Prerequisites for a Nursing Degree

Nursing Degrees

Nurses are medical professionals, working as part of a team to care for people who are suffering or need help. Nursing is more than a job. It is a calling for many people, who come from all races and all walks of life to the profession. And just as there are a wide variety of people interested in becoming nurses, so there are a variety of ways to attain their goals. Under the heading of ‘Nurse’, there are basically three classifications: non-degree, degree and advanced degree.

Non-degree nurses include CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants or Certified Nursing Aides) and LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses), sometimes called LVNs (Licensed Vocational Nurses). While they do not have a college degree, they are required to complete a course of instruction, usually 8 to 12 weeks for the CNAs and 1 year for the LPNs, although these programs vary by school and state. After finishing their training, they have to pass a certification examination, including a written exam and a skills exam, overseen by the state’s board of nursing. The testing for LPNs is more extensive than that for CNAs.

Nursing programs designed to produce Registered Nurses vary considerably as well. The first nursing schools were offered by hospitals, which needed trained personnel to assist their physicians. Later colleges started offering Associate’s Degrees in nursing, both two and three year programs. In the 1960s many colleges developed courses that would lead to a B.S. in Nursing. And while the number of college graduates with Bachelor’s Degrees in Nursing has increased, the majority of nurses still enter the field through the Associate’s Degree programs.

The number of nurses with advanced degrees has grown exponentially in the past decade. Nurses can get Master’s Degrees, even Doctorates, either a PhD. in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice. They can also become Nurse Practitioners, CRNAs (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists), Certified Nurse Midwives or Clinical Nurse Specialists.

Prerequisites for Nursing

In order to become a CNA, most programs require that applicants have a high school diploma or GED and be at least 18 years old. There are a few states that allow certification at age 16, and the requirement might be for at least 8 years of schooling, if the applicant does not have a high school diploma. In addition to education and age, most states will require that individuals interested in a CNA program have no criminal record, or at most, misdemeanors, and be able to pass urine drug tests. In order to become an LPN or LVN, a high school diploma or GED is usually required and the applicant must be at least 18 years old. The same requirements apply for a criminal background check and drug testing.

The fastest way to get an R.N. degree is through an Associate’s Degree Program, which can be two or three years in length. Once the Associate’s Degree is acquired, the nurse can start working and continue studying for a Bachelor’s Degree at the same time. Most college nursing programs select their students from applicants who are already in college. This means, of course, that prerequisites for nursing with a degree include getting into college. In addition, most programs require that applicants have successfully completed certain courses before applying and that they have maintained a certain grade point average, usually 2.5 or higher. The courses will vary from school to school, but most programs require the following courses:


* Human Anatomy and Physiology I

* Human Anatomy and Physiology II

* General Microbiology

* English Composition I

* Introduction to Psychology

The program may also require or prefer that applicants have completed courses in Advanced Composition, College Algebra or more advanced mathematics, Human Growth and Development and Sociology.

Some Associate’s Degree programs will accept LPNs, paramedics and others with extensive patient care experience, waiving some of the prerequisites of nursing in lieu of experience.

Bachelor’s Degrees programs have much the same requirements as those for Associate’s Degrees, but often insist on a higher GPA. Those applicants who already have Associate’s Degrees will have an advantage over those who do not. Generally B.S. programs will require the same basic courses as the Associate’s Degree programs, but may also want students to have already taken Statistics and a full year of Chemistry as well.

What do you want to be a nurse for?

Advanced Degree nursing programs always require that the applicant have graduated from an approved college or university with a particular GPA, as well as at least some experience in clinical nursing. The competition for these programs is getting stiffer as nurses move into areas previously reserved for physicians.

But the most important prerequisites for nursing are a sincere desire to help people and a kind heart.