How Do I Get My Prerequisites for Nursing?

Are there prerequisites for nursing school? Yes, to earn your nursing degree, you’ll need to complete a series of prerequisite courses that build your learning foundation. But how do you get prerequisites for nursing, and how long do they take to complete? Discover time-saving secrets for finishing nursing prerequisites faster with this guide.

April 2023
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What are nursing prerequisites?

Every degree type has what’s known as prerequisites: foundational courses one must complete before diving into the core subject matter. Also known as general education courses or “gen eds,” prerequisites or “prereqs” are taken during the first year or two of college. Once prerequisites are finished, students move on to coursework more specific to their field of study. 

Nursing prerequisites are required for those pursuing an RN or BSN. While each accredited nursing school will have a slightly different nursing prerequisites list, students should expect a variety of basic education topics such as math, history, writing, and more. 

Because nursing is a vital part of the healthcare industry, students will also need to study foundational science-based courses before nursing school begins. These topics prepare nursing students for the more challenging classes during their junior and senior year. 

An example nursing prerequisites list could include:

  • Developmental Psychology 
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Sociology 
  • English Composition
  • American Government 
  • College Math 
  • Humanities 
  • Foreign Language 

How many credits are required for for nursing prerequisites? College courses average 3 credits each, adding up to around 120 total to graduate. Nursing prerequisites may take up to half of those credit hours.

How do you get prerequisites for nursing? 

You cannot start nursing school without prerequisites. Whether you choose a traditional four-year college or an accelerated degree program, you’ll still need to complete these entry-level courses to advance your education. 

There are two ways to get prerequisites for nursing:

  • Take courses directly from your college: For associate's or bachelor’s degrees, each college will map out the exact prerequisites you need. Your accredited school of choice will have all these courses available to you on campus. 
  • Test out of prerequisites: An alternative and more efficient way to get through your prereqs is by testing out of them. By passing one proficiency test, you can earn the same college credits but in a fraction of the time. 

Credit by exam is open to all college students, but many working CNAs and LPNs have found this system to be particularly helpful for earning an RN. Testing out of nursing prerequisites enables busy adults to balance work and education by completing general courses at a much quicker pace. Not only does this save time and money, but it allows students to move ahead to core nursing subjects much sooner.

How long does it take to finish prerequisites for nursing? 

When taking a traditional college path, nursing prerequisites take around two years for full-time students. 

Accelerated options—including credit by exam—can help you finish prerequisites for nursing up to one year faster

Your schedule, budget, and personal responsibilities may affect how long it takes to finish your nursing prerequisites. For example, nursing students who work or need to take care of kids or family members may not have the time nor financial resources to work through prerequisites in a traditional format. This is why many busy CNAs and LPNs see a much higher success rate with credit by exam

Are nursing prerequisites hard? 

Your difficulty level for nursing prerequisites depends on several factors.

  • Education background: Having baseline knowledge in a particular subject helps make the process easier. For example, some nursing prerequisites are similar to high school classes, such as math or writing, but if you’re getting exposed to a subject for the first time, such as developmental psychology, it may be more challenging. 
  • Time: Busy schedules filled with work, family, or other responsibilities can make focusing on your prereqs more demanding than someone without those additional obligations. Finding time to study and complete coursework is difficult for many students. 
  • Support systems: Receiving support both in and outside of school can make a big difference. Helpful instructors, understanding family members, and caring co-workers contribute to a positive school experience.

Are nursing prerequisites hard? They can be, but there areaways to make them easier. In addition to credit by exam, working with acknowledgeable advisor is a smart way to understand exactly which prereqs you need and how you can work through them at a manageable pace. Achieve offers College planning services to help you see which courses you can test out of and how to transfer credit-by-exam credits. 

How to prepare for nursing prerequisites 

Going back to school as an adult is a major commitment that takes ongoing dedication. To prepare for nursing prerequisites, you’ll need to take several factors into consideration. 

  • Set your goals: Before you start any prereqs, you need to have your long-term goals in mind. What kind of nursing degree do you want? What are your nursing career aspirations? Try to think several years into the future so that you can start off on the right path now.
  • Find your nursing school: Do you want online or in-person instruction? Do you need full-time or part-time scheduling? Every school offers different options, so do your research to find a school that meets your needs. 
  • Verify credit by exam opportunities: Testing out of prerequisites is the most time-saving option for earning college credit, but not every accredited nursing school accepts the same courses. Work with an advisor to verify credit by exam opportunities. 
  • Utilize test prep services: To pass your proficiency exams on the first try, consider a test prep course. Test prep courses help students get fully up to speed on a specific subject, teaching them exactly what they need to pass. Prep courses are available for prerequisites, nursing school entrance exams (TEAS),and nursing licensure exams (NCLEX). 

Online nursing prerequisites with Achieve 

Achieve Test Prep helps busy adults finish their nursing prerequisites online. We offer day, night, and weekend test prep courses to help you pass your proficiency exams with confidence; in fact, 93% of Achieve customers pass on their first try. If you’re ready to earn your RN and seek supportive, time-saving options, Achieve’s industry-leading RN Bridge was designed for you! Schedule a call with our Advisor team to learn more.

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