Over the next several years, there will be a significant increase in the demand for nurses in the United States. Even with the increase in demand, Nursing School Programs can be very competitive to get into. Many students want to get into their College’s Nursing Program, but don’t yet realize that they have spoiled their chances of getting in until it’s too late. Preparing early and staying on track may seem obvious, however, many college students run into issues despite preparation and knowing the obvious tips that are commonly found online.

Many colleges will not admit students into nursing programs with a GPA under 2.5. Several others will not admit students with a GPA under 3.0. Students often focus on GPA, then only after it’s too late realize there are many other requirements that aren’t as obvious. In some colleges, it’s even worse. There will be students that meet requirements, yet still don’t get in due to the level of competition. Remember, you still have to take a standardized test, apply, interview, and get accepted.

With that in mind, let’s first discuss the different types of Nursing Degrees available. Then we will get into some of the specific steps and precautions you can take.

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Nursing Degrees and Licenses

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN or LVN)

Licensed Practical Nurses typically go through a one year nursing school program through a Community College, a Vocational School, or even through a Hospital. After finishing the program, students must take, and pass, the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN, to obtain a license to practice. Glassdoor.com estimates that the National Average Salary for LPNs to be $42,283.

License / Degree: LPN / LVN

Duration: 1 Year

Average Salary: $42,283


Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An Associate Degree in Nursing is a two year degree program that is usually through a Community College. After successful program completion, the student will take the NCLEX-RN Examination to earn a license to practice and will then be considered a Registered Nurse, or RN. Glassdoor.com estimates that the National Average Salary for RNs to be $67,961. A Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, or BSN, will also allow you to become a Registered Nurse. There is much debate on whether it is worth it to get a BSN compared to an ADN. The primary difference is that there are more job opportunities with a BSN. Many jobs in hospitals require a BSN. There is more room for advancing in your career. You also must have a BSN to continue your education to pursue a Master’s Degree in Nursing or a Doctorate.

License / Degree: ADN

Duration: 2 Years

Average Salary: $67,961


Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a four year degree program where the degree is obtained through an accredited College or University. The actual nursing school program is typically 2 years long. The first 2 years is usually your prerequisites to apply for the nursing program. After graduation, the student must pass the same NCLEX-RN Exam as taken by an ADN student to obtain their license as a Registered Nurse. Glassdoor.com estimates that the National Average Salary for RNs to be $67,961. Again, even though you can become a Registered Nurse with an Associate Degree in Nursing, there are significantly more career opportunities with a BSN. You also cannot obtain a Master’s Degree or Doctorate in Nursing without first getting a BSN.

License / Degree: BSN

Duration: 4 Years

Average Salary: $67,961


Advanced Practice (AP) Nursing

Advanced Practice Nurses, or AP Nurses, have obtained a Master’s Degree in a specialized area of nursing. Some examples include the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). These are just a few of many specializations in nursing. Average salaries range from $98,000 to $160,000. An AP Nurse must complete a Master’s Degree program from an accredited College or University.

License / Degree: Master’s Degree (AP Nursing)

Duration: Bachelor’s Degree + 2 Years (Duration can vary)

Average Salary: $98,000 – $160,000

Exam: Varies / Depends on Program and University

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD)

A Doctor of Nursing Practice is a Clinical Practice doctorate degree, whereas, the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing is a research focused degree. Though very different, both doctorate programs are very intense and requires much work. These programs require “Full Time” effort and cannot be completed part time. Even though these are considered the highest level of nursing education, the pay is not necessarily more than that of a Master’s Degree.

How to Get into ADN and BSN Nursing Programs

Now let’s focus on the Associate Degree in Nursing and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. We will focus on these two for a few reasons:

  1. These are the two that result in becoming a Registered Nurse.
  2. The LPN (or LVN) is a very basic program that isn’t difficult to get into.
  3. If you want to get into any of the other programs mentioned, you will need the BSN.

Tips for How to Get Into Nursing School Programs

Finish High School

If you do not finish High School, at least get your GED. If you do not at least get your GED, you have no chance of getting into your nursing school program. Furthermore, if you don’t finish High School, but get your GED instead, it’s a good idea to excel in all of your College coursework to prove you are on the right track.

Volunteer at a Local Hospital or Clinic

There are many benefits to volunteering at a hospital or clinic. You can put it on your resume, applications, and letters. Volunteering will give you exposure to the field you are wanting to enter. Do a good job and you will be surprised at how many people you will network with. In addition, it’s always good to know people that will recommend you and write you letters of recommendation.

Research Multiple Nursing Program Requirements

Familiarize yourself with the various nursing school programs and requirements. Look at all of your options so that you make the right choice in which program you want to do. Researching your options will also allow you to comprehend the amount of work you will be doing and the topics you will be learning.

