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MCPHS Nursing students in classroom
Academics | 4/17/2024

How To Become a Nurse: Essential Steps and Guidance

MCPHS Nursing students in classroom

Learn how to become a nurse by registering for one of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences programs.

Hoping to become a nurse but aren’t sure how? You’ve come to the right place. In this blog, we’ll break down the various steps necessary to earn a nursing degree and enter this career. Let’s look at your degree options and answer some of the questions you may have about the journey.

Steps To Become a Nurse

While the road ahead of you may seem long, becoming a nurse can take less time than expected. At Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), students can complete their studies to become registered nurses in two to four years, depending on the chosen program.

Get a Nursing Degree

MCPHS offers several program types and curricula that can help you get exactly what you want out of your college education. We have multiple pathways you can choose from:

Undergraduate Nursing School Programs

Bachelor of Science in Nursing - Postbaccalaureate

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing - Postbaccalaureate program is designed for individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree and wish to gain the skill sets necessary to enter the nursing field. During this 16-month program, students will work alongside experts in clinical and classroom settings, learning the essential techniques to provide adequate patient care. Upon completion of this program, learners are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Bachelor of Science in Nursing - Accelerated

A Bachelor of Science (BSN) is an accelerated 32-month program that helps students gain real-world experience while studying and accomplishing nursing courses. This BSN program enables students to dive deeper into topics like biology, chemistry, pharmacology, and community health. While this style of BSN degree generally takes four years to complete at other colleges, MCPHS allows learners to finish in three. Like the BSN postbaccalaureate option, this program makes individuals eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN.

Master and Doctoral Nursing School Programs

Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner

A Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program is a 24-month, part-time course of study that provides students the flexibility to work while earning a nursing diploma. The Master of Science in Nursing - FNP path advances students’ bachelor’s degrees with a specialty in family nursing, permitting aspiring nurses to work in a more niche practice. In this program, learners receive guidance on delivering primary patient care services and diagnosing and treating a variety of healthcare concerns.

Master of Science in Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

A Master of Science in Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program allows learners to achieve a specialty in psychiatric mental health in just 24 months. This is a part-time, online program that enables students to work and go to school in tandem. As this program is focused on the mental health side of nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing - PMHNP helps students build their knowledge base of critical neurological disorders, like dementia, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) helps students earn an advanced degree in the hopes of achieving the highest level in the nursing profession. This 24-month, online doctoral program focuses on organization and systems leadership. Those who wish to enter this program must hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, which will give them the foundational knowledge necessary to excel in this course of study. During this program, students study public health, health informatics and medication safety.

Secure Your License

Nursing licensure is the process by which a state board of nursing grants permission to an individual to take part in nursing practice after determining that they have the necessary information and skills for the job.

You must pass a national nursing licensure exam to get your nursing license, which can vary by state, nursing specialty, and occupation. The most popular examples of national exams include the:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN)
  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)
  • National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN): Registered Nurses (RN).

Additionally, some states require students to undergo a criminal background check before getting officially licensed. Ultimately, the testing and background check process is meant to protect future patients. It's also designed to ensure each medical professional can be trusted to properly provide nursing care to those they're charged to care for.

Begin Employment and Pick a Specialty

After getting your license, you can begin employment and pick a specialty. While you don’t necessarily have to select a particular type of nursing to go into, it’s pretty common. Some nursing positions associated with different specialties may require specific certifications or continued education. Examples of specialties include neonatal nursing, nurse midwife, clinical nursing, and critical care nursing.

As you decide what—if any—specialization you’d like to pursue, it’s helpful to know what your preferences are for the following categories:

  • Age of population served: What age group do you desire to work with? Are you more interested in pediatrics, neonatal, geriatric, or family care?
  • Patient gender: This would generally only apply if you desire to go into gynecology work.
  • Specific health problems that need treatment: Are there any specific types of diseases or issues that you specifically want to help cure? This could include oncology, cardiac nursing, or dermatology.
  • Nursing equipment proficiency: What tools and techniques are you extremely comfortable with or want to use daily?
  • Direct or indirect work with patients: It’s important to know what capacity you want to serve people. This could include the typical model of working directly with a patient or involve more administrative work if that better suits your preferences.

How To Get a Nursing Job

After you have your degree and obtain your license, the hard work is over—except for actually securing a nursing job. Here are a few ways to make this process smoother:

Pay Attention to the Job Market

Stay up-to-date with available job opportunities by monitoring hiring trends. This could include following certain hospitals or medical facilities on LinkedIn and other hiring platforms to see what openings are in your desired area. Additionally, aspiring nurses can look at year-to-year projections or geographical areas that may need more nurses.

