Do you aspire to be a Nurse but want to know about all its aspects? No worries, since you have opted to research, congratulations, you have landed on the right page.

In this 21st century, Nursing is no more just a profession but has evolved into a partnership in our healthcare journey from birth to death. With specialized skills and a lot of heart, Nurses take care, educate, and ensure patient safety.

But there is so much more to it. The world of Nursing is ever-changing. So, in this article, we’ll try to guide you on everything related to this career. We’ll discuss about Nursing, a step-to-step guide to becoming one, the skills and other requirements, their roles and responsibilities, and the salary of RNs in all 54 states of the USA.

Let’s get started – 

How to Become a Nurse?

Let’s discuss a step-by-step guide to help you understand better on becoming a Nurse. 

What is Nursing

Step 1 – Self-assess what you want to become

You first need to decide on what your career in nursing is. Do you want to be a Registered Nurse or a Nurse Practitioner or a Nursing assistant? Considering you have it sorted out let’s move ahead. 


-> Is Nursing a Good Career?

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Step 2 – Check Basic Requirements

You’ll need to meet the basic requirements to enroll in a nursing degree program. So, it’s better to check it. Obviously, different institutions and states might have different sets of rules, but here are the standard requirements to enroll in a Nursing program.

  • High School Diploma or GED Equivalent.
  • Prerequisite Courses like biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and mathematics (wherever applicable).
  • GPA and Academic Performance (wherever applicable).
  • SAT or ACT scores (wherever applicable).
  • Letters of Recommendation (wherever applicable).
  • Personal Statement or Essay (wherever applicable).
  • Clinical or Volunteer Experience (wherever applicable).
  • Admission Interview (wherever applicable).

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Step 3 – Choose a Program – Degree or Diploma/Certificate

There are various nursing degree programs to choose from. Let’s discuss each of them – 

Diploma or Certificate

Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) 

This nursing training program enables you to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), given you passed the certification exam post-completion of your training. Nursing assistants assist the RNs or healthcare professionals.

Community colleges, trade schools, and medical facilities offer this program. But make sure to check if it is approved by the state’s nursing board and by the National League for Nursing Accredited Commission (NLNAC). 

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

They take care of patients by assisting the registered nurses (RNs), and doctors with basic care tasks. In hospitals, they are the ones you see with the patients providing ongoing care. Their daily tasks surround – monitoring patients’ conditions, checking their blood pressure regularly, delivering them medications, and assisting them with routine tasks like changing clothes and using the restroom.

You will find LPN programs at the community, technical, and vocational colleges, and will take you about a year to complete. To get a job, you need to become licensed by passing the National Council Licensure Examination. 

Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

They are the ones providing basic bedside care to patients in the hospitals.  They work under the supervision of Physicians and RNs. Their basic task involves – providing medical comfort and care, checking vital statistics, changing bandages, and assisting patients to dress, walk or eat. 

You need to join an accredited healthcare or nursing associates program in the state you wish to be employed. This program takes around 1 year to complete. Post-completion to be job ready, you need to earn your licensure by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Vocational Nurses, or NCLEX-VN.

Degree Programs 

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

The associate degree program is typically quick and completed in 2-3 years. They teach you a foundational knowledge of nursing and it depends upon your experience to rise through the ranks. However, you should pass the national licensure examination (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse and start working. 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A BSN degree prepares you well for the job and takes around 4 years to complete. It will provide you with greater opportunities to secure jobs with more responsibilities and higher salaries. However, even with a BSN, you should pass the national licensure examination (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse.

Read -> How To Get A BSN?

If you desire to not limit yourself to the role of a nurse performing direct patient care, you can continue your studies further and achieve higher positions.  

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

This is a higher-level nursing degree and you could become a Nurse Practitioner, Nurse educator, or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

This is a Ph.D. degree and you could obtain advanced leadership and research roles post obtaining this degree.

Step – 4 Get a Registered Licence

To become a Registered Nurse you need to either have completed your Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. Post-completion you’ll now require to pass the license examination and earn a state license.

