How to Get Into Nursing School - Guide + Stats

May 28, 2024
9 min read


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 5/27/24

Nurses are in high demand right now, showing just how crucial their role is in healthcare.

In fact, nursing is one of the most popular fields in the United States, with nearly 4.2 million individuals identifying as registered nurses. The field, which is expected to grow by 6% each year, is a safe bet for those looking for a challenging role with job stability and a comfortable salary.

If you know that becoming a nurse is your calling, know that there are many steps to take on your path. Keep reading to learn how to gain admission to nursing school.

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Steps to Get Into Nursing School

There are many different pathways to becoming a nurse, but the first step always starts with nursing school. Before you make your decision to go to nursing school, you should ask yourself questions like:

  • "What kind of nurse do I want to be?"
  • "How much schooling do I want to endure?"
  • "What type of education do I already have?"

Asking yourself these questions will ensure that you are on the right path to becoming the type of nurse you want to become. It will also prevent you from making any changes to your education path down the line. 

1. Graduate High School or Get a General Equivalency Diploma

One of the fundamental prerequisites for pursuing a career in nursing is completing your high school education. 

To gain admission to nursing school, you typically need to have a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). Completing high school or obtaining a GED is the first step on your journey to becoming a nurse.

2. Research and Choose a Nursing Degree 

Keep reading to learn how to secure a nursing degree. 

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Certificate or Diploma

  • Earn yourself a High School Diploma or GED. It's the first step towards your CNA journey.
  • Next, dive into a CNA Training Program in your state. This is where you'll learn the nuances of patient care, from basics to the more complex content.
  • Then comes the fun part—Clinical Training. It's an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in real healthcare settings.
  • Pass that Approved CNA Examination in Your State, and you're officially certified to make a difference in people's lives.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Certificate or Diploma

  • Step one: get your high school diploma or equivalent. 
  • Next, take a training program designed to prep you for the National Council Licensure Examination for LPNs. 
  • Depending on where you are, you might need to ace a state-administered licensing test before becoming an LPN.

Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)

  • Ready to take your nursing game up a notch? First, meet those Eligibility Requirements. 
  • Then, it's all about finding the right program that suits you best. 
  • Finish strong, earn your License and Certification, and you're officially an ADN nurse.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

  • Apply to an Accredited BSN Program.
  • Once you've conquered the program, it's time to take on the NCLEX-RN® exam. Pass that, and you're officially an RN.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

  • Ready to specialize? First, pick your Nursing Specialty.
  • Attend those MSN Degree Program Info Sessions, where you'll better understand what to expect.
  • Complete those MSN Prerequisites.
  • Study hard for those Master of Nursing School Entrance Exams. 

Doctoral Degree in Nursing (DNP)

  • To obtain a DNP, start early!
  • Get your BSN and pass the NCLEX like a champ.
  • Rack up that valuable work experience.
  • Complete an MSN degree to show you're serious about taking your nursing career to the next level.
  • Finally, successfully complete a DNP Program.

Ready to nail the NCLEX exam? Dive into Inspira's collection of free practice questions. Each question is like a mini confidence boost, helping you get familiar with the exam's ins and outs. These questions are designed to prepare you effectively; they are your secret weapon for mastering the NCLEX.

2. Research Select Your Nursing Schools 

When looking into nursing schools, focus on what matters most to you. Check if the program is accredited and if the faculty have solid experience. 

Think about where the school is located and what kind of support services they offer. Make sure the curriculum matches your interests and career goals. By picking a school that ticks these boxes, you'll be well-prepared for a rewarding journey into the nursing field.

3. Fulfill All Requirements

Each nursing school may have specific prerequisites and admission requirements. These can include completing certain high school courses, meeting a minimum GPA, or taking standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. Some nursing programs also require the GRE for admission. 

Additionally, some schools may require you to complete certain prerequisite courses, such as biology or chemistry, before applying to their nursing program. Ensure you fulfill all the necessary prerequisites and requirements for the nursing schools you're interested in.

