What Education is Needed to Become a Registered Nurse: The Complete Guide

Are you considering becoming a nurse, but not exactly sure how to do it? We’ve got you covered with this complete guide on what education is needed to become a Registered Nurse.

This walks you through the steps to become a nurse from earning your RN to Bachelor’s to your nursing Master’s degree, to becoming CNL certified.

What Education is Needed to Become a Registered Nurse:

Step 1:

Students must graduate from an accredited RN program. You can pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

A nursing associate degree normally takes two years to complete, there are some accelerated programs that you can complete in 18 months. A nursing bachelor degree generally takes 4 years to complete and there are also accelerated programs available. The more education you pursue, the more opportunities will become available to you such as teaching, administrative roles, leadership roles, etc.

Step 2:

Pass your NCLEX-RN exam. This exam is offered through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, so it is important you register with them after you complete your RN program. The national average NCLEX-RN pass rate is 70-75%, so it is important to find a nursing degree program that better prepares you to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Ask the school you are considering what their passing rates are and why.

Step 3:

You will need to obtain a license to practice nursing in your state. Contact your State Board of Nursing to find out specifically what they require from you to get your license.

Step 4:

The part you have been waiting for… get hired at a health facility or hospital chain as an RN.

Are You an RN and Looking to Advance your Nursing Career?

More opportunities can become available to you when you further your education.  As a first step, it’s important you work towards becoming an RN or Registered Nurse. Next, you can complete your Bachelor’s or even your Master’s opens additional nursing career opportunities.

To take the opportunities even further, become a certified Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL). Achieving a Bachelor’s or an advanced degree in nursing can help to make you more marketable. Read on to learn more.


If you’re already an RN, you might be considering earning your Bachelor’s degree. Many colleges offer an RN-to-BSN program.

Most BSN colleges require you to have your RN license as well as an Associate’s in Nursing. For this program, you need to have a strong skill set to further advance your way into the medical world.

RN-to-BSN Program Focuses on Three Core Areas:

    • Professional Development
    • Skill-Building
    • Cultural Awareness

There are multiple RN-to-BSN programs throughout the United States. Each is unique but will have the same core classes and areas of study. You will be receiving a lot of hands-on experience during the program. These training sessions can be held at a hospital, clinic, or medical facility. It is important you find a program that fits your lifestyle and long-term goals. Does the school offer career assistance? Does the school have flexible class schedules?

Why Pursue Your RN-BSN Degree and How Best to Do It:

Here’s a breakdown of why to achieve a BSN:

  • You’re one step closer to graduate school and receiving your CNL
  • Bachelor-holding nurses are in high-demand
  • There are convenient RN-to-BSN programs
  • Better job opportunities

If you’re ready to achieve your BSN, you can apply for nursing school.

Find an accredited four-year university and start your application. Some RN-BSN programs require an associate’s in nursing and your RN license, while others may not. It’s important you find a reputable program that will best fit your needs. If you have your heart set on a certain hospital system, find out if they prefer to hire BSN from a certain school. This might give you a leg up in the hiring process.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Earning a Bachelor’s in Nursing (or BSN) teaches you more in-depth medical topics: anatomy, physiology, microbiology, nutrition, and psychology. You’ll also have more opportunities to train in a clinical environment with supervision.

When you achieve a Bachelor’s, you open yourself to more opportunities and better salary. 37% of employers look for nurses who hold a Bachelor’s degree.

With a BSN, increases your chances of moving up to an administrative role, if that is something you are interested in.

If becoming CNL certified is your goal, you’ll need to continue your education to earn your MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) since a CNL requires a graduate degree.

Master of Science in Nursing

To be CNL certified, you must have a Master’s in Nursing. The opportunities for nursing jobs is growing strong but is better for nurses who decide to extend their education to receive a Master of Science in Nursing or MSN.
Two or more years of school is how to become a nurse with a satisfying career.

Additional Benefits of MSN

There are benefits to gaining a Bachelor’s degree, but many more benefits come with a Master’s degree. You’ll also be able to work on your CNL.

Here are some additional benefits of holding an MSN and how to become a nurse with an MSN CNL.
More opportunities for specialization. As you work toward your Master’s, you get a better idea of what field you want to work in.

Studying and training for this field takes extra courses and qualifications, but there are more opportunities to achieve this training with a Master’s.

Better pay. The amount a Master’s-holding nurse makes is far beyond even a Bachelor’s-holding nurse.
Top salaries are almost at $100,000! The increase in salary isn’t as important for all nurses, but it’s an important factor when deciding to receive a graduate degree.

CNL Clinical Nurse Leader

Career advancement. Chances are, you started working in your field before studying for your Master’s.
You can keep your same job, but qualify for higher positions within the company. Positions such as coordinator or manager will give you more leverage with your career.

The opportunities increase once you receive your CNL certification. Your added experience and education will make you open to advancement and promotions.

Meet licensing standards. As the field develops, licensing standards will increase. Fortunately, you’ve already exceeded those standards thanks to your higher education. Some even believe most licensing requires a Master’s degree.

While an MSN is required for certain positions, a CNL will truly prove you meet all standards to deliver quality patient care.

You learn more specialized skills that will make you a competent nurse, and you’ll be more trusted amongst your colleagues.

You’ll also learn from professors with more experience and higher regard to the medical industry. This will take you one step closer to receiving your CNL.

How to Pursue Your Nursing Master’s Degree?

Nursing school for a Master’s program is competitive.

In addition to all former education and licensing requirements, having good grades and a great resume helps your odds of being accepted into a great program. A lot of your studies will revolve around certain examinations, so your past scores will determine your eligibility.

You can also consider earning Nursing Certifications as a way to differentiate yourself from other candidates.