What Are Nursing School Prerequisites?

7 Min Read Published February 28, 2024

Becoming a nurse requires a lot of work, countless study hours, and completing prerequisites for nursing school. Explores nursing school prereqs, how to earn them, and tips for success in this comprehensive guide.

The Ultimate Guide to Nursing School Prerequisites

Prerequisites for nursing school are the minimum requirements to enter an accredited program. Specific nursing school requirements may vary slightly depending on the program. But most have similar education, GPA, physical, and legal nursing prereqs.

This article will discuss common prereqs for nursing school, why they're important, and how to complete them. By the end of this post, you'll know exactly what to do to prepare for your nursing school applications.

Prereqs For Nursing School: Importance & Purpose

Prereqs for nursing programs are anything but arbitrary. These qualifications help prove to potential nursing schools that you have a foundation of knowledge suitable for nursing study. Nursing school prerequisites tell them whether you can understand complex topics and learn new technical skills.

Completing your nursing school prerequisites is the only way to get into your dream program. But they also help improve your SAT or TEAS exam scores, giving you a competitive edge against other applicants.

Where to Earn Your Nursing School Prerequisites

In most cases, you can complete your nursing school requirements in high school. However, if you could not complete them in high school or want a higher grade to increase your chances of getting in, you have several options:

  • Community College: You can complete your prerequisites for nursing school or earn your GED at most community colleges. Many community colleges have transfer agreements with nursing programs at local universities, so it's easier to get into your desired program.

  • Online Courses: Including GED programs, biology, and math, online classes are a highly flexible option to fulfill your nursing school requirements from anywhere you have an internet connection.

  • Four-Year University: You can also complete your nursing school prereqs at the same four-year university you plan to attend for your nursing degree. This is an excellent option if you want a traditional college experience or plan to live on campus.

No matter how you choose to earn your prerequisites for nursing school, you must ensure that your desired nursing program will accept the courses you take. Confirm your course selection with an admissions advisor to avoid taking classes that won't transfer.

Nursing School Prerequisite Classes

Prerequisites for nursing school include specific courses you must complete in high school. As you finish your high school diploma, be sure to take these courses and pass with a "C" or better.


  • Term Requirement: 1 year or 2 semesters
  • Applicable Courses: Freshman Biology, Botany, Ecology, and Microbiology with Lab

Many American high schools will already require you to complete biology your freshman year, in which you'll learn the foundations of microscopic structure, genetics, ecology, evolution, and human growth and development.

Most high school biology courses involve hands-on activities that help reinforce the material being taught. Some assignments you’ll have in these classes include dissections, analyzing data from experiments, and creating presentations about the material.


Anatomy & Physiology

  • Term Requirement: 1/2 to 1 year or 1 to 2 semesters
  • Applicable Courses: Intro to Anatomy & Physiology, Human Anatomy & Physiology, Anatomy & Physiology Lab I & II

High school anatomy and physiology classes will acquaint you with anatomical terminology and the human life cycle. The subjects will also teach you about human bodily systems like the circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems, all of which will lay a foundation for your nursing education and career.



  • Term Requirement: 1 year or 2 semesters
  • Applicable Courses: Introduction to Chemistry, Chem Lab, Organic Chemistry, AP Chem

These courses will give you a foundational understanding of chemistry's fundamental concepts, theories, and laws. As you complete your high school chemistry classes, you'll learn about atomic structures, chemical bonding, thermodynamics, kinetics, and acid-base theory.

You'll also foster key nursing skills like problem-solving, lab safety and techniques (e.g. titration & distillation), and critical thought.

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College-Preparatory Math

  • Term Requirement: 2 years or 4 semesters
  • Applicable Courses: Pre-Algebra I and II, Statistics, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus

These math classes will give you the skills necessary to succeed in college-level mathematics courses. Depending on your middle school math experience, you can begin taking college-preparatory math classes as soon as you start high school.

