How to Become a Nurse: Step One

Congratulations! You've decided to embark on one of the most exciting and fulfilling careers in the world—nursing. Caring for others and helping them to heal is one of the greatest services that you can provide for mankind. As satisfactory and meaningful as the work is, however, the path ahead of you requires time, dedication, and lots of hard work. If the journey seems daunting, remember to take it one step at a time.

So what is that first step? You need to select a nursing program. Below are some guidelines to help you know what to expect as you apply.

What's the difference between an associate's degree program and a bachelor's degree program?

Associate's degree programs are usually the fastest and easiest way into the nursing profession. They usually take only two years to complete and generally have more forgiving standards for admission. Most programs look for a GPA between 2.0 and 2.75 and require basic prerequisite courses, outlined specifically in the next section.

Bachelor's degree programs, though longer and more demanding, provide more job opportunities. They normally take four years and require a higher GPA of at least 3.0. Along with the prerequisites that associate's degree programs normally require, bachelor's degree programs may ask for additional courses. They may also look for other application items, such as resumes, personal goal statements, and character references. 

What are the typical requirements to get into a nursing program?

Associate programs usually require a high school diploma or GED, along with a transcript of past grades. Often, a test of essential academic skills (or TEAS) will be required to ensure that the candidate is up to the difficult task of becoming a nurse. These tests can cover English proficiency, reading, science, and math skills. Required prerequisite courses often include anatomy, physiology, developmental psychology, and nutrition. After an application has been submitted, an eligibility review session with a program representative is often required.

Bachelor's degree programs typically require all the same tasks and prerequisites as associate's degree programs, but they often ask for additional items as well. For instance, along with all the previously mentioned prerequisite courses, bachelor's degree programs may ask that a student take statistics. They also may require volunteer work, essays, or references that are not required to get an associate's degree. 

What can I do to give me an edge?

Competition to enter nursing programs can be stiff, so it's always a good idea to put in a little extra effort to set your application apart. Things such as powerful essays, community service, neatly organized applications, CPR training, and strong recommendation letters can give you just the extra push you may need to get into the nursing program of your dreams.