How to Become a RN

How to Become a Registered Nurse

Does saving lives and caring for patients sound like your dream job? Do you find yourself wanting to make a difference working with others? Being a Registered Nurse (RN) might be for you. Registered Nurses are key parts of any healthcare setting, and for many people, the position offers the perfect blend of caring for patients and working with doctors.

RNs are considered the backbone of the healthcare industry – most medical settings wouldn’t be able to function without them. The duties and responsibilities of Registered Nurses touch almost every aspect of patient care in some way, and for that reason, there are strict qualifications needed to become an RN. It can be an extremely rewarding job, though, so if you’re interested in how to get a job as a Registered Nurse, read on to discover the best way to achieve that dream.


What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

Registered Nurses are near the top of the nursing ladder, and their responsibilities reflect their extra education and training. Because of their expertise, RNs are able to administer medications and provide treatment to patients while Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) cannot. However, Nurse Practitioners, who have received a master’s degree or Doctor of Nursing Practice, are the only nurses allowed to diagnose conditions and prescribe medication.

There are different specialties for RNs, but at their core, most Registered Nurses will have these duties:

  • Administering medications and treatments
  • Controlling the environment for safety and infections
  • Helping doctors set up plans for care
  • Observing patients and assessing conditions and symptoms
  • Supporting patients and their families
  • Taking medical histories
  • Working in conjunction with doctors and other nurses


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Career Path to Becoming a Registered Nurse

The career path for how to become an RN is straightforward but rigorous. If you’re wondering, “How long does it take to become an RN?”, the answer depends on which educational route you take. You’ll first need to obtain either a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Then, you’ll study for and take the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Once you pass that exam, you’ll receive your state license, and you’ll officially be a Registered Nurse.

Where you go after that is up to you – whether it’s to a hospital or another healthcare field where RNs are needed. And your journey to be an RN doesn’t have to stop there. There are specialties for RNs that you can move to later in your career. Those specialties include:

  • Cardiac Registered Nurse
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • Critical Care Registered Nurse
  • Emergency Registered Nurse
  • Home Care Registered Nurse
  • Surgical Assistant Registered Nurse
  • And many more

These specialties may require additional training or licensing, however. You might also consider becoming a Nurse Practitioner, which will require higher education and an advanced degree.


RN Career Path


Requirements to Becoming a Registered Nurse

As noted, the minimum education you’ll need to become an RN is either an ADN or BSN from an accredited university, as well as state licensing obtained by passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Those are the required certifications, but achieving them doesn’t tell the full story of what you’ll need to be a great Registered Nurse.

You must also possess other soft skills that are essential to nursing. Many employers look for leadership and management abilities in RNs. Empathy and strong communication skills are required due to the emotional and educational support RNs provide for patients and their families. In addition, because the rest of the medical field relies so heavily on nurses, and this type of work frequently involves stressful situations, you’ll need to be a good critical thinker and collaborative team player.


Qualifications & Skills for an RN

Employers on iHireNursing frequently require or desire the following skills for Registered Nurses:


RN Qualifications and skills


Education & Experience

A two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is needed to be a Registered Nurse. Most RNs have two or fewer years of job experience, and they might choose a specialty after a few years.



Licensing and Certifications

All RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to be licensed as a Registered Nurse. Additional licenses and certifications may be required for other specialties. 


How Much Do Registered Nurses Make?

A Registered Nurse’s pay depends on the job location, employer, specialty, and type of hospital or care center in which they’re working. The median annual Registered Nurse salary in the U.S. is $65,274, and on the high end of the spectrum, RNs can make around $80,399. Looking at nursing specialties, the median U.S. salary for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists is $167,950, and Clinical Nurse Specialists can make $71,730.

Because location will most significantly impact your salary, visit our free Salary Research Tool to see how Registered Nurses are paid in different parts of the country.


Registered nurse salary


Tips for Writing a Registered Nurse Resume

Your resume is the key to how to get a job as a Registered Nurse, so make sure it grabs the hiring manager’s attention. There are several ways you can do this, and one of the most important tactics is to customize your resume for each position to which you apply.

Tailoring your resume to a specific job description will help get your resume past automated applicant tracking systems (ATS) and in front of a real person. To beat an ATS, look for specific skills and requirements in the RN job posting and include those in your resume if you possess them. If you’re not sure what to look for, recall the list of skills in this article and start there.

For RNs just out of school, including a personal summary at the top of the resume is a good way to fit in keywords if you don’t have enough on-the-job experience. Then, highlight any extra training or certifications you’ve received to set yourself apart from the other applicants and stand out to the potential employer. Nurses are always learning, so don’t leave any additional relevant education off your resume.


Related Resources


Where to Find Registered Nurse Jobs

Find your Registered Nurse job on iHireNursing.

By iHire | January 20, 2022
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