In this career, your responsibilities may include:
- Performing direct patient care including observing and assessing patients’ conditions, taking and recording their medical histories, administering medications, and educating patients and their families on how to manage health conditions.
- Using and monitoring medical equipment, as well as running diagnostic tests and interpreting the results.
- Collaborating on a healthcare team with physicians and other specialists, and supervising Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Licensed Practical Nurses/Licensed Vocational Nurses (LPNs/LVNs).
- May specialize in a specific area, such as pediatrics, oncology, or psychiatry.
In your job search, you may find job listings for this career under different titles. You can find some examples of these, as well as more information about this career, at Career One Stop.
At least a two-year Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is required. However, most hospitals now prefer nurses to hold a four-year undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and a growing movement across the U.S. seeks to require that all registered nurses hold a BSN degree.
To help registered nurses with an ADN meet this new standard, many colleges and universities now offer nursing bridge programs to help RNs with an associate degree earn a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree more quickly, rather than having to start a BSN or MSN program from the beginning.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, obtaining a master’s degree would allow you to work as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) in one of the following specialties: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), Nurse Practitioner (NP), or Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). You could also work as a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), which is not an APRN role.
Many state boards of nursing require that internationally trained candidates complete the CGFNS Certification Program in order to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which is required for licensure as an RN (and is also a requirement for the higher designation of APRN). This three-part program includes a credential evaluation, a nursing exam, and verification that you have passed one of the accepted English language exams.
- NOTE: The exam component of the program also fulfills the examination requirement for the federal VisaScreen: Visa Credentials Assessment for immigration.
Additional certifications are not required, but could make employers more likely to hire you or offer you a higher salary.
You may be eligible for one of the following specialty certifications from the American Nurses Credentialing Center:
- Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification (AMB-BC)
- Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification (CV-BC)
- Gerontological Nursing Certification (GERO-BC)
- Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification (MEDSURG-BC)
- Nursing Case Management Certification (CMGT-BC)
- Pain Management Nursing Certification (PMGT-BC)
- Pediatric Nursing Certification (PED-BC)
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification (PMH-BC)
Nurse.org maintains a list of additional specialty certifications at all levels of nursing.
Registered Nurse (RN) licensure is required for RNs and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). Each state has a board of nursing that regulates licenses, and requirements vary by state. To be eligible for licensure, most states require that you pass the NCLEX-RN exam.
- Some states allow recent graduates of RN programs to practice nursing under supervision for a limited period of time while they await their NCLEX exam date, under a temporary or limited permit or license. Check with your state board of nursing to find out if this can be an option for you.
You must obtain a credential evaluation of your international education in order to take the NCLEX-RN exam. Many states require that you obtain your credential evaluation from CGFNS International (formerly the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools). Some states may also accept evaluations for RN or LPN/LVN licensure from Educational Records Evaluation Service (ERES), Josef Silny & Associates, or the International Education Research Foundation (IERF). Currently, IERF only performs evaluations for applicants educated in Canada, India, Mexico, Philippines, and Puerto Rico.
- Puerto Rico is the only U.S. territory that is NOT a member of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Therefore, any nursing education completed in Puerto Rico must be evaluated for licensure purposes the same as it would have to be for any education completed in a foreign country. Exceptions to this rule may exist on a state-by-state basis, such as in New York, which does recognize nursing education completed in Puerto Rico as being a U.S. education.
In most states you will need to pass an English language exam if your degree program was not taught entirely in English and in a country where English is the primary language. Accepted exams and scores vary by state, but may include the IELTS Academic, the PTE Academic, the TOEFL iBT, or the TOEIC.