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Steps to Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

Nurse Mike (Mike Linares)
By SimpleNursing | Published May 30th, 2023
Published May 30th, 2023
Certificate, flowers and a black female nursing student graduate in the hospital feeling proud of her achievement. Smile, graduation and qualification with a happy young female nurse standing alone in a clinic. Certificate, flowers and a black woman graduate in the hospital feeling proud of her achievement. Smile, graduation and qualification with a happy young female nurse standing alone in a clinic. Certificate, flowers and a black woman graduate in the hospital feeling proud of her achievement. Smile, graduation and qualification with a happy young female nurse standing alone in a clinic.

Are you a nursing postgrad wondering how to become a registered nurse? 

Becoming a registered nurse is a rewarding and fulfilling career path that requires dedication and hard work. With the right education and training, you can join the ranks of healthcare professionals who make a positive impact on people’s lives every day.

Jump to Sections


  1. What does an RN do?
  2. How long does it take to become a registered nurse?
  3. What education is needed to become a registered nurse?
  4. 4 Steps to Becoming an RN

In this guide, we’re breaking down the steps and education requirements needed to become an RN.

What does an RN do?

A registered nurse (RN) is a healthcare professional who plays a crucial role in providing patient care, promoting health, and assisting in the prevention of illness. The responsibilities of an RN may vary depending on their area of specialization, work setting, and the healthcare system in which they practice.

They provide patient care in a variety of settings, from hospitals and clinics to schools and private practices. They work alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals to provide patients with the care and attention they need.

It’s important to note that the specific duties of registered nurses may vary depending on their level of experience, specialization, and the healthcare setting in which they work. However, the core focus remains to provide compassionate, evidence-based care and promoting the health and well-being of their patients.

How long does it take to become a registered nurse?

The path to becoming an RN varies depending on your chosen degree program. Generally, it takes about two to fours years to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, followed by passing the NCLEX-RN exam and obtaining state licensure.

The specific timeline can vary depending on various factors, such as the educational path chosen and individual circumstances.

What education is needed to become a registered nurse?

To become an RN, you need to complete a nursing program that meets the requirements set by your state’s Board of Nursing. These programs can range from diploma programs to associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs in nursing. Many nursing programs include both classroom and clinical components to ensure that students have a well-rounded education.

4 Steps to Becoming an RN

[Remember to research and evaluate multiple nursing programs to find the one that best aligns with your goals, preferences, and career aspirations. Taking these considerations into account will set you on a path toward becoming a successful registered nurse.]

Step 1: Complete an undergraduate degree program. 

The first step to becoming an RN is to complete a nursing program that meets the requirements set by your state’s Board of Nursing. This can be a diploma program, an associate’s degree program, or a bachelor’s degree program in nursing. 

Look for programs that are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN. 

Once you have completed your nursing program, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. This exam is designed to test your knowledge and skills in nursing and is required for licensure as an RN. You can find study resources and prep courses to help you prepare for the exam.

Step 3: Obtain state licensure.

After passing the NCLEX-RN, you must obtain a license from your state’s Board of Nursing. Each state has its own requirements for licensure, so be sure to check with your state’s Board of Nursing for specific information.

Step 4: Consider earning board certification. 

Board certification is a voluntary credential demonstrating your expertise in a specific area of nursing practice. While not always required, earning certification can help you stand out in the job market and advance your career. Some of the most common certifications for RNs include the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN) and the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN).

Start Your Nursing Career Right

If you want to become an RN, it’s important to start preparing early. One way to do this is by using a digital NCLEX prep study tool. 

SimpleNursing helps you stay organized, track your progress, and identify areas where you need to improve in NCLEX studies. With the right tools and dedication, you can pass the NCLEX-RN on the first try and start your career as an RN.

Cut down on NCLEX study prep time, starting with a free trial.

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Nurse Mike (Mike Linares)
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Editorial Team

Education: SimpleNursing Editorial Team Education