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bachelor's degree in nursing requirements

Updated on May 16, 2013

A BSN student may use a stethescope

The BSN or Bachelor's of Science in Nursing Degree

If you want to become a nurse, you must go through training. You can enter the nursing profession in many different ways. You might choose to earn get an LPN or licensed practical nursing certification. You might also decide that you’d like to get a community college degree in nursing.

Either of those choices will serve you well. But if you really want to make sure that your nursing career will begin with the very best preparation, you should strongly consider earning a four year degree in nursing. The four year degree in nursing is known as a BSN or bachelor’s of science in nursing.

You can choose to earn this degree in four different ways. The first way you can do is by earning an LPN certification first and then back to school later to earn a registered nursing degree. This allows you to get make money on the job and then return to school later. You can save up money in the meantime. But it may take you several years to earn your degree that way.

The second way you can get a BSN is by earning an unrelated college degree and then going back to school to take specific nursing classes. This path is ideal for people who want to change careers later in life.

The third way you can earn your BSN is by earning a two year degree in nursing at a community college and then going for your four year degree later on. This a good path if you meet several criteria including having a college with a two year nursing program near your house and you desire to enter the profession initially to decide if you like it. Many employers allow nurses to get further training onsite up to and including a BSN.

The fourth way you can choose to earn a BSN is by doing all your training at once. If you are fresh out of high school and determined to enter the nursing profession, this can be the ideal way to earn your credentials. A young person may have no other commitments to meet. She can easily spend four years in intensive study and devote herself to learning the fundamentals of her craft.

Earning a BSN will entail a very heavily time commitment and serious study so think carefully before you begin. In most cases you will be required to complete at least sixty credits in the field of nursing studies.


A bachelor’s of science degree takes four years to earn in most cases. While some requirements vary from college to college, in general you can expect to take certain classes during this preliminary year.

Most colleges require candidates for a BSN to demonstrate a thorough grounding in the liberal arts. While many colleges allow people a certain leeway in determining the kinds of humanities classes they can expect to take, in general you may expect to take classes in English composition, communications, sociology and arts classes such as film and textural analysis.

Humanities classes offer great benefits for students. The liberal arts teach us many skills including how to read texts closely, how to write well, how to make an effective argument in print and in speech and how to understand many possible viewpoints. Once you become a nurse, you will draw upon these skills as you practice nursing. Nurses are often asked to communicate in writing with others and help them understand difficult and complicated instructions. Nurses are also often asked to communicate well with people of varied backgrounds who may not sure their point of view.

You will be expected to demonstrate that you have mastered basic skills taught in humanities classes via testing. Students who do not maintain a minimal grade point average might be asked to leave the nursing program.


Once you have mastered humanities concepts, many programs will require you to begin your nursing training and the sciences. Second year students are expected to master courses in biology, microbiology, physiology, human anatomy and immunology. Student nurses also take classes that help teach them basic nursing practices. These typically include material on essentials of nursing practice as well as the science and technology of nursing.

You will be expected to begin to understand procedures such as how to interview a patient to determine his medical history, how to do certain basic tests such as measuring a patient’s blood pressure and pulse and how to communicate with doctors and other health care professionals.

Your science training will focus heavily on basic hard sciences such as organic chemistry, the anatomy of the human body and techniques that scientists use to investigate biological processes at the molecular level. You can also expect to take college level math classes that will be relevant to your nursing career such as statistics.


In your third year of study, nursing students begin to study the skills they will need as nurses intensively.

Typical classes during this time include heavy duty intensive focus on nursing issues and procedures. Students study subjects such as adult nursing, nursing pharmacology, nursing issues related to childbearing women, nursing issues related to children, mental health nursing, gerontology nursing and mental health nursing. During this time, they learn about the varied issues that each particular population confronts when dealing with both temporary and ongoing health issues.

Sophomore nursing students also typically study other subjects in depth with a serious focus on the hard sciences. Most student nurses take at least a year of organic chemistry as well as classes in advanced biology and microbiological techniques.


Senior nursing students intensify their focus on expanding their fund of knowledge. During this year, they learn both practical nursing techniques and the science behind them.

Nursing students can expect to learn procedures such as how to give subcutaneous injections, how to insert an intravenous line and how to write up medical charts so that a doctor can read information about a patient’s history.

During this time, nursing students will spend at least half the year gaining practical nursing experience in the form of an internship at a hospital or nursing home. Nursing students will be assessed on their ability to follow orders of a supervisor, work with actual patients and how well they have learned to physically perform many basic nursing skills.

Earning a BSN requires determination and hard work. If you are prepared and determined, the four years you spent as a student nurse can help form the basis of a life long career.


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