Are you interested in becoming a nurse? This guide provides an overview of the degree requirements, licensing process, and skills needed to become a registered nurse (RN) today.
Nursing is one of the most vital and respected professions out there. Hospitals, outpatient care centers, residential health facilities, and more are continuing to increase their need for nursing professionals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between the years 2021 and 2031, more than 203,000 jobs are expected to open annually for registered nurses (RNs) in the United States.
Not only is nursing a high-demand field, but it is also highly rewarding. U.S. News ranked registered nursing among the top 20 jobs in the nation, and among the top 10 health care careers, in 2023. This is a result of the industry’s strong earning potential, employment outlook, and room for upward growth.
If you are interested in becoming a nurse, now is the time to step in. Read on to learn how to become a nurse, including the current:
- Educational requirements for nurses,
- Licensure process for RNs, and
- Skills needed to become a nurse
We’ll also discuss the specific requirements for becoming a nurse in Connecticut, as processes and prerequisites vary by state.
The 3 Steps to Becoming a Nurse
As noted above, each state has different requirements for nurses. Further, different nursing titles and employers will have distinct requirements. To become a registered nurse in the United States, however, there are some key steps everyone must take to launch a career.
1. Complete a postsecondary educational program.
There are three basic, educational paths you can take to become a nurse today: a bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN), an associate degree in Nursing (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program.
All of the below programs cover the fundamentals of nursing, including courses in anatomy, physiology, psychology, microbiology, and the behavioral sciences. The most popular pathway to start a nursing career today is through an associate degree program, though bachelor’s degrees are becoming more common. Here is a quick outline of the three different routes you can take to become a nurse:
- Diploma in Nursing (24 months) – Very few hospitals offer diploma programs for aspiring nurses. In these types of programs, students take their nursing courses at the hospital and complete their general education courses at a local college. This was once a popular route, but it is becoming less available. This is because, with just a few more courses, you can earn an associate degree in Nursing. Additionally, with nursing being such a hot career choice, there is more competition for employment. Employers are looking for applicants with college degrees.
- Associate Degree in Nursing (typically 24 months) – An associate degree in Nursing is the standard requirement for registered nurses today. Due to the short time commitment, an associate degree is a popular choice. It allows aspiring nurses to sit for their licensing exam, earn a degree, and enter the field faster than they would via a four-year bachelor’s program. Associate nursing programs combine both classroom and clinical experiences, giving aspiring nurses the foundation needed for a successful nursing career.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (typically 4 years) – As more healthcare employers look for well-educated hires, nurses who have a bachelor’s in Nursing, or BSN degree, will have an advantage in the job market. In fact, almost 80 percent of employers prefer to hire BSN graduates. Not only this, but a BSN can position students for management positions and master’s degree prospects, which is the goal for many nurses long-term. Aspiring nurses seeking a BSN have several options for their education. They may enroll in a traditional, four-year bachelor’s degree program, or they may choose to earn their associate degree, plus RN licensure, and go back to school for their BSN later on. Flexible and online RN-to-BSN programs are available to working nurses seeking an advanced education.
Depending on your state’s requirements, the above programs should qualify you to sit for the mandatory licensing examination. Be sure to contact your state’s board of nursing, or your nursing school, for information on the required education in your state.
2. Take the licensing examination to become an RN.
All registered nurses in the United States must be licensed in the state in which they work. Though specific requirements may vary by jurisdiction, all aspiring nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program (noted above) and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
The NCLEX exam is a standardized, computer-based test that is used nationally to determine whether a nurse is prepared to enter the field. It is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, and covers three levels of comprehension: basic knowledge in nursing, the ability to analyze and apply knowledge, and an application of rules and processes to identify the best practice of care.
Those who successfully pass the NCLEX-RN will be granted the official title of a licensed Registered Nurse (RN). This title enables you to start working with real patients in an active healthcare setting. It will also enable you to apply to an RN-to-BSN program, should you wish to continue your education.
3. Submit Your Application to Become a Nurse.
After meeting your state’s licensing requirements, the next step is simple: Apply to become a nurse in your state. Again, the application requirements will vary depending on where you reside. However, they typically involve:
- Submitting a proof of graduation from an approved nursing program
- Confirming your official, passing results from the NCLEX-RN, and
- Completing an application for your state license, supplemented by an application fee
The Skills Needed to Become a Nurse
While it’s important to meet the above RN requirements, the best nurses today go above-and-beyond the basics. After all, nurses are responsible for patients’ lives. They work with patients who are sick, injured, disabled, and distressed. They must be knowledgeable of a wide range of medical conditions, as well as the recommended treatments and technologies needed for them.
In other words, nurses must have comprehensive skillsets. These can be gained through a great training or degree program.
Below are the top skills recommended by the BLS for becoming a nurse today:
- Critical thinking skills, as nurses must be able to think on their feet in times of need
- Communication skills, as nurses are constantly communicating with patients, families, and medical team members
- Compassion and empathy, reflected across all types of patient demographics
- Emotional stability, and the ability to cope with stressors and patient outcomes
- Organizational skills, to manage multiple patient cases and treatment plans
- Attention to detail, to ensure patients are receiving the correct treatments at the right times
- Physical stamina, as much of the day-to-day duties of a nurse are on his or her feet
Connecticut Registered Nursing Requirements
To become a nurse in Connecticut, most nurses will follow the traditional license-by-examination process, as described above. Connecticut specifically requires that registered nurses fulfill the following requirements in order to become a licensed nurse:
- Successfully graduate from a nursing program that is state-approved—meaning the program meets the requirements of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies (RSA). External ADN and BSN degree programs may also be approved, but are reviewed on an individual basis.
- Successfully complete the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Licensing Examination for RNs (the NCLEX-RN). Your official results will be received by your state board, and mailed to you after routine processing.
- Submit your Connecticut license application to become an RN. This is done online. With this application, you must submit an official transcript verifying your completion of an approved nursing program, as well as a fee in the amount of $180.00. Note that all applicants must be registered for the NCLEX-RN test prior to submitting an application (simply register online here). As stated on the Connecticut website, “If you are not registered for examination at the time of submission of your application and transcript, it may delay this office’s approval for you to sit for the examination.”
Become a Nurse with Goodwin University
Are you interesting in becoming a nurse in Connecticut?
Goodwin University is an accredited nursing school in Greater Hartford, Connecticut. Our career-focused nursing programs – from the associate (ADN) to the master’s (MSN) level – are respected by employers across the state.
Our nursing programs are also highly flexible. Here, you can finish the associate degree program within 20-months part-time. You can also choose to advance your education with an RN-to-BSN degree – which can be completed in as little as 16-months, online – and eventually our online Master’s in Nursing program should you wish to grow in your career even further.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another, non-nursing field, rest assured there is still time to change careers! The steps to becoming a nurse will just be a little bit different for you. Aspiring nurses who already have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated major can enter the accelerated BSN program at Goodwin. This will provide you with the foundations of nursing, clinical skills, and experience with patients, and prepare you to become a registered nurse in just 16 months full-time.
Goodwin University has a passion for helping students achieve their dreams. Our Career Services team offers free career guidance for students and alum – forever! Our team of professional networks can help you write a resume, practice interviews, and even access an online job board. Our job is not finished until you are working in the nursing career of your dreams.
Are you ready to jumpstart your career in nursing? Call 800-889-3282 today to learn more about our various nursing programs – both online and on-campus – or visit here to learn why Goodwin is a leader in nursing education in Connecticut.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.