Working as a registered nurse helps you gain experience as well as boost your confidence before you consider whether or not you will become a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse leader. In this article, we will discuss responsibilities of a registered nurse, steps on how to become a registered nurse as well as frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding becoming a registered nurse. 


1. What Does a Registered Nurse do?


Depending on the places registered nurses work, how long they have worked as a nurse and the specialty area in which they work, the responsibilities of registered nurses may vary. Typically, the registered nurses’ responsibilities include clinical and administrative ones. 

Clinical Responsibilities:


  • Assessing patients’ conditions and vital signs


  • Consulting and collaborating with other healthcare providers


  • Operating and monitoring medical equipment


  • Contributing to and setting up patients’ care plans


  • Performing and analyzing diagnostic tests


  • Educating patients and their families


  • Giving medications and treatments prescribed by doctors and other healthcare providers


how to become a registered nurse


Administrative Responsibilities:


  • Directing and supervising other healthcare professionals, such as LPNs, CNAs and medical assistants


  • Recording medical histories and symptoms

You can read the comparison between CNA vs RN to know how different and which one is better for your career.


2. Where Does A Registered Nurse Work?


The workplace of registered nurses comprises doctors’ offices, nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, government and education. Nevertheless, the majority of registered nurses work in hospitals. Here is a breakdown of the largest working environments occupied by registered nurses, as of 2020:  


  • Hospitals — 61%


  • Doctors’ offices, home health and outpatient care — 18%


  • Nursing care facilities — 6%


  • Government — 5%


  • Education — 3%


3. How To Become A Registered Nurse?


Now, let’s discuss steps to become a registered nurse. There are three major steps including obtaining the appropriate degree, passing the NCLEX exam and earning a license in the state that you want to practice in. 


how to become registered nurse


>>> Read more: NCLEX Study Guide


3.1. Obtain your Degree


To become a registered nurse, you must get a degree from an accredited institution. Which degree you need to attain and how long it takes will depend on where you will work. 

Several states only require registered nurses to earn their associate’s degree in nursing. In recent years, nonetheless, more and more states require registered nurses to have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing so as to attain their license. In addition, many employers may also require registered nurses to possess a bachelor’s degree to consider a new hire. 

Because of this reason, if you are interested in working as a registered nurse, you’d better earn your bachelor’s degree in nursing. The best programs will mainly focus on clinical experience and will be taught by experienced professors. 

There are various choices to earn your bachelor’s degree in nursing. If you are a first-time college student, a conventional four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing may be a good idea. If you have already achieved your associate’s degree in nursing, you can choose to pursue an RN-to-BS Completion Program which takes 12-14 months. If you have already obtained a bachelor’s degree in nursing in a non-nursing field, you can take other nursing programs which take 16-24 months. 


3.2. Pass the NCLEX Exam


After finishing your degree, the next step you need to take is taking the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, which is also known as the NCLEX or NCLEX-RN. 

The NCLEX exam tests your knowledge in key areas of the nursing field to make sure that you are ready for the job. To obtain your state license, you are required to pass the exam. If you fail the test for the first time, you will need to wait 45 days before retaking it. 

This is considered an important step in the journey of becoming a registered nurse. 

Take our NCLEX Practice Questions to get 100% ready for your upcoming NCLEX exam.


3.3. Obtain State Licensure


Once passing your NCLEX exam, you will need to get a nursing license in the state that you desire to practice in. If you reside in a border area and want to work in multiple states, it’s required to attain a license from each state.

Each state has its own requirements; therefore, it’s recommended to check with the appropriate board. 


3.4. Seek Advanced Training (optional)


After getting your state license, you will officially be a registered nurse. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that your journey has to be over. You will have ample chances to advance within your career. 

One route you can follow is earning a nursing certification that signifies your ability in a specific aspect. Several common options are med-surg nurse, school nurse, or ICU nurse.  Obtaining these certifications will help to augment your salary and appeal to more and more employers. 

Besides, you can also opt to pursue an advanced degree to become a clinical nurse leader or nurse practitioner. To reach these goals, you will need to gain either your master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). 

>> Read more: School nurse career guide


nurse conducts resuscitation doctor helps woman perform operation


4. Becoming a Registered Nurse: FAQs


4.1. Can I Become A Registered Nurse In 2 Years?


Yes. You can gain an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) and graduate in 1-2 years. The precise time length depends on your previous college work. Additionally, studying for the NCLEX-RN may also take extra time. 


4.2. What Is Accreditation And Why Is It Important?


Accreditation means an independent body, for example, Commission on the Collegiate Nursing Education or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Accreditation determines whether a nursing program meets industry standards. This is essential as many employers often hire graduates from accredited nursing programs.


4.3. Where do I Start To Become A Registered Nurse?


The very first step to become a registered nurse is seeking a program which is suitable to your interests and career objectives. The program may be ADN, BSN, or ABSN. You are advised to find a program that can help you prepare for the exam as well as enter a specific healthcare field that you are interested in. 


4.4. Is registered nurses has higher salary than LPN?

According to March 2022 data, registered nurses earn more than licensed practical nurses, making $34 per hour. Meanwhile, LPNs make $22 per hour. This means that the average annual salary of an RN is $70,335, while that of an LPN is $46,282. Do you know the reason why RN earn more than LPN? Read the article LPN vs RN: Who Earn Betterto know!


4.5. What Advancement Opportunities Are Available After Becoming A Registered Nurse?


Becoming a registered nurse brings many opportunities to advance in the healthcare field. To grasp these opportunities, registered nurses need to continue their education. If they desire to become an advanced nurse practitioner, they must gain a master’s or a doctorate in nursing. Acquiring credentials in particular nursing fields also required continuing education credits.