How to Become a Registered Nurse When You Already Have a Bachelor's Degree


These days it’s not uncommon for people to change careers in midstream. To get into nursing, a profession with high demand and good potential for job growth, you could start from scratch in an associate degree or nursing diploma program, or use the credits you already have from your bachelor’s degree for an accelerated degree. How well the latter concept works depends on what field you currently have a degree in and when you first graduated.

Basics of Nursing

  • All nursing programs must meet certain basic requirements, and you must graduate from an approved program to take the NCLEX-RN nursing licensure examination. Nursing curricula vary according to the school, state and type of program. For example, supervised clinical practice is part of all nursing programs, and courses such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology and pharmacology are also the norm. In a bachelor’s degree program, however, you may need additional humanities classes or courses in computer literacy. Bachelor’s degree programs typically require courses in statistics, and may offer clinical experience in settings other than the hospital. Some bachelor’s programs are specifically designed to allow an individual with another degree to obtain an RN license in the shortest period of time.

Using Previous Courses for Credit

  • The shortest route to an RN license may be an associate degree or a nursing diploma. Both typically take two years, although the associate degree may have prerequisites, and some nursing diploma programs last three years. However, you can complete some accelerated bachelor’s degree programs in 16 months, according to For an associate degree, some of your upper division courses may meet liberal arts requirements. If you have a very specialized degree -- for example, petroleum engineering -- many of your courses may not be usable in pursuit of your new education. Nursing diploma programs are usually hospital-based, although some may be affiliated with a college or university. Check with the individual programs to see how your bachelor’s degree might be helpful and what previous courses can be used for credit.

Accelerated Programs

  • Another option is to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing. You can use any liberal arts credits you have in this program. For example, English, history and math courses can help you meet the curriculum requirements for a new bachelor’s degree. If your original degree is more than four or five years old, it’s possible you will have to repeat some courses that might otherwise be allowed for credit in your new degree. Some bachelor's degree programs are accelerated, and are designed to speed up the process. You could also choose an accelerated master’s degree program in nursing. Sometimes called direct-entry master’s programs, these allow a person with a bachelor's degree in another field to go straight through for a master’s degree in nursing.

From Psychology to Nursing

  • As an example, let’s assume you have a bachelor’s degree in psychology. You should already have completed statistics and basic psychology courses, so you should be able to get credit for them. Any liberal arts courses -- such as math, English or history -- would meet the requirements for similar courses in your RN program. Your advisor should be able to tell you exactly what you need to take in order to obtain your bachelor’s degree in nursing. You might need to take only the clinical nursing courses, plus such courses as anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. In any case, you must still take the NCLEX-RN exam after you graduate in order to become licensed.

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