According to the American Nurses Association (ANA) Standards of Professional Nursing Practice, "nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, facilitation of healing, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of the human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations."
Common nursing tasks include:
- Recording patients' medical histories and symptoms
- Helping to perform diagnostic tests and analyzing results
- Operating medical machinery
- Administering treatment and medications
- Helping with patient follow-up and rehabilitation
RNs work in a variety of clinical settings including physician’s offices, clinics, critical and intensive care hospital units, emergency rooms, in-home care, outpatient care facilities, and even through electronic communications. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary of registered nurses in 2018 was $71,170, and the projected growth for the field is 15% by 2026.
There are many options to become licensed as an RN, and it is important to research which path will be most appropriate for you. Some of the most common options are: an associate degree in nursing (ADN), a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), or a master’s of science in nursing (MSN). The ADN degree is earned through a community college and takes 2-3 years to complete. The BSN and MSN are degrees conferred through a college or university. The BSN degree can be earned through a traditional four year university program or in an accelerated format. The accelerated BSN requires that students have already earned a non-nursing BA/BS degree and typically lasts 12-15 months. Another option for students with a BA/BS degree in non-nursing is an entry-level MSN, which means students do not have their RN license already. After graduating from an approved program, students must pass a national licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN. There are also MSN degrees that require a previous degree in nursing (ADN or BSN) and some prior experience in nursing as an RN. These often lead to an advanced practice license, which are explained in more detail below.
The minimum GPA for admission for entry into any of these programs ranges from 3.0-3.25. However, competitive GPAs can be as high as 3.5. Many programs also require either the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS), the Health Education Systems Incorporated Exam (HESI), and/or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). For more information & to search for nursing programs, visit: www.aacn.nche.edu/students & www.rn.ca.gov.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN)
Advanced Practice Nurses are RNs with additional education and experience, who work independently or in collaboration with physicians. Most advanced practice programs require an RN license as well as some nursing experience prior to entry, and all are at least Master’s level degrees (though many are moving toward requiring a Doctorate level degree). However, there are a small handful of advanced practice nursing programs which offer an Entry-Level program (for students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing, and who do not have their RN license). Upon completion of the APRN program, you must earn an APRN license by passing an additional certification exam. There are four types of advanced practice nurses: Nurse Practitioners (NP), Nurse Specialists (CNS), Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA). They are covered in more detail below.
Nurse Practitioners (NP)
Nurse Practitioners “are essential providers of primary and acute care, and are particularly important to providing access to quality care in underserved areas. NPs provide initial, ongoing and comprehensive care, which includes taking histories; providing physical exams and other health assessment; and diagnosing, treating and managing patients with acute and chronic conditions. This care encompasses health promotion, disease prevention, health education and counseling as well as disease management. NPs practice autonomously in areas as diverse as family practice, pediatrics, geriatrics, psychiatric/mental health and women’s healthcare” (American Association of Colleges of Nursing). The average salary for NPs in the United States in 2018 was $105,903. For more information visit: www.aanp.org
Nurse Specialists (CNS)
Nurse Specialists “focus their nursing practice on areas that are often defined by a population, setting, or disease type, such as cardiac, oncology, neonatal, and obstetric/gynecological nursing, as well as pediatrics, neurological nursing, and psychiatric/mental health. The CNS is responsible and accountable for diagnosis and treatment of health/illness states, disease management, health promotion, and prevention of illness and risk behaviors among individuals, families, groups and communities. CNS’s work mainly in hospitals and other clinical sites” (American Association of Colleges of Nursing). Salary.com states the expected median salary for a CSN is $101,276. For more information visit: www.nacns.org
Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM)
Certified Nurse-Midwives “provide prenatal and gynecological care to normal healthy women; deliver babies in hospitals, private homes, and birthing centers; and continue with follow-up postpartum care” (American Association of Colleges of Nursing). The BLS stated that in 2018 the median salary for a nurse-midwife was $103,770. For more information visit: www.midwife.org
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists “administer more than 65 percent of all anesthetics given to patients each year, and are the sole anesthesia providers in approximately two-thirds of all rural hospitals in the U.S., according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). Working in the oldest of the advanced nursing specialties, CRNAs administer anesthesia for all types of surgery in settings ranging from operating rooms and dental offices to outpatient surgical centers” (American Association of Colleges of Nursing). The median salary for nurse anesthetists in 2018 was $160,270, according to the BLS. For more information visit: www.aana.com
Other Graduate-Level Nursing Specialties
Nursing is a dynamic, evolving profession that presents a variety of career opportunities. Other graduate programs in nursing do not require an additional license, but do offer additional training in a specific area. Some of these programs include: nurse researchers, nurse educators, clinical nurse leaders, nurse administrators, public health nurses, nurse informaticists, public policy, forensics, school nursing, genetics/genomics, and other emerging areas (American Association of Colleges of Nursing). See the ExploreHealthCareers Nursing webpage for more information on these careers.
Note: Admission prerequisites vary by institution. Some schools will not accept AP credit for prerequisites. Check requirements carefully!
Biology: Bio 111 or 161 (B2)
Bio, Mcro, Msci, and Bchm majors should enroll in Mcro 224.
Microbiology requirements may vary between schools. Check individual school requirements closely.
Note: Chemistry requirements vary significantly. Check individual school requirements closely.
Anatomy/Physiology: Bio 231, 232 (for all majors except Bio) or Bio 361, 406-409, & 426
Nutrition: Fsn 202
Psychology: Psy 201 or 202 (D4); & Psy 256
Anthropology/Sociology: Soc 110 or Ant 201 (D3)
Statistics: Stat 217 or 218 (B1)
English: 3 quarters; proficiency in oral and written communication
Required and/or suggested preparation
Organic Chemistry: Chem 312 or 216
Note: Biochemistry requires Chem 312 or 216 & 217/220 as a prerequisite.
Interpersonal Communications: Coms 212
Psychology: Psy 405, Psy 311 (D5), Psy 318 (D5), Psy 310, Psy 320, Psy 330,
CPR: Adult & infant
Ethics: Phil 339 (C4)
Humanities/Social Science: Ant 401
Physics: Phys 121 (B3)
Medical Terminology: Kine 297
Schools/ Programs in CA
(ABSN=Accelerated Bachelors, ELMSN=Entry Level Masters)
CSU Fullerton (ABSN)
CSU Los Angeles (ABSN)
CSU Northridge (ABSN)
CSU San Marcos (ABSN)
Professional Association Links
American Association of Colleges of Nursing
American Association of Nurse Practitioners
National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists
American College of Nurse-Midwives
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists