How Many Credit Hours to Become a Registered Nurse?

by Cynthia Gomez - Updated September 26, 2017
Nursing credit hour requirements vary by state and by degree.

A registered nurse requires a high level of training. RNs usually have a bachelor’s or associate’s degree and have passed a certification exam. If you enjoy helping people and would like to work in the medical profession, a job as an RN may be for you. First you’ll have to complete the credit hour requirements to sit for the certification exam.

Requirements Vary

There is no one set credit hour requirement to become an RN. This is because individuals with a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree, and in some states even with just a diploma, can take the required licensing exam to be an RN. This exam is called the National Council Licensure Exam, or NCLEX-RN for short. However, each state regulates how many credit hours students must have in order to sit for the exam.

Common Requirements

Institutions’ nursing programs usually follow state requirements for sitting for the NCLEX-RN, so that students are ready to take the licensing exam once they graduate. Commonly, bachelor’s of science in nursing degrees comprise 120 or so credit hours. An associate’s on the other hand, will require completion of about 60 credit hours.

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Common Courses

You’ll have to complete general education courses such as English composition, general psychology and algebra before moving on to more nursing-related courses. Common courses in RN programs include fundamentals of nursing, pharmacology for nurses, IV therapy, nursing concepts and mental health nursing.


Once you get all the required credit hours to sit for the NCLEX-RN, you may think you’re done with school. This is not the case. Registered nurses must complete continuing education hours throughout their careers to remain licensed. Continuing education hours vary by state, but each state’s board of nursing lists such requirements.

2016 Salary Information for Registered Nurses

Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, registered nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,190, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,955,200 people were employed in the U.S. as registered nurses.

About the Author

Cynthia Gomez has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. She is currently an editor at a major publishing company, where she works on various trade journals. Gomez also spent many years working as a newspaper reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.

Photo Credits

  • Nurse with needle image by Allen Penton from
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