Before anyone can become a professional nurse, they will have to take the NCLEX exam. Like any exam that gates one’s ability to enter a job field, it will become quite difficult. But it is also an opportunity to jump right into the experience without any prior qualification, provided you know enough to pass.
There are many questions one may ask, but this article is focused on answering one question the most: can you take the NCLEX without going through nursing school or a nursing degree? What exactly are the limits to taking and passing the NCLEX Exam? We will give you a clear and concrete answer.
What is the NCLEX?
To be a nurse, you must prove yourself in front of a standard that all nurses are held under. You will, after all, be in charge of the lives and livelihood of other people; one wrong move or choice and someone can end up with severe medical issues, or worse. The National Council Licensure Examination is what the United States uses to examine and grade nurses on if it is safe for them to practice medicine.
The NCLEX is split into two types of exams: the NCLEX-RN exam, which is the type of exam most readers reading this article will worry about, and the NCLEX-PN exam, for people who want to begin practice as an entry-level practical or vocational nurse. The former exam tests the test taker’s knowledge of creating care plans and examining their patients. In contrast, the latter exam focuses on collecting information and supporting said care plans. This article will focus on the NCLEX in general, though we will give tips and advice on how each of these exams is handled on their own.
The NCLEX is distinct from the kind of tests and examinations that a nursing school or college would make its students undertake. Despite this, the NCLEX is still an exam designed around the level of knowledge and capabilities that nursing school students would have. This is not the kind of exam you can simply waltz in and clear without any real medical knowledge or experience.
Can You Take the NCLEX Without a Nursing Degree?
Is it possible to take, and subsequently pass, the NCLEX without a nursing degree? The short answer is that most nurses and doctors do not recommend such a decision. The long answer is that whether you need a nursing degree depends on the test you are taking.
To take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam, a participant needs to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. This is one of the basic requirements (the rest of which we will go over in a later section) and cannot be avoided. However, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing is fine. An associate’s degree in nursing takes half the time as a bachelor’s degree, which is a four-year degree, taking as little as eighteen months, depending on what school or college you go to. If one wants to get into nursing in a hurry, then getting an associate’s degree would be a choice decision.
However, you do not need a nursing degree if you want to pass the NCLEX-PN exam. Are there any caveats to this alternate pathway to taking the NCLEX?
Can You Take the NCLEX Without a Healthcare-Related Degree?
Test takers who want to take the NCLEX without a healthcare-related degree will have to choose their test again. For the NCLEX-RN, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing is required. However, for the NCLEX-PN, a healthcare-related degree is not required.
Even if you have a degree in, say, Creative Writing, a future nurse can take the NCLEX-PN. That is, provided that they have a related diploma or certificate course. Getting a practical nursing diploma takes even less time than an associate’s degree, taking only 12 months. If you have that additional requirement, you can take the NCLEX-PN.
Is it possible to take the NCLEX without any practical hospital experience?
Can You Take NCLEX Without Hospital Experience?
Simply put, a person can take the NCLEX without any hospital experience. The knowledge and experience that comes from pursuing a degree or going through nursing school is enough to be able to take the NCLEX. Specifically, job or work experience is not required. This makes sense, as NCLEX is a major obstacle for many students and nurses to practice their craft where they are responsible for others.
However, it should be noted that some nursing schools put its students go through hospital experience and clinical work anyway. While you do not need this experience to take the test, having this experience will make it likelier to pass the exam and, in turn, be able to practice again in a real environment.
We have gone through the big and major questions that any potential test takers have. What other requirements must one look out for to take the NCLEX?
What are the Requirements for Taking the NCLEX?
We have already discussed what requirements one needs to take the NCLEX. To recap, to take the NCLEX-RN, one must have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. To take the NCLEX-PN, one must have a nursing diploma at least.
If you have these requirements, you must register for the NCLEX. Typically, test takers register online through Person’s VUE website. You go through the typical online account process: making a username and password and including the necessary personal information. To register, you have to pay a testing fee and other costs. The NCLEX registration fee is $200; this is a one-time fee, as test takers can retake the exam as often as they want after 45 days of the previous exam. International students pay a fee of $150 on top of the registration fee. Finally, changing aspects of the exam, such as the type of language after registration, costs $50.
The NCLEX is taken eight times a year, and a test taker can register for any of these dates. As stated before, if a test taker fails the exam, they can take the next scheduled date 45 days later. If one does not meet these qualifications, rectifying this is in their best interests.
Now that we have fleshed out everything you need to take the NCLEX, we will now give you some strong advice and tips so that you can pass the exam and finally become a practicing nurse.
How to Prepare for the NCLEX: 3 Ways
Now that we have properly described and listed what it would take to be able to take and pass the NCLEX Exam, we need to inform you how to get prepared. Thankfully, we have three key tips for you to follow to become better prepared when you take up the pencil and write down your answers. These are just tips, mind you, not cheat codes—however, your chances of success will significantly increase when you consider these.
Refresher on Being a Nurse
If you feel like you are lagging in any field or subject of nursing, it is in your best interest to give yourself a refresher. Whether it is recognizing symptoms, treating symptoms or diseases, or properly administering a plan. And remember that nurses will have to deal a lot with interacting with other, often sick, people, so social skills are another skill you would benefit from practicing.
A nurse who can pass the NCLEX with no problem will properly balance all the necessities of being a nurse. If you are struggling with any aspect, then it is ideal to improve in that field.
NCLEX Practice Questions
You can find many resources on taking NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN practice questions online. Practice questions allow you to get a good idea of the NCLEX Exam when you take it. Quite obviously, these practice questions are highly unlike the answers you will get on the test, but taking practice questions is a good way to understand how the exam is taken and what they expect of you.
Practice hard: repeat the questions as many times as you can. Practice is as much about understanding what you go wrong as it is understanding what you got correct. Don’t practice only to see the right answer: understand how your answer is right or wrong in the first place.
Experience Would Help
Direct experience in the hospital is not required to take and pass the NCLEX Exam. In many scenarios, it is practically impossible for a test taker to have meaningful experience before they take the NCLEX. However, if the opportunity presents itself so that you may know what it’s like to be a nurse—to care for patients, assess and record symptoms, and learn how to administer treatment and plans—then it would make you much better prepared to take on the NCLEX Exam.
The best way to get nursing experience before taking the NCLEX is to look for “shadowing” opportunities or personally witness what a nurse does in their daily life. Alternatively, taking an internship or mentorship to learn from a nursing professional directly is a good way to get some real-world experience.
Wrapping Things Up: Can You Take the NCLEX Without Going to Nursing School?
Can you take the NCLEX without going to nursing school? It depends on the type of NCLEX Exam you are taking. Getting a nursing degree is required for people who want to take the NCLEX-RN exam, though there is some wiggle room in what degree you need. Meanwhile, there is no limitation besides a nursing diploma for people who want to take the NCLEX-PN exam. Whichever path you take, however, so long as you have the knowledge and expertise of a future nurse, you will be able to enter the career with ease.