You’ll also be able to choose from dozens of nursing specialties. A nursing specialty is an area of focus that may be defined by patient population or medical condition. Nurses may choose to pursue:

  • Pediatrics
  • Geriatrics
  • Family health
  • Dialysis
  • Cardiac care
  • Emergency room
  • Labor and delivery
  • Bariatrics
  • Plastic surgery
  • Dermatology

1. The Steps to Become a Nurse Start With Finding a School

smiling nursing student

Now that you have a better idea of what being a nurse entails, it’s time to explore how to become an RN. It all begins with finding the right nursing school that fits your needs. A traditional four-year Bachelor of Science (BS) in Nursing program is the appropriate route to a nursing degree if you have a high school diploma or GED but no college credits.

On the other hand, if you have a completed non-nursing bachelor’s degree or a minimum number of college credits, you may be eligible to apply to an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. An ABSN program leverages your prior non-nursing college education to allow you to graduate in far less time than you would in a traditional nursing program.

At Utica University, you could graduate from our ABSN program in as few as 16 months. You’ll learn from the same rigorous coursework paired with hands-on learning experiences designed to equip you with sound clinical judgment and nursing skills.

2. Reach Out to an Admission Representative

Once you’ve found the nursing school that fits your needs, the next step is to contact an admission representative. Having a copy of your unofficial transcripts on hand is helpful for the initial conversation. Your admission representative can review it with you to informally assess your eligibility to apply to the ABSN program.

This initial call is a “getting to know you” discussion. The admission representative may ask some basic questions to assess your eligibility and explore your motivation and commitment to becoming a nurse. This is an excellent opportunity to ask questions about the school, program, admission process, and similar topics. Before ending the conversation, be sure you’re clear on the next steps.

3. Complete the Degree Requirement Courses

If you choose to apply to Utica University, you’ll work with a dedicated admission representative to help you create a plan to complete your application. This personalized plan may include some degree requirement courses, also known as prerequisite courses. You might not need to take all the required courses, depending on your prior college credits.

ABSN student reading textbook

Utica University has these degree requirement courses:

  • Statistics
  • Life Span Development Psychology
  • Anatomy & Physiology I + Lab
  • Anatomy & Physiology II + Lab
  • Chemistry + Lab
  • Microbiology + Lab

Despite the lab components, you can take all these courses 100% online through Utica University.

4. Submit Your Application

After completing the degree requirement courses, you can complete your application package. Your admission representative will provide access to the online application portal to complete the bulk of the application. In addition to completing the application online and paying the fee, you must have official transcripts sent to the ABSN program from your previously attended higher education institutions.

Before submitting your application, give it a final check to ensure it’s as competitive as possible and free of typos. You can also ask your admission representative to double-check whether you missed anything.

Multiple strategies can increase your chances of getting into nursing school. Discover our top 7 tips for a successful application.

nursing students sitting in class

5. Earn Your BS in Nursing Degree

The following steps to become a nurse will be challenging. To earn your BS in Nursing degree in as few as 16 months, you must remain committed and motivated and treat nursing school like a full-time job.

You’ll complete coursework in nursing concepts—exploring everything from professional ethics and nursing leadership to topics in health assessments, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. At Utica University, you can complete the coursework entirely online. This allows you to review the material as many times as you need and complete assignments on your own schedule (provided you meet deadlines). You’ll also interact with fellow nursing students on the discussion forums and join your nursing instructors for regularly scheduled chat sessions.

While working through the coursework, you’ll also visit the ABSN site for in-person nursing skills labs and nursing simulation (“sim”) labs. You’ll learn foundational clinical care tasks during skills labs, such as inserting an IV line and performing wound care. During sim labs, you’ll practice working through patient care scenarios using lifelike medical manikins that can simulate patient responses.

close up of nursing student practicing lab skills

Finally, you’ll work through clinical rotations at top healthcare facilities nearby. During clinicals, you’ll work alongside your nursing instructor and preceptor, delivering care to actual patients. At Utica University, you’ll complete 588 hours of clinical practice in nursing specialties such as adult health, pediatrics, mental health and more.

6. Pass the NCLEX and Obtain Your Nursing License

Ideally, you should begin preparing for the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN®) as early as your first semester in nursing school. All prospective nurses must pass this exam to obtain state licensure. It tests your nursing knowledge and ability to assess clinical situations and develop appropriate responses. In other words, solid clinical-based decision-making skills are crucial.

Plan to study for the NCLEX intensively leading up to your test date after graduation. Once you pass, you can apply for your nursing license from the state board of nursing. You can then start looking for your first job as an RN.

nursing student studying

Learn how to prepare for the Next Gen NCLEX and everything you’ll need to know to come out on top.

How to Become a Nurse at Utica University

When you’re ready to transition into a rewarding and meaningful career, the helpful admission representatives at Utica University are here to help. With two ABSN sites in NY (Albany and Syracuse) plus three start dates each year, Utica University makes higher education more flexible and convenient than ever. Graduate in as few as 16 months fully prepared to sit for the NCLEX with confidence.

Ready to take the first step to become a nurse? Contact our admission representatives today to discuss ABSN program eligibility.

The Ultimate Nursing School Admissions Checklist

Ready for nursing school but stressed about applying? We recommend downloading our free admissions checklist to learn the important ins and outs of applying to accelerated nursing school.

The ultimate nursing school admissions checklist