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While some occupations may become unreliable during difficult economic times, registered nurse (RN) jobs are practically recession-proof. Because people continue to require competent and caring medical attention in all economic climates, RNs are always in demand. Considering a career in registered nursing may be the first step toward a secure and rewarding future.

There are several steps required to become an RN. If you’re still in high school, you can get a head start toward your nursing career by keeping your grades up, taking plenty of science courses and fulfilling the prerequisites at the nursing school you wish to attend. Most universities provide opportunities to make up prerequisites students may have missed, though, so if you decide to become an RN later in life, you won’t be left out.

The first step in becoming an RN is enrolling in a pre-licensure nursing program at a community college, university or online nursing school. There are nursing programs at the associate, bachelor, and master’s degree levels, so no matter where you are in your academic career, you can find a program that fits.

Depending on the degree level, completing nursing school is likely to take two to four years. If you require financial aid, many options are available, including federal loans, private loans, grants and scholarships. All of these can be investigated and, in most cases, applied for online.

For adults making a career change, earning a pre-licensure degree online is a practical and convenient alternative to attending a traditional college. Many accredited schools offer nursing programs over the Internet. Non-clinical courses can be completed online, which provides adults an opportunity to get started while continuing to work full-time, raise a family and keep up with other day-to-day responsibilities. These online schools often encourage students to earn their clinical credits at medical facilities near their own homes, making this option even more convenient and appealing.

In addition to selecting a school, you will also want to think about where you might like to work. Registered nurse careers can be found in many other venues besides hospitals, including nursing homes, correctional facilities, home-care providers, schools and research labs. Registered nurse careers can also be divided into specialty areas, such as women’s health, sports medicine, cancer care and pediatrics. Pinpointing your individual interests early will help you tailor your coursework and prepare for the career you’ll find most fulfilling.

Once you complete your degree, your final step is to earn your license. In order to become a licensed RN, you’ll take a standardized test called the NCLEX. The NCLEX, which consists primarily of multiple choice questions, tests candidates on the basic knowledge and skills required to competently care for patients as a nurse. Your nursing school will be able to provide you information on when and where to take the exam as you get close to completion of your program.

Becoming a nurse is not as difficult or time-consuming as many believe. With the right dedication and previous education, a person could conceivably become an RN in two years. Your future as an RN promises many rewards, and you’re now armed with the information you need to get started.

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