4. Fill out the Necessary Documents and Apply

Once you've selected the nursing schools that suit your aspirations, it's time to start the application process. Gather all the required documents, which may include transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and an application fee. 

Pay close attention to application deadlines, as missing them can jeopardize your chances of admission. Carefully complete all application materials and submit them to your chosen nursing schools.

5. Pass the Interview

Some nursing programs may require you to pass an admission interview as part of the application process. The interview is an opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you better and assess your suitability for the nursing program. 

Prepare for the interview by practicing common interview questions, researching the school, and showcasing your passion for nursing. A successful interview can greatly enhance your chances of gaining admission to your desired nursing school.

By following these steps and carefully planning your educational path, you can embark on your journey toward becoming a nurse and achieving your career goals.

Nursing School Consultant Lauren offers this advice for getting into nursing school:

"No matter what your experiences or background, if you want to make a career shift into medicine in whatever capacity best interests and suits you, it is absolutely within the realm of possibility. Do as much as you can to get an idea of what you're interested in by looking into different programs and talking with people in those career fields."
"Do your research into what programs best interest you and think about your long-term goals. Do you want to be working with families, children, in acute care settings, or in a clinic? Get a picture of what you see yourself doing."
"Align your extracurricular activities in a way that best meets your long-term goals. For example, if you want to be a pediatric nurse practitioner, try to volunteer at a children's hospital. If you want to work in an acute care setting, consider becoming a volunteer EMT."

Nursing School Prerequisites and Application Requirements

The prerequisites for nursing school differ greatly depending on the stream of nursing that you want to pursue. Regardless, you’ll have to have written your SAT or ACT before you apply.

Nursing schools also consider your high school GPA during admissions. The average GPA required for nursing school is 2.5-3.0, but this may change depending on the program and school you apply for.

In addition to your GPA and SAT scores, aspiring nurses should consider taking courses recommended for nursing school. These courses include advanced math and science courses in high school or a high school-equivalent secondary education. 

Choosing the Right Nursing Program

To enroll in a nursing degree program, you must have graduated from high school or earned your GED. This initial requirement applies whether you're aiming for a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) or an ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing).

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An associate degree in nursing (ADN) is one of the quickest ways to become a registered nurse. Schooling for an ADN only lasts about 18 months to 2 years and is usually done at a community college. 

Receiving your ADN is a fantastic introduction to the nursing field. Given the relatively short training period, it's also a cost-effective and time-effective solution.

Throughout their workday, ADNs can expect to complete tasks like: 

  • Administering medication to patients 
  • Discussing symptoms and monitoring vital signs
  • Providing medical guidance and instruction where necessary.

The downside? Many hospitals prefer applicants to have a BSN, so hiring for ADNs is becoming less common. However, there are many "bridge" programs that allow you to fast-track your studies to receive a BSN or other nursing degrees if you already have an ADN.

If you're looking for a quick and cost-effective pathway to becoming a Registered Nurse, going for an ADN could be a great option!

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the most common schooling route for prospective nurses—after all, 65.2% of all nurses in the United States have a BSN degree. Alongside the ADN, it's an alternative option for those who want to become registered nurses.

Compared to the ADN, the BSN is more comprehensive. It consists of four years of education instead of two and focuses on theory-based learning and critical thinking skills. Receiving a BSN allows for more opportunities within the nursing field, which can result in a higher-paying starting wage compared to those with an ADN. 

It can also lead to more leadership opportunities and is the most common first step of schooling for those who want to pursue a master's or a Ph.D. in nursing. 

Those with a BSN are responsible for tasks such as:

  • Examining patients and consulting about medical inquiries with them
  • Operating medical equipment
  • Performing diagnostic tests and communicating results to medical staff and patients

Those who enroll in and complete a BSN program can look forward to a more comprehensive education and a high starting wage.

Find Your Perfect BSN Program

Looking for the perfect BSN program can be a bit of a puzzle, right? Well, don't worry—our BSN Program Selection Quiz is here to simplify the process. All you have to do is answer a few easy questions.

