How do I Become a Practical Nurse?

N. Madison
N. Madison

To become a practical nurse, you will usually have to complete a practical nursing education program. Typically, these programs include classroom education and clinical training, and many last for about a year or two. After you have completed a nurse education program, you will likely have to pass a nurse licensing exam before you can apply for a job. You may have to pay a fee and agree to a criminal background check as well.


The first step you will have to take to become a practical nurse will likely be earning a high school diploma. Most nursing programs have this as the minimum requirement for entry. As an alternative, however, you may qualify for entry into a nursing program by earning a general educational development (GED) diploma. While you are in high school, science- and health-related courses may help prepare you for a career in nursing. If your school offers vocational classes that are related to health care, you may find them helpful as well.

You may find practical nurse education programs at community colleges in your area, and some vocational schools may also offer them. In fact, some hospitals may even offer nurse education programs in which you can enroll to become a licensed practical nurse. The length of these programs may vary from institution to institution. Depending on where you choose to enroll, you may complete a practical nursing education that lasts for a year and leads to a certificate in nursing or a program that lasts for about two years and ends with an associate’s degree in nursing.

In addition to nursing education and training through a practical nursing program, you will likely have to take an exam to become a practical nurse. Many jurisdictions require those who want to work as practical nurses to gain licensing, which usually involves the successful completion of a standardized exam. Depending on the jurisdiction in which you hope to work, you may have to pass a national nurse licensing exam as well, or you may be required to take and pass a regional exam instead.

In many jurisdictions, to become a practical nurse you will be required to complete an application for a nursing license and pay a fee. You may also have to submit to a criminal background check. Upon meeting your jurisdiction’s licensing requirements and passing the mandatory exam, you will likely receive your nursing license through the mail.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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