Complete Guide On How To Become A Registered Nurse In USA And Possible Salary

Becoming a fully registered nurse in the United States is a multifaceted process that involves several steps. The journey to becoming a registered nurse (RN) requires a blend of academic education, clinical training, examinations, and obtaining the necessary licensure. This comprehensive guide outlines the step-by-step process to achieve this professional milestone.

Step 1: Educational Preparation

1. Research and Choose the Right Educational Path

To become a registered nurse in the USA, the first step is to research and select an appropriate educational path. There are generally three options:

  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Direct-entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

2. Enroll in an Accredited Nursing Program

Select an accredited nursing program that aligns with your chosen educational path. Accredited programs ensure quality education and are recognized by licensing boards.

3. Complete Pre-Requisite Courses

Depending on the chosen program, complete prerequisite courses such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and psychology. These courses provide essential foundational knowledge for nursing education.

4. Attend Nursing School

Complete the prescribed coursework and clinical rotations as outlined in the nursing program. Develop essential nursing skills and knowledge in a structured educational environment.

Step 2: Clinical Training and Experience

1. Participate in Clinical Rotations

Clinical rotations provide hands-on experience in healthcare settings. During this period, students work under the supervision of experienced nurses and apply their theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios.

2. Gain Practical Experience

To enhance clinical skills, consider working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or in a similar healthcare role. This experience helped prepare me for the practical demands of nursing.

Step 3: Licensure Examination

1. Prepare for the NCLEX-RN

The NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) is a standardized test that assesses the competency of aspiring nurses. Utilize study resources, practice exams, and review guides to prepare effectively.

2. Register for the NCLEX-RN

Apply for the NCLEX-RN through your state’s board of nursing and pay the necessary registration fees. Ensure that you meet all eligibility requirements to sit for the exam.

3. Take the NCLEX-RN

Schedule a convenient exam date and location and take the NCLEX-RN. The exam evaluates your knowledge and critical thinking abilities in the field of nursing.

4. Receive Your NCLEX-RN Results

After completing the exam, wait for the official results from the testing agency. Passing the NCLEX-RN is a significant milestone toward becoming a registered nurse.

Step 4: Obtaining Licensure

1. Apply for State Licensure

Apply for licensure to the state board of nursing in the state where you intend to practice. Ensure that you provide all required documents, including proof of education and NCLEX-RN results.

2. Background Check and Fingerprints

Complete a background check and fingerprinting as part of the licensing process. This is to ensure compliance with legal and ethical standards.

3. Wait for Approval:

Wait for the state board of nursing to process your application and grant approval for licensure. The timeline for approval varies by state.

4. Receive Your RN License

Once your application is approved, you will receive your RN license, allowing you to practice as a registered nurse in the respective state.

Step 5: Professional Development and Specialization

1. Join Professional Organizations

Consider joining professional nursing organizations such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) or specialty-specific organizations. Networking and staying informed about industry trends are crucial for professional growth.

2. Pursue Advanced Degrees and Certifications

Explore options for furthering your education, such as pursuing a master’s degree (e.g., MSN) or obtaining specialized certifications in areas like critical care, pediatrics, or oncology. Advanced degrees and certifications can enhance career opportunities and earning potential.

3. Engage in Continuing Education

Stay updated with developments in the healthcare field by participating in continuing education programs and workshops. Many states require ongoing education to maintain licensure.

4. Build a Professional Network

Network with other healthcare professionals, attend conferences and engage in professional development opportunities. Networking can open doors to new career opportunities and collaborations.

How Much Can a Registered Nurse Earn in the USA?

Registered nurses (RNs) play a vital role in the healthcare system, providing critical patient care, advocating for patients, and supporting medical teams. The demand for registered nurses in the United States is consistently high, making nursing a lucrative and rewarding career choice. Earning potential varies based on factors such as experience, location, specialty, and education level. This article delves into the details of how much a registered nurse can earn in the USA, exploring the average salaries, influencing factors, and potential for growth within the profession.

Average Registered Nurse Salary in the USA

As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the average annual salary for a registered nurse in the United States ranged from approximately $56,810 to $111,220, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual wage for registered nurses during that time was $75,330. However, it’s essential to note that these figures are subject to change due to various factors, including economic conditions, healthcare policies, and demand for healthcare services.

Factors Influencing Registered Nurse Salaries

1. Location

One of the most significant factors influencing a registered nurse’s salary is their location. Urban areas or states with a high cost of living tend to offer higher wages to match the increased living expenses. For instance, registered nurses in states like California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Alaska, and Oregon typically command higher salaries compared to those in less expensive states.

2. Experience and Education

Experience and education level play a crucial role in determining a registered nurse’s salary. Nurses with more years of experience or advanced degrees, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), often earn higher salaries. Additionally, certifications and specializations can contribute to increased earning potential.

3. Specialty

Registered nurses can choose to specialize in various areas, such as critical care, oncology, pediatrics, or labor and delivery. Specialized nursing roles often come with higher pay due to the specialized knowledge and skills required for these positions.

4. Healthcare Setting

The setting in which a registered nurse works can affect their salary. Nurses employed in hospitals, especially in intensive care units or emergency departments, generally receive higher compensation compared to those in nursing homes or outpatient clinics.

5. Union Membership

Registered nurses who are part of a union may have better bargaining power, resulting in higher salaries, improved benefits, and better working conditions.

6. Shift Differentials

Many healthcare facilities offer higher pay rates, known as shift differentials, for nurses who work evenings, weekends, or holidays. These differentials can significantly increase a registered nurse’s overall earnings.

7. Demand and Supply

Areas with a high demand for nurses and a limited supply often offer more competitive salaries to attract and retain skilled healthcare professionals.

Potential for Growth and Future Trends

The demand for registered nurses in the USA is expected to continue growing, driven by factors such as an aging population, an increased focus on preventive care, and advancements in healthcare technology. The BLS projected a 9{4f92713a7d6838317d7832ebbb2ad415c9e6388deb4c55170e2457d5ea9d0dea} growth in employment for registered nurses from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

Additionally, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of healthcare professionals, potentially leading to an increased recognition of the value nurses bring to the healthcare system. This recognition could translate into improved compensation and benefits for registered nurses in the future.


Becoming a fully registered nurse in the USA involves a structured and demanding process, encompassing education, clinical training, examinations, licensure, and ongoing professional development. It’s a journey that requires dedication, commitment, and a genuine passion for providing quality healthcare to individuals and communities. By following these steps and continually seeking growth and development, aspiring nurses can embark on a fulfilling and successful career in nursing.

Registered nursing is a fulfilling and dynamic profession with a wide range of earning potential. Salaries vary based on several factors, including location, experience, education, specialty, healthcare setting, union membership, and demand for nurses. Registered nurses in the USA can anticipate a promising future with opportunities for career growth and potentially higher salaries as the demand for healthcare services continues to rise.