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In healthcare, nurses hold an incredibly esteemed and vital role—and the admirable qualities of a nurse do not go unrecognized. In fact, Americans have ranked nursing professionals as the most honest and ethical professionals for over 20 years.1

There are many different types of nurses, and becoming a registered nurse (RN) is considered the entryway to the world of nursing. To earn this title, you’ll need to understand the educational, legal, and professional requirements to start this valued career in healthcare. This guide will walk you through to what is required to become an RN and explain the exact steps to become a nurse in Arizona.

First—What is an RN?

A registered nurse is a state-credentialed medical professional responsible for delivering and coordinating patient care alongside other team members. From hospitals to schools, registered nurses work in different settings and encounter patients of various backgrounds and health conditions.

Depending on their training and specialty, registered nurses may also specialize in certain fields of medicine, including oncology, geriatrics, ICU care, or more. However, almost all RNs will know and carry out the same common nursing skills, including:2

  • Assessing patient condition, medical history, and symptomatic changes
  • Observing and recording patient symptoms and progress
  • Administering medicines and treatments
  • Treating and disinfecting wounds
  • Operating medical devices and equipment
  • Performing diagnostic tests and analyzing test results
  • Communicating with patients and family members on care plans
  • Explaining home treatments or post-care routines

A Step-by-Step Guide to Being an Arizona RN

Now comes the question: How to become a RN? Whether you’re a local or an out-of-town practitioner, every nurse must complete the same state nurse requirements during their RN program. These steps include:

  • Completing a valid nursing degree (i.e., bachelor's, master’s, or doctorate in nursing) 
  • Passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) 
  • Applying for and obtaining an Arizona state nursing license 

Despite these standards, every path toward a nursing career looks slightly different. If you're ready to pursue nursing, begin with these three steps to become a registered nurse in the Grand Canyon State. 

#1 Earn A Nursing Degree 

Education is the pillar of every healthcare profession, including nursing. That’s why every state government will require that you earn a nursing degree to become an RN. Without a degree from an accredited institution, you cannot qualify for a state’s licensure exam and will never legally practice in the healthcare industry.3 

Every nursing education program differs slightly across curriculum and content. However, a typical nursing program will usually include the following subjects:4

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Microbiology
  • Psychology
  • Gerontology
  • Women and infant health
  • Ethics
  • Clinical theory and study
  • Care transitions

However, you can actually earn a few different types of degrees to qualify as a registered nurse—and the subjects a given program covers (and their level of rigor or extensiveness) may also vary according to the education level it provides. Depending on your previous education, current degrees, and career goals, you may pick any of the following to become an RN in Arizona:5

  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) – Want to hit the fast track to a nursing career? This two-year degree program prepares nursing students to become registered nurses through classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. This is also a strategic choice for working students or parents, taking about four years to complete with part-time classes.
  • Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) – For a more comprehensive education, a BSN is a four-year degree program that offers courses in nursing theory, research, leadership, and clinical experience. Typically, the BSN program prepares nursing students for more managerial positions, like a nurse administrator. 
  • Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) – For BSN degree holders, a master’s of science in nursing is an opportunity to deepen your education, usually lasting two years. The MSN program can open more nursing career opportunities, such as educational roles or specialized jobs. 
  • Master’s of Science in Nursing Direct Entry (MSN-Direct Entry) – Also called immersion programs or direct entry programs, this type of master’s degree is built for individuals who already hold a bachelor's degree in non-nursing subjects. Typically, an MSN-direct entry degree takes about two to three years to complete. 

Before applying to any of these programs, make sure that you meet their qualifications. Each program will require you to hold a high school diploma or GED for entry. Additionally, most nursing programs will ask you to meet academic standards like:6

  • One year of high school biology with a C or better
  • One year of high school chemistry with a C or better
  • Two years of college-preparatory math with a C or better
  • An adequate GPA score (typically above 2.75)
  • Adequate standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, or TEAS)

#2 Pass the NCLEX Exam

Once you graduate from a qualified nursing program, you’ve completed the largest portion of your timeline toward your registered nursing journey. Now, it’s time to take the next step—taking and successfully passing the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX).

The NCLEX is a national test required for all nursing students to become registered nurses, regardless of location. This exam asks students to demonstrate their understanding of nursing to earn their RN licensure from a state government. However, don’t panic if you don’t pass—Arizona allows all nursing students to take the test as many times as they need to pass (although extra fees may apply).7

The Arizona Board of Nursing (AZBN) currently operates the state’s NCLEX exam. While you can register for the test up to two months before your graduation, you can only take the NCLEX once your nursing degree is posted and approved (usually four to six weeks after graduation). As part of your state license application (step three, covered below), you can prepare yourself to take the NCLEX exam through these steps:8

  1. Prepare the required information and begin your application online.
  2. Send your application to the AZBN within two years of your graduation.
  3. Register with NCSBN to sit for the exam (which requires a $200 application fee).
  4. Request school transcripts to be sent to the AZBN.
  5. Complete a state-run background check.
  6. Choose your desired test date once approved.
  7. If desired, apply for a temporary license under two circumstances:
    1. Your fingerprints are rejected and you have already passed the NCLEX; or
    2. If it has been more than two years since you graduated and a refresher course is required

So, how do you know if you passed? The NCLEX exam is a pass/fail test with a base logit score of 0.00. Although logit scores may be unfamiliar and confusing, they’re fairly straightforward: Any correct answers move your score above zero, while wrong answers move your score below zero.9 If your final score is -.18 or higher, then you pass.10

Typically, you’ll get your results about six weeks after your test.11

#3 Apply for an Arizona State License

If you’ve passed the NCLEX, then congratulations—you’re one step closer to becoming a registered nurse in Arizona!