Attend Nursing Career Fairs

Career fairs aren’t new to the job search process, but they can be helpful if you want to view your options and speak directly to medical professionals. Gain access to healthcare recruiters and make a memorable first impression all in one place. These events may also have brochures and pamphlets available with role descriptions and important details about company expectations.

Network With Professionals

One unique aspect of MCPHS is its location and affiliation with renowned medical facilities in and around Boston. Throughout your collegiate nursing education, you can work alongside and network with experts in the medical field, offering you beneficial connections to have later on in your job search.

Look Into Residency Programs

Nursing residencies generally last 6-12 months, helping you smoothly transition from school into your career. This route may also make it easier for you to get your foot in the door and gain experience before choosing a full-time position.

Build Up Your Resume

Even though you don’t have full-time professional experience yet, work completed in school can be included in your resume. Within this document, you can add soft and hard skills you've gained and experiences you've had that highlight your nursing accomplishments during school. Resumes could include:

  • Honors or awards.
  • Certifications.
  • Professional affiliations.
  • Nursing license credentials.

Visit Chat Rooms and Forums

After graduating, you can connect with other nursing professionals using nursing forums and chat rooms. These platforms make it easier to ask professionals questions and gain insights into companies either actively looking for nurses or open to hiring soon.

Attend Special Events

Maybe you attend an event where a well-versed medical professional is speaking. Or, you could be at a recent graduate networking dinner. Either way, introducing yourself to fellow nurses can help you make valuable connections.

Prepare for an Interview

While you don’t have to perfect your interview skills or rehearse every line you plan to say, it can be helpful to have a general answer to common questions. Learn how to highlight the various skills you’ve listed on your resume, and speak to your experiences and how they relate to the role you’re attempting to fill. This process can reduce the stress that comes with applying and interviewing for any position and help you be more confident.

Nursing FAQs

What can you do with an associate degree in nursing?

There are various job options people can choose from with an associate degree in nursing, including a registered nurse, an emergency room nurse, an outpatient care nurse, a patient coordinator, an oncology nurse, and more. While a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is recommended by many healthcare professionals, an Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN) can generally be obtained after two to four years in an ADN program.

What is the most popular nursing degree?

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the most popular degree with students. This is due to it being the first step toward earning a master’s in a specific nursing practice. Additionally, this degree can be used for a variety of different jobs, from a public health nurse to a vocational nurse.

What is the difference between a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse?

The biggest difference between these two medical jobs is their education requirements. While a registered nurse only needs to complete an RN program through an accredited school of nursing, a nurse practitioner must also complete a nurse practitioner program to meet certain certifications and licensure requirements or certified nurse midwife.

How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner?

It depends on the school, program, and course load, but generally, a bachelor’s degree takes three to four years of coursework while a master’s degree requires an additional two to five years, depending on whether you go part-time or full-time.

MCPHS has three different part-time program options: one undergraduate and two graduate degrees:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner Bridge Program - (RN to MSN): This three-year, part-time program can build off of a student’s associate’s degree without requiring a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Students will receive clinical experience as they learn from professors both in and outside the classroom and lab, ultimately allowing them to sit for the Family Nurse Practitioner Board Certification Exam upon completion.
  • Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): A 24-month, part-time course of study that provides students with the flexibility necessary to work and earn their nursing diploma simultaneously. Like the Bachelor of Science in Nursing - Postbaccalaureate program, the Master of Science in Nursing - FNP path allows students to gain a niche understanding of family nursing for patients of all ages.
  • Master of Science in Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP): This is a part-time, online program that takes place over 24 months. Students will study advanced pathophysiology and pharmacology, basic counseling theories and techniques, and gain hands-on experience through clinical rotations. Students also dive into the doctor-patient relationship and learn about counseling best practices. After two years, learners are eligible to sit for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certification.

Start Your Journey To Becoming a Nurse

While becoming a nurse may seem like a complex task, you’re capable of achieving so much with the help of the right professors and programs. At MCPHS, every step you take is a step toward a fulfilling and illustrious nursing career. For over 200 years, we’ve created innovative courses that have started thousands of students on a path toward success in the medical field.

When it comes to updated technology, the ability to work with top professionals, and comprehensive health knowledge, MCPHS is ranked in the top 10% of nursing programs nationwide. On top of that, our university has a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio, meaning there’s always a professor or industry expert available to answer questions or meet with. With 826 faculty members—and 90% of them holding terminal degrees—there’s a wealth of knowledge and experience for students to pull from.

If you’re ready to say yes to a career focused on helping those around you become healthier and happier, get started by registering for our nursing program today. Or learn more about our university by visiting our website.