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Coursework, clinicals, early wake-up calls, late-night study sessions—there isn’t a working nurse out there who didn’t encounter some challenges during their time as an undergraduate student. 

Nursing school is widely known to be one of the most complex learning environments in the world of vocational training—but with 9% job growth expected by 2030, the nursing profession continues to offer incredibly diverse and rewarding career paths for those who pursue it.1

If you’re up for the rigor nursing school requires, knowing what to expect from your education is the first step in weathering the challenge and making a profound impact on the lives of your patients. Clinical rotations also play a crucial role in your education. It gives you hands-on experience in the public health field and allows you to apply your health sciences knowledge. Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of nursing school and strategies for emerging resilient and ready for the workforce.

What Are The Requirements for Getting Into Nursing School?

To be admitted to your nursing school of choice, you must demonstrate an interest in the field to the admissions board. While requirements vary from school to school, most programs typically have two nursing school requirements for nursing degree applicants:

  • A GED or high school diploma
  • One year of high school-level biology, chemistry, and math (earning a C-grade or above)

You’ll also need to demonstrate a satisfactory GPA. Programs for associate’s degrees in nursing usually require at least a 2.75 GPA, while bachelor’s programs ask for a 3.5 or above.2 Most nursing education schools also need you to send SAT or TEAS test scores. 

Apply for a Nursing Degree

What Types of Nursing Programs and Degrees Are Available?

Nursing is incredibly complex and varied, making nursing education programs just as diverse. Before applying to programs, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the various levels of nursing and degrees so you can choose the ideal program for your professional objectives. For example:3

  • Certificate in Nursing (CNAs or LPNs) – The most basic nursing degree you can pursue is a certificate in nursing. To become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), programs typically last between seven and 12 weeks. Alternatively, you could study to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN); these programs generally take one year of study. Because certificate programs are shorter and less intensive, nursing career prospects are typically more limited.
  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) – Associate’s programs typically take two years to complete. The ADN is generally considered the lowest educational level when you aim to become a registered nurse (RN). That said, some employment opportunities will require a BSN degree instead.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – Pursuing a BS in nursing opens more versatile nursing roles and higher earning potential. These programs usually last four years in a full-time position, and graduates can expect a more rigorous course load. This course load typically includes hands-on training and mentorship, garnering real-world experience to ensure you’re ready for the healthcare field.
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Pursuing a master’s in nursing is an attractive option for many professional nurses, as they unlock many career paths and leadership roles. Earning an MSN can be seen as a beneficial attribute for employers, as it shows a commitment to undergoing extensive training and higher education.4
  • PhD in Nursing – Nursing PhD programs are designed to equip healthcare professionals with the scientific skills needed for conducting research, teaching nursing students, and advising healthcare institutions. If you’ve obtained an MSN already, PhD programs are typically shorter, taking around two years to complete. If you’ve got a BSN degree, you may have to undergo more years of nursing courses to complete your PhD program.
  • Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) – DNP is considered a terminal degree program in practical nursing—the highest level of education you can achieve. These degrees are geared more toward clinical practice and treating patients than Ph.D. programs. DNP programs generally take three to four years of study.


Apply for a Nursing Degree

What Courses Do You Study In Nursing School?

There is a high degree of variance in the type of coursework you’ll encounter depending on your:

  • Nursing program of choice
  • Educational institution of choice
  • Type of degree you’re pursuing
  • Type of career path you’re preparing for

While the American Association of Colleges of Nursing recognizes several core competencies expected of all nurses, this last category largely dictates the subjects you’ll be studying.5

For example:

  • Students in a Nurse Administrator program will need to take courses in:
    • Patient care
    • Healthcare policy and administration
    • Team management
  • Students in a Nurse Informaticist program will need to master skills in:
    • Information management systems
    • Computer science
    • Information science
    • Communications
  • Students who want to become a Clinical Nurse Leader will need to study the following:
    • Patient care
    • Risk assessment
    • Team management
    • Current research in nursing and healthcare

In addition to the academic component of their studies, nursing students must also complete several clinical training hours. This is the segment of their studies where they learn to work directly with patients to provide care, case management, and other services aligned with their area of study.

How Hard is RN Schooling? Three Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Nurses

Pursuing higher education, choosing a specialty, deciding the best place to build your career—there are plenty of practical decisions to make when you choose to become a nurse. If you can prioritize these three big-picture pieces of advice during your studies, you’ll be in the best possible position to manage your education and life after nursing school. 

#1 Fast-Paced Schedule

An aspiring nurse is required to study a wide range of topics, and so the BSN program typically consists of different studies in a condensed short period which often results in a fast-paced schedule. Because nursing is one of the many health professions, it  must also keep pace with the evolving healthcare industry. You will need to juggle essential academic skills and hands-on simulation lab exercises. These are all to prepare you to confidently execute your job during actual clinical rotations. It will become easier once you settle into a routine.

Tip: Make Time Management a Priority

“There simply aren’t enough hours in the day” may be the most significant grievance you’ll hear from nursing students.6 Attending class, writing papers, and exams, making rounds, and balancing other curricular requirements can make it challenging to find room for much else while in school.

