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Pre-nursing Frequently Asked Questions

Pre-nursing Frequently Asked Questions

Does Oregon State University have a nursing program?

No. OSU does not have a nursing program. We offer only the prerequisite courses that will allow you to apply to nursing schools in Oregon and elsewhere.

Can I get a bachelor’s degree in Pre-Nursing at OSU?

No. Pre-nursing students at OSU who intend to transfer to nursing school cannot earn a bachelor’s degree in "pre-nursing" specifically. However, students can be in the University Exploratory Studies Program if they are going to only complete prerequisites before transfering to a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) program elsewhere. Students who do wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree while fulfilling nursing prerequisites may select any major that aligns with their interests. Majors in the College of Health are popular options for students who choose this path. The Kinesiology major within College of Health has an option in Pre-Therapy and Allied Health that does include a Pre-Nursing track.

Do I need to take Bacc Core courses for the pre-nursing program?

That depends. Students who plan to transfer to nursing school after 2-3 years at OSU do not need to take Bacc Core courses. This is because students completing their degree at another institution will have to meet that school’s general education requirements, not OSU’s. However, students who intend to complete a four-year degree at OSU before pursuing nursing school should choose courses that will meet both the pre-nursing requirements as well as the Bacc Core.

What is the difference between a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) and an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)?

The BSN is granted by a college or university. Six Oregon universities offer the BSN. These programs usually require about two years of prerequisite course work prior to admission. Some also require satisfactory scores on nursing school preadmission tests.

An Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) is granted by a two-year college. In Oregon, 15 community colleges offer associate degree programs. These programs require some course work prior to admission and some require satisfactory scores on nursing school pre-admission tests.

Graduates of both programs must successfully pass the licensing exam given by the State Board of Nursing to become registered nurses (RNs).

Why seek a BSN degree?

While graduates of associate degree programs are qualified to provide direct patient care, a BSN opens doors to more open nursing positions and ultimately more career options and earning potential. Many job postings for nursing positions now list the BSN as a preference, if not a requirement. Additionally, organizations such as the American Nurses Association are now recognizing the BSN as the minimum educational requirement for professional nursing.

A BSN is a prerequisite to most advanced practice nursing programs. To become a nurse practitioner, a nurse anesthetist, or most other types of advanced practice nurse, a master’s degree is ultimately required.

How long does it take to get a BSN degree? An ADN?

A BSN degree takes a minimum of four years. Most nursing schools operate on what is called a 2+2 program: two years are usually spent in a pre-nursing program taking prerequisite courses, and two more years are spent in the nursing program. OHSU and its partner universities in the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education (OCNE) offer a 1+3 program, where students complete at least 45 credits of prerequisites and then three years in the nursing program. However, many students take longer than 1 year to complete the OHSU prerequisites for a variety of reasons (see below).

Some students complete a four year bachelor’s degree in another major first before applying to an accelerated BSN program or a direct-entry Master’s Degree in Nursing program; these programs are designed specifically for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in any major.

An ADN usually takes about three years of general education and nursing courses.

If I only want to attend OHSU’s School of Nursing, can I complete my OHSU prerequisites in one year at OSU?

As noted above, the structure of OHSU and its partner universities in the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education (OCNE) is unique. Students are expected to complete at least 45 credits of prerequisites and then three years in the nursing program, instead of the more traditional 2+2 model. However, this prerequisite requirement does not account for courses that must be completed before taking some of those nursing prerequisites.

Additionally, OCNE schools require students to complete at least 30 college credits of prerequisite courses by the end of Fall Term during the year they apply. Therefore, unless first-year college students have at least 15 college credits earned in high school that fulfill OCNE prerequisites, they must wait to apply to OCNE programs until their second year in college.

How competitive is it to enter nursing school?

Because of the nursing shortage, many people have decided to try to enter the nursing field. While there is a shortage of nurses in the workforce, there is also a shortage of nursing faculty to teach in nursing schools and of clinical placements for nursing students to develop their skills. These factors have combined to create an understaffed career field that is challenging and competitive to enter. In 2012, OHSU and its partner universities received approximately 963 applications and accepted 144 students; the average prerequisite GPA of these students was 3.89. Many private nursing schools, such as Linfield College and the University of Portland, receive similar numbers of applications. The importance of exceptional grades and well-rounded work, volunteer, or extracurricular experiences cannot be overemphasized.

Do I need medical experience to enter nursing school?

Having medical experience, volunteer or paid, will strengthen your application. Nursing schools value applicants who have a clear idea of what it means to be a nurse and why the career is a good fit for them. However, very few BSN programs nationwide require any direct patient care experience. This type of requirement is much more common among ADN programs. Many of these programs require students to be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or give preference in the application process to students who are. CNA classes are 4-6 weeks long and teach basic skills in patient care. CNAs can always obtain work available, and some pre-nursing students work part-time while completing prerequisite courses. For more information about CNA classes in Oregon, click here. Be sure to plan ahead since most CNA courses fill months in advance!.