First, you'll pick your preferences like where you'd like to study and how long you want the program to be. Then, just share some academic info, and we'll do the rest, suggesting BSN programs that match your profile. 

Once you're done, you'll get a list of BSN options, complete with school names, locations, and key stats to help you compare them. If you need more help, you can retake the quiz or chat with one of our nursing admissions experts. We're here to make finding the right BSN program a breeze!

Licensed Practical Nurse

Becoming an LPN, otherwise known as a Licensed Practical Nurse, is a fantastic introduction to the nursing field and an easy way to test the waters to see if nursing is a good fit for you. 

LPNs are responsible for essential healthcare tasks, ensuring patients are comfortable. They are usually supervised by RNs and often work to assist them and other medical professionals with everyday tasks.

Schooling for LPN programs usually takes around a year to complete, so it's an ideal way to break into the field without breaking the bank on tuition. Once you've become an LPN, it's easy to receive more schooling, as there are many LPN—RN accelerated programs to consider.

Certified Nurses’ Assistant (CNA)

A great way to gain practical experience in the nursing field is by completing a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) program. A CNA provides medical care while working under the supervision of a Registered Nurse.

To become a CNA, you must have a high school education and attend CNA training at a community college. Most state-regulated programs take 4 to 12 weeks and combine classroom learning with hands-on learning. 

Should you want to continue your nursing education, many ADN or BSN programs fast-track you through the program if you already have certain credits or experience in the field. 

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

If you’re looking for a more advanced nursing degree, consider pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing program (MSN). 

A Master of Science in Nursing awards students with an even more comprehensive nursing education and higher pay. Pursuing an MSN can lead to more advanced careers within the field, such as:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Educator
  • Clinical Nurse Educator

While many different bridge programs allow you to complete an MSN in less time, the most common applicants are those with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). 

Obtaining an MSN will take around two years with a full course load and often comes with hefty tuition fees. However, there are many flexible options for schooling, such as part-time course offerings, which can allow you to juggle work and school if needed.

There are also various nursing scholarships available if a financial investment is holding you back from pursuing an advanced nursing degree. 

Not 100% sold yet? According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, only 14.9% of nurses nationwide held master’s degrees in 2020, and the demand for those with an MSN far outweighs the supply. Receiving an MSN will ensure job security and a very comfortable salary.

Doctoral Degree (Ph.D. or Doctor of Nurse Practitioner)

Ready to take your nursing career to the next level? A Doctoral degree in Nursing awards you the highest advanced nursing education possible. 

There are two pathways to receiving a doctoral degree in Nursing:

  • Ph.D. in Nursing: focuses more on research, curriculum development, and teaching other nurses in post-secondary institutions.
  • Doctor of Nurse Practitioner: provides a more comprehensive study on nursing best practices while utilizing cutting-edge research.  

Both programs require applicants to have a BSN, at minimum, and many require an MSN. Each program can take 4 to 6 years to complete, but those passionate and dedicated to the field of nursing will find the experience worth the investment.

How to Get Accepted Into Nursing School: Increase Your Chances

Once you’ve decided that a career in nursing is in the cards for you, you may be wondering about what nursing school requirements you need to adhere to. 

Undoubtedly, nursing school is very competitive - and you’ll want to give yourself the best possible chance to stand out. Here are some ways to boost your chances of getting accepted:


Put your passion into practice by volunteering in the healthcare field. You can volunteer in healthcare establishments such as nursing homes, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pop-up clinics. You can also explore any other community service initiatives that are not in the healthcare sector. 

Volunteer experience shows the admissions council at your prospective nursing school that you are serious and passionate about the field. It also shows that you care about people and the community, which is an essential quality for nurses. 

By putting in a couple of hours a week, you can also gain valuable experience that will supplement your learning while starting nursing school.

Volunteer experience isn’t always one of the prerequisites for nursing school admission for nursing school applicants–for some schools, volunteering is just recommended. 