The license exams vary like we discussed a Nurse assistant would require to pass a Certified Nursing Assistant exam. To become an RN, you need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

But for Nurse practitioner (NP) post-completion of your MSN you first need to pass the NCLEX-RN and a national certification exam administered by professional organizations like – the American Nurses Credentialing Center, or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

Step 5 – Find a nursing job

Now, you are good to go. You are eligible to work in a variety of work settings like – Hospitals, Medical offices, Nursing homes, assisted living and extended care facilities, etc. Go join your dream job.

Post securing a job you can now choose a specialty nursing like – Neonatal Nursing, Clinical Nursing, Critical Care Nursing, etc.

For career advancement, you need experience and further studies or training as per your goal.

What Skills Do You Need to be a Nurse?

What is a BSN

Only education won’t guarantee you would be a successful Nurse. Apart from proper knowledge you should possess or hone a few skills that are absolutely necessary to become successful in your job as an RN.

Here are the skills –

Critical-thinking skills

You need to think critically to assess the patient’s condition, identify any changes in the health status of the patient, and should be able to make quick decisions to provide the best possible care.

Communication skills

You should be able to communicate effectively with patients in order to understand their concerns and evaluate their health conditions. You should convey complex medical information clearly and easily to the patients.

You also need to clearly explain instructions, such as how to take medication, before or after the meal, and the do’s and don’ts. You are working in a team with other healthcare professionals so if required you should also communicate with them regarding the patient’s need.

Organizational skills

Since you will be working with multiple patients with a variety of health needs, it is important for you to have organizational skills. You should have the ability to coordinate various treatment plans and records to ensure that each patient receives appropriate care.

Emotional stability

Undoubtedly, the Nursing profession can turn emotionally challenging and stressful. So, it is important for you to build emotional resilience and develop the ability to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stressors.

Physical stamina

Sometimes, you might need to perform some physical tasks, like lifting patients, transporting them, and carrying equipment. Also, this career involves standing for longer periods of time, say on a stretch of 8 hours. This requires you to be physically fit. So, eat healthy, and stay fit!


You should be precise, because in nursing – precision is vital. You should be able to diligently monitor patients, administer medications timely, and document information accurately.


The patient or their family is already tense and scared due to the challenging situation. So, it is your duty to be caring thereby calming them down and compassionately providing support. You should be patient in dealing with them.   

What do Registered Nurses do?

As an RN you can specialize in various areas of nursing, such as – neonatal nursing, cardiovascular nursing, critical care nursing, psychiatric nursing, and more. You have options to work in a wide range of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, or the military, etc.

However, the roles and responsibilities may vary depending on the specialization and the needs of the patient. Below mentioned are the standard responsibilities of RNs – 

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Assessment and Record

They observe and assess a patient’s condition and record the observations. They record the patient’s medical history and symptoms.

Administer Medications and Health Plans

They consult and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals and administer patient with medicines and treatments. They also set up plans for patient care or contribute to existing plans.

Medical Equipment

RNs operate and monitor medical equipment that helps them to perform diagnostic tests, and analyze the results.

Educate Patients and Their Families

They teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries. They explain what to do at home after treatment.  

Emotional Support

RNs provide emotional support to patients and their families, particularly during challenging and stressful situations.

Health Promotion

They engage in health promotion activities, such as educating the community about preventive measures.

Research and Development

Some RNs are involved in research, contributing to the development of evidence-based nursing practices. 

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What is the Nursing Process?

Irrespective of the field or specialized area all the RNs follow the same nursing process. The nursing process is a scientific method curated to offer the best in patient care, through 5 standard steps. The steps are –

Step 1 – Assessment  

You’ll be assessing the patient on the basis of their lifestyle; and their physiological, economic, and social state.

Step 2 – Diagnosis  

You’ll be forming a patient diagnosis through careful consideration of both physical symptoms and patient behavior.

