How to Become a Registered Nurse in the USA?

Nursing is a highly regulated field that involves strict educational and licensing requirements. There are several requirements that one needs to fulfill to become a registered nurse in the USA. One can lead a successful career in nursing in the USA, with great salary packages.

A licensed Registered Nurse must have completed the educational requirements either an associate in nursing degree or a bachelor’s in nursing degree clinical nursing requirements, and has passed the NCLEX-RN to earn licensure in their state’s provide round-the-clock direct care to patients in hospitals, physicians’ offices, outpatient care centers, and residential care facilities.

A RN’s job consists of recognizing abnormalities, assessing patients, and administering medication while maintaining communication with a team of healthcare professionals. They can gain specialized training in oncology, acute and critical care, gerontology, or pediatrics. After earning a graduate nursing degree, RNs can advance to become clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, or nurse anesthetists. Learn more general information about what RNs do and where they work in our registered nurse career overview.

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Steps to Becoming a Registered Nurse

1. Choose a Nursing Path

Nursing can take you in many directions, from starting out as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or staff nurse to working your way up to nurse administrator. When choosing your career path, think about the type of work environment you prefer. RNs can be found in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other medical settings, but certified nursing assistants often work in nursing homes. You should also consider what role you want to play.

If you want to support medical staff as part of a team, a CNA or LPN/LVN could suit you well. If you want to manage other nurses and assistants or oversee systems, a career as an RN or advanced practice nurse is likely a good fit. Because there are so many facets to healthcare, nurses often specialize in certain areas, such as geriatrics or critical care. If you have a passion for a certain type of nursing, consider the type of education you’ll need to get there.

2. Complete an accredited registered nurse program

Complete an accredited nursing program: A number of different degrees can prepare you for a job as an RN and fulfill this requirement. While earning an associate’s degree in nursing is sometimes technically enough to fulfill this requirement, more and more often employers prefer to hire applicants who have earned their bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).

This fact means that the BSN is often considered to be a de facto requirement for becoming an RN. We explore various nursing degrees that you might consider below. 

3. Take and pass the NCLEX-RN examination

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exists in two forms: one for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN) and one for practical nurses (NCLEX-PN|). It is required that candidates pay a certain amount of fee for both the exams, it can be taken via computer. Depending on performance, the number of questions varies from person to person.

Until it is certain whether or not the test-taker is qualified, the computer keeps giving questions about keeping patients and nurses safe by preventing accidents, both the NCLEX-RN and the NCLEX-PN include questions using ergonomic principles, and correctly handling infectious items according to the NCSBN. About supporting culturally diverse patients in stressful situations, such as abuse, loss, mental illness, or chemical dependency, students provide the answers to such questions.

4. Find a Registered Nursing Position

After you meet all federal immigration requirements, have had your credentials evaluated by CGFNS, you meet your State Board of Nursing requirements, and you have passed a licensure exam, you are ready to begin working as a registered nurse in the United States.While it is not required, you may choose to work with a nursing recruiter to help you find a registered nurse job. These recruiters can also act as your U.S.-based employer for the immigrant visa.

Registered nurses are in high demand, so recent graduates from RN programs often have multiple options when it comes to deciding where they would like to work. Remember that much of what it takes to be a registered nurse or any other medical professional is learned with actual experience. 

5. Certifications

Nursing does not require certifications, but getting these optional credentials provides greater opportunities for professional development. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) offers certifications for RNs. Qualifying RNs must complete a specific number of clinical hours and pass an exam. Having the credential validates a registered nurse’s skills in a specialized area. The AACN offers certifications in acute care, cardiac medicine, and progressive care.

6. Pursue additional training or education

If a registered nurse decides to become an advanced practice registered nurse and specialize their knowledge, they will need a master’s degree. After completing this education, you can apply for roles including:

  • Certified nurse specialist
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse midwife

If you want to go further, you might choose to enter a doctoral program. DNP or PhD programs are appealing to those aspiring to positions as scientific researchers or university professors in the nursing sciences. You may also undertake further certifications in areas such as critical care, acute care, or nursing management.

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Job duties of Registered nurse:

RNs coordinate patient care, administer medication, assist doctors with exams and surgeries, educate patients, promote wellness, and manage other nurses and LPNs. While you can become an RN with a nursing diploma or an ADN, more employers prefer BSN-educated nurses, especially in acute hospital settings.

Degree needed to become a Nurse

Associate’s  that is 2 years or bachelor’s that is 4 years programme

Median annual salary of a Nurse

On average, a registered nurse earns around $70,000 to $80,000 per year. The salary increase in this job is significant 5% due  to pandemic and other health situations.


Becoming a registered nurse presents an opportunity to join a growing workforce of more than three million, make a direct impact on patient outcomes, and earn a respectable salary. In 2 to 4 years, students can graduate from a nursing program and take the NCLEX-RN.

While an associate degree serves as the minimum requirement, some employers and states only hire nurses with a bachelor’s degree. Most registered nurses choose to specialize in one particular area of healthcare, such as emergency care, geriatrics, informatics, or neonatal.

Charu decided to unite her Honors Degree in New Media and lifetime of geekiness to pursue a career in tech and gaming journalism. You can usually find her writing about a variety of topics and drooling over new gadgets and games.