Becoming an RN: What You Need to Know About Nursing Education and Licensure

Becoming a registered nurse (RN) is an exciting, fulfilling career choice that requires hard work, dedication, and a passion for helping others. Whether you are just starting out on your journey or are considering a career change into nursing, it’s essential to have a solid understanding of the education and licensure requirements for becoming an RN. In this post, we’ll explore the steps you need to take to become a registered nurse, from nursing education to licensure and beyond. 

Nursing Education: What to Expect

Nursing education is the foundation for becoming a registered nurse. When looking for the right degree for you, there are lots of factors to consider. You may be looking for the fastest way to become an RN, for example, or perhaps you are looking for a more flexible option, such as an online degree that you can fit around your current work. Whatever you choose, it’s crucial to pick a nursing program that has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) to make sure that you are getting a quality education that meets the nursing profession’s high standards. 

Some of the main things to expect from your nursing education include:


Before you can start education to become a nurse, you will need to meet certain prerequisites. This might include general education courses in subjects like anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and chemistry, for example. Some nursing programs may also require you to first complete nursing assistant training. 

Nursing Courses

Nursing courses are designed to prepare you for the role and responsibilities of working as an RN. You will learn extensively about the human body and its systems, medical terminology, nursing theory, and practical skills such as medication administration, patient assessment, and wound care. You will also learn more about legal and ethical issues in nursing and gain hands-on experience through clinical placements in healthcare settings. 


Many nursing programs offer you the chance to specialize in areas like oncology, pediatrics, geriatrics, or critical care. Specializing can help you gain expertise in a certain area of nursing and increase your job opportunities. 

Licensure: Getting your RN License to Work

Once you have completed nursing education, which usually means graduating with either an ADN or BSN in nursing, you will need to get a license to start working as an RN. The licensing requirements can vary depending on your state. In general, you will need to do the following:

Pass the NCLEX Exam

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a standardized test to measure your nursing knowledge and skills. In order to get a license to work as a registered nurse, you will need to sit and pass this test. 

Meet State Requirements

Each state has its own requirements for getting a license to work as an RN. Before you can be accepted to start work, you will need to meet these requirements, which could include criminal background checks, fingerprinting, or continuing education. 

Maintaining Your License

Once you have obtained a license to work as an RN, you will need to maintain it. Do this by meeting any continuing education license requirements that are in place and renewing your license when needed. Not only is continuing education essential for your license, but it will also ensure that you stay current when it comes to new medical developments, and help you maintain your nursing skills over time. 

Beyond Licensure: Advancing Your Nursing Career

Becoming a registered nurse is just the start of your career as a nurse. While many nurses are happy to stay working as an RN for the entirety of their careers, others are excited about the many opportunities for advancement and professional growth that await them. Once you have become an RN, there are various pathways to consider, including:


Specializing in a certain area of nursing can be an ideal way to gain expertise in this area and improve your job opportunities. Once qualified as an RN, there are additional training programs and courses that you may be interested in taking to become certified in a certain area of nursing such as critical care nursing, oncology nursing, or pediatric nursing. 

Advanced Practice Nursing 

Once you have qualified and gained some experience as an RN, advanced practice nursing is a worthwhile career path to consider. Advanced practice nursing requires additional education and licensure beyond the RN license. APNs or advanced practice nurses include nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists. Working as an APN gives you a higher level of autonomy over your work, and the chance to provide more advanced healthcare services to patients that you would not be permitted to do as an RN. 

Nursing Education

If you have a passion for mentoring and teaching others, then you may want to consider a career path in nursing education. Nurse educators teach nursing programs and courses at colleges and universities. They may also work in a variety of healthcare settings to mentor on-the-job training for student nurses. 

Nursing Leadership

Nursing leadership roles are some of the most lucrative to get into if you are interested in advancing your career after becoming an RN. Nursing leadership roles include nurse managers, nurse executives, and chief nursing officers. These roles involve managing healthcare teams, overseeing nursing operations, and developing policies and procedures. 

Improving Your RN Career 

As an RN, you’ll need to stay on top of your career to ensure that your knowledge and skills are current and up to date. Continuing education is the most important aspect of professional growth in nursing. Keeping up with your education allows you to stay current on the latest development in medicine, maintain your skills, and advance your career. Nurses keep their education up to date by attending conferences, seminars, and workshops, taking online courses, or pursuing advanced nursing degrees. 

If you are interested in becoming an RN, these are the steps you’ll need to follow to get the education you need and build the foundation for a fulfilling, successful healthcare career.

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