11 Common Nursing Classes You’ll Take in Nursing School

6 Min Read Published February 14, 2024

Nursing school will expose you to various subjects, from anatomy and microbiology to pathophysiology and healthcare ethics. This article explores some of the most common nursing courses to help you better understand what to expect in nursing school.

Most Common Nursing Courses

Nursing students take a mix of didactic classes and clinical experiences, culminating in earning a degree and becoming a nurse. While the process can be tedious and exhausting, the resulting career is worthwhile.

You can make your nursing school experience easier by understanding what to expect from nursing courses. In the next sections, we examine 11 standard nursing school classes and how they apply to your future career.

Nursing Fundamentals

This introductory nursing class exposes students to the world of nursing. In Nursing Fundamentals, you'll learn the basics of patient care, how to interact with patients and families, and fundamental skills like how to take blood pressure, heart rate, and physical assessments.

Depending on the structure of your program, you'll likely take Nursing Fundamentals in your freshman or sophomore year.

Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

Nursing fundamentals are essential to building the foundation for all other nursing courses and clinicals. This class is the building block for the remainder of your nursing education.

Health Assessment

Health Assessment builds upon your previous nursing courses, enhancing your physical examination skills. The course emphasizes interviewing skills, like taking health histories and physical and psychosocial assessments. 

Students who succeed in this class are able to obtain patient histories, perform physical and psychosocial exams, establish a database, and formulate nurse care plans using the nursing process.

Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

Health Assessment teaches students how to interact with patients and perform basic physical exams. Since exams are a core nursing responsibility, this course is indispensable to your education.


Many nursing students consider pharmacology one of the most difficult classes in nursing school. Though challenging, the course is absolutely necessary for your nursing education.

Pharmacology introduces students to the properties, effects, and therapeutic value of the primary agents in major drug categories, like diuretics, cardiovascular agents, respiratory drugs, and gastrointestinal agents.

Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

As a nurse, your daily responsibilities will include administering medications. Pharmacology teaches you about these medications, how they interact, why you administer them, and how to safely do so.

>> Related: Pharmacology Study Tips


Pathophysiology focuses on the manifestations and risk factors for disease. It explores the principles of the pathology underlying illness and injury and therapeutic nursing interventions. In Pathophysiology, you will apply principles of normal human anatomy and physiology to identify the appropriate pharmacological treatment of specific diseases.

Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

Pathophysiology is a vital nursing course because it shows you how to identify the early stages of a disease, including its signs and symptoms. It allows nurses to recognize possible disease progressions and intervene appropriately.


In Microbiology, you'll learn about microbial growth and the biology of microscopic organisms like bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, molds, and protozoa. The course will discuss how pathogenic microorganisms can invade the body and how the body defends against them. Additionally, you'll learn about the structure and function of these microorganisms and the medications that target them.

Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

Microbiology helps nurses understand the basic concepts of reproduction, morphology, and genetics of different microorganisms. This foundation of knowledge prepares them to execute nursing interventions for patients with bacterial and viral infections, which are very common.

Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomy and Physiology will teach you about different systems in the human body, like the nervous, circulatory, and respiratory systems. Nursing students in this class learn about how these systems connect with and relate to one another. You'll also learn how to palpate, percuss, and auscultate different bodily systems.

Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

Understanding human anatomy and physiology is an essential nursing skill. Succeeding in this class will help you assess, evaluate, diagnose, and track your patients' health.

Healthcare Ethics

Over the last several years, nursing schools have begun placing more emphasis on Healthcare Ethics in their curricula. This nursing course teaches the ethical principles of nursing, allowing you to discover the intricacies of patient viewpoints and autonomy. By the end of the course, you'll be able to identify different types of healthcare-related ethical dilemmas and how to address them.

Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

Nurses will face countless challenges related to ethics throughout their careers. Learning how to properly deal with an ethical dilemma in nursing and how to navigate it is vital to their success.

Nursing Theory and Research

Nursing courses on theory and research teach students how one informs the other. In Nursing Research & Theory, you'll learn about how to conduct nursing research and how it creates, morphs, and expands nursing theories and practices. You'll also explore the social and historical context of existing theories and an overview of the research process.

Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

Everyday nursing practice is rooted in evidence-based research and sculpted by theory. This course prepares students to incorporate these fundamental ideas as part of a holistic approach to nursing care.

Population Health

In Population Health, you'll explore how social environments, genetics, geographic location, and community behaviors impact the distribution of healthcare in different populations. It helps nurses identify how these factors create healthcare inequality among marginalized communities.

Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

Understanding how sociological factors impact healthcare delivery will help nurses tailor their interventions to meet patient needs. You'll also learn how to address the disparities in healthcare between different races, genders, and ethnicities.

Human Development

In Human Development, nursing students study the psychological, social, cultural, and biological development of people throughout their lifespan. You'll study how people grow and change from conception to death and gain insight into how these changes will affect the care you provide.

Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

As a nurse, you'll help patients through some of the toughest moments of their lives. You'll draw on what you learned in Human Development to empathize with those patients and give them the support they need at each stage of life.

Clinical Rotations

During nursing school clinicals, you'll gain hands-on experience in multiple healthcare settings. These courses not only provide you an opportunity to apply what you've learned, but they also allow you to network and see what it's like working in different nursing specialty areas.

Some areas you may get to work in include:

 Why Is This Nursing Class Important?

Clinical rotations reinforce your didactic learning by allowing you to apply your knowledge to real patients and families. They allow you to hone your skills under the guidance of a licensed preceptor.

What Nursing Courses Will I Take?

If you attend a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, you'll take all the courses on this list and then some. Those in RN to BSN bridge programs may not take some of these courses, like clinicals, which you may have taken in your initial Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).

However, specific courses will vary based on your program. The only way to really know what you're in for is by talking with an admissions counselor at your prospective schools. They can tell you exactly which courses the nursing school requires.

Nursing Classes: Final Thoughts & Next Steps

While nursing course requirements vary by school, they all teach fundamentals that will ensure your success in the field. Some nursing classes are more challenging than others, and it's up to you to organize your schedule and achieve a proper work-life-study balance throughout your program.

Understanding which courses you'll take will help you better prepare for your education. The academic advising team at your school can enlighten you on its specific course requirements.

Ready to start your nursing school journey? Use our school locator to find a nursing program near you!

FAQs About Nursing School Courses

  • Is nursing a 2-year degree?

    • You can earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) to become a registered nurse in two years. However, you can also attend a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to become a nurse.
  • How hard are nursing courses?

    • Class difficulty varies for each student; e.g., some struggle with the complexities of healthcare ethics but find microbiology a breeze, and vice versa. Since nursing school has diverse class requirements, you'll likely have a healthy mix of "easy" and "hard" nursing classes.
  • What courses are required for nursing school?

    • While programming varies by school, most degrees require fundamental courses like pharmacology, pathophysiology, anatomy, healthcare ethics, and clinical rotations.


Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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