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If you want to make a personal, hands-on impact on the health and well-being of others, a career as a nurse might be for you. Nursing is an exciting, challenging, and fulfilling occupation.

Whether you want to be a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or certified nurse practitioner (CNP), there are dozens of professional nursing specialties available. But before you make that decision, you’ll need to attend nursing school. 

What are the requirements to get into nursing school? 

If you want to know how to become a nurse, read on as we discuss the prerequisite courses, essential academic skills, and valuable tips to find the right school or program for you.

Nursing School Requirements

Most students who prepare to become registered nurses will apply for one of two nursing school programs: 

  1. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) – An ADN is typically a two-year program covering the essentials of nursing care, emphasizing clinical skills. A student graduates as a “technical” nurse. 
  2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – A traditional BSN is typically a four-year degree that expands clinical knowledge, focusing on leadership, management, nursing research, and advanced clinical skills. 


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In either case, students will need to meet the following nursing school requirements: 

Graduate High School 

Students must either graduate from high school or meet their general education requirements.

Although the GPA requirements will vary depending on the school and program, an ADN program generally expects applicants to have maintained a 2.75 or higher and a 3.0 or higher for a BSN program. 

Naturally, the better your GPA, the more competitive your application will appear. 

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Take The Prerequisite Classes

Students will need to complete several class prerequisites during high school or in the early years of their undergraduate program. These classes help lay the proper educational foundation students will later depend on to succeed in more advanced coursework. 

While nursing school prerequisites will vary from one program to the following, standard class requirements, include: 

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology (1-2 semesters) – Studies the structure, function, and relationship of the human body, specifically the cells, organs, and systems. 
  • Biology (2 semesters) – Covers the fundamental concepts of life on earth, which includes cell structures, taxonomy and reproduction, evolution, ecology, and an introduction to genetics.
  • Chemistry (1 semester and lab) – Breaks down the interaction of matter and energy at a cellular level, delving into the structure and properties of atoms, ions, and molecules. 
  • English (2 semesters) – Prepares students to be proficient in written and oral communication. 
  • Microbiology (1 semester and lab) – Studies microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, instructing on their function, classification, and behavior. 
  • Nutrition (1 semester) – Introduces the basics of nutrition as they relate to health and growth. 
  • Psychology (1 semester) – Provides the foundations for the science of psychology, touching on human growth and development, behavior, memory, learning, and intelligence. 
  • Statistics (1 semester) – Prepares students to collect, collate, analyze, and draw conclusions from data. 

Gain Clinical Experience by Volunteering

Some nursing schools may expect applicants to have completed hands-on work as a volunteer in a healthcare setting. Even if the specific program you want to apply to doesn’t require it, volunteering can help your application stand out and make finding the right niche within the industry easier.

Giving up your free time to serve at a hospital or clinic demonstrates that you’re invested in caring for others and have taken the initial steps to begin your educational journey and ultimately obtain your nursing degree. 

Additionally, becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) can further boost your skill set and resume. 

Study for and Pass the Entrance Exam 

Depending on the school, you may also be required to pass an initial student nursing exam like:

  • The Nursing School Aptitude Exam (NSEA)
  • The National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Exam (NLN PAX)
  • Nursing Entrance Test (NET)
  • Kaplan Admissions Test
  • Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) 

Most of these tests will include reading, math, science, writing, and reasoning questions. Students should study and take practice tests to prepare for the specific exam.   

Skills that may be Required in Nursing

As a nursing major student, you are at an advantage if you possess skills that are critical to succeed in a nursing course and a nursing practice.

Critical Thinking 

Pursuing a nursing major calls for you to evaluate changes in a patient's health condition and make sound decisions when needed.

Attention to Detail 

Nurses are responsible for making sure that patients receive the exact medications in a very timely manner.


You are expected to have a lot of interactions with patients and grieving families. Handling the human side of the job needs care, sensitivity, and understanding. 

Emotional and Mental Resilience

Health professions can be a high-pressure and fast-paced work setting. Nurses need to deal with emergencies, make quick critical decisions, and multi-task. With a resilient character, you remain composed and focused under these stressful situations.

Physical Endurance

Nurses spend most of their shift standing and are sometimes required to engage in physical activities like patient lifting and assisting with ambulation.


There's the need to effectively communicate with patients to understand their needs and, at the same time, provide important details such as instructions on taking medications. 

Finding the Right Nursing School for You 

When it comes to finding the best school for you, it’s easy to encounter choice paralysis. With so many options, how do you decide which one is right? 

To whittle down your potential list of universities, start researching the schools by their reputation and coursework. Consider the size, location, and facilities. And look for a nursing program that offers the following advantages: 

  • Small class sizes – If you want the most value out of your nursing education, you should look for a school that offers smaller, more personal classes. This intimacy allows students to interact more with their classmates and the faculty. 
  • Hands-on opportunities – Search for a program with a state-of-the-art simulation center and lab, which students can use for hands-on training.
  • High-quality curricula – Your program should prepare you to be the best nurse possible. Ideally, the course curriculum should be aligned with the most recent guidelines of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN).
  • Experienced faculty – Ideally, nursing courses should be taught by professors with decades of experience in the field of nursing and healthcare. The right instructors can ensure students have the knowledge, skills, and ethical values to serve and lead effectively. 

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Study to Become a Nurse With Alliant International University

Pursuing a nursing career can be an exciting and meaningful career. There are different levels of nursing to follow as you progress.

But where is the best place to begin your journey in healthcare? 

At the School of Nursing and Health Science at Alliant International University, students have access to skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable faculty, an up-to-date curriculum, and a state-of-the-art simulation center and lab. 

So, if you’re ready to make a difference in the lives of others, apply to our BSN or MSN-Direct Entry program today. 


How hard is it to study at a nursing school?

In your junior and senior years in nursing school, you will shift your studies to nursing sciences, and move from classroom setting to healthcare setting. You will learn nursing theories, practice clinical skills, and other roles needed in the healthcare system. While nursing can be demanding, it is important to prepare every nursing student for the professional licensure exam and for the rewarding career in the field of health sciences. 

How long does it take to study nursing?

The length of study in nursing school will vary based on the specific program you choose. A bachelor's degree is typically four years. An associate degree in nursing is around two years. Accelerated BSN programs, tailored for students with prior bachelor's degrees in other fields, typically have a duration of 12 to 18 months.

How much does it cost to study nursing?

The costs depend on multiple factors, such as your choice of program. Nursing admission also matters whether you choose a state university, a private non-profit institution, or a for-profit school.  Alliant offers federal financial aid and scholarships for U.S. citizens and legal residents. Financing is available in the form of scholarships, grants, part-time employment, and loans. The federal government, state government, Alliant, and private sources finance these programs. Contact us for more information.

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