How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN): A Step by Step Guide (2023)



How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN): A Step by Step Guide

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Registered nurses are integral medical professionals who provide patients with the care they need. Learn the steps you need to take to join this influential profession.

How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN): A Step by Step Guide (1)

Registered Nurses (RNs) care for patients and provide support to other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, to ensure they have the support they need to do their best work. In the coming years, the demand for medical personnel will increase. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare jobs are expected to grow by 13% between 2021 and 2031, resulting in about 1.9 million job openings per year during the decade [1]. Registered nurses represent the largest group of health professionals among health professionals [2].

If you want to start an impactful healthcare career with good job prospects, consider a career as an RN. In this article, you'll learn what you need to do to become an RN, learn more about the profession, and explore your salary and job prospects. At the end, you'll also find suggested courses that can help you learn skills relevant to today's work.

What is a Registered Nurse (RN)?

Registered nurses care for patients and support doctors and other medical professionals in their daily tasks. Common caregiver duties include administering prescription medications, inserting catheters, and monitoringvital functions, creating patient care plans, and documenting patient information.

Keep reading:What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

Where do nurses work?

RNs may work in a variety of environments, e.g. B. in hospitals, doctors' offices, travel clinics, nursing homes, schools and even on airplanes. There are actually many different types of RN includingpsychiatric nurseswho specialize in psychiatric work,flight nurseswho work on helicopters and planes, andoncology nurseswho work specifically with cancer patients.

(Video) How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN) | Ways to Become an RN

How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN): A Step by Step Guide (2)

salary and job prospects

RNs receive above-average earnings in the United States and have positive job prospects for years to come.

According to the US BLS, the median annual salary for registered nurses in May 2021 was $77,600 per year. As a result, registered nurses earn an annual salary significantly higher than the average for all jobs in the United States, which the US BLS puts at $45,760 for the same year [3].

Similar to other healthcare professions, registered nurses can expect an increase in job openings over the next decade. According to the US BLS, the number of job openings for RNs is expected to increase by 6% between 2021 and 2031, resulting in approximately 203,200 new job openings per year [3].


An above-average salary and in-demand skills are just a few of the perks of being a Registered Nurse. Here are just some of the other benefits you can expect when you enter this in-demand career path:

  • To work in shifts:Nurses don't work a typical 9-to-5 workday. RNs often work 12-hour shifts three days a week, which means you can spend your free time doing other things you love, like being with your family or pursue a hobby.

  • unemployment insurance:Hospitals and clinics are always hiring nurses. The expectation is that this need will increase in the coming years.

  • Flexibility:Nurses, like doctors, are needed almost everywhere. Although you are not licensed or certified in other countries, you do have opportunities to do so, and working as a travel nurse can be a lucrative career.

  • Active lifestyle:As a nurse, you tend to be on your feet instead of sitting at a desk all day. This can be a huge boon for anyone who prefers not to sit for eight hours a day.

  • Make the difference:Nursing is helping people. If you are a social person, you may be drawn to this field of work, where you can have meaningful interactions with patients every day.

How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN): A Step by Step Guide (3)


(Video) How To Become A Registered Nurse

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How to become a Registered Nurse

RNs are highly qualified medical professionals whose job it is to help patients and ensure they receive the care they need. Therefore, the path to becoming a registered nurse is defined by education, certification, and specialization.

Here's what you can expect as you work your way into this high-impact healthcare career:

1. Complete an accredited nursing program.

To qualify for your nursing certification, you must first apply for and complete a nursing program. Nursing courses last between two and four years and prepare students for a career in the field, covering disciplines as important as chemistry, psychology,Anatomy, physiology, and applied learning courses such as wound care.

In the United States, there are three types of programs you can attend to qualify for the nursing exam. These programs are:

  • Bachelor of Science in Pflege (BSN):an accreditedbachelor degreeIt is the most common degree to become a Registered Nurse today. These programs are usually offered by colleges and universities and usually last up to four years, but can be completed in less time by those who already have a previous nursing license. A BSN is often the most competitive degree for entry-level nursing positions and is a requirement for becoming a more advanced registered nurse.

