According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for registered nurses is projected to grow 15% by 2026, making it a stable career path. As a high school student, you can take steps now that will gain you a competitive advantage later. Below, you will find 10 steps to becoming a nurse after high school.
Step 1: Volunteer in the Nursing Field
Volunteering is an opportunity to gain practical skills while experiencing nursing firsthand. It also allows you to close the gap between practice and theory when you begin taking nursing classes later. Even if a volunteer program doesn’t require minimum hours, keep track and list them on your resume. That will help you stand out during the application process.
Step 2: Enroll in Math, Science, and AP Courses
Wherever possible, you should enroll in advanced math and science courses, like statistics, biology, chemistry, and physics. Think of them like high school requirements for nursing — these courses are the foundation of a nursing education and completing them early will help you tackle anatomy and physiology courses later.
Step 3: Take a CPR/First Aid Course
CPR certification is a requirement for healthcare professionals. Taking a beginner course will give you the basics and, with enough practice, they’ll become second nature by the time you get to nursing school.
Step 4: Research Nursing Programs
Some nursing programs take only 18 months to complete, while others can take four years or more. Reputable programs are competitive, and researching their requirements ahead of time helps you hone your resume to match. Requirements could include specific high school classes for nursing prerequisites, a minimum GPA, or a minimum number of volunteer hours.
Step 5: Keep a Pulse on the Healthcare Industry - Specifically Nursing
By staying apprised of healthcare news, you can follow employment trends and technological innovations. This helps you select a lucrative specialty and stay ahead of the learning curve. Most major news outlets, including CNN and The New York Times, cover popular trends in healthcare. You could also subscribe to a professional journal, like Science Daily or the American Journal of Nursing.
Step 6: Create a Financial Plan
Nursing program costs vary by education level; an associate degree is more affordable than a bachelor’s or a higher-level degree, but it also means fewer career opportunities. You should research program costs for your preferred nursing specialty and create a financial plan that includes financial aid and scholarship options.
Step 7: Take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)
Prior to enrolling in a nursing program, you should consider taking the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS). The TEAS exam consists of 170 questions that assess your skills in reading, math, science, English, and language. Not all nursing programs require a minimum TEAS score for admission, but some do. The national average TEAS score is around 65-75%; your own score is an indicator of your preparedness for a career in health science.
Step 8: Practice Your Interview Skills
Some nursing programs require an entrance interview, so it helps to prepare by practicing interview skills. Learn how to present yourself professionally and answer questions about why you want to be a nurse or why you are interested in a specific school or program.
Step 9: Network with Nursing Professionals
If you talk to working nurses, you can gain an insider perspective that can guide your program selection or career path. There are several ways to network, including reaching out over professional social media websites like LinkedIn, scheduling an informational interview or job shadow, or attending a conference or career fair. Some universities even offer “nurse camps,” which are week-long introductory nursing programs for high school students.
Step 10: Gain Customer Service Experience
Being a nurse requires working with diverse populations in a variety of situations. One of the best ways to gain experience working with people is by getting a customer service job in an industry like retail or hospitality. These jobs give you the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills necessary for a successful nursing career.