Nursing School Requirements in 2021

August 1, 2020

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses make an average salary of over $70,000 per year.

The profession is also expected to have grown by around 12 percent once 2028 hits. With those kinds of statistics, it’s no wonder why an increasing number of people are putting serious thought into pursuing a nursing career.

Of course, getting to that point requires a lot of schooling. And that level of higher education demands prospective students meet certain requirements before admission. “What does that mean,” you may ask? Check out the article below for answers to this question and more.

We’ll cover the steps involved in nursing school prerequisites, different kinds of nursing degree programs, job prospects and more.

What Prerequisite Courses Do I Need To Get Into a Nursing Program?

High School Diploma 

Students must meet a number of requirements in order to be accepted into nursing school. This process begins in high school. A high school diploma or GED is an absolute must across the field.

Beyond that, students might need to take certain prerequisite courses throughout their high school career.

This list typically includes microbiology, anatomy and physiology. Other relevant courses may include developmental psychology, biology, algebra, statistics, nutrition, general chemistry or additional science courses. Of course, these specifics will vary depending on the nursing school in question.

High School GPA Requirement

In most cases, passing will not be enough. Many acceptance requirements revolve around a minimum GPA as it is reflected on an individual high school transcript. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs often demand minimum GPAs of 3.0.

A Licensed Practical Nursing Certificate or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program may range anywhere from 2.0 to 2.75. Levels of competition and limited space may affect the admission standards set by the admissions committee. Remember, grades matter!

Healthcare Training

Aspiring nurses may also want to collect undergraduate experiences that will help them excel in a healthcare setting. Learning CPR, for instance,  helps demonstrate a commitment to the field.

Think about gaining some kind of background in the field by doing some community service or look for volunteer opportunities under the supervision or trained professionals at hospitals, outpatient clinics, or other institutions designed to provide nursing care.

This kind of volunteer work will look good on nursing school applications. Prospective students might even think about visiting a nursing school to learn more about their education courses. Sit in on a class to get a feel for what the experience is about.

Talk to the professors or enrolled students for more information on what nursing school demands. You might even ask for a letter of recommendation or references from someone you meet volunteering.

Additional Applications, Requirements and Exams

Some nursing schools may even state that students must complete additional examinations before being accepted. The Test of Essential Academic Skills, or TEAS test, is a standardized test often used to assess a student’s readiness to enroll in health-care related college programs.

Every institution has different criteria for admission when it comes to performance, though most require test scores of at least 60 to 70 percent.

What is the Difference Between a Practical Nursing Program, an Associate Degree and a Bachelor of Science?

Licensed practicing nurse (LPN) and registered nurse (RN) account for the two most common titles across the nursing field. Keep reading for more information below.

We’ll cover the different nursing degrees available, education requirements and employment opportunities associated with different nursing positions.

Licensed practicing nurses must complete an accredited practical nursing program (you can visit the U.S. Department of Education to find accredited programs near you).

Because the certification process takes around just one year to complete, LPNs are able enter the workforce much faster than those pursuing other kinds of nursing degrees. You can most commonly find this kind of certificate program offered at a technical or community college.

Students must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) upon completion in order to obtain a license and be able to work as an LPN. LPNs are qualified for a number of entry-level positions across the field.

They typically report to registered nurses and receive average annual salaries of around $47,050. Professional responsibilities typically include:

  • Monitoring basic patient health such as vital signs and overall condition
  • Accurately recording a patient’s medical history in the hospital computer system
  • Changing dressings or inserting catheters
  • Taking patient histories and maintaining documentation
  • Observing patients under treatment to identify progress, side-effects of medications etc.
  • Assisting with tests or procedures
  • Providing personal care, such as helping with bathing and toileting
  • Consulting with the doctor and other RNs on care plans

Nursing students who decide to pursue an education and registered nursing, on the other hand must either complete an associate degree of science in nursing or a bachelor degree of science in nursing.

The main distinction between the two options revolves around the amount of work each nursing school program demands. Bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete, while it takes just two years to complete an associate’s degree.

While both nursing degree programs allow nursing students to achieve the title of Registered Nurse, there is a difference in program outcomes.

Individuals with a bachelor of science are known to undergo a more extensive level of clinical experience and expected to complete more coursework.

In addition, they are trained in management, leadership, public health, nursing theory, health promotion and communication courses.

This tends to look more appealing to employers and can lead to more job opportunities across the field, as they are better prepared to perform different types of procedures.

nurse caring for patient

BSNs are also in a better position for professional advancement than those with a two year college degree, as they can more easily go back to graduate school for a master’s degree to become nurse educators, nurse practitioners, healthcare policy nurses, nurse anesthetists, advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or even pursue a doctor of nursing practice.

Other position specialties this degree level could qualify them for include gerontology nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, pain management nurse and more. Graduates may even decide to pursue a master in science of nursing or apply to medical school to become a Ph.D with their existing credentials.

In general, BSNs tend to make more money than ASNs. Though the average annual income will vary state to state, a majority of BSN graduates can earn a paycheck upwards (or over) of $100,000 per year.

Of course, something to consider is that BSN programs will cost more than an ASN. Tuition fees (plus the application fee, additional supplies and materials) for a bachelor of science in nursing from private institutes or large universities can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000.

An associate degree in nursing (ADN), on the other hand, will typically be offered at community colleges for a just fraction of the price.

If you are not confident in your ability to afford everything nursing school requires, check out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The organization offers grants, scholarships, work-study jobs as well as loans to students. They also have representatives available to answer any questions you may have concerning loan eligibility or other  information financial aid.

We will note similarities do exist across nursing programs and nursing schools. All degree holders are required to complete the NCLEX-RN exam before becoming a registered nurse (the state board of nursing will also issue additional license renewal requirements in your region).

Nursing professionals at both the associate and baccalaureate level are expected to perform the following duties:

  • Running and analyzing diagnostic tests
  • Monitoring and recording patient vital signs
  • Rely on health assessment protocol when interviewing patients
  • Determining a treatment plan for patients
  • Administering medications and treatments
  • Educating and encouraging healthy habits
  • Dressing wounds and tending to skin care
  • Drawing blood and collecting lab work
  • Helping doctors during surgery
  • Providing guidance to patients and families
  • Remaining up-to-date with nursing literature
  • Maintaining paperwork and records

We’ve listed some of the top nursing school rankings below:

  • Emory University
  • New York University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • Duke University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Hawaii, Manoa
  • Villanova University
  • Oregon Health and SCiences University
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Related articles –

  1. How hard is nursing school
  2. Best nursing school in Rhode Island
  3. How to overcome nursing school stress

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