Nursing Prerequisites: Courses You’ll Need to Take

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The medical field is always in demand of nurses of all types: RNs, CNAs, LPNs, and ADNs. Each of these will require a different amount of schooling. Although the Registered Nurse (RN) status takes the most amount of time, you can build up your experience in the field by holding the other nurse titles along the way. 

 

Read on to find out what the different types of nurses are, how these positions could benefit you, and how to have these careers in the future.

 

What Are the Different Nursing Degrees?

 

Diplomas or Certificates

 

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

 

A Certified Nursing Assistant is a non-degree diploma offered at community colleges and vocational schools. You can complete the scholastic section of this degree in person or online, but the clinical hours must be performed in person. These clinical hours will teach students how to provide basic healthcare services and how to assist residents in their daily activities. The most common duties include transferring patients in and out of beds, taking vital signs, communicating with family members, and recording patient data.

 

This program only takes 75 hours of education with a minimum of 16 hours of supervised clinical training. This can typically be completed in 4-12 weeks. Choosing an area of specialization, such as psychiatry or geriatrics, may lengthen this time frame. 

 

This certification can improve your chances of employment. After taking a certification exam, you are allowed to work in hospitals, continued care retirement communities, assisted living homes, and home healthcare services.

 

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

 

Also known as a Licensed Vocational Nurse in California and Texas, an LPN is another non-degree program offered at community colleges, vocational schools, and some hospitals. With this certification, you can work directly under a Registered Nurse (RN) and do all the tasks that a CNA completes plus changing wound dressings, assisting with tests, administering medications, and reporting patient conditions. 

 

LPNs often supervise CNAs because their degree covers a more comprehensive body of knowledge. The nursing prerequisite time for this degree is about one year. Similar to the CNA program, you can lengthen this time to specialize in areas such as IV therapy, pharmacology, and breastfeeding support. After passing the certification exam, you’ll be allowed to work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, clinical research facilities, government agencies, and diagnostic testing centers.

 

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

 

An Associate Degree in Nursing is the minimum degree requirement for becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). This degree is a good route for those who want to become an RN but don’t want the commitment of a four-year degree. If you feel that a four-year institution is in your future, you can still pursue an ADN and transfer some basic nursing prerequisite credits. This program typically takes around two years to complete plus extensive on-site clinical training. Clinical training prepares students to become RNs and helps them to perform better in the medical field. The details of this training will vary by state! 

 

As an ADN, you can assist during surgeries, dress wounds, review patient treatment plans and chart progress, and supervise LPNs, LVNs, and CNAs. Some employers may require a BSN (Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing) for these duties so it is important to find an employer who may pay for your continued medical education. After earning your license, you can go on to work in physicians’ offices, schools, health insurance companies, hospitals, and travel nursing organizations.

 

Degree Programs

 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

 

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four-year degree that allows you to supervise the positions listed above, and hold a higher position in the medical field. For instance, this program will qualify you for higher-paying jobs. Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing entails a combination of classwork and on-site clinical training. You may have duties related to patient care and assisting with surgery. You can specialize in many different fields while pursuing this degree to increase your already great job prospects. There are many routes to get a BSN, some right after high school, some during college. Below we list out the different paths to this degree.

 

Prerequisite Courses for Nursing School

 

Current High School Students

 

High school graduates can take a traditional path to a BSN even if they have little to no clinical experience. This path resembles the typical curriculum for a bachelor of science degree. In your first two years of college, courses may include basic medical school requirements: biology, chemistry, psychology, and anatomy. Getting through these basic (and sometimes time-consuming!) courses early on will allow you to explore niche and complex topics later in your college career. Put yourself a step ahead of your peers by brainstorming what type of nurse you want to be and the requirements that this position would hold.

 

The prerequisites coming out of high school are little to none. There will be many students who major in biology or chemistry who intend to become nurses, but also many who do not! Although you may think you’re going to major in “pre-med,” this isn’t a real major. It is an umbrella term for a curriculum for those interested in biology, science, and math. Many students who take a pre-med path will have different roles within the medical field. By taking biology, chemistry, and math courses in high school, you can improve your chances of getting into a nursing program or a pre-med track.

