How to Become an RN If You Are a CNA

Many registered nurses began as certified nursing assistants or licensed practical nurses.

Many registered nurses began as certified nursing assistants or licensed practical nurses.

Registered nurses are in great demand in the 21st century. There has been a shortage of nurses in many areas of the country since the mid-1990s, and the aging of the baby boomer population in the U.S. means an increasing demand for nurses through at least 2020. If you are working as a certified nursing assistant, but are ready take a big step forward in your career, you should consider getting the training required to become an RN.

Earn a bachelor of science in nursing degree. While it is possible to get an associate's degree in nursing -- an ADN -- and still become licensed as an RN, many major hospitals require RNs to have a bachelor's degree. If you do take the ADN route to becoming an RN, you will probably have to go back to school to get a BSN at some point in the future if you want to continue to advance your nursing career. You will also undertake a student nursing rotation working with experienced nurses in all of the major medical specialties in your final semester of nursing school.

Take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, for RNs. This is a comprehensive exam covering all aspects of your nursing training, and includes written and practical sections.

Apply to your state nursing board to become licensed to practice nursing. Exact requirements vary slightly by state, but all states require that you pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed.


  • Some major hospitals offer CNA to RN or LPN to RN bridge programs where you can earn an ADN or an RN diploma and qualify to take the NCLEX-RN.

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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