Choosing a School for a Nursing Career

Choosing a school for a nurse career can be very important. There are many aspects to choosing the right school that should be considered. The potential student should consider what the requirements are for each school, as well as what prerequisite courses are required. The student also needs to decide which path to the nursing degree would be best for her future career in nursing. Once the decision to pursue a career in nursing has been made, the choice of which school to attend is the next, most important step.

Each school will have different requirements for nursing students. Requirements in previous education and prerequisite requirements vary by individual school. The path to becoming a registered nurse can be accomplished either in a community college setting with a two-year degree, or in a university setting with a four-year bachelor’s degree. The choice between these two paths should be made with the future goals of the nursing career in mind.


While the choice does not necessarily need to be difficult, the decision of which nursing school to attend is an important one in the process of becoming a registered nurse. There are many factors to be weighed, and the student should do so with the future of her career in mind.

Basic Education Required

Each nursing school has different requirements for potential students. Many nursing schools require basic education, such as a high school diploma or GED. Some nursing schools also require the nursing student to have a good grasp of the English language, and may require testing to prove a command of English. Still others may require volunteerism in the healthcare field before considering an applicant for nursing school. The basic education requirements are an important consideration to choosing the right nursing school to pursue a career in nursing.

A basic education in high school is generally required by all nursing schools, even those offered at the vocational level. The future nursing student should have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED, as this is a requirement to prove that the student has acquired a basic education. Some vocational programs may only require a high school diploma or GED for entry. These programs will usually lead to a diploma in licensed practical nursing as opposed to registered nursing. Additional prerequisite college education is almost always required to pursue a registered nursing degree.

Most nursing schools want students to either be native speakers of English, or to prove they have a good grasp of the English language. Those that speak English as a second language will often be required to take and pass the TOEFL, Test of English as a Foreign Language, before being allowed to attend nursing school. This is usually true of both college and vocational programs. Non-native English speakers may want to pursue tutoring or test preparation to ensure they pass this important test if they are considering a nursing career.

Choosing a School for a Nursing Career

Many nursing schools now also require that a student has served in some capacity as a volunteer in the healthcare field. This may be accomplished by “candy striping,” serving as a volunteer in a hospital delivering flowers, books, and gifts, or in other capacities as well. Nursing schools would like future nurses to have been exposed to the healthcare delivery system so that the student has some idea of what to expect. Even if not a requirement, volunteerism in the healthcare field can often look good on a nursing school application.

The basic educational requirements are not usually varied for nursing schools. A high school diploma or GED is the main requirement, as well as passing the TOEFL for non-native English speakers. Volunteering in the healthcare field for a time before nursing school can often be a way to get your foot in the door, even if it is not a requirement for the nursing career.

Undergraduate Studies

Undergraduate studies are an important part of the process of getting into nursing school. When considering becoming a nurse, the student should study the requirements of the chosen nursing school, and take prerequisite courses accordingly. A core education in science, English, math, and social science is generally required by all schools that provide education for registered nurses. Obtaining excellent grades is often an important factor in admission to nursing school, and should not be overlooked by the future student. Undergraduate studies are perhaps the most important part of the process in being admitted to the nursing school of choice.

Each school of nursing has slightly different requirements for students who apply. Because each school is different, it is up to the student to ensure that she is taking the correct courses that will transfer to her school of choice as accepted prerequisite courses. It is often worth a call to an advisor at the school where the student will apply to make sure the chosen courses are the correct ones for that school. It would be a difficult situation if the student thought she had taken all of the courses required for admission, only to find she was one or two courses short and not eligible to apply.

The courses required by nursing schools as prerequisites for admission are similar, though not the same. When considering a nursing career, it is important to take science, math, English, and social sciences. Biology, chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, and physiology are all usually requirements at every nursing school. The number of courses may vary by school. Two courses in English, including English composition, are usually required. Some nursing schools also require students to take and pass a course in speech.

Psychology and sociology are almost always required at each school, and some schools may require additional courses in abnormal psychology or developmental psychology as well. Other nursing schools may also require nutrition courses, first aid, CPR, medical terminology, physical education, or any number of other prerequisites. It is important to check with your school of choice to ensure that your chosen course of study will lead to the ability to apply to nursing school.

While most prerequisites at nursing schools across the country are similar, each school usually has one or two courses that other schools may not require. It is very important to check with the nursing school you plan to attend before committing to a course of study.

Nursing School

The process of applying to nursing school can be difficult. Those entering the nursing career should be aware that the process can be long and fraught with difficulties. Preparation is key and will ensure the process goes smoothly for the future nursing student.

Once all of the prerequisite courses have been taken, the process of applying to nursing school can begin. Many nursing schools now require testing prior to being eligible to apply. This testing covers the required prerequisite courses and ensures that the student is prepared for the rigors of the nursing program. Preparation for these tests is often available online, and study guides are usually available. The tests usually cover basic math for nurses, English, basic science, and perhaps some questions in social science. The math and English portions of the test are considered the most important, and may decide whether or not the individual is accepted to even apply for a spot in the nursing program.

Once testing is completed, the application process can begin. Applications often ask for essay answers from applicants, usually asking why the student wants to become a nurse. It is important that the student has thought about this question and is sure that she wants to pursue a nursing career. A fee is also often required upon applying to nursing school and must be included in the application. The nursing school may ask for references from employers or instructors, and the student should have acquired these during the process of preparing to apply to nursing school. Instructors are often happy to give their students references, but they must be asked well in advance of the application deadline.

After applying, the test, essay questions, references, and grades in prerequisite courses are considered by the school of nursing. A point system is used by many schools, with points given for particular grades, previous degrees, or previous work experience. Once the application has been reviewed and the points tallied, the applicant is then notified that they have either been accepted and are offered a seat in the next class, or they are sent a letter declining admission. If declined, the student is usually told where the deficits in the application were, and is offered a chance to improve them. Courses can be retaken for better grades, or essays can be rewritten for better scores. The applicant can then apply again during the school’s next open-application period.

