Steps to becoming a R.N

Nursing Students Pre-Nursing



I've just emigrated to California, originally from Liverpool, England.

I'm wanting to study to become a R.N but finding it really difficult to understand the system over here and how to get into college. Ideally I would like to get a BSc in Nursing and understand this would take 4 years to complete.

I have completed high school in the UK and have really good grades. So where do I go from here?

Here are my questions:

1: what are the requirements to get into college for Nursing? I.e are there any exams I need to take prior to get into the school?

2: is 'Nursing School' the same as college? Or do you complete two years of pre-reqs at college and then apply for 'Nursing School', using the third and fourth years of study to focus solely on Nursing studies?

If someone could just basically give me a detailed time line of pre-post Nursing studies that would be awesome!

My head is just so boggled by all of this new lingo and new systems!

Thanks so much,


Specializes in RETIRED Cath Lab/Cardiology/Radiology.

Moved to Pre-Nursing Student forum.

I hope you get a lot of helpful responses!

As a start: Check out the nursing programs available in your area, and find out what their prerequisites are -- what courses you will have to complete in order to qualify for entrance into the program. Do your research!

Good luck!

Thank you Dianah!

Are pre-requisites studying for in the four years of the college degree? That's what I don't quite understand!

Does this mean that before I can apply to college, majoring in Registered Nursing, I have to study these pre-requisites?

Thanks so much for your response :)

Hi. Welcome to the US. I'm from Birmingham originally and moved to the US 15 years ago (NJ).

I completely understand how confusing it can all be. I'm not sure about the answer to your question as I'm going for an associates degree which I start after the pre-requisites are done. My advice is to talk to someone in admissions at the schools you are interested in. They are usually really helpful and that's the main way I figured everything out.

Also you might need to get your high school results converted into American. I'm assuming you have A-levels? If that's the highest education you have there are companies that can work out the equivalent of your A-levels to the American system so that you can get in. The most respected one is WES. I'm not sure what the admissions requirements are for a 4 year uni here so not sure if this is something you will definitely need to do or not.

Hey, so generally this is what the US timeline tends to look like for BSN:

1. Get accepted into 4 year university

2. Finish prerequisites for nursing program (classes and possible standardized entrance exam)

3. Apply into university/college nursing program

4. Begin taking nursing programs

If you already have a bachelors you may see 2 other alternate ways.

Apply into an accelerated bachelors in nursing program OR go into a community college associate degree in nursing program then finish a RN To BSN bridge program.

Are there specific schools around you that you're interested in?

Hey! I'm a fellow brit too! I was born in Stoke-on-Trent haha :D

I was totally confused when I started college here in the states, it's so different compared to home, so I'll try and shed some light.

1: what are the requirements to get into college for Nursing? I.e are there any exams I need to take prior to get into the school?

Okay, so because I got my GED in the USA (high school equivalent certificate; it just made things 'easier' for me), I had to take the COMPASS test when I applied to my local community college to get my prerequisites out of the way. The college you apply to will be able to direct you in this area and help set up the test etc. so try not to fret! Advisers have a wealth of information regarding starting the academic process, so definitely visit with one if you can. If you don't have your GED here, you might have to take a different test - these tests aren't really difficult, but they do help in getting a 'baseline'; using the results they'll be able to see if you need any support classes.

2: is 'Nursing School' the same as college? Or do you complete two years of pre-reqs at college and then apply for 'Nursing School', using the third and fourth years of study to focus solely on Nursing studies?

So this can be confusing but really it's just different terminology for the same thing. People will use the phrase "Nursing School" when they're actively taking Nursing program specific classes at a college or technical school. I've bolded the correct part in the quote :) Some people will do their whole 4 years at the same institute, I split mine between 2 years of community college, and 2 years of specialized college (my wallet hates me for it).

For a 4 year program, 2 years of these will be spent doing prerequisites, and the other 2 years are spent in "nursing school" doing your nursing specific classes. Usually, people must finish prerequisites and apply to a nursing program to finish the last 2 years. It can be really competitive, so it's important to get good grades in the first 2 years when you're doing prerequisite (general education) classes.

It's really important to take note of how much schooling costs, too; it can get expensive, so be sure to check out places such as community colleges to get those prerequisites out of the way first. Education really is an investment here in the US, but for nursing, the debt one may accrue is worth it. The financial department at the college you wish to attend may be able to help you on this front! :)

I hope this helps!

Specializes in Emergency / Disaster.

Just to add to the above - there are also 2 ways to become an RN - but since you are in California you need to see which is better for you.

#1 - ADN - this is a program available through community colleges and when you are finished you will have an Associates Degree and be qualified to sit for the NCLEX RN. At this point you will most likely need to continue your education and complete an RN to BSN program which can usually be done online. In some parts of the country just having an ADN is sufficient, but in other parts (potentially California) you need a BSN in order to be competitive for jobs.

#2 - BSN - this is a program at 4 year universities. This usually consists of 2 years of pre-requisites (which can be taken elsewhere) and then you apply to the nursing program which is usually the last 2 years. There is a program near me that actually accepts you as a Freshman and the entire cohort lives together in the same dorm area and they take all 4 years together. I think they are only in their first year of trying the program this way. They are hoping it develops stronger cohorts. Regardless when you are finished you will have a BSN degree and be qualified to sit for the NCLEX RN exam.

You must complete a qualified program AND pass the NCLEX RN exam to become a practicing nurse. The main differences between the 2 is: the amount of $$ overall you pay for the degree, the time you spend in school and the degree you ultimately end up with. Most say that there isn't much of a difference in pay between the 2 jobs, but in some parts of the country, its just harder to get a job with an ADN - and in other parts it just doesn't matter.

Oh - in general you must also apply and get accepted to each school. So for a BSN this may mean applying to a community college to take your pre-reqs and then you will have to transfer those classes to the 4 year school that you also have to apply to and be accepted to. Its a lot of filling out forms, paying money and waiting to hear back!

As others have said - start with a community school near you. Even if you don't attend that school, going in and sitting down with someone in person will probably help make this whole process a little more clear.

Best of luck to you.

What area of California are you in? Also, have you taken any college courses, or are you fresh out of high school?

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