According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), an average of more than 203,000 new registered nursing positions will be created each year between 2021 and 2031, representing an annual growth of approximately five percent. Despite this fact, the US is currently facing a shortage of RNs—and this shortage is expected to increase in coming years as a greater proportion of our population ages and seeks medical care.
This is good news for anyone who has considered a career as a registered nurse. Increased demand has translated into high levels of job security and competitive wages. These benefits, paired with a desire to make a difference for patients, is what inspires many to start the journey toward becoming a nurse.
Are you interested in pursuing a career as a registered nurse? If so, it can be helpful to understand the steps that you’ll have to take to get there. Below, we explore the steps to becoming an RN, including a look at how long it will take, so that you can begin planning for your career and your future.
The exact steps involved in becoming a registered nurse will vary somewhat depending on the state that you live in and where you hope to practice, so it’s important to research the specific requirements. That being said, all states will require aspiring RNs to complete the following requirements.
Becoming a nurse can be challenging. Nursing programs take time and include clinical experiences, practical hospital training, and theory classes. Aspiring nurses must prepare to care for patients in a fast-paced environment. Even though it's a journey, the satisfaction of being an integral part of the nursing field, helping people, and making a positive impact is worth it.
As stated above, making this goal a reality involves knowing exactly what is expected of you in your particular state. That being said, all states will require aspiring RNs to complete the following requirements:
The answer to this question is: It varies. The factor that will impact your timeline the most will be which degree you choose to pursue. Depending on the specific nursing program that you enroll in, it could take anywhere from 16 months to four years to become a registered nurse.
“I chose to earn my BSN, which takes four years,” says ChiChi Akanegbu, who completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Regis College as a part of the Class of 2020. “After that, I needed to take my board exams, which added a bit of time.”
Many people might think that pursuing an associate’s degree in nursing is the quickest way of becoming a registered nurse, particularly as opposed to earning a four-year BSN. After all, an associate’s degree in nursing takes an average of only two years to complete. But as mentioned above, while an associate’s degree in nursing may fulfill the technical requirements of becoming an RN, more and more employers now require that any new hires earn their BSN in order to be considered for an RN position.
With this in mind, if speed is important to you, you are likely to be better served by pursuing an accelerated BSN program which will allow you to earn your bachelor of science in nursing in less than the standard four years.
For example, Regis College offers multiple degree options which are specifically designed to help students graduate as quickly as possible so that they can start their career, including:
Whether you choose to pursue a traditional four-year BSN, an accelerated degree, or your MSN, it’s important to first do your homework so that you are sure you are choosing the best program to help you reach your goals.
In selecting a program to enroll in, Akanegbu recommends students find a program that offers a curriculum specifically designed to help them pass the NCLEX.
“Out of everything, I would have to say the most challenging part of becoming an RN was the NCLEX,” she says. “High-quality programs understand the importance of this exam and use that understanding to shape their curriculum so that graduates will be prepared to take and pass the exam.”
Additionally, Akanegbu recommends finding a program where you know you will be learning from faculty who are actively practicing in the field of nursing.
“I feel as though one of the most positive things about Regis’s Nursing program is that our faculty aren't people that have been retired for 10 or so years,” she says. “They’re actively working in hospitals, which means they’re not just going off the textbook, but teaching us about what they've been through and what they continue to experience as a nurse.”