What do I need to be a competitive nursing school applicant?

Generally speaking, competitive applicants have the following:

  • Strong GPA (at least a 3.5).
  • Well-rounded work, volunteer, and/or extracurricular experience.
  • Personal essay clearly articulating why they want to enter nursing (beyond “I want to help people”), skills and assets that would make them good nurses, and experiences/research that have confirmed that nursing would be a good career fit (volunteer experience, job shadows, etc.).
  • Strong letters of recommendation (for nursing schools who accept them).
  • High scores on a nursing entrance examination (for nursing schools who require them).

What are my options if I don’t get into nursing school?

Because of the competitive nature of nursing school admissions, it’s possible that even a strong applicant may not be admitted on his or her first attempt. It’s a good idea to have a back-up plan in case this happens. For most pre-nursing students, this means completing a bachelor’s degree at OSU and then trying to go to nursing school. The most popular majors for these students are: Kinesiology, Public Health, Human Development, Nutrition (all in the College of Health), Psychology, Anthropology, or Spanish (in the College of Liberal Arts). A bachelor’s degree can provide a broader educational background and more maturity before nursing school, as well as an opportunity for students to raise their GPA and gain more work or volunteer experience.

Students who complete a bachelor’s degree in any major are eligible to apply not only to traditional nursing school transfer programs; they may also pursue accelerated BSN programs or direct-entry Master’s Degree in Nursing programs. These programs are designed specifically for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in any major. The accelerated BSN is typically 18 months long, and the direct-entry MSN programs are at least two or three years depending on the focus of the program.

Job opportunities

If I become a nurse, will I be able to find employment?

There is a nationwide shortage of nurses. It is not uncommon to find starting nursing salaries between $45,000 and $55,000 in the Portland area, plus overtime and benefits. In some parts of the country, the starting salary may be even higher. Because of the acute nursing shortage, many employers are paying signing bonuses to new nurses or paying down a portion of the new nurse’s nursing school loans.

Applying to nursing school

What are the BSN programs in Oregon?

Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) offers programs at its Portland campus as well as its partner universities in the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education (OCNE) around the state:

  • Eastern Oregon University (La Grande)
  • Western Oregon University (Monmouth)
  • Southern Oregon University (Ashland)
  • Oregon Institute of Technology (Klamath Falls)

Several community colleges in Oregon are also partners in the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education (OCNE) and in addition to the ADN offer the OHSU bachelor’s degree on their campus with similar prerequisite and entry requirements.

  • Clackamas Community College (Oregon City)
  • Mt. Hood Community College (Gresham)
  • Lane Community College (Eugene)
  • Southwestern Oregon Community College (Coos Bay)
  • Rogue Community College (Grants Pass)
  • Umpqua Community College (Roseburg)
  • Portland Community College (Portland)
  • Blue Mountain Community College (Pendleton)

There are five private nursing schools in Oregon, all in the Portland area:

  • Concordia University
  • George Fox University
  • Linfield College
  • University of Portland
  • Walla Walla University

Do out-of-state BSN programs accept Oregon residents?

Admission into some out-of-state public institutions is more competitive than in-state schools. For example, many public universities in the University of California/California State University systems do not accept applications from out-of-state residents. Private nursing schools usually give out-of-state students the same admissions consideration as in-state students. OSU students have recently been accepted to out-of-state nursing schools at Johns Hopkins University, Hawaii Pacific University, and Nevada State College (among others). The requirements listed for Oregon nursing schools will meet MOST of the prerequisites for out-of-state schools. Students are responsible for checking the requirements of any school to which they wish to apply.

How much will it cost to go to nursing school?

At the 2011 rates for tuition and fees:

There are other factors to consider beyond “sticker price.” First of all, most private school nursing students receive financial aid. Many of OSU’s pre-nursing students in recent years have received private school scholarships totaling $10,000 or more. Additionally, while the private schools’ tuition is higher, their programs are all one year shorter than OHSU’s, which means that private school students are out in the nursing workforce one year earlier than OHSU students.

Due to the nursing shortage, some hospitals and medical facilities will give scholarships or forgivable loans for part of your nursing school education in return for a work commitment for a specified period of time (most notably the Providence Scholarship through the University of Portland). The State of Oregon also has loan repayment programs for nursing school graduates who can commit to a few years of nursing in designated critical-healthcare-shortage areas (such as some counties in Eastern Oregon). However, these arrangements are binding, and students who can’t fulfill these commitments will be expected to repay the loan or scholarship money awarded to them.

Because of these factors, it is important for students not to decide where to apply based on “sticker price” alone!

When are the application deadlines?

Application deadlines for most Oregon schools are in January or February for fall and/or spring enrollment dates. George Fox University typically has an October 1st application deadline for a January enrollment date. Out-of-state application deadlines will vary. Students are responsible for checking the deadlines and other requirements of any school to which they wish to apply.

Students who are seeking financial aid from OSU or nursing schools should file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after January 1st as possible.