How to Become an Infection Control Nurse

NurseJournal Staff
Updated January 13, 2023
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Learn how to become an infection control nurse. Find out how long it takes, the steps involved, and how to get certified as an infection control nurse.
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Registered nurses (RNs) and new nursing graduates may question how to become an infection control nurse, what an infection control nurse does, and how much the role pays.

In this guide, learn about the compensation, education requirements, steps to becoming an infection control nurse, and how to get an infection control nurse certification.

What Is an Infection Control Nurse?

If you love quality improvement, leadership, and patient teaching, you may be interested in becoming an infection control nurse. Infection control nurses analyze data, teach/educate, and perform other functions related to preventing and lowering infection transmission in a hospital or community setting.

Infection control nurses educate patients and other staff members in the healthcare environment or community. An important part of the job is to ensure that the hospital or medical facility follows evidence-based practices to prevent the spread of infectious disease. This could involve ensuring policies and procedures for patients requiring isolation or proper disposal for contaminated items.

In community health roles, infection control nurses provide educational information to the public.

Steps to Becoming an Infection Control Nurse

The steps to becoming an infection control nurse may differ depending on your long-term goals. The quickest track is to earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN), but many workplaces require a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

  1. 1

    Earn an ADN or a BSN Degree

    Nurses can work as infection control nurses with either an ADN or a BSN. An ADN takes two years and a BSN can take four. Many employers require a BSN. Pursuing this degree can give nurses an edge in the job market.

    A BSN degree is a four-year program. Students who have an ADN can shorten their time to earn a BSN to 9-24 months by enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program. Students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing may consider an accelerated BSN program, which can take 11-18 months to complete.

  2. 2

    Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to Receive RN Licensure

    The NCLEX-RN exam is a 265-question test covering patient care, nurse management, and supervision. The test is adaptive. Nurses must correctly answer between 75-265 questions.

  3. 3

    Gain Experience in Infection Control Nursing

    Often, nurses must have some experience before they are considered for infectious disease nurse positions. The job involves a high level of autonomy. A background in providing nursing care, such as assessing and caring for patients with different types and levels of infection, is necessary.

    Recent graduates can gain experience by working at entry-level jobs under the supervision of experienced nurses or infectious disease nurse specialists, such as infectious disease nurse practitioners or certified infection control nurses.

    Most employers require RNs to be certified in basic life support or advanced cardiac life support.

  4. 4

    Consider Becoming a Certified Infection Control Nurse

    Registered nurses can become certified infection control (CIC) nurses, but this credential is not a requirement.

    CIC eligibility includes completion of an ADN or a BSN nursing program and one year full-time work experience. It also includes either directing an infection prevention and control program or 3,000 hours of infection prevention work in the past three years.

    Applicants for CIC certification must also have experience in two out of three components: employee/occupational health, management, or education and research.

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Infection Control Nurse Education

The minimum degree requirement for an infection control nurse is an ADN. With an ADN, two years is the shortest qualification period.

ADN Degree

An ADN is the fastest track to becoming licensed as an RN. The ADN is a two-year degree requiring 60-75 credits. The program includes courses that prepare students to take the NCLEX-RN exam to become registered nurses.

  1. 1

    Admission Requirements

    GED certificate or high school diploma with a 2.0 GPA; statistics course or other specific coursework; qualifying ACT/SAT scores; background check; letter/s of recommendation; relevant volunteer or work experience (e.g., working as a certified nursing assistant)

  2. 2

    Program Curriculum

    Coursework that prepares students to provide safe, best-practice patient care and pass the NCLEX-RN exam; clinical practicums in medical settings and/or in a simulation lab

  3. 3

    Time to Complete

    24 months

  4. 4

    Skills Learned

    Delivering patient care; employing legal and ethical nursing care standards; assessing patients

BSN Degree

A BSN degree is required by some places that employ infection control nurses. A BSN will qualify infection control nurses to work in a broad range of industries and provide bachelor-level RNs an advantage in the job market.

A BSN may be preferred or even required by some employers hiring infection control nurses. Getting a BSN requires 120 credits over four years. Nurses graduating with a BSN can perform the same clinical duties as nurses with an ADN, but BSN nurses have a broader range of career opportunities compared to ADNs.