Fortunately, putting some time management tricks into practice can help open up more bandwidth during your studies:

  • Know your strengths – In nursing school, courses vary in difficulty the same way they vary in subject. If you can forecast which nursing courses you’ll need to focus on, you can save time and energy by prioritizing specific coursework and studies over others. Once you have your schedule for the semester, it can help to triage classes according to which will be most challenging for you as a student.
  • Try time-blocking – When time is of the essence, use time management tactics to maximize what you have. Time-blocking is setting aside concrete “chunks” of time for each assignment, study session, or preparation for rounds. Many nurses find it a helpful strategy for curbing distractions and ensuring they meet every responsibility as efficiently as possible.7

Nursing school is undeniably taxing, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the finer details when so much is being demanded of you, your time, and your desire to help people. Honing your time management skills can help you create more structure for your studies—which, in turn, gives you the space to see the bigger picture when the scrubs come off.

#2 It Calls for Hard Work and Dedication

Nursing is a demanding profession. Your studies and training will prepare you for the long shifts, rigorous patient care, critical decision-making, and the emotional challenges in providing compassionate care despite physical exhaustion.

Tip: Take Care of Yourself

More often than not, aspiring nurses feel the pressure of their profession from the moment they enroll in nursing school. Of course, finding an equilibrium between work and life can be a tall order for any career path. But nursing students may often encounter more specific roadblocks like:

  • Fast-paced and constant communication with supervisors
  • Mercurial clinical training schedules that can change on a dime
  • Learning to write advanced-level research papers
  • Developing healthy boundaries with patients, academic advisors, and fellow students

Coupled with heavy course loads, complex subject material, and a competitive atmosphere, you’d be hard-pressed to find a nursing student who said balancing life and their studies was easy. But when choosing to be a professional caretaker, finding ways to tend to your needs is essential. To do so, it can help to:

  • Build a self-care tool kit for free blocks of time – Sometimes, the only free time you’ll wedge into your day will be your lunch break—even if it’s cut down to 15 minutes. Make the most of any bit of time you can take to yourself by building a self-care recovery kit. It can be a little pouch filled with relaxing essential oils, a playlist that soothes you or brings you joy, or a note from a loved one that reminds you of your identity off the job.
  • Get offline on free days – Nurses deal with frequent, high-stakes communications daily. But if you’re still a nursing student—particularly in the earliest stages of your education—it’s crucial to take any time you have off-call to disengage so you can refill your cup. You might try silencing your work notifications during that precious time to cement the boundary between your career and personal life.

#3 Challenging Course Material and Long Study Hours

Whether it's the traditional BSN program or the accelerated nursing program, the course content can be demanding due to the complex and very diverse nature of the nursing profession. A nurse practitioner has to have a good grasp of the studies in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and other health sciences. This medical knowledge will not only be applied in taking the nursing exam licensure, but also in the actual practice of the profession. The condition of the patients largely depends on your nursing skills, knowledge, and educational foundation. 

Tip: Take Advantage of Peer-to-Peer Alliances

Many nursing students feel like their social life is on pause for the duration of their studies. Connecting with your fellow students, whether through study groups or grabbing a pastry in between shifts, can help combat feelings of anxiety and isolation.

Beyond your mental well-being, there’s another reason to treat your fellow students as a tremendous resource. Nursing curricula can be wide-reaching and challenging; you’ll likely need guidance to master the material. Hitting the books together by forming virtual or in-person study groups can help you to:

  • Foster camaraderie and mutual support in a taxing academic environment
  • Understand lessons and concepts that don’t come naturally to you
  • Hone your teaching skills (particularly if you’re interested in pursuing a Nurse Educator role)

Building relationships with your peers while in school lays the groundwork for a professional network that can open up academic success and career opportunities. Most importantly, it’ll equip you with one invaluable resource: the friends and colleagues with whom you’ll share your trials and achievements well into your future as a working nurse.

The Bachelor’s in Nursing Program at Alliant International University

If you’re considering a nursing career, the bachelor of science in nursing program at Alliant International University can support you on your journey. The founding mission at Alliant is to help emerging professionals refine their vocational skills—in theory and practice—so they feel prepared to enter the workforce right after graduation.

No matter your chosen specialty, our community of professors and students are motivated to become leaders in their fields to make the most meaningful impact on the people they serve. For more information on what a master’s in nursing looks like at Alliant, explore our catalog today. 


  1.  American Nurses Association. “Nurses in the Workforce.” Accessed January 31, 2023.
  2.   Gaines, Kathleen. “How to Get Into Nursing School.” Accessed January 31, 2023.
  3. Smith-Kimble, Courtney. “Types of Nursing Degrees and Levels.” December 5, 2022. Accessed January 31, 2023.
  4. Staff, NurseJournal. “25 Reasons to Get A Master’s in Nursing.” November 22, 2022.
  5. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “Master’s Education.” Accessed January 31, 2023.
  6. Minority Nurse. “Challenges Facing Nursing Students Today.” December 12, 2017. Accessed January 31, 2023.
  7. Minority Nurse. “Challenges Facing Nursing Students Today.” December 12, 2017. Accessed January 31, 2023.

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