Required Courses for a Nursing Degree

by Kate Prudchenko, Demand Media Google

The field of nursing requires a high level of critical thinking and communication skills, as well as a strong foundation in theoretical aspects of medicine, nursing and health care. Additionally, nursing also prepares people for primary direct care of patients by giving them clinical and hands-on experience. Requirements vary greatly across nursing degrees and colleges, but many undergraduate nursing programs require similar kinds of required courses.


Students interested in studying nursing in college have two degree options. An associate's degree in nursing is a two- to three-year program to prepare students to take the registered nurse licensing exam. A bachelor's degree in nursing is a four- to five-year program that is a more advanced nursing degree with additional nursing and nursing-related courses. Graduates with bachelor's degrees also have to take the licensing exam in order to practice nursing, but they are typically employed in higher-level positions within healthcare organizations than graduates with associate's degrees.

General Education

Students interested in both types of nursing degrees have to take a number of courses in general studies. These courses are typically prerequisites for all nursing and nursing-related courses because they teach students critical thinking, reasoning, writing and basic mathematics skills. By requiring these courses, undergraduate nursing programs ensure that their graduates are prepared for the kind of work that is expected of them both in nursing school and later in their careers. Examples of common general studies requirements are elementary algebra or college algebra, critical reading, composition 1 or college writing.

Nursing Prerequisites

Both associate's and bachelor's degrees in nursing require students to take certain prerequisites like general chemistry and microbiology. General chemistry introduces students to topics like atoms, molecules, elements, acids and bases, states of matter, thermodynamics and chemical reactions. Both programs often require students to take a chemistry class that has a laboratory component in order to ensure that the nursing students have adequate experience and preparation for laboratory work. Another common prerequisite is a course in microbiology. This class introduces students to the world of microbes, bacteria and viruses, covering topics such as the spread and prevention of infections.

Nursing Foundation

Common course requirements for an undergraduate degree in nursing are anatomy and physiology. These courses introduce students to the human body, its functions and processes. Requirements vary greatly, but many associate's degrees require students to take one course each in anatomy and physiology. Many bachelor's programs often require students to take two courses in human anatomy and one course in human physiology. Other common nursing requirements are pharmacology, professional nursing, fundamental of epidemiology, and human assessment.

Nursing Electives

Associate's degree programs do not have many nursing elective options, but bachelor's degrees do. These electives allow students to specialize in a particular area of nursing or take classes in many different areas. Examples of possible nursing electives include psychiatric or mental health nursing, pediatric nursing, maternity nursing, public health nursing and nursing administration.

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About the Author

Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

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