College-preparatory math will help you develop problem-solving strategies, learn how to work with equations and graphs and understand different mathematical systems.



  • Term Requirement: 1/2 year or 1 semester
  • Applicable Courses: Introduction to Psychology, Social Psychology, AP Psychology

Psychology is the study of human behavior. In high school psychology courses, you'll learn the basic principles of this social science, including the history of psychology and contemporary approaches like cognitive, biological, and psychosocial.

This foundation of knowledge will help your nursing practice by helping you better understand and respond to patient behaviors to forge more meaningful and trusting relationships with them.


English Composition

  • Term Requirement: 1 year or 2 semesters
  • Applicable Courses: English Comp I and II

As a constant communicator, prowess over the written language is a necessary nursing skill. Therefore, many nursing schools require nurses to complete courses in English Composition. These classes will test your critical thought and analytical skills as you interpret and cite written works to support a side or stance in academic essays.

Each college and university has specific coursework prereqs for its nursing programs. Typically, bachelor's degrees require more math credits than associate's degree programs. Check with an admissions counselor to know which courses you need before applying.

General Nursing School Requirements

Most in-person and online nursing programs have a similar set of prerequisites for nursing school. In general, you should meet the following requirements before applying to nursing school.

High School Diploma or Equivalent 

Most pre-nursing programs require a high school diploma or high school equivalency (HSE). You can earn an HSE by:

  • Passing the general education development (GED) test
  • Passing the high school equivalency test (HiSET)
  • Verifying an equivalent certificate from your country of origin

Minimum GPA

Nursing school GPA requirements often depend on the type of degree you want and the program’s competition level. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs typically require a minimum GPA of 2.75. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs usually require a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Physical Health

As a nursing school student (and eventual nurse), you will provide immediate care to patients who may carry communicable diseases. Likewise, proximity to vulnerable patients increases the chances of you passing an illness to them. Therefore, nursing school applicants must meet certain health requirements, including:

  • Physical Exam: Most universities require a physical exam from your doctor up to three months before beginning the program to ensure you're up to the job's physical demands

  • Immunizations: While each school sets its own standards, many adhere to CDC's guidelines for immunization requirements. These include Hepatitis B, TDip, MMR, Varicella, Influenza, Covid-19, and tuberculosis screening.

 Criminal Background Check

As a nurse, you'll work with vulnerable groups like infants, children, and the elderly. You will also handle sensitive medical information. So, you may be subject to a criminal background check and drug screening before getting accepted into nursing school.

English Proficiency Test  

If you’re a native English speaker or someone who completed an education program in English, you may not need to fulfill this requirement. However, some non-native speakers may need to pass an English proficiency exam to enter nursing school. If you do need to complete this step, you’ll likely take the TOEFL or the IELTS.

SAT or TEAS Exam

Most universities consider your Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) scores. However, several nursing schools find the TEAS is a better indicator of students' performance potential. So, even if you already took the SAT, you may also need to take the TEAS as a nursing school prerequisite.

Nursing School Prereqs: Tips for Success

If you want to set yourself up for success and get into your dream nursing school, you have to come prepared. Take a moment to review these tips for acing your prerequisites for nursing school and becoming a stand-out candidate.

Prepare for Prerequisites

Time management will help you successfully complete your nursing school requirements. Plan strategic breaks, designate study hours, and create a review schedule to stay organized. Make sure you space out your courses and avoid overloading your schedule.

Build Strong Study Habits

Your study habits will help you retain more information from your prerequisite classes. Attending all your classes, forming a study group, taking detailed notes, and reviewing them will help you build a strong study routine.

Seek Guidance From Nursing School Advisors

The nursing school advisors at your prospective universities will have detailed prerequisite information. They can help guide your course selection decisions and curate your study path to get into nursing school.

Final Thoughts & Next Steps

Completing your prerequisites for nursing school is essential to getting into your desired program and becoming a registered nurse. However, these courses are just one part of the nursing school application process. As you complete your nursing school prerequisites, consider your college entry essays, extracