How to Become a RN Critical Care?

Are you thinking of becoming a RN Critical Care or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a RN Critical Care, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new RN Critical Care job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.
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Steps to Become a Registered Nurse

A career caring for patients as a registered nurse can be very rewarding. If you are solutions-oriented and enjoy working with people, a career as a registered nurse may be right for you. In this article, we discuss the steps required to become a registered nurse.

Fulfill Prerequisites for a BSN or ADN Degree

To pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), you must complete prerequisite courses in human anatomy, biology, psychology, physiology, and math. Many nursing schools require students to earn a C or better in these courses.


Earn an ADN, BSN, or ABSN Degree

You can become a registered nurse by earning an ADN, BSN, or ABSN degree.

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): An ADN program takes approximately two years to complete. An ADN is the fastest way to enter nursing, but it may limit your career options in the future, as most employers prefer candidates with a BSN degree.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): In addition to advanced nursing classes, BSN students must complete a required number of clinical hours. Requirements vary from program to program, but many BSN programs require three clinical hours for every one hour of class time. A BSN program usually takes four years to complete. Students who have earned an ADN may complete a BSN program in two years.
  • Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN): An ABSN degree program allows those with a bachelor's degree to earn an accelerated nursing degree in 12 to 18 months. ABSN students do not need to have a degree in a medical field, just a degree from an accredited institution.

What type of degree should you pursue to become a Registered Nurse?

50% of people working as a Registered Nurse earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be a Registered Nurse?

  • CCRN
  • Critical Thinking
  • CPR Certified
  • Excellent Communication
  • Written Communication
  • ICU
  • BLS Certification
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Registered Nurse in the United States.

Become Licensed

To become licensed as a nurse, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination Registered Nurse exam (NCLEX-RN). You can apply for your license and register for the NCLEX-RN six weeks after earning an ABN, BSN, or ABSN degree. Test questions cover nursing fundamentals, behavioral interventions, pharmacological therapies, and more.

Those who do not pass the exam can retake it after 45 days. Licensed nurses must periodically renew their licenses by completing continuing education credits. License renewal requirements vary from state to state.


Find Entry-Level Employment

Many registered nurses find employment through their colleges or on job boards. Professional nursing organizations, such as the American Nurses Association, offer assistance in finding a registered nurse job as well.


Become Certified in a Specialty

Although not necessary to work as a registered nurse, becoming certified in a specialty can help you advance in your career. Registered nurse certification options include:

  • Pediatric: Specialized care for children.
  • Neonatal: Care for newborn infants, often in intensive care units.
  • Gerontology: Provide medical care for elderly patients, often in nursing or rehabilitation centers.
  • Ambulatory care: Perform tests and educate patients at urgent care and outpatient centers.
  • Oncology: Care for patients with cancer, usually in hospitals or cancer treatment centers.
  • Critical care: Work with critically ill patients in emergency departments or intensive care units.

Earn Advanced Degrees

A master's degree is often required to work in high-level medical specialties, including the following positions:

RN Critical Care Career Path

Registered Nurse

0 - 1Years of Experience
$81K - $121K /yrMost Likely Range
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Senior Registered Nurse

2 - 4Years of Experience
$99K - $150K /yrMost Likely Range
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Adjunct Registered Nurse

No Years of Experience Reports
$96K - $139K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

RN Critical Care Career Path

New Grad Registered Nurse
Registered Nurse
Assistant Manager of Nursing
Senior Registered Nurse
Registered Nurse Manager
Adjunct Registered Nurse
Registered Nurse V
Assistant Director of Nursing
Director of Nursing
Senior Director of Nursing
Chief Registered Nurse
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Related Careers in the Healthcare Industry

Interested in other Healthcare careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with RN Critical Care skills. Discover some of the most common RN Critical Care career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Registered Nurse Case Manager
25% skills overlap
14% transitioned to Registered Nurse Case Manager