How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

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What is a Registered Nurse (RN)?

A registered nurse (RN) is a highly educated and trained member of the nursing profession. Registered nurses (RNs) may be found in every medical setting, but also may specialize in care specific to places such as nursing homes, mental health facilities, operating rooms, and cancer treatment centers.

What does a Registered Nurse (RN) do?

A few of the things registered nurses do as part of their duties include:

  • Teaching patients and families about applicable care
  • Operating medical equipment
  • Supervising other nurses such as LPNs and Nurse’s Aides
  • Running health screenings
  • Running immunization drives
  • Conducting public seminars
  • Working with patients – taking vital statistics, performing tests, etc
  • Working closely with doctors

What education and training is necessary to become a Registered Nurse (RN)?

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (2010-11), a Registered Nurse’s (RN) education may be obtained via one of three ways:

  • Bachelor of Science degree, Nursing (BSN)
  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • Diploma

It further notes that any of these three means of education, with licensing, will qualify a person for an entry-level job as a registered nurse, though many opt at some point to obtain an associate degree in nursing or higher. Master’s programs are available for nurses, as well.

Nursing school may become affordable if any number of available grants, scholarships or loans are utilized - including the Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program (NSLFP).

What are the licensing requirements for a Registered Nurse (RN)?

Though specifics vary by state, in the United States all registered nurses are required to pass the national licensing exam: the NCLEX-RN. Additionally, license renewal and continuing education are required of registered nurses. A state-by-state listing of the Boards of Nursing, with contact information, in the United States is available at the allnursingschools website.

What are the potential earnings and job outlook for Registered Nurses (RNs)?

The median hourly wage for registered nurses (RNs) is $19.59 to $35.41, depending upon experience, according to The Occupational Outlook Handbook (2010-11) lists the job outlook as “excellent”, but will vary with location and type. Further, it is estimated that through 2018, the need for registered nurses will increase “much faster than average” when compared to other occupations. The expected increase in jobs is estimated to be approximately 22 percent.


Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. United States Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics. – Hourly Rate for Registered Nurses. Updated January 22, 2010.

This post is part of the series: Careers in Nursing

The demand for qualified nurses is ongoing. The various nursing career opportunities such as CNA, LPN and RN are covered in this series, including training, education, exams, licensing, and average salary for each.

  1. How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  2. How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  3. How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN)