If you're looking into how to become an RN, it's important to make sure that a registered nursing career is a good fit for you. Learn about what you can expect on the job, where you might work as a nurse, and how to get there. You can also check out how to become a nurse practitioner for additional insight to the field.

What does a registered nurse do?

Here's short list of the duties that may be expected of you after becoming a registered nurse:

  • Making accurate reports about patient symptoms and vital signs
  • Delivering medications and monitoring patients for side effects
  • Coordinating with doctors and other staff members to plan and implement care
  • Preparing patients for examinations or on-site treatments
  • Educating patients and their families about treatment plans

Where do registered nurses work?

The settings and industries for RN work can depend on how you approached your registered nursing degree program. Remember that although any of these settings might employ a registered nurse, the education requirements may vary:

  • State, local and private hospitals
  • Ambulatory health care services
  • Nursing and residential care facilities
  • Military bases and other government agencies
  • Community centers
  • Elementary and secondary schools

Important skills and abilities for nurses

  • Active listening can help you pay close and effective attention when patients describe their symptoms and conditions
  • Social perceptiveness assists in understanding patients' reactions and non-verbal cues
  • Service orientation, or actively seeking ways to help people, can make you an asset to fellow health care workers and patients alike
  • Oral expression skills make it possible to deliver comprehensive and comprehensible information and instructions to patients and co-workers
  • Inductive reasoning provides a framework for generating preliminary conclusions from the various pieces of information provided by patents' medical records and real-time communication

How to Become a Registered Nurse

Here's an idea of how to Typically, the fastest routes to becoming an RN are an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a diploma from an approved nursing program, which can each take 2-3 years to complete and may include options for online courses. You may also earn a full four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, although RN education requirements at most facilities don't insist on a BSN for entry-level work. Find more information about the top schools for nursing degrees

Exams and licensing

Once you've finished your registered nursing degree requirements, you'll need to take and pass the National Council License Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). It's possible to apply for the test before completing your study plan, but your state Board of Nursing won't approve the application until your requirements for graduation have been satisfied.

A passing score on the NCLEX-RN isn't all it takes to start work as an RN. Each state's Board of Nursing has its own specific approach to how to be a registered nurse -- you can check with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to learn more about yours.

Some positions may require additional training, as well, such as earning certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS) and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS).

RN Salary and Career Outlook

With a general increasing awareness that healthy choices can lead to longer lives, and the baby boomer and following generations living to a more advanced age, nursing careers can typically expect to be in demand, per the BLS. Here's a snapshot of job growth and salary information for nurses:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Registered Nurses2,982,280$77,460
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Professional Organizations for Nurses

It might be a good idea for potential registered nurses, whether at the BSN degree level or DNP level, to be familiarized with the following resources:

Includes tens of thousands of members nationwide and works to advance the interests of RNs across the country
Works to help integrate the advantages of information science into care delivery and community health initiatives
Supports and advocates for medical-surgical nursing, the largest registered nursing specialty in the U.S.
Focuses on modernizing state practice laws and developing the role of nurse practitioners in the health system.

Article Sources
Article Sources
  • Registered Nurses, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed June 27, 2018,
  • NCLEX Registration and Authorization to Test, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, accessed June 27, 2018,
  • Registered Nurses, Occupational Information Network, accessed June 27, 2018,
  • Accessed August 18, 2017: Member Benefits, American Nurses Association,; About Us, American Nursing Informatics Association,; What is Medical-Surgical Nursing, Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses,; AANP At-A-Glance, American Association of Nurse Practitioners,
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