How to Become a Nurse in 8 Steps

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The steps for how to become a nurse include choosing a nursing program, talking with an admissions counselor, finishing prerequisites, taking the entrance exam, applying for nursing school, graduating with a BSN, taking the NCLEX, getting licensed and starting your first nursing job.

Averett ABSN student standing in front of university wall sign

Navigating the transition to nursing and planning for the process can be overwhelming. However, the journey to become a nurse with a prior bachelor’s degree or at least 60 college credits is more straightforward than you might think.

Because of your prior undergraduate experience, you can choose an accelerated nursing program like the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Averett University in Norfolk, Virginia, where you earn your nursing degree in as few as 16 months. Via our online-based accelerated nursing program, you can fast-track your journey to nursing and start your career sooner.

Here, we’ll walk you through the eight steps to become a nurse.

1. Choose a Nursing Program

When considering how to become a nurse, take time to research the options available for attending nursing school. First, think about what nursing degree you want to earn. Do you want an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree? We recommend that nurses start with a bachelor’s degree, which offers significant career growth potential and a competitive salary.

nurse holding clipboard

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Once you’ve decided what degree to pursue, consider your background and eligibility to help you find the right program. For example, Averett’s online-based ABSN program is for students with a prior bachelor’s degree or at least 60 college credits who have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.8. Our program is specifically for those without a prior nursing degree, so if you have a nursing degree already and would like to transition to a BSN, look for an RN-to-BSN program instead.

Here are a few other considerations when looking at nursing programs:

  • Accreditation and state approval: Before looking at a program further, ensure it is accredited and approved by the state board of nursing.
  • Length of program: Generally, ABSN programs span between 16 and 20 months.
  • Number of start dates: If the program offers more than one start date each year, you’ll likely be able to start school sooner.
  • Location of nursing school: Consider relocating if your options are limited close to home.
  • Online learning: Choose a program with online classes to allow more independent studying.
  • Clinical education: Ensure the program has a rigorous clinical curriculum to teach nursing skills.
  • Faculty support: Go with a program where you’re more than just a number and faculty are easily accessible for questions.

What are the benefits of online learning in nursing school?

woman working on laptop

2. Talk with an Admissions Counselor

Once you’ve researched nursing program options, it’s time to contact an admissions counselor. Your Averett admissions counselor will give you more information about the program and help determine if you’re eligible to apply. In your conversation with your admissions counselor, they will learn more about why you want to go to nursing school. Forming a connection with your counselor will give you an ally who can vouch for you.

Averett’s admissions counselors will guide you along every step of the application process and stay in touch with you regularly.

3. Finish Remaining Prerequisites

With your admissions counselor, you will devise a plan to finish any remaining prerequisites in time for your goal nursing school start date. Taking prerequisites before you begin the nursing curriculum is important preparation because these courses ensure that students start the program with a common knowledge base.

Prerequisites teach foundational nursing concepts, such as biology and anatomy. They teach you a basic understanding before you delve into more complex nursing topics of the program.

4. Take the Entrance Exam

Many accelerated nursing schools require applicants to pass an entrance exam. The exact requirements depend on the specific school. Averett requires the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) exam and achieve a score of at least 65% within a year of applying to the program.

5. Apply for Nursing School

While in your last semester of prerequisite classes, you can start the ABSN application process. Applying consists of completing an online application and providing supplemental materials, depending on the program you’re applying to.

The admissions counselors at Averett will talk you through any questions you have about the application process so you can submit the most competitive application possible.

nursing student sitting at desk with textbooks

6. Graduate with a BSN

After your acceptance into nursing school, it’s time to put in the work and earn your degree. Averett’s accelerated nursing program consists of a 16-month curriculum that uses both online and in-person methods. In the online courses, you’ll employ independent study techniques to meet deadlines, with faculty support. You can study for online classes at a time and place that suits you.

Averett ABSN students also have in-person skills and simulation labs, which teach the skills and techniques you’ll need as a nurse, and clinical rotations, which give you experience working with real patients. An accelerated nursing curriculum requires time management to balance studying with other school commitments. However, after the first few months, you’ll get a feel for how you study best. Then, you can apply those techniques throughout the rest of the program.

Learn 10 pieces of advice to help you succeed in nursing school.

nursing students sitting at desk

Remember that by choosing an accelerated nursing program, school will be more challenging because of the faster pace, but it is much more short-lived than a traditional four-year nursing program. Commit to working hard and investing those 16 months in your education. It will be over before you know it.

7. Take the NCLEX and Get Licensed

Once you’ve earned your degree, you only have a couple more steps before you can start working as a nurse. You’ll need to decide on the location where you want to work and apply for a nursing license in that state. The state board of nursing will then give you approval to take the NCLEX, the entrance exam for professional nursing.

Studying for the NCLEX is a time-consuming task because it takes practice to learn how to approach the questions. Students generally begin studying during their last semester of nursing school, then spend at least a month studying full-time after graduation. Once you pass the NCLEX, assuming you’ve met all other requirements for licensing in your state, you should receive your registered nursing license.

8. Start Your First Nursing Job

Now that you’ve earned a BSN, passed the NCLEX and become licensed as an RN, you are ready for your nursing career. Because you have a bachelor’s degree, you are equipped for nursing roles in a variety of places, including hospitals, clinics, and non-clinical settings.

averett nursing student examining a patient's ear

Your first nursing job is a great way to start making connections and gaining general nursing experience, so many nurses choose roles in a traditional hospital unit for their first job. However, you can also seek job opportunities in your desired specialty, such as NICU, surgery or emergency care. The options are endless as a nurse, and you truly can make your career your own.

Why Become a Nurse?

Nursing is unlike other careers because as a nurse, you can expect to have a meaningful, fulfilling purpose as well as an advantageous career. You have the opportunity to save people’s lives while making a good living.

Here are a few of the reasons why becoming a nurse is a great decision:

  • With the current nursing shortage, nurses are in high demand, so you’ll have job security.
  • Nurses make a competitive salary, averaging $77,600 per year nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s May 2021 data.
  • Nurses can choose between myriad specialties, schedules, and work environments based on their preferences.
  • Nurses with a bachelor’s degree have great growth potential. For example, they can enter leadership roles or go back to school to become a nurse practitioner.
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Embark on the Path to Nursing Today

The road to become a nurse requires focus and hard work, but it’s worth it in the end. Why become a nurse? Nursing is a career where you can positively influence your community every day. As a nurse, you’ll have a job with meaning where you’re in-demand and can earn a competitive salary.

Averett’s 16-month ABSN program makes the transition to nursing smoother, offering three start dates each year and rolling ABSN admissions. Our curriculum uses three methods for developing your skills: online courses, nursing labs and clinical experiences.

Contact an admissions counselor or fill out our online form to learn more about how to get started with Averett’s ABSN program. Now is the time to realize your goal of becoming a nurse.