Is Nursing School Hard to Get Into? and Other Common Questions Answered

Submitted by admin on Thu, 03/21/2024 - 13:18
A group of nursing students collaborating on laptops during their residency

Aspirations to become a nurse are often accompanied by questions about the difficulty of studies and the experience needed for nursing school. You might be wondering if nursing school is hard to get into, and whether the commitment of an educational program is worth it when considering the potential for a rewarding career or leadership role.

This blog will answer typical questions you might have about nursing school, starting with the types of degrees offered. Whether you are considering your first college degree or have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, there are pathways forward to help you develop into a knowledgeable clinician who can make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. 


Types of Nursing Degrees

There are several types of undergraduate nursing degrees, each with distinct prerequisites and timeframes for completion. An Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) typically takes around two years to complete. In contrast, a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree can take approximately four years of study to finish. 

Both ADN and BSN programs prepare graduates to become Registered Nurses (RNs), but ADNs require the additional completion of an RN-BSN program to achieve the BSN degree. 

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing affirms the value of a BSN degree for adequately preparing clinicians to meet the demands of real-world nursing through:

  • Development of critical thinking skills
  • Case management practice
  • Health promotion
  • Leadership competencies

The BSN is a required prerequisite for graduate nursing programs, such as Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Graduate degrees are needed for:

  • Advanced practice (e.g. nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and certified registered nurse anesthetists)
  • Nursing faculty or research appointments within university settings
  • Specialty preparation in areas like forensics or health informatics
  • Executive leadership or nursing administration 

Substantial advancement in nursing is possible, making this a fulfilling profession for those interested in a long-term career who enjoy lifelong learning. Next, we’ll examine two of the pathways for BSN degrees in greater detail.


Traditional vs. Accelerated BSN Programs

For individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field who want to become an RN fast, accelerated programs can efficiently transition you from your current occupation into the nursing field in approximately one to two years. 

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs offer several benefits to those with prior education compared to a traditional BSN. An ABSN program allows you to:

  • Earn a BSN degree in less than half the time required for a traditional BSN 
  • Complete didactic coursework in a flexible, online format
  • Engage in hands-on clinical experience in your local community
  • Network with faculty and student colleagues from a variety of backgrounds and locations

When comparing the ABSN vs. BSN, the ABSN is advantageous because it leverages previous education and allows second degree nurses to begin nursing practice sooner. 


Answers to Common Nursing School Questions

Several factors must be evaluated when considering whether nursing school is right for you. These include the financial aspects of education, prerequisites for admission, the ease of finding clinical placements, and other key characteristics of a nursing program. Below are answers to several commonly asked questions about nursing school.


How much does nursing school cost?

The cost of nursing school can vary depending on the type of program, length of curriculum, school location, and materials. Financial assistance may be available to help offset the cost, and multiple start dates throughout the year can be beneficial for budgeting. Enter your zip code below and request information about nursing schools in your area to get information about tuition and financial aid.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical entry-level education for nursing is a Bachelor’s degree. Statistics reveal the median salary for nurses in May 2022 was approximately $81,220 annually, a pay rate that is favorable for post-graduation. 


Is nursing school hard to get into?

Nursing schools require you to complete certain prerequisites before you can be accepted into their program. Prerequisites may include:

  • GPA standards
  • Prior coursework completed in areas such as anatomy, physiology, and social sciences
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement 

ABSN programs require a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, and other specific prerequisites may vary slightly from program to program.


Are online nursing degrees respected as much as on campus?

Online nursing degrees go through rigorous processes for attaining and maintaining programmatic accreditation, meeting educational standards that are upheld in both online and campus-based programs. These standards include the required completion of hands-on clinical practice hours in both types of programs.

While online programs may incorporate innovative teaching and learning methods through digital platforms, dedicated time with experienced faculty and preceptors is provided along with individualized feedback on clinical performance. Many online programs also incorporate low and high-fidelity simulation experiences to foster confidence in nursing skills and practice additional, real-world patient care scenarios. 


Do I need to find my own clinical placements?

Clinical placements are hands-on field experiences where nursing students provide direct patient care in a supervised learning environment. Placements are completed in different types of settings under the direct oversight of a qualified preceptor and nursing faculty member.

Nursing schools that offer complementary clinical placement services are extremely helpful to students. Most schools will allow students to provide input into your clinical rotations if you have a particular clinical site or preceptor you are interested in working with. Nursing schools with placement support will also:

  • Help secure placements for students within a reasonable driving distance
  • Connect students with qualified preceptors
  • Appropriately screen clinical sites to ensure they are effective learning environments
  • Facilitate legal agreements and clinical prerequisites such as immunizations, background checks, drug screens, and other important onboarding steps

Clinical placement support helps ensure you can keep focused on your studies and experience a seamless transition from your didactic coursework into your clinical placements for supervised field experiences, helping you graduate on time.


What do I need to do to earn my nursing license and become an RN?

To become a nurse, you must first graduate from an approved nursing program and follow the application process for nursing licensure in the state where you want to practice nursing. Each state has a board of nursing or nursing licensure agency that publishes the rules and regulations for nursing licensure and practice that can typically be found online.

To become an RN, you must complete a criminal background check and submit a completed application for licensure in the state where you want to practice, including mandatory fees and forms. Evidence of degree completion certified by your nursing school is required for nursing licensure, along with successful completion of the National Nursing Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Some states allow provisionary or temporary RN licensure with supervised practice requirements until a passing score on the NCLEX is achieved. 

Nursing licensure authorizes nursing practice in the state of licensure, but many states are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). As a resident of an NLC state, nurses can apply for a multistate RN license that allows practice privileges in the state of licensure and other compact states.


Join the Nursing Workforce with an Accelerated BSN

ABSN programs require commitment and focus while rewarding those willing to put in the effort. Nurses are needed in many specialty areas, and you can make a meaningful difference in the patient experience by providing quality nursing care. 

If you are ready to embark on a more fulfilling career path, you can take the first step toward becoming a nurse today. Input your zip code below to see what accelerated BSN programs are available in your area.