The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines nursing as “the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, facilitation of healing, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations.”

Nursing is a career that offers unlimited options and the ability to work in a wide range of settings, such as: acute care facilities, hospitals (every floor and department, including administration), clinics, primary care offices, insurance companies, surgical hospitals, nursing homes, hospice facilities, etc. They can also nurses can also continue their education in both a broad array of specialties as well as deep into an academic/research doctorate program.

Being a Registered Nurse means that you have taken and passed the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Degrees leading to the right to sit for the licensing examination are the Associate of Science in Nursing, and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Advance practice degrees that allow one to sit for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse certification exams require a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree. Doctoral degrees in Nursing (EdD or PhD) are open for those wishing to concentrate on original research or teaching.

Nurses can practice with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). Individuals who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field can either apply to an accelerated BSN program or a master’s program. Accelerated bachelor’s programs generally take 11 to 18 months to complete, while accelerated master’s programs take two to three years. If you are interested in specializing and/or advancing in the field, you may want to consider an MSN.

Profession Overview

Profession Overview

Nurses typically do the following:

Nurses’ responsibilities include:

  • Record patients’ medical histories and symptoms.
  • Give patients medicines and treatments.
  • Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute to existing plans.
  • Ensure that patients attain, maintain or recover optimal health.
  • Observe patients and record the observations.
  • Consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals.
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment.
  • Teach patients and their families how to manage their illnesses or injuries.
  • Explain what to do at home after treatment.
  • Care for individuals, families and communities

Important Qualities:

  • Critical-thinking skills: Registered nurses must be able to assess changes in the health status of patients, including determining when to take corrective action and when to make referrals.
  • Communication skills: Registered nurses must be able to communicate effectively with patients in order to understand their concerns and assess their health conditions. Nurses need to explain instructions, such as how to take medication, clearly. They must be able to work in teams with other health professionals and communicate the patients’ needs.
  • Compassion: Registered nurses should be caring and empathetic when caring for patients.
  • Detail oriented: Registered nurses must be responsible and detail oriented because they must make sure that patients get the correct treatments and medicines at the right time.
  • Emotional stability: Registered nurses need emotional resilience and the ability to manage their emotions to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses.
  • Organizational skills: Nurses often work with multiple patients with various health needs. Organizational skills are critical to ensure that each patient is given appropriate care.
  • Physical stamina: Nurses should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as moving patients. They may be on their feet for most of their shift.

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook Registered Nurses

Learn more about Nursing:

Admissions Criteria

Admissions Criteria


The requirements for admission to nursing school vary from school to school. In general, most nursing schools will require coursework in biology, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, psychology, and other social and behavioral sciences. Students are responsible for verifying the prerequisite coursework and policies of the schools to which they plan to apply.

To view a list of CCNE accredited programs and their requirements, click here.

For specific college requirements, visit the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) member school directory and search for schools by name, state or degree type.

General typical prerequisite courses for Nursing coming soon!

GPA and Extracurricular Experience

Many competitive nursing programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA, though this will vary depending on the school. It is also important to demonstrate knowledge of and interest in the field through clinical experience.

Nursing Admissions Test

Depending on the nursing program, you may be required to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS). Some programs do not require any admissions tests, so you should always confirm with the specific school of interest.

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

Students should review all information on the GRE before submitting an application to test. You should take the GRE at least six weeks before the application deadline.

Length: 3 hours and 45 minutes

Sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing  

Scores: Scores range from 260-340 Verbal and Quantitative Composite, and 0-6 Analytical Writing.

Cost: The registration fee is $205 which includes the exam and scores sent to four schools. Sending scores to additional schools costs $27 each. Applicants with financial need may request a GRE Fee Reduction Certificate to cover 50% of the GRE fee.

TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills)

The ATI TEAS, or Test of Essential Academic Skills, is designed specifically to assess a student’s preparedness for entering the health science fields. The ATI TEAS test comprises 170 questions set up in a multiple-choice format with four-option answers. Questions are designed to test the basic academic skills you will need to perform successfully in the areas of: Reading, Math, Science, and English and Language Usage.

Length: 209 minutes

Sections: Four sections:

  • Reading
  • Math
  • Science, and
  • English and Language Usage

Scores: Scores range from 0-100%

Timeline: Before you register for the exam, contact the school(s) to which you are applying. They will provide important deadline dates, as well as information on where you should take your ATI TEAS Exam.

Rules and Regulations: Be sure to contact the school in which you are applying to understand its important deadlines and the number of attempts allowed to pass the ATI TEAS Exam.

School Selection

School Selection

Factors to consider:

  • Location I: Students have the best chance of admission at the public medical schools in their state of residency. Outside of your in-state school(s), consider private schools and other state public schools that accept a reasonable number of out-of-state residents.
  • Degree Choice: Some schools offer all levels of nursing training, others do not.
  • Accreditation: Select schools that have been accredited by the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. There is a difference between approval by the state board of nursing and accreditation by a national accrediting organization. Accreditation means the schools program has been reviewed and approved by experts in the field. This is one way to know that the school prepares you well for your career. It means that the education given by these schools meets a minimum level of quality that an expert panel has set.
  • Class Schedules: Does the school have classes scheduled that are convenient for you? How much clinical time is available at the school? Will you get enough experience to be prepared when you go out into the workforce?
  • NCLEX Exam Passrate: This will give you a good idea of how well the school is preparing the students. Look back over 5 years worth of data.

Additional resources for school selection:

Application Overview

Application Overview

Application Timing

NursingCAS is the nation’s only centralized application service for students applying to registered nursing (RN) programs at all levels, from the diploma to the doctorate. NursingCAS offers prospective students a convenient way to apply to nursing programs at participating schools nationwide. To apply to nonparticipating schools, you will need to visit those schools’ websites for application information. Check the NursingCAS program directory to determine which nursing schools participate.

Check the school’s website for program-specific deadlines. If you wait until the night before a program deadline to submit your application, your application may not be received by NursingCAS in time. You should apply at least four weeks before the earliest deadline of the program(s) that you are applying to. This will allow the necessary time to verify and process your application.

Recommendation Letters

Nursing programs will likely require recommendation letters. The Careers in Health and Medicine office recommends you choose professional recommenders who can write compellingly about your personal qualities that will contribute to a successful career in nursing. Students should check each school’s requirements to ensure you have the required letters.

Oftentimes Nursing programs would like letters from:

  • Someone from your academic life, preferably an instructor.
  • An employer. If you have never been employed, a supervisor or director of volunteer work will be accepted.
  • The third person may be another instructor, another employer or a professional colleague.