Registered Nurse Training Guide

Debra Riley


Becoming a registered nurse can be very rewarding for anyone who is looking for a stable career in healthcare today. RNs play an integral role in health care by helping to improve the quality of life for patients; be it a child or an adult.

In addition, it is one of the most needed careers today with more and more vacancies opening up across the country.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)has also backed this up, claiming that employment opportunities for RNs will increase by 22% by 2018. Regardless of the economic prospects, it’s very understandable why anyone would want to train for the profession. Registered Nurses can perform a number of activities from providing moral support to caring for an individual’s health. It can be a very demanding and yet rewarding career.

I hope you have read my article – Main RN Guide – covering how to become a registered nurse, job description and an outline of the career. You can also check the RN Salary page. Now I want to cover how to train to become a registered nurse (in the U.S.).

There are three main programs:

  1. Diploma in Nursing
  2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  3. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

RN Entry Requirement

The journey to become a RN may not be the same for everyone; however, despite which path you take it will have to start with a high school diploma or its equivalent. Most universities are more welcoming to students who have displayed good academic standing in the past and hold a GPA of at least 2.0.

Applicants are required to have a basic understanding of mathematics, biology, chemistry and other science related subjects.  Students should display signs of being able to:

  • Comprehend and read English well
  • Communicate efficiently and clearly by speaking, writing, and using a computer
  • Manipulate numbers for correct; subtraction, addition, multiplication, division, etc.

Based on information gathered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) more than 30,000 eligible applicants have been denied entry into nursing programs in US since 2002.

Completing a few perquisite credits at the school you wish to attend may increase your chance of acceptance to the program.

Direct entry into a Bachelor of Science program can take up to three years, especially at colleges with a long waiting list – however, with the Institute of Medicine asking that 80% of nurses possess a BSN, it is the best option to consider.

Even before this, most employers have leaned towards individuals with a BSN in nursing, as seen in their job vacancy ads. Nonetheless an associate degree or a diploma can also help you to become a Registered Nurse.

Other requirements include a criminal free record and the ability to demonstrate that you have the values necessary to be a nurse. Most institutions will carry out a fairly detailed background check to find out if students have been involved in unethical or criminal activities.

registered nurse trainig guide

Diploma in Nursing

Medical facilities and hospitals are now offering nursing diploma programs (rather than traditional educational institutions). The upside to attending these training programs is that it gives individuals a lot of hands-on training which may come in handy.

On the other hand, the downside is that you will eventually have to pursue an AND or a BSN to keep up to pace with your coworkers. Diploma courses are designed to give graduates the necessary skills and techniques to work as a RN. Students learn how to cater to patients’ hygiene, diet, and overall health. The program covers fundamental courses to prepare candidates for RN licensure.

Associate Degree in Nursing

Completing an associate degree in nursing at the college you wish to attend is also one way to become a RN. Community colleges as well as many 4 year colleges and universities offer ADN programs. The programs are arranged to produce students who are capable of passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) which all RNs are required to sit and pass.

Clinical hours are also a part of the curriculum in order to give students real experience of what it will be like working in healthcare facilities. Many fundamental courses are also incorporated into the curriculum to improve students’ understanding of science, which may assist them with caring for their patients. Foundation courses that are covered by associate degree programs include:

  • Patient assessments
  • Anatomy
  • Psychology
  • Human development
  • Pharmacology
  • Microbiology
  • Patient management
  • Mental health nursing
  • Adult health concepts

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A Bachelor of Science in nursing is one of the best ways to get the foundation you need for advancing in the field. Like the diploma and ADN programs, BSN programs prepare graduates for the NCLEX-RN exam; however they also prepare them for more advanced positions – such as a Nurse Practitioner.

Individuals who have previously worked as a RN by completing a diploma or associate degree can take advantage of accelerated programs. BSN programs are made up of a number of nursing specific courses and general fundamental courses, along with clinical hours to improve students’ practical skills.

The theoretical part of the curriculum is introduced first and then students are gradually introduced to the practical side. The courses that are covered under the BSN program are not very different from the AND program.

Some of the topics are as follows:

  • Nursing care basics
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical ethics
  • Family nursing care
  • Illness management
  • Community nursing
  • Pathophysiology

Program Duration

The duration of your training is dependent on which educational path you decide to follow. Individuals who choose to enroll in a diploma program will require three years to complete their studies while an associate degree can be earned in two years.

Acquiring a BSN degree typically takes 4 years at traditional institutions (except for individuals with prior experience and other qualifications). The best option for those with experience is to enroll in a 2 year accelerated BSN program.

Cost For Registered Nurse Trainingtraining to be a rn

Similarly, the amount of money you spend will be influenced by the program you choose. Earning a diploma is generally the cheapest option but with so many financial aid options available today, many people are leaning in towards the more expensive options.

Most associate degrees will cost at least $5000 per month with a total of 72 hours for each semester. This does not include all fees; you will need to purchase books, nursing equipment, uniforms, etc. It only covers tuition fees and clinical fees.

BSN programs are longer, hence the tuition cost for each semester is much lower. Tuition fees usually range from $2000 to $3000 for each semester but clinical fees can be as much as $8000. In addition to this, students will also have to incur the cost for uniforms, living expenses, books, etc.

Training fees for hospital affiliated programs can cost nonresident students up to $100,000 and around $55,000 for resident students. Cost will certainly affect the program you choose but you should always make an effort to find a reputable school.

Nursing Schools

Here at Nurse Salary Guide we have been researching the best nursing schools in all states of the US. You can find them all on that page – follow the link! Here are some of our popular states for general nursing schools with a range of specialties:

Looking for something for nurse anesthetist training? See our CRNA Schools by State page for details on this career. Here are some of our most popular states for CRNA schools and programs:

Finding The Best RN Training Program

If you decide to train to become a RN it is imperative that you find an accredited program. There are a number of accrediting entities present today to register institutions that have gone through the tedious application process.

An accredited program is the stepping stone for you to gain financial aid as well as pass the licensing exams.  In addition training at an accredited school will also increase your chances of employment. Some popular accrediting organizations are the Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN), previously known as the NLNAC and the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

You should also consider the length of time that the institution has been accredited for.

Application Process

Despite what institution or program you choose the application process will be very similar. Most institutions have the same standards when it comes to recruiting students for nursing programs. For instance, nearly all schools will carry out a background check on candidates that apply for their nursing programs.

Prospective students can apply by picking up an application on the campus or filling one out online. Applicants will need letters of recommendation to accompany their application and may have to undergo an interview with the nursing department at the school. International students from non-English speaking countries will have to sit an English exam to gain admittance to most schools.

I hope this guide has helped you along the road to becoming a registered nurse in the United States. It is a complex path at times and it can seem overwhelming at first. Get as much advice as you can and never be afraid to connect directly with your local training colleges.

Lots of help is available including some great financial aid packages – but you have to work to get everything together.

Have a good look around this website for lots of information – we have articles covering Nurse pratitioner training – for advancing RN’s or perhaps a good entry level into nursing is the LPN / LVN Training programs.

Whatever your pathway to a successful nusing career we hope we have covered some valuable information to help – you can see the main nurse salary figures using the navigation. Don’t forget to check our blog section where we share a lot of information for students and nurse looking to further their training.

Everyone needs a good place to study – see The Best Places to Study Near Me for some great ideas! Thinking about working overseas? See how nursing salaries compare in Australia vs the US.

Check back often as we aim to keep this guide updated with the latest information.