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How to Become an RN If You Are a CNA

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Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is a common first step for those interested in becoming Registered Nurses (RNs). Although the training and experience received in a CNA program can be helpful when you become a nurse, generally the CNA itself does not qualify you automatically for additional nursing training. To become an RN, you still have to go through all the requirements of the RN program you select.

Determine your career objectives. In order to become a registered nurse, you will have to complete between two and four years of nursing school. If you are looking to be hired as soon as possible in an entry-level nursing position, you can earn an associate's degree in two years and be qualified. If you intend to work in more clinical or higher administrative nursing positions, you should consider getting a four-year bachelor's degree in nursing.

Find an accredited college of nursing. Many community colleges offer associate degree programs in nursing, and some universities offer bachelor's degree programs. Some programs offer night classes or online learning options, so search for a school that is convenient for you while still being accredited. Most programs also offer some form of financial aid, and you can apply for federal financial aid.

Check the nursing program's prerequisites. Normally, to be accepted in a nursing program you need health-related educational experience, in fields such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and microbiology. Each school has different requirements, and you may be able to take a qualification exam to skip certain courses.

Get on the waiting list. Although you may be able to enroll in some programs immediately upon qualification, demand for nursing programs is high, and many students have to wait a semester or two, or possibly even longer, before space opens for them.

Complete your courses and pass the examination. If you successfully master all of your academic coursework, including clinical and laboratory work, you will be entitled to sit for the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN). The exam typically takes about six hours to complete.