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Maybe you felt a sense of joy when helping a family member through a bitter flu season. Or maybe “Grey’s Anatomy” hooked you well beyond the interpersonal drama and showed you the interesting lives nurses lead. 

Either way, if caring for others is your passion—nursing could be your future career.

The path to becoming a registered nurse (RN) isn’t very complicated, but it is a long road full of hard work, challenges, and dedication (and a few overnight shifts). Whether nursing is a fresh idea or a long-held dream of yours, you’ll need to know what it takes to start this particular career in nursing. 

This guide will lay out the exact steps you should know how to become a nurse in Arizona.

Why Should You Pursue Nursing?

From long hours to life-or-death situations, there’s no question that nursing can be a challenging, stressful career. However, this difficulty is offset by the rewarding nature of the field—as a nurse, you can make a significantly positive mark on the world.

If you’re on the fence about a career in nursing, consider these reasons to pursue the title of RN:1

  • Positive impact – As a nurse, you’re more than just a medical worker—you can be the hero that changes someone’s life for the better. Research shows that nurse duties like making timely rounds can result improve outcomes.2 Besides helping patients find treatment, RNs also comfort distressed patients, counsel family members, and act as a trusted advocate within a healthcare facility.
  • Not every day is the same – A nurse shift welcomes spontaneity as you work with various types of patients in a hospital. With such a diverse role in a health organization, you constantly work in a stimulating, exciting environment.
  • Flexible schedule – You may have heard of travel nursing or per diem nursing, which allows nurses to take control of their schedule. Obtain assignments in new places and help hospitals in need of extra support. After your shift is done, you’ll get to explore a new city and relax!

4 Steps to Become a Nurse in Arizona

The path to a nursing career isn’t identical for everyone, but they all have three simple requirements—a nursing degree, a passing NCLEX exam score, and a state nursing license. 

After you successfully earn your RN license, you can apply for any RN job in the state. Need a clearer picture of this journey? Kickstart your nursing career path with these four steps to becoming a nurse in Arizona.

#1 Earn Your Nursing Degree 

First and foremost, you must earn a nursing degree to become an RN. Higher education is an essential pillar of nursing, and you cannot qualify for a state’s licensing exam without a degree from an accredited institution. Typically, a nursing education program will involve the following subjects:3

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Psychology
  • Social sciences
  • Behavioral sciences

There are multiple options to earn your education as a nurse. So, what defines a nursing degree? The right program for you depends on your educational experience and career goals. To find your best educational path and level of nursing, consider the following approved degrees for RNs in Arizona:4

  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) – offered in community colleges and universities, an associate’s program is the most basic educational degree required to become an RN. Typically, ADN programs take about two years for full-time students and four years for part-time students.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – A BSN program is a 4-year collegiate program with more intensive training for nurses, preparing nursing students for more diverse roles like administrative or leadership positions. 
  • Master’s of Science in Nursing Direct Entry (MSN-Direct Entry) – If you earned a bachelor's degree in another field (such as biology) but suddenly have a change of heart career-wise, then an ELM may be your best educational path. These master’s programs, with various naming conventions including, Direct Entry; Alternate Entry; 2nd degree Accelerated, etc., are designed for college graduates with degrees in another field who want to study nursing. Depending on your former education, they may run for two years.
  • Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) – For nursing students who’ve already earned a bachelor of science in nursing, a master’s in nursing offers more intensive and higher education. MSN programs typically last two years, opening the door to unlocking careers in specialized nursing, leadership, or educational roles. 

No matter which educational program you choose, you must have a high school diploma or GED to enter. Additionally, most nursing programs also require some level of academic competence in the form of:5

  • Previous high school-level biology, chemistry, and math classes
  • A satisfactory GPA (typically above 2.75)
  • Adequate standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, or TEAS)

#2 Pass the NCLEX Exam

Once you have your degree in hand, it’s time for the biggest test—your National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX for short.

The NCLEX is a national test for students to prove their understanding of nursing so that they can earn their RN license and practice legally. If you want to become an RN, you must pass this exam. However, you can retake the NCLEX if you fail, so long as you wait at least 45 days between tests.

