What It Takes to Become a Registered Nurse: 6 Steps

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Utica ABSN student wearing stethoscope

If you’re considering a career in nursing, you’re probably asking yourself, “Do I have what it takes to become a registered nurse?” It’s a valid question. Because you’ll be caring for patients facing all sorts of health challenges, a nursing career isn’t something to enter into lightly.

In order to become a nurse, you’ll have to rise to many challenges you’ve likely never faced before. It often takes a mix of qualities including compassion, empathy, attention to detail, integrity and more to pursue a rewarding career in nursing. In addition to possessing some of these traits, you’ll also have to complete a series of steps to enter the profession, starting with finding a program that suits your needs and culminating in passing the licensure exam. We’ll review each step of what it takes to become a nurse below.

1. Have the Personality Traits of a Nurse

To be the best caregivers they can be, nurses use a variety of skills; some of them are inherent traits, and others you may need to develop over time. Whether or not you have mastered these skills before you enroll in the Utica University Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN), you’ll graduate with the kinds of qualities today’s health care employers are looking for when hiring new nurses.


Nursing is an incredibly rewarding profession, but it also has its fair share of trying situations. Having what it takes to become a registered nurse involves developing a thick skin and remembering what motivated you to want to enter the field in the first place. Thinking about that reason throughout accelerated nursing school — and your shifts as a future nurse — can help you to stay motivated to persevere through the especially tough days.


The Utica University ABSN program compresses the same amount of nursing theory coursework, onsite lab experience and clinical rotations at top healthcare facilities you’d find with a traditional nursing program into 16 months. To be successful in our program, you’ll need to devote between 40 and 60 hours a week to your studies.

That same level of perseverance still applies on the job. In fact, sometimes working as a registered nurse can be even more intense than nursing school. Your patients will be counting on you to come to the job ready to care for them every day.

Utica nursing students in skills lab


The most successful nursing students in our ABSN program maintain a rigid study schedule and prepare for labs and clinical rotations in advance. Many even treat their time in the program as a full-time job. The theory-based portion of our curriculum is online-based, but you have to remain self-disciplined to stay on top of instructors’ deadlines and exam schedules.

“Really think about if you are ready to be in an accelerated program and do the majority of your work online,” says Cody, ABSN graduate. “Some don’t realize that this means a lot of time-management, self-control, and organization because we’re doing something that others take double the amount of time to do.”

Honing your self-discipline in accelerated nursing school will take you far in your nursing career. Always putting your patients first — even when you have five minutes left in your shift or it’s time for your lunch break — epitomizes this trait.

Organizational Skills

Managing your time well goes a long way in nursing school, especially in an accelerated program like ours. Students who schedule study sessions for themselves and with their peers, have a dedicated study space at home and otherwise organize their lives, set themselves up for success not only in school but in their future nursing careers as well.

Maintaining a structured schedule is also a significant part of being successful during clinical rotations and later in your nursing career. Your colleagues and patients depend on you to be on time to provide the best patient care possible.


The original definition of the word “courage” comes from the French word corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” You’ll need both attributes to become a successful nurse. Indeed, because of some of the harrowing situations nurses may encounter, the profession is not for the faint of heart.

You’ll discover this quickly as you begin your nursing education, especially during your clinical rotations beginning in your first semester. Embracing these experiences and facing these obstacles head-on will help you venture outside your comfort zone and grow into a successful nursing student.


Not only do you have to be ready to roll with the punches as soon as you step onto the floor for your shift, but you’ll also have to be flexible with working hours and responsibilities. Nurses sometimes need to work overtime, late or overnight shifts and weekends.

You learn how to be flexible starting with the simulation lab portion of your nursing education in our ABSN program. During this element of our program, you’ll participate in a simulated clinical experience associated with a specific scenario that instructors can adapt on the fly as you progress through the simulation. We designed the experiences this way to help you prepare for the real-world interactions you’ll have with patients during clinical rotations and later in your nursing career.

2. Find a program that meets your needs

Utica ABSN student examining simulation manikin

Finding the right program for you may require some self-reflection. Before you can research a program that may work for you, you’ll need to know what timeline you want to pursue and what your needs may be when it comes to how a program is formatted and delivered. If you like learning online, you may want a program that offers video modules, discussion boards and a robust e-platform. If you want to start you path toward nursing sooner, an accelerated program may be your best option. The Utica University ABSN program empowers you to graduate in as few as 16 months.

3. Meet Program Requirements

The Utica University program requirements ensure that you’ll enter into your nursing education with a strong foundation that sets you up for success. In order to fill the requirements, you must have:

  • A minimum of 65 credits from a regionally accredited college or university (at least 57 of these credits must be from a 4-year regionally accredited college or university) or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or a conferred associate degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • Additional eligibility requirements
  • 2.8 cumulative GPA with 3.0 GPA in the sciences.
  • 60 credit hours in liberal arts courses, including the prerequisites
  • Grade of ‘C’ or better in general prerequisites

4. Complete the program

In order to become a registered nurse, you’ll need to complete a BSN program like the accelerated BSN program at Utica University. Our program is committed to academic excellence, therefore our university and nursing school maintain accreditations at the national, regional, and state levels.

With a BSN from Utica University, you can pursue your career as a nurse with the confidence that your nursing education has prepared you to be a competitive candidate for the current job market. Additionally, if you want to further your education to pursue an advanced nursing degree, your BSN will offer a great foundation.

5. Pass the NCLEX

Every nursing school graduate is required to take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam before being able to enter the profession as a registered nurse (RN). The NCLEX tests whether nursing school graduates have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide safe, effective nursing care at the entry level.

Utica nursing student studying

The NCLEX-RN covers a range of topics and includes anywhere from 75 to 265 questions.

The NCLEX-RN is a computer-based exam with a six-hour time restriction that is administered in a recognized testing facility. The bulk of the questions are multiple-choice questions. To learn more about what to anticipate before, during, and after the exam, you may also visit the website of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

6. Talk to an Admission Representative

Our admissions representatives, who work exclusively with nursing students, are ready to help guide you through applying and enrolling in the Utica University ABSN program. They’ll answer any questions you may have as well as:

  • Determine your enrollment eligibility and discuss your education goals.
  • Develop an academic plan targeted toward your program start date.
  • Stay on track during the admissions and application processes.

Do you think you have what it takes to become a registered nurse? Utica University ABSN program can help you become a nurse in as few as 16 months! Call us or complete the form to have an admission representative call you to learn more.

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