5/28/2014  The Education Portal


Requirements for Nurses
Nurses have a variety of job duties that include treating common injuries and illnesses, assisting doctors during examinations, and administering medications. They work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, doctors' offices, nursing homes and public schools. The education path for nurses varies and includes diplomas, associate's degrees, or bachelor's degrees in nursing. Nurses are also required to pass a national licensing exam, called the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The following table contains essential requirements for nurses:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Varies: diploma, associate's degree, bachelor's degree*
Degree Field Nursing*
Licensure/Certification Must pass national licensing exam (NCLEX-RN)*
Experience Entry level*
Key Skills Strong verbal communication skills, emotional stability, detail-oriented, critical thinking skills, compassion*
Computer Skills Medical software, Microsoft Excel, accounting software**
Technical Skills Measure vital signs, track patients' progress, use various types of medical equipment**
Additional Requirements Additional licensing requirements, such as continuing education, vary by state*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **ONET Online.

Step 1: Determine Career Path

Education requirements are directly related to the type of nursing a person will pursue. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) perform basic patient care and some administrative tasks under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and doctors. Registered nurses are qualified to provide a greater range of patient care and may even focus on a specialty area, such as nephrology, cardiology or neonatology.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare in high school. High school courses in biology, chemistry, English, and math can help prepare students for nursing degree program coursework.

Step 2: Choose an Education Program

With a career path in mind, students can choose an appropriate nursing program. LPNs complete an approximately 12-month program. These programs are available through community and technical colleges that meet the state's requirements. RNs can earn a 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at an accredited university or college. Most nursing education programs combine classroom teaching with labs and hands-on practice in a healthcare environment. Courses in nursing, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and psychology are commonly found in nursing education programs.

Success Tip:

  • Develop and practice clinical skills. All nursing programs include supervised clinical experience in hospitals.

Step 3: Get Licensed

All states require nurses to obtain licensure before starting a job, though specifics vary for each state. Students who have completed a hospital nursing program, associate degree in nursing or a 4-year bachelor's in nursing must pass the NCLEX-RN for Registered Nurses. Some states and hospitals may also require continued education to maintain a license.

Success Tip:

  • Earn certification. Nurses may become credentialed in many specialties, a few of which are pediatrics, gerontology, or ambulatory care. Certification is usually voluntary, but some employers may require it.