There are several BSN tracks, including traditional four-year programs, LPN-to-BSN programs, and RN-to-BSN degree programs.

  1. 1

    Admission Requirements

    High school or college transcripts; GPA of 3.0 or higher for transfer credits and 2.5 or higher for high school graduates; personal essay; letter/s of recommendation; qualifying ACT/SAT scores; prerequisites (e.g., statistics, microbiology, or other science-based courses)

  2. 2

    Program Curriculum

    Anatomy and physiology; pharmacology; psychology; nursing fundamentals; OB/GYN and pediatric nursing; community health nursing; clinical practicums in a hospital, clinic, or lab simulation

  3. 3

    Time to Complete

    48 months

  4. 4

    Skills Learned

    Nursing leadership and management; community health nursing; research and statistics; nursing informatics; specialty areas of nursing care, such as medical-surgical nursing and geriatric nursing

Infection Control Nurse Licensure and Certification

Becoming an infection control nurse includes graduating from an accredited ADN or BSN program, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and holding a current, unencumbered license. Each state differs in the requirements to maintain an RN license, but most require a specific number of continuing education units and a renewal fee.

You can choose to become a CIC nurse. While this credential will give you an advantage in the job market, it is not a requirement.

Eligibility requirements for the CIC include completion of an ADN or a BSN nursing program and at least one year of work experience. It also requires either directing an infection prevention and control program in a healthcare setting or 3,000 hours of infection prevention work in the past three years. Applicants for CIC certification must also have experience in two out of three components, which include employee/occupational health, management, or education and research.

The a-IPC (Associate — Infection Prevention and Control) is an entry-level credential issued by the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology. It was designed for those who are not eligible to meet the requirements to take the CIC exam.

Passing the a-IPC exam may help you qualify for an infection control nurse position at some places of employment, but it does not qualify nurses to take the CIC. You still must meet each CIC requirement.

Working as an Infection Control Nurse

Finding a job as an infection control nurse can be challenging for new nurse graduates and those without experience in the field. Job openings are limited compared to staff nurses and other specialties like ambulatory care nurses.

If you lack work experience, the best way to gain an advantage in the job market is to pursue CIC certification.

There are advantages to pursuing an infection control nurse specialty. Patients and hospital staff benefit from the knowledge and expertise of an infection control nurse. Your education and experience will help protect the community from infectious disease transmission.

The earning potential is comparable to an average salary for an RN. According to Payscale, the average yearly salary for an infection control nurse is $73,920 as of June 2022. The job outlook is good, with a projected 9% growth from 2020 to 2030 for all RNs.

Infection control nurses work in many different settings, including healthcare institutions, residential facilities, and public health centers.

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    Infection control nurses ensure evidence-based infection control practices are carried out properly. They advise other staff members and educate patients.

    Additionally, infection control nurses work closely with management and quality improvement teams to analyze infection-related data. This data helps teams to better focus their educational efforts or make changes.

  • check-circle

    Residential Care

    Infection control nurses manage sanitation and ensure infection control practices in long-term care facilities like nursing homes and residential care centers. Other responsibilities include solving problems (e.g., recurrent patient infections), keeping staff members updated on new policies, and reducing risks by employing evidence-based practice.

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    Public Health Centers

    Infection control nurses educate public officials and serve as a resource to employ infection control protocols. They also work with government or public officials, establish policies and procedures for evidence-based infection control protocols, and collaborate with organizations to prevent infectious disease.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an Infection Control Nurse

question-mark-circleHow many years does it take to become an infection control nurse?

It takes 2-4 years to become an RN. The minimum requirement is a two-year ADN degree, but many employers prefer or require a BSN. Most require experience. This could take an additional 12 months to gain experience in an entry-level job.

question-mark-circleWhat are the requirements to become an infection control nurse?

The primary requirement is RN licensure. Many employers also require 12 months of experience and/or CIC certification.

question-mark-circleHow hard is it to become an infection control nurse?

Becoming an infection control nurse can be challenging, particularly for recent graduates, because experience is required before getting hired or certified. While certification can help nurses qualify, there are steep eligibility requirements for the CIC credential.

question-mark-circleDo infection control nurses get paid well?

The average annual salary for an infection control nurse is $73,920 as per Payscale data in June 2022, compared to the national median of $77,600.

Page last reviewed June 10, 2022

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