    (Video) How to Become a Registered Nurse: 4 Simple Steps [2018]

  • Nursing Degree (ADN):Many technical colleges and adult education centers offer aassociate degreein nursing, which usually lasts about two to three years.

  • Diploma Program:Diploma programs are the traditional route many have historically entered the nursing profession. Although less common today than BSNs and ADNs, some hospitals still offer nursing diploma programs that typically take two to three years to complete.

Keep reading:How to Get into Nursing School: Your Guide to a Degree

2. Take (and pass) the Nursing License Exam.

When you have completed your academic achievements, you can apply for theNational Board Licensing Examination (NCLEX). Developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX is the exam used by state regulatory agencies to determine if candidates are ready to obtain a nursing license [4].

Many future nurses complete the NCLEX-RN within a month of graduation. To take the exam, candidates must meet all eligibility requirements and apply through their local Inspectorate of Nursing. Candidates then register on the Pearson VUE website or by phone, which generates an authorization email with data and test information.

The NCLEX-RN costs US$200 for the license registration fee, but there are fees for changing the exam type, nursing advice, or exam language. The computer-based exam requires candidates to answer at least 75 (out of 205) questions and can take up to six hours to complete. Topics covered in the test include a safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.

To prepare for this important exam, candidates can:practical exam, available on the NCSBN website. If you fail the NCLEX-RN exam for the first time, you must wait 45 days before you can retake it.

3. Get a license where you want to practice.

After passing the NCLEX-RN exam, you must obtain a nursing license from the state where you wish to practice. The exact requirements for obtaining the license vary from state to state. So be sure to check with your state's regulator to ensure you meet all of the requirements. If you want to work in multiple states (or countries), you must be licensed in each state.

Explore multistate licensing

In 2018, the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) was implemented. This legislation allows RNs to be licensed in multiple states, allowing nurses to practice in person or via telemedicine in up to 38 (and counting) states in the US [5].

The multi-state license is especially useful for traveling nurses. On average, traveling nurses can earn $3,000 a week plus allowances [6].

How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN): A Step by Step Guide (5)

4. Grow in your practice with a specialization or advanced degree.

Once you become a Registered Nurse, you can specialize in a specific area or pursue an advanced degree. There are several ways to get the education and skills you need to advance your career:

Board Certification:To qualify for board certification, RNs generally need two or more years of clinical experience in a specialty and must pass an exam. Popular specializations include oncology, pediatrics, neonatology, gerontology, cardiac nursing, and more. Earning certifications can give you a pay raise and make you a more marketable nurse.

Higher academic level:To become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), howNurseor a Registered Clinical Nurse, you will likely need to obtain a Master of Nursing (MSN) or aDoctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP). Advancing and investing in your education can result in a significant increase in your paycheck, while you may also find greater satisfaction as you advance in your nursing career.

Keep reading: Your Guide to Nursing Degrees and Certifications

Discover Health with Coursera

Start a rewarding and sought-after career as a Registered Nurse with courses from top universities. At the University of PennsylvaniaVital Signs: Understanding What the Body is Telling Usexplore the anatomy and physiology underlying vital functions to develop a systematic and holistic understanding of bodily functions.

(Video) So You Want To Be a Registered Nurse? Here's How, Step By Step

at the University of MinnesotaSpecialization in Integrative NursingIn the meantime, identify ways to implement integrative care in the workplace consistent with research-based evidence and safety and quality considerations.

How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN): A Step by Step Guide (6)


integrative care

Patient-centered, relationship-based care. By the end of this specialization, you will be able to practice a patient-centered, relationship-based approach to nursing that utilizes a variety of integrative healing modalities.



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Average time: 7 month(s)

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Skills you will develop:

integrative health care, wellness, patient-centered care, improved symptom management, evidence-based practice, symptom management, health care, stress management, pain management, comprehensive care, mindfulness, integrative medicine

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content is provided for informational purposes only. Students are encouraged to do additional research to ensure that the courses and other qualifications pursued will meet their personal, professional and financial goals.

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