 

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The prerequisites for a nursing school at a university may consist of:

 

  • Minimum 28 ACT Composite score or minimum 1300 on the SAT
  • Minimum 3.8 GPA (weighted or unweighted)
  • 4 years of English
  • 1 year of Biology
  • 1 year of Chemistry
  • 1 year of Physics
  • One of each:
    • Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry
  • 3 years of Social Studies
  • Minimum 2nd-level proficiency in one world language

 

Although this sounds intense, this is only for direct admission to the nursing program. If you do not meet these requirements, a student can still apply to a biology, chemistry, or math major and then complete the prerequisites to transfer to a nursing school whilst in college.

 

To pad out your resume, start thinking about what medical-centered clubs exist at your high school. If none exist, try to start your own! Other options include volunteering at a local hospital or shadowing a medical professional. You can also get involved at a nursing home and provide non-medical care for residents. Speak with your counselor to figure out what your options are.

 

Looking Ahead

 

Some institutions may start their nursing program after two years of undergraduate education. For example, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s school of nursing has the following prerequisites for nursing school:

 

  • 6 hours of English Composition
  • 8 hours of Anatomy and Physiology (2 lectures & 2 labs)
  • 3 hours of Microbiology (1 lecture & 1 lab)
  • 4-5 hours of General Chemistry (2 lectures and 2 labs)
  • 4-5 hours of Organic or Biochemistry
  • 2-3 hours of Nutrition (1 lecture)
  • 3-6 hours of Life Span / Growth Development (1 lecture)
  • 3-4 hours of Statistics (1 lecture)
  • 3-4 hours of Psychology (1 lecture)
  • 3-4 hours of Sociology (1 lecture)
  • 3-4 hours of Calculus 
  • 3-4 hours of Literature
  • 3-4 hours of Religion
  • 3-4 hours of Philosophy

 

After completing around 55 hours of college coursework, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign allows admission into their school of nursing. The application will also include personal statements, essays, and letters of reference. Before entering this program, students are often declared in a Human Biology Major, a Psychology Major, a Chemistry major, or a Philosophy Major.

 

While you’re in your first two years of college, it is important to explore all the facets of the medical field. Do you want to go into insurance? Traveling nursing? Research? You should take electives that sound interesting and allow you to explore medical specialties. Furthermore, admissions officers will be happy to see that you’re broadening your scope of knowledge. Consider taking a Public Health course or an Ethics course to supplement highly technical coursework. Be sure to research graduates of your specific program to see what specialties they tend to go into. This could lead you to take more courses in genetics, humanities, statistics, or something else entirely!

 

Best Schools for Nursing

 

Below are some of the best nursing schools in the country. The prerequisites for these elite schools may be more intense than the ones listed above. It is critical to be sure of the nursing prerequisites for your dream school as this post is just a general guide. Each nursing school has different strengths and weaknesses so be sure to do your research. Although these schools have very low acceptance rates, some programs have very high ones. The most important factor is that the nursing program sets you up for your future goals in the medical field.

 

School Name

Location

Acceptance Rate

Duke University

Durham, NC

8%

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD

12.8%

University of Washington

Seattle, WA

48%

Emory University

Atlanta, GA

16%

Columbia University

New York City, NY

6.1%

Georgetown University

Washington, D.C.

14%

University of Maryland, Baltimore

Baltimore, MD

61%

Oregon Health and Science University

Portland, OR

3.85%

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

8.39%

University of Minnesota

Twin Cities, MN

57%

 

It is important to note that often universities have different applications for nursing programs than regular admission. In high school and college, take courses in math and science so that you’ll be better prepared for your future coursework. Nurses are in high demand all across the country so you could end up working in a range of places. Furthermore, choosing a specialty could set you apart from other nurses and allow you greater access to job opportunities.

 

Are you curious about your chances of getting into nursing school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your test scores, GPA, extracurriculars, and other factors to predict your chances of getting into over 500 colleges across the US. We’ll also show you how you fare against other applicants. If you don’t place where you’d like, we’ll show you how to improve your application.

 

 

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Ally Merrett
Design Researcher

Short Bio
Ally Merrett is a senior at the University of Illinois double majoring in Urban Planning and Sustainable Design, triple minoring in Sociology, Art & Design, and Informatics, and pursuing a certificate in Technology Entrepreneurship. When he's not studying, he can be found playing music, skateboarding, or eating an egg sandwich. Maybe all at the same time!

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