All nursing degree programs require a specific total amount of credit hours (120-128) be completed successfully prior to conferring a degree. Nursing degree requirements consist of several main categories of coursework that when combined and completed successfully will enable you to earn an undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate degree.
General Education Requirements
General Education coursework is normally taken in the first year of an Associate degree program or throughout the first two years of a Baccalaureate degree. Most of these requirements are guided by the Department of Education and include introductory and basic courses in areas such as Arts and Humanities, Math and Science, Foreign Language, Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, Physical education and Mathematics.
Pre-requisite courses are used to ensure that each student acquires the appropriate level of knowledge that enables them to succeed in a course; for example, Algebra I is usually a pre-requisite to Algebra II. In some cases, pre-requisites can be taken concurrently. Some nursing school requirements for pre-requisites to clinical vary so verify all pre-requisites in advance to avoid delaying your academic completion schedule. Pre-requisite courses can be from any category of general education, core courses, or electives and can be completed in about 28 hours.
Core or Major Requirements
Nursing school requirements at every level include a core body of coursework for all students in that degree program. Core requirements usually include courses on nursing concepts, theory, practice and patient care, and total credit hours must meet degree requirements. Advanced courses relevant to the nursing field can include pharmacology, epidemiology, mental health nursing, psychology, and human development and growth are also required.
Elective Course Requirements
Elective course requirements are used to broaden your education, specialize in an area of interest, and ensure that you acquire a well-rounded body of knowledge in the process of obtaining your degree. Elective courses can be in any category of General Education and are usually chosen to supplement required courses. For example, your nursing degree may require introductory courses on psychology and sociology, but you may choose a history or government class as an elective to help meet your total social sciences credits needed for general education requirements.
Nursing Requirements on the Career Ladder
There are multiple nursing requirements that you must meet along the ladder to a successful nursing career. Knowing what the nursing requirements are for each degree on the ladder will help you to prepare to advance to the next step.
Going Beyond Registered Nurse Requirements
For those people who hold or obtain an RN degree and still seek additional challenge and responsibility, going beyond registered nurse requirements to become an Advanced Practice Nurse will prove very rewarding.
Nursing Practitioner (NP)
A nurse practitioner goes beyond registered nurse requirements to become a specialist in a specific area. A nurse practitioner is able to practice within the hospital or healthcare facility in much the same way as a physician to both diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions. NPs can conduct physicals and give injections, as well as prescribe medication and provide valuable preventative health education to patients. This benefits the physician because he/she has more time available to treat more complicated conditions.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
An advanced practice nurse who works in tandem with a surgeon in the OR is called a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist or CRNA. The duty of a CRNA is to ensure that patients remain sedated for OR procedures and also monitors the patient to make sure they are reacting well to medications. CRNA’s provide anesthetics to patients in every kind of facility for any type of procedure and are well trained for any complications that may occur. It takes a minimum of seven years to prepare to become a CRNA and recertification must be done every two years.
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
A clinical nurse specialist or CNS is another type of specialty above and beyond registered nurse requirements. Clinical Nurse Specialists choose to focus on a specific patient population by choosing cardiac, neonatology, obstetrics and gynecology, mental health, neurology, or oncology as their specialized field. The daily routine of a CNS includes clinical practice, teaching research, consulting and management and they are prepared to organize and coordinate their practice’s resources and services.
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
Those who want to go beyond the registered nurse requirements and have a special interest in obstetrics and gynecology will want to consider becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife or CNM. Many CNMs can effectively provide complete prenatal care, education and support to a mother before, during and after delivery. CNMs often work in cooperation with hospitals to deliver babies and to provide additional options for women.
Licensed Practical Nurse Requirements (LPN)
Meeting the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) requirements begin with earning a high school diploma or equivalent. The next step is to complete a training program accredited by the State Board of Nursing. LPN training programs are offered through vocational schools, community colleges and some hospitals and can often be completed in about one year. You must pass the NCLEX-PN certificate exam to receive your license to practice nursing.
Registered Nurse Requirements (RN)
One way to meet nursing requirements to become a registered nurse (RN) is to earn an associate degree which takes two to three years of college education. A second way to become an RN is a four-year college degree also known as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). After satisfactory completion of either degree the next step is to take and pass the national licensing exam or NCLEX-RN to become a registered nurse.
Master of Science in Nursing Requirements (MSN)
A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) requires 18 to 24 months of education beyond a BSN degree. Most programs require applicants hold a BSN, an RN license and meet minimum GPA and GRE scoring. Joint degree designations at the Master’s level involve earning a Master of Science in Nursing in combination with a Master’s degree in Public Health (MSN/MPH), or Business Administration (MSN/MBA), or health administration (MSN/MSHA).
Post Master’s Certificate Nursing Requirements
The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers specialized certifications that demonstrate expertise, beyond that of an RN, in a particular field. Candidates usually hold a Master’s level designation and sit for the exam pertaining to their specialization area. Generalist, advanced practice and clinical specialist certifications are offered in nearly thirty areas.
Doctoral Nursing Requirements (ND), (DNP), or (DNSc)
Doctoral nursing requirements vary according to the program that you choose but in many cases earning a doctoral degree, to become a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Nursing Education (ND), Doctor of Nursing Science or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) requires an additional three to six years of education. These advanced level degrees provide training in research methods and pave the way to clinical research, advanced clinical practice and executive nursing.
It’s very important to identify your area of interest and level of commitment to the nursing field and then formulate a plan that will help you meet the nursing requirements to get you to the career level you desire.