As mentioned, RNs must be licensed in the state where they practice. However, there are a few different ways to apply and qualify for a nursing license, particularly in Arizona. The Arizona Board of Nursing requires the following processes for each type of applicant:12

  • Licensure by Examination – If you have no prior RN license in any state or hold a license in a non-Compact state (see below), then you must apply by examination in Arizona. This means students must provide an adequate nursing degree (with transcripts), pass the NCLEX, pass a criminal background check (including a fingerprint card), and confirm citizenship status to earn a registered nurse license in Arizona.13
  • Licensure by Endorsement – If you already hold an RN license in a different state than Arizona, you may be qualified to practice—all thanks to the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). This compact between certain states allows RNs to fast-track their way to multi-licensure. As long as you meet all examination licensure qualifications, hold a United States social security number, and meet state board approval, you can earn an Arizona registered nurse license. However, Arizona must be your Primary State of Residence to apply for licensure by endorsement. 
  • Licensure by Renewal – In Arizona, RN licenses expire every four years.14 To renew your license, you must have practiced at least 960 hours over the past five years, graduated from a nursing program or advanced nursing degree in the last five years, or completed an AZBN-approved refresher course in the past five years. Otherwise, you must completely start over the licensing process by examination.

(Optional) Pursue a Continuing Education or Advanced Training 

After earning your state license, you're officially a registered nurse practitioner! You've finally reached your goal, but it doesn't have to end at the steps to becoming an RN. This doesn't have to signify the end of your healthcare professional journey. There are a number of opportunities to advance your nursing practice. You may want to get a certification that demonstrates your expertise in a specific nursing field. You can look into gerontology, oncology, neonatal care, pediatrics, and many others. Acquiring a specialization in health science not only improves your earning potential but also broadens your qualifications to more and better nursing professions. 

You may choose to earn a higher-level nursing education to be a clinical nurse leader or a nurse educator in the field of academe. This requires you to take up a masters program of any science degree or a Doctorate Nursing Practice (DNP) program. 

Request for more information

Why Should I Become an RN in Arizona?

You’ve likely heard stories from nurses about overnight shifts, difficult patient cases, and work stress. However, there’s no question that nursing can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career, despite its challenges. For many aspiring nurses, the reasons to continue pursuing this career path include:16

  • Positive impact – Having the ability to positively impact (and even potentially save) a person’s life is a unique opportunity that can be hugely rewarding. 
  • Flexibility – Although nurses work long shifts, hospital nurses typically only work a three-day work week, giving them plenty of time to recoup, socialize with loved ones, or pursue hobbies during their days off. 
  • Specialization opportunities – Some nursing specialties include cardiac care, dermatology, forensics, toxicology, and ambulatory care. 
  • Subject matter – Individuals who are interested in topics like physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, and pharmacology will get to learn more about these (and related) subjects.

Establish Your Nursing Career in Arizona with Alliant International University

Nursing is more than a career—it’s a calling to help others lead better and healthier lives. And to heed that call, your path to nursing starts with education. At Alliant International University, our bachelor’s of science in nursing and master’s of science in nursing direct entry programs give students across educational backgrounds the collegiate nursing education needed to pursue a career in nursing. 

Whether you hope to practice in a public school or hospital, our expert staff are ready to help you achieve your educational goals as an aspiring nurse so that one day, you can reach your career goals as a registered nurse. 

Discover more about our nursing programs at the School of Nursing and Health Sciences today.


  1. RJ Reinhart. 2020. “Nurses Continue to Rate Highest in Honesty, Ethics.” Gallup. January 6, 2020.….  Accessed February 15, 2023.
  2. “What Is a Registered Nurse (RN)? (And What Do They Do?). Indeed. January 04, 2023.…. Accessed February 23, 2023.
  3. AZBN Regulatory Journal. “Apply for a License.” AZBN Regulatory Journal.  n.d. Arizona State Board of Nursing. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  4.  NurseJournal. “15 Common Courses In RN Programs” NurseJournal. Last modified September 22, 2022.…. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  5. Smith-Kimble, Courtney. “Understanding All Nursing Degree Types Overview.” NurseJournal. Last modified December 5, 2022. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  6. Gaines, Kathleen. “Nursing School Prerequisites: The Complete Guide to Getting into Nursing School.” September 26, 2022. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  7. AZBN Regulatory Journal. “APRN / RN / LPN Renewal License FAQs” AZBN Regulatory Journal n.d. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  8. AZBN Regulatory Journal. “APRN / RN / LPN Renewal License FAQs” AZBN Regulatory Journal n.d. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  9. NCSBN. “After the Exam.” NCSBN. n.d. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  10. NCSBN. “Passing Standard.” NCSBN. n.d. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  11. NCSBN.  “Results Processing.” NCSBN. N.d. Accessed February 15, 2023. 
  12.  AZBN Regulatory Journal. “Apply for a License.” AZBN Regulatory Journal.  n.d. Arizona State Board of Nursing. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  13.  AZBN Regulatory Journal. “Apply for a License.” AZBN Regulatory Journal.  n.d. Arizona State Board of Nursing. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  14.  AZBN Regulatory Journal. “Apply for a License.” AZBN Regulatory Journal.  n.d. Arizona State Board of Nursing. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  15.  AZBN Regulatory Journal. “Apply for a License.” AZBN Regulatory Journal.  n.d. Arizona State Board of Nursing. Accessed February 15, 2023.
  16. Kovacs, Kasia. “25 Reasons to Become a Nurse |” NurseJournal. Last modified January 5, 2023. Accessed February 15, 2023.

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