15 Most Common Nursing School Prerequisites : Your Path to Success

Discover the essential prerequisite courses required for nursing school, how they benefit your nursing education, and why they are necessary. Learn how long it takes to complete these prerequisites and take your first step towards a rewarding nursing career.

Are you thinking about a career in nursing? Congratulations on taking that step! Nursing is a noble profession with endless opportunities for personal and professional growth. But before you dive into this fulfilling journey, there are some prerequisites you need to meet. In this article, we’ll uncover the 15 most common prerequisites for nursing school, explain what they involve, how they help you, and how long it might take to complete them.

About the Nursing School Prerequisite Courses

Nursing school prerequisites are foundational courses that future nurses must complete before starting their nursing programs. These courses are carefully chosen to give students a strong foundation in subjects crucial for their nursing careers. They cover topics like biology, chemistry, anatomy, and psychology. Prerequisites are designed to make sure students have the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the challenging field of nursing.

What Exactly Are Nursing School Prerequisites?

Let’s delve into the 15 common nursing school prerequisites, explaining what each course entails and how it benefits you in nursing school:

  1. Anatomy and Physiology:
    • Course Content: Anatomy explores the structure of the human body, while physiology looks at how it functions.
    • Benefit: Knowing the body’s structure and functions is essential for diagnosing and treating patients effectively. It’s the basis for advanced nursing studies and clinical practice.
  2. Microbiology:
    • Course Content: Microbiology dives into microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and how they affect health.
    • Benefit: Understanding microbiology is crucial for controlling infections, understanding diseases, and maintaining proper hygiene in healthcare settings.
  3. Chemistry:
    • Course Content: Chemistry covers chemical reactions, compounds, and their properties.
    • Benefit: Being good at chemistry helps you grasp drug interactions, pharmaceuticals, and chemical processes in healthcare.
  4. Biology:
    • Course Content: Biology covers fundamental biological concepts from cells to ecosystems.
    • Benefit: A solid understanding of biology is essential for understanding medical conditions, medications, and the body’s responses to illness.
  5. Psychology:
    • Course Content: Psychology explores human behavior, mental health, and cognitive processes.
    • Benefit: Knowing psychology enhances empathy and communication skills, which are vital for patient interactions and providing psychological support.
  6. English Composition:
    • Course Content: English composition emphasizes writing, critical thinking, and effective communication.
    • Benefit: Strong communication skills are crucial in healthcare for clear documentation, patient education, and working with colleagues.
  7. Statistics:
    • Course Content: Statistics involves data analysis, probability, and statistical methods.
    • Benefit: Being skilled in statistics is essential for evidence-based decision-making, especially in healthcare data analysis and research.
  8. Human Growth and Development:
    • Course Content: This course examines human development from infancy to old age.
    • Benefit: Understanding human development stages helps provide age-appropriate care and address patients’ unique needs.
  9. Nutrition:
    • Course Content: Nutrition covers the science of diet and its impact on health.
    • Benefit: Nutrition knowledge is crucial for offering dietary guidance, promoting wellness, and addressing dietary concerns in patient care.
  10. Medical Terminology:
    • Course Content: Medical terminology focuses on healthcare-related vocabulary and terminology.
    • Benefit: Familiarity with medical terms improves communication in healthcare and helps with accurate documentation.
  11. Introduction to Sociology:
    • Course Content: Sociology explores societal structures, behaviors, and relationships.
    • Benefit: Understanding societal factors can enhance your ability to provide holistic care by considering the impact of social determinants on patients’ health.
  12. Pharmacology:
    • Course Content: Pharmacology covers drug classifications, mechanisms of action, and their effects on the body.
    • Benefit: A strong foundation in pharmacology is crucial for safe medication administration, dosage calculations, and understanding drug interactions.
  13. Ethics or Bioethics:
    • Course Content: Ethics courses examine moral principles and ethical decision-making.
    • Benefit: Ethics education helps nurses navigate complex ethical dilemmas in healthcare and make ethical choices in patient care.
  14. Public Speaking or Communication:
    • Course Content: Public speaking and communication courses enhance verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
    • Benefit: Effective communication is essential for conveying information to patients, families, and healthcare teams, ensuring clarity and understanding.
  15. Pathophysiology:
    • Course Content: Pathophysiology explores the altered physiological processes underlying diseases.
    • Benefit: Understanding pathophysiology helps nurses identify disease progression, make accurate assessments, and plan appropriate interventions.

