Registered Nurse Career Path

How do I become a registered nurse?
To become a registered nurse (RN), you need a high school diploma to enter nursing school. Nursing schools require a sound academic standing in high school English, algebra, chemistry, biology, physics and psychology. An understanding of computers and technology is also a great asset. Each school has their own set of prerequisites and requirements for admission, be sure to consult the detailed requirements for each school before applying.

There are two nursing school pathways to become a registered nurse:

  • Associate's Degree (ADN)
    A two- to three-year program offered at junior and community colleges, an associate's degree trains and prepares nurses to provide direct patient care in numerous settings. ADN is an affordable education that provides the student opportunities to bridge into a bachelor of science program and to progress onto a masters or above.

  • Bachelor of Science Nursing (BS/BSN)
    A four-year program offered at colleges and universities that prepare nurses to practice across all health care settings. BSN graduates have the greatest opportunity for advancement. For instance, a BSN is required for entry into a master's program, which may in turn lead to a career in management, or on to more specialized nursing positions such as clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, nurse educator or nurse researcher. A BSN is preferred and often required for military nursing, case management, public health nursing, overseas/development nursing, forensic nursing and school nursing.

What classes do I have to take to become a registered nurse?
Courses include biology, chemistry, physics, the social sciences, nursing theory and practice and the humanities. In addition, students get supervised clinical hands-on experience in hospitals and other health care settings. Consult the nursing school program curriculum for a specific list of course work.

What if I already have a degree in something besides nursing and want to become a nurse?
Many schools offer second-degree BSN, accelerated BSN or direct entry MSN programs designed specifically to allow students with previous bachelor's degrees to complete their nursing degrees on an accelerated schedule.

Which schools offer second-degree and accelerated nursing programs?
California State University San Marcos, National University and University of Oklahoma, San Diego, offer programs.

What school offers a master’s entry program in nursing (MEPN)?
University of San Diego offers a program.

I want to try out a position in health care to see if I want to be a nurse. What can I be?

  • Certified Nurse Assistant
    Works under the supervision of a nurse and provides assistance to patients with daily living tasks.
  • Home Health Aide
    Under the direction of nursing or medical staff, home health aides provide health-related services to help elderly, convalescent or disabled persons live in their own homes instead of health care facilities.
  • Medical Assistant
    Performs administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors and other health practitioners running smoothly.
  • Pharmacy Technician
    A ssists pharmacists with pharmaceutical services, prepares and distributes new and refill medications, triages incoming orders, phone calls and in person requests and packages and labels unit dose medications.
  • Phlebotomist
    Prepares specimens for testing, answer telephones, relay test results, enter data, register patients, prepare stains and reagents, clean and sterilize equipment and glassware and process specimens.  

Where do I go to school to become a registered nurse?   

   Associate Degree Programs

  • Grossmont College
  • Imperial Valley
  • Kaplan College
  • Mira Costa College
  • National University
  • Palomar Community
  • San Diego City College
  • Southwestern College

   Bachelor Degree Programs

  • California State University San Marcos
  • National University
  • Point Loma Nazarene University
  • San Diego State University

Are there waiting lists?
Waiting lists do exist at several colleges and universities. For accurate and up-to-date information, contact the nursing school program directly to verify waiting lists and times.

Are there any scholarships available? 
To learn about financial assistance, visit scholarships for school and training programs.