With this said, volunteering will always boost your application regardless of the context. Ensure you research your prospective schools' admissions requirements for more information. 

Get a Letter of Recommendation

A plus side of volunteering in healthcare is that you build connections, which is excellent when the time comes to ask for letters of recommendation. They are not always required for specific programs, but it's highly recommended and is a great way to make you stand out from other applicants.

Your letter of recommendation should be written by a teacher, employer, mentor, or coach. Having someone in the medical field vouch for your passion and skills can be a significant factor in a successful nursing school application.

While asking for a letter of recommendation can be intimidating, its impact on your application is profound. Its purpose is to attest to your character and share why you would be an ideal candidate for nursing school–so having stellar letters of recommendation can have a meaningful impact on the strength of your application.

Also, check out our Nursing School Admissions Guide. It’s your go-to resource, jam-packed with 60 pages of expert advice and insights to ace your way through the admissions process. 

We've cut through the clutter to give you straightforward tips and background info, ensuring you're fully prepared to tackle every step with confidence. Whether it's application dos and don'ts or interview prep, consider this guide your trusty sidekick on your path to nursing school success.

Expected Salary for Nurses in the USA

Curious about how much nurses earn in the USA? We'll dive into the factors that impact nursing salaries and provide valuable insights into the earning potential within the field.

Degree Average Salary in the USA
RN $93,766
NP $125,573
CRNA $236,087
CNS $127,414
PHN $78,437
Nurse Midwife $112,794
Nurse Educator $102209
Nurse Administrator $76,002
Pediatric Nurse $85,686
Oncology Nurse $145,762
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse $138,733
Travel Nurse $121,710
Forensic Nurse $65,466


Below, we’ve listed some frequently asked questions and answers.

1. How Hard Is It to Get Admitted Into Nursing School?

While getting into nursing school can be challenging, it's not impossible. You'll want to give yourself the best possible chance of acceptance by aiming for a high GPA, SAT score, and high grades within the required prerequisite math and science courses. 

Volunteering in the healthcare sector may also make you a more competitive applicant while simultaneously allowing you to build relationships in the field. These connections can help give you glowing letters of recommendation and may even benefit you after you graduate.

2. What Are the Requirements to Study Nursing?

While each school has different application requirements, the general requirements to study nursing are as follows:

For Master’s and Ph.D. programs, a BSN or MSN may be required.

3. How Do You Get Through to Nursing School?

Navigating nursing school can be challenging, but it's all about finding the right strategies. Being organized is key, as it saves you precious time. Make studying a regular habit to absorb information effectively, and don't forget self-care – it keeps you in top shape to conquer your nursing studies.

5. How to Get Into a Nursing School After High School?

To get into a nursing school after high school, you'll want to start by making sure you've excelled in science and math courses during your high school years. Then, research nursing programs to understand their specific admission requirements. 

Typically, you'll need to submit your high school transcripts, standardized test scores (like SAT or ACT), and perhaps letters of recommendation. Craft a compelling personal statement to showcase your passion for nursing, and don't forget to apply to multiple nursing schools to maximize your chances of acceptance.

6. How to Get Into a Nursing School After College?

If you're considering nursing after college, your path may vary a bit. Begin by earning a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as biology or psychology. While in college, maintain a strong GPA, as nursing programs can be competitive. 

After graduating, explore accelerated nursing programs designed for individuals with a bachelor's degree in another discipline. These programs often require prerequisite courses like anatomy and physiology. 

Apply to your preferred nursing programs and prepare for any necessary interviews. Your college background can be a valuable asset in your nursing school applications.

Get Admitted Into Nursing School With Inspira Advantage

Getting into nursing school can be challenging but Inspira Advantage is here to help. 

With personalized and specific Nursing School Admissions consulting, you’ll be able to smoothly navigate your application for nursing school and get one step closer to making your dreams of becoming an RN a reality.

Once you’ve gone through each of these steps and made your way through nursing school, the NCLEX is your next step. Fortunately, our team of experts can set you up for success with personalized NCLEX test prep

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