Reasons Why Nursing Schools Require Prerequisites

Nursing schools require prerequisites for several compelling reasons, each contributing to the development of well-rounded and competent nursing professionals. Let’s explore these reasons in detail:

  1. Academic Preparedness:
    • Rationale: Nursing programs are academically challenging and require a strong foundation in science and healthcare subjects.
    • Benefits: Prerequisites ensure that students are academically ready for the demanding coursework, reducing the likelihood of academic struggles and dropouts.
  2. Patient Safety:
    • Rationale: Nursing is a high-stakes profession, and errors in patient care can have severe consequences.
    • Benefits: Completing prerequisites equips students with the necessary skills and knowledge to enhance patient safety, reducing the risk of medical errors.
  3. Licensure Exams:
    • Rationale: Nursing licensure exams, such as the NCLEX-RN, assess knowledge and skills covered in prerequisites.
    • Benefits: Prerequisites prepare students well for licensure exams, increasing their chances of passing and becoming licensed nurses.
  4. Building a Strong Foundation:
    • Rationale: Nursing education is cumulative, with each level building on prior coursework.
    • Benefits: Prerequisites provide a solid foundation in fundamental subjects like anatomy, physiology, and chemistry, setting the stage for success in advanced nursing courses.
  5. Developing Critical Thinking:
    • Rationale: Nursing requires quick and accurate decision-making in unpredictable clinical situations.
    • Benefits: Prerequisites nurture critical thinking and problem-solving skills, crucial for effective decision-making in healthcare.
  6. Communication Skills:
    • Rationale: Effective communication is essential in nursing when interacting with patients, families, and healthcare teams.
    • Benefits: Prerequisites, including courses in English composition and public speaking, enhance communication skills for clear and empathetic interactions.

Do All Nursing Schools Require the Same Prerequisites?

While there are common prerequisites required by most nursing schools, the specific courses and requirements can vary. Each institution sets its prerequisites, so it’s crucial to check with your chosen school’s admissions department or website for precise information.

Are Nursing School Prerequisites Really Hard to Complete?

The difficulty of nursing prerequisites can vary from person to person. They can be challenging because of their scientific nature, but with dedication and good study habits, they are manageable. Many students successfully complete these courses each year.

How Long Does It Take to Complete All the Nursing School Prerequisites?

The duration to complete nursing school prerequisites is influenced by several factors:

  1. Course Load: Full-time students typically complete prerequisites in 1-2 years, while part-time students may take longer.
  2. Transfer Credits: If you have prior education, transferable credits can shorten the duration.
  3. Summer Courses: Enrolling in courses during the summer can speed up the process.
  4. Online Courses: Many prerequisites are available online, offering flexibility to fit different schedules.


Nursing school prerequisites are your first steps toward a nursing career, providing a solid foundation in essential subjects. These courses prepare you for the challenges of nursing education and equip you with the knowledge and skills needed for patient care. While prerequisites may pose challenges, they are surmountable, and the fulfilling career ahead makes the journey worthwhile.

Keep in mind that the path to becoming a nurse may have prerequisites, but it’s a path filled with opportunities to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives and contribute to the healthcare community.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I take nursing prerequisites at a different institution than my nursing school?
    • Yes, many students’ complete prerequisites at community colleges or universities before transferring to a nursing program.
  2. Are there additional prerequisites for specialized nursing programs like nurse anesthesia or nurse practitioner programs?
    • Yes, specialized nursing programs may have additional prerequisites tailored to their specific curriculum and focus.
  3. Can I work while completing nursing prerequisites?
    • Yes, it’s possible to work while completing prerequisites, but it may extend the time needed to fulfill these requirements. Balancing work and coursework can be challenging, so planning is essential.
  4. Are there prerequisites for accelerated nursing programs?
    • Yes, accelerated nursing programs often have the same prerequisites as traditional programs, but they typically require applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree in another field as well.