In Arizona, the Arizona State Board of Nursing (BRN) operates the state’s NCLEX exam. You can prepare yourself to take the NCLEX exam by:

  1. Completing an application online or obtaining a print-out application on the BRN website
  2. Sending your application to the BRN at least 6–8 weeks before graduation
  3. Requesting school transcripts to be sent to the BRN
  4. Completing a state-run background check
  5. Choosing your desired test date once approved  
  6. Applying for an Interim Permit if you wish to practice under supervision while waiting for your exam results

The NCLEX exam is scored on a base logit score of 0.00—correct answers move your score up, while wrong answers move your score down.6 If your final score is 0.00 or higher, then you pass. Typically, you’ll get your results about six weeks after your test (fingers crossed).7

#3 Obtain Your State License

Once you’ve passed the NCLEX, it’s time to get a nursing license in your state.

As an RN, you can only practice in the states where you have a nursing license—otherwise, you’d be working illegally. Every state has its own particular laws surrounding licensure, so it’s essential to research your desired location’s board rules. In Arizona, the Arizona Board of Registered Nursing requires the following for each type of applicant:

  • New RNs – Students with no prior RN licensing must have earned an adequate nursing degree, passed a criminal background check, and passed the NCLEX to earn a Registered Nurse license in Arizona.8
  • Out-of-state RNs – If you are a licensed RN, Arizona is under the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC), which offers a shortcut toward state licensure. You must apply for an Arizona nursing license by endorsement if you have an active nursing license in a non-compact state. So long as you have an active RN license in another compact state and have passed the NCLEX, you may apply online for an Arizona RN license.
  • Former RNs – In Arizona, you must renew your nursing license every four years.9 Alternatively, you may be eligible to renew if you’ve worked 960 hours in nursing, graduated from an accredited nursing program, and obtained an advanced nursing degree in the past five years. In some cases, you may also have to take a state-approved refresher course.

#4 Seek Further Training (If Desired)

Once you’ve received your RN license, you’ve officially gained entry into the world of nursing—and it’s a wide, wide world to explore. To keep exploring your nursing skills, an excellent option is to pursue additional training.

Additional training can open the door to countless career opportunities and advancements as a nurse. Besides pursuing a more advanced degree as a nurse (such as a master’s or even a doctorate), you could also receive specialty certifications to further your education. Currently, these specialty and advanced nurse positions offer a higher earning potential to non-certified RNs:10

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist 
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Pain Management Nurse 
  • Registered Nurse First Assist 
  • Family Nurse Practitioner 
  • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner 
  • Nurse Educator

Explore Your Career in Nursing at Alliant International University

If nursing is calling your name, then your journey starts with education—and that’s where we can lend a guiding hand. At Alliant International University, our nursing programs – Bachelor’s and Master of Science in Nursing Direct Entry program – are designed for individuals passionate about patient care and eager to start their nursing careers.

No matter your goals in nursing, our teachers and administrators are ready to encourage and prepare you. With Alliant, you can make a positive impact, one patient at a time. 

Learn more about our programs at the School of Nursing and Health Sciences today.


  1. Kovacs, Kasia. 2020. “25 Reasons to Become a Nurse |” NurseJournal. June 3, 2020.
  2. Daniels, Juli F. 2016. “Purposeful and Timely Nursing Rounds: A Best Practice Implementation Project.” JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports 14 (1): 248–67.
  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2022. “Registered Nurses : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” April 18, 2022.
  4.   Smith-Kimble, Courtney. “Understanding All Nursing Degree Types Overview.” 2020. NurseJournal. June 3, 2020.
  5. Gaines, Kathleen. “Nursing School Prerequisites: The Complete Guide to Getting into Nursing School.” n.d.
  6.   NCSBN. “After the Exam.” n.d. NCSBN. Accessed February 1, 2023.
  7. NCSBN.  “Results Processing.” n.d. NCSBN. Accessed February 1, 2023.
  8.   Arizona State Board of Nursing. “Apply for a License.” N.d. 2018.
  9. Tailleart, Andi. “A Guide to Nursing Licenses and Renewals in Arizona.” Incredible Health. 2022.
  10. Bruisie, Chaunie. “15 Highest Paying Nursing Jobs in 2023”. N.d. November 08, 2022. Accessed February 01, 2023.

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