For many students pursuing a nursing career, the application process for nursing school is the most arduous. Waiting for acceptance is often long and difficultfor students, but all nurses have been through this process. For now, it is seen as the only way to get into nursing school and is part of the initiation into the profession.

Decide on Career Goals

It is important for those considering a nurse career to think about career goals early in the process. While it is possible to change paths in nursing, it is much easier to pursue the right degree program early in the process and often save years of time. It is also important for the future nurse to begin thinking about a specialty early on so that she can pursue that goal during nursing school. The type of degree to pursue can be important if the nurse feels she may be interested in management or in pursuing an advanced degree at some time in the future.

Deciding which type of nursing degree to pursue is important. Nurses that choose to attend a vocational licensed practical nursing program may have an easier route without prerequisites, but will find they will not be able to advance in their careers as easily if they had taken prerequisite courses early on. It can sometimes take many years to change gears and acquire all of the college courses required for a registered nurse program should they decide to pursue an advanced degree.

It is also important to think about what specialty might be pursued in the future nursing career while still in nursing school. If the student is interested in helping women, she might choose clinical experiences that will give her additional experience to get the job she wants right out of nursing school. This will give her the opportunity to go right into her specialty field of choice instead of having to work in another specialty while waiting to gain experience.

Another consideration should be the type of degree to pursue. If a student knows she would like to pursue a nursing career in education, she would be wise to attend a bachelor’s program in nursing to save herself the time of having to go back to school after graduating from an associate’s program. If the future nurse knows she will one day pursue a master’s degree or higher in the nursing field, she may save herself some time by pursuing the bachelor’s degree before becoming a registered nurse. While it is possible for RNs to attend ladder-style programs to obtain bachelor’s degrees, it is always more difficult to find the time to go back to school after entering the workplace.

It is important for students to think about their career goals early in the process of becoming a nurse. While changes can always be made, and nursing offers exceptional flexibility to those employed in the field, obtaining the education early is almost always easier on the nurse than it would be after beginning to work in the field.

Research Available Schools

When considering a nursing career, it is important to research which nursing schools are available in the area. Most urban areas offer a choice of several nursing schools with many different degree options. There is a wide range of different types of nursing schools available across the country, and if moving is an option, a wider variety of programs are available to the nursing student. It is important to research which schools provide the types of clinical experiences that the student would like to obtain, as well as the accreditation status of the school. The importance of research when selecting the right nursing school should not be underestimated.

Most cities offer a number of choices when it comes to nursing programs. Large cities may have many options available at different community colleges, and at both public and private universities. All of these schools will vary in the course length, prerequisites required, and in accreditation status. It is important to research all available options. Smaller areas may only have one or two options available to the future nurse. It is still important to determine whether a particular school offers the needed clinical experiences, and also to determine whether or not the school is accredited and their reputation in the community.

If there are no nursing schools in the area, or if the nursing schools in the area do not match up with the student’s requirements, it is worth considering moving or traveling to obtain a nursing education. If the future nurse is willing to move, she should be able to find the school that meets her needs with a broader range of programs to choose from. Moving or traveling may be necessary for students who live in remote or rural areas, or areas that have few nursing education opportunities. If pursuing a nursing career is the goal, the student may have to be willing to move or travel to obtain the proper education.

It is also important to research the types of clinical experiences that are offered at a particular school. If a student would like extensive experience in labor and delivery, for example, she may not be able to acquire that experience attending a small, more rural school that only provides clinical experience in small, rural hospitals. It may be worth looking into nearby urban areas for additional opportunities, either for clinical experience or for a different nursing school.

While researching nearby schools is important, students may also want to consider looking outside of their nearby areas to explore other schools. It may be worthwhile to find out about other opportunities at additional schools that require students to travel or relocate.

Online vs. Distance Learning Courses Available

While initially attending nursing school, most students will find that there are few distance courses available to brand-new nursing students. As the nursing career advances and students are more experienced in school, online and distance learning opportunities may become available. Some nursing schools now offer online courses as part of the nursing curriculum for students in initial nurse training. Other programs, particularly ladder programs like RN-BSN programs, may be offered completely online. Many post-baccalaureate programs are also now available online, either on a part-time or full-time basis. Online education may be a good option for busy working nurses that do not have time to attend courses face-to-face.

Most new nursing students will find that the first several quarters or semesters of nursing school are attended in person at a college or university. Some projects or assignments may be turned in online, but courses are almost always held in person for the first several months to ensure that the student is learning proper techniques and experiences to become a new nurse. After some time, lessons may be given online, and occasionally tests are taken online. This can be good practice for taking the licensure examination for registered nursing, the NCLEX-RN, as it is also given in an online format. Disadvantages to online learning include not having the teacher there to answer questions immediately, and perhaps not having a clear understanding of the material being taught. Advantages include convenience and reduced commutes, lowering costs for students.

After graduating from a nursing program, the nurse may find she wants to extend her education to further her nursing career. After already obtaining a degree in registered nursing, many more online and distance programs are available, both to pursue bachelor’s programs in nursing as well as advanced degrees. Many programs are available completely online with the nurse never having to set foot on campus. This can be very convenient for the working nurse, making it possible to both work full time and attend school. Many nurses would not be able to further their education without the possibility of taking courses online or via distance learning.

While there are some disadvantages to taking courses online, particularly for students in initial nurse training, online education can be a good option to further the nursing career. Online options allow working nurses to attend school while continuing to work, allowing them to provide incomes for their families while at the same time adding additional skills and knowledge to help them advance in their nursing careers.