Although nurses are in demand, employers typically seek graduates who have experience with combinations of nursing theory and clinical practice. The registered nurse graduate, or RN, provides that experience through a combination of classroom and hands-on learning. The registered nurse is a nurse who has met all requirements demanded by a given state to practice nursing within that state. This type of nurse is capable of team work and management skills. Many RNs go on to earn higher degrees so they can specialize in a nursing field.

Prerequisites for Becoming an RN

The student nurse can gain RN experience through a number of options, including a hospital diploma program, an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. However, the true test to becoming a professional nurse is through a state exam administered by that state’s Board of Nursing. This organization is responsible for setting requirements and licensing for nurses who practice in that state. Once a nurse has passed the comprehensive nursing test, called the NCLEX examination, the graduate may find doors open to opportunities that could not exist before.

How to become an RN

The prerequisites and requirements for admission to a nursing school depend upon the school that the student nurse chooses. General guidelines include an SAT or ACT exam, a grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or higher, three years of math including geometry and algebra, three years of science including biology and chemistry, four years of English and two years of a foreign language. In many cases, a nurse who enters a BSN program will find that the first two of four years toward that degree are spent on general elective studies before allowed to choose among nursing courses.

Each course also varies in the amount of time spent toward a diploma or a degree. Typically, a full time student will spend three years earning a hospital diploma, two years earning an associate’s degree and four years toward a bachelor’s degree (BSN). An LPN-to-BSN program can take up to three years, and an RN-to-BSN program can take two to three years to complete. The time frames will vary depending upon whether the student decides to attend a learning institution on campus or to take online courses for some subjects. Also, many nurses continue their degrees while working, so part-time attendance as compared to full time attendance can affect those time frames as well. Accelerated nursing programs also are available for those students who want to jump-start their careers as a nurse.

Careers Available After Becoming an RN

Registered nurses can expect to make about $52,000 on average per year, depending upon skill levels, degree earned and years of experience. Additionally, registered nurses often are offered sign-on bonuses, paid moving expenses and health insurance coverage — perks not found in many other jobs. The RN can find work in just about any health setting including hospitals, clinics and cruise ships. Additionally, with this nursing shortage, the RN can find leadership jobs where none existed previously. With that said, many employers seek leadership skills from highly-trained nurses, and employers may fund a promising candidate’s further education in exchange for a long-term commitment to that job.

Further education can lead the RN into specialty training for careers in cancer and burn centers, work with children and mothers, women’s health and more. This ability to diversify is, perhaps, the leading reason to obtain a higher degree.

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Top 10 Online Nursing Schools

University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix — BSN, MSN, and Certificate. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest online university and currently offers several nursing programs at three different degree levels, based on previous nursing education and experience.

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Kaplan University
Kaplan University — Bachelor's, and Master's Nursing Degrees. Kaplan's School of Nursing offers specializations for nurse administrators and nurse educators.

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Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University — BS in Nursing (BSN) and MBA/MS in Nursing. Grand Canyon University offers a unique MBA/MS in nursing degree program that teaches students about the business aspect of healthcare, specifically nursing healthcare. Current nurses who want more business experience will find this may be an ideal fit.

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Liberty University
Liberty University — RN to BSN Degree and MSN Degree. The Department of Nursing at Liberty prepares students for baccalaureate level nursing, putting strong emphasis on Christian ethical standards and viewing nursing as a ministry of caring.

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Walden University
Walden University — M.S. in Nursing (RN Track), M.S in Nursing (BSN Track). Walden offers a wide variety of nursing degrees and certificates that are all accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

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