Step 3 – Outcomes / Planning  

With your expertise, you’ll set plans or realistic goals for the patient’s recovery. You’ll then closely monitor the outcome or the objectives achieved.

Step 4 – Implementation  

You’ll need to create a care plan and then implement it to assure consistency of care for the patient while also recording their progress.

Step 5 – Evaluation  

The final step is the evaluation of your care plans and the objectives set. You’ll need to analyze the effectiveness of the plan and understand the patient response. If required you should change or make the plan better to achieve the very best patient outcomes.

Salary of RNs in different states of the US


May 2022 Data from the BLS

Total RNs *apart from private ones 3.0 Million
Annual Average Salary $89,010
Average Hourly Pay $42.80
State with Highest Salary California – $133,340
State with the Lowest Salary Puerto Rico – $37,360

State-wise Annual Average Salary –

Alabama (AL) – $66,910

Alaska (AK) – $103,310

Arizona (AZ) – $86,740

Arkansas (AR) – $66,530

California (CA) – $133,340

Colorado (CO) – $86,590

Connecticut (CT) – $94,260

Delaware (DE) – $85,020

District of Columbia (DC) – $98,230

Florida (FL) – $79,910

Georgia (GA) – $85,180

Guam (GU) – N/A

Hawaii (HI) – $113,220

Idaho (ID) – $78,610

Illinois (IL) – $82,220

Indiana (IN) – $75,580

Iowa (IA) – $69,370

Kansas (KS) – $71,990

Kentucky (KY) – $77,620

Louisiana (LA) – $75,920

Maine (ME) – $77,410

Maryland (MD) – $87,990

Massachusetts (MA) – $104,150

Michigan (MI) – $80,660

Minnesota (MN) – $88,860

Mississippi (MS) – $67,930

Missouri (MO) – $71,860

Montana (MT) – $78,350

Nebraska (NE) – $73,510

Nevada (NV) – $96,310

New Hampshire (NH) – $83,420

New Jersey (NJ) – $96,670

New Mexico (NM) – $85,580

New York (NY) – $100,130

North Carolina (NC) – $77,420

North Dakota (ND) – $75,000

Ohio (OH) – $78,450

Oklahoma (OK) – $76,920

Oregon (OR) – $106,610

Pennsylvania (PA) – $80,630

Puerto Rico (PR) – $37,360

Rhode Island (RI) – $88,250

South Carolina (SC) – $74,330

South Dakota (SD) – $64,500

Tennessee (TN) – $72,480

Texas (TX) – $84,320

Utah (UT) – $76,400

Vermont (VT) – $79,990

Virgin Islands (VI) – $69,200

Virginia (VA) – $81,860

Washington (WA) – $101,670

Washington DC (DC) – $98,540

West Virginia (WV) – $72,230

Wisconsin (WI) – $81,000

Wyoming (WY) – $81,010


What is Travel Nursing? 

It is a form of nursing that involves working for a short period of time in different locations, usually to fill staffing shortages or meet high demand. Travel nurses can work locally, nationally, or even internationally, depending on their preferences and the available jobs.

They are hired by nurse staffing agencies that match them with healthcare facilities that need their skills and experience.

What is the difference between a Registered Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner?

Both Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners provide medical care to patients in various healthcare settings. However, they differ in their qualifications, job duties, and level of seniority. Nurse Practitioners can diagnose conditions or prescribe medications while Registered Nurses can’t.

How fast can you become a Nurse?

It depends on the degree that you are pursuing, and the time required for you to clear the NCLEX-RN licensing examination. If you choose an associate degree, it would take around 2-3 years for completion, plus the time required for you to clear the licensing exam. If you opt Bachelor’s degree, it would take around 4 years plus the time required to clear the licensing exam.

In short, if everything goes as planned you could be a Registered Nurse in 2-3 years.

Can boys be an RN?

Yes. There are 13% of male nurses in the US.

Male nursing is common in some specializations like military (35%) or registered nurse anesthetists (41%), etc.  


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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.