With a projected 26 percent jump in the number of jobs between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing is an occupation that is growing at an above-average pace. If you are considering going into this medical profession, your journey to becoming an RN will include a progression of steps that start with college preparatory classes in high school and include postsecondary courses, labs and field training.
Before embarking on your journey to nursing school, keep in mind that not all educational programs have the exact same requirements. Nursing school isn't always a four-year degree, with some students choosing to go to a hospital-based diploma program or get an associate degree. Depending on the type of program that you choose -- a bachelor's degree vs. and an associate degree or a diploma -- you may need to complete more or less prerequisites. For example, a bachelor's degree program may include more semesters of clinical on-the-job training and science skills courses than a two-year associate degree curriculum.
High School Classes
Most nursing school programs require academic prerequisites taken in high school for admission, according to the California Board of Registered Nursing. These classes are typical of the traditional high school curriculum and usually include four years of English, a minimum of three years of math, a minimum of two years of science classes -- including biology, chemistry, physics and labs for each -- three to four years of social studies and two years of a foreign language. Some schools may require additional preparatory classes or specific coursework within a content area, such as algebra or computer sciences.
Choosing a Program and Applying
Although each state individually licenses nurses, setting their own educational requirements, most allow students to complete either a diploma, associate or bachelor's level program. Choosing a specific nursing school program depends on your time limitations and career aspirations. For example, if you want to get a quick entry into the nursing workforce, you may want to apply to an associate degree program at your local community college. On the other hand, if you want to eventually go to graduate school to get an advanced nursing degree -- such as nurse practitioner -- you will need a four-year college degree. After deciding where you want to go to school, make sure that the institution is accredited by the state and approved by your registered nurse licensing board.
After being accepted to a nursing school, you will need to progress through a series of steps in order to graduate. This includes taking all prenursing and nursing classes that the school requires. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that four-year college degrees in nursing not only take longer than diploma or associate programs, but also are more complex. Bachelor's level programs typically include basic science or prenursing classes in biology, chemistry and other physical sciences. Additionally, you will most likely have to take social sciences classes and courses in professional leadership and research practices. All nursing programs also require students to take clinical lab and hospital- or medical center-based courses. After passing your classes and graduating, you are eligible to take your state's registered nursing exam.