Have a Plan

After researching various nursing school programs, make a plan. Students without a plan tend to struggle more. On the other hand, students that have a plan tend to be more successful. Research shows that the primary difference between people that have success and people that struggle, is the amount of planning they do. The most successful people in the world are able to plan in months and years. Remember, there are more opportunities for advancing your career with a BSN degree. You cannot even be a Nurse Manager or Charge Nurse with just an ADN degree.

Make Good Grades

Most nursing programs have prerequisite classes. You’ve heard the term, “C’s get Degrees!” It’s not true when it comes to nursing programs. Make as many A’s as you can, especially early on in the prerequisites. Also, if the minimum required GPA for the Nursing Program is 3.0, make sure you have a 3.2. Don’t just slide by on the minimum requirements. Make good grades!

Embrace and Enjoy Science

You would not believe how many times I’ve heard nursing students say things like, “Why do I need to know Physics? I’m just doing nursing.” Or, “I don’t need Chemistry. I just want to get done with it so I can forget all this stuff.”

This is not the mentality to have when you are trying to get into a Nursing School Program. You will use Physics. You will need to learn and remember Chemistry. I’ve heard nursing students complain about Science in general. If you do not like Science, do not be a nurse.

Study for and Take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)

The Test of Essential Academic Skills is one of the fundamental and essential requirements for getting into nursing programs. The TEAS exam is given by the Assessment Technologies Institute and is considered a standardized exam. Standardized exams might seem intimidating, but you really need to get used to studying and practicing standardized exams. You will come across multiple standardized exams in your Nursing Program path. For example, when you take General Chemistry, you may have to take the ACS Standardized Chemistry Exam for your class. You should practice for it as well. Remember you will also be required to take the NCLEX-RN standardized exam to get your license to become a Registered Nurse.

Write a Fantastic Essay

Some of the most important tips for getting into Nursing School Programs involve the application processes. Planning your essay is one of these important tips. The essay can often be the centerpiece for the decision-making process for the person reviewing your application. Planning your nursing program essay and actually spending time on it will significantly increase your chances for success. Remember though, don’t let your success rely on “chance.” You still need to do well in your classes, pass your exams, and get all your other ducks in a row.

Prepare for and Ace Your Interview

You should consider many questions, answers, and situations when preparing for you nursing program entrance interview. Interviewers vary in what they look for and how they approach the interview. A good way to prepare for this is to be very knowledgeable of their nursing program. Do some research on their program before the interview. Anticipate and practice answering possible questions. Practice doing some role play interviews with a couple different people. Here are some questions you might want to practice:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why have you decided to get into nursing?
  • What are some of your best strengths?
  • What are some of your weaknesses?
  • Tell me what makes you different from others.
  • What made you decide to pursue our nursing school program?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

When you practice, try to give different types of creative answers. Remember that the person interviewing you does this all the time and possibly interviews hundreds of people. You should really try to stand out during your nursing program interview. Remember that nursing is a very fast-paced profession with many different situations and scenarios that can occur. During your interview, you may get asked a “Critical Thinking” question so that the interviewer can evaluate your critical thinking skills.

Do You Already Have a Bachelor’s Degree in an Unrelated Field?

If you are wanting to become a nurse and already have a Bachelor’s Degree in another field, do some research and find a Master’s Degree Program. Talk to the University and see what you might need to do to get into it. It would be a great way to get an advanced nursing degree. If you don’t qualify, there are other “fast track” nursing school programs to help you get a BSN quickly. There are even online programs that could help you quickly become a nurse while still being able to work.

What Topics Will You Study to Become a Nurse?

You will have to study and become proficient in a number of fields of study in the Sciences. Topics include:
Human Anatomy

  • Human Physiology
  • General Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Microbiology
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Statistics
  • Algebra
  • Human Development
  • Nutrition
  • Many Other Courses and Science Labs


As the increasing demand for nurses continues to grow, nursing school programs stay competitive to becoming a Registered Nurse. Whether you go for an Associate Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, both will lead to becoming a Registered Nurse. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is required to pursue advanced degrees.

Regardless of which nursing school program you pursue, the coursework will involve quite a bit of Math and Science. Students interested in Nursing Programs should embrace and enjoy science. Stay on track and always prepare for exams, interviews, essays, and applications.

About the Author

Wes Davis is a Supplemental Instructor for General Chemistry, a Multimedia Developer, and an Instructional Engineer with over 10 years of experience in E-Learning and Software Development. He spent several years during college helping students with Chemistry and has tutored many Nursing Majors. Wes Davis is also an Entrepreneur and the co-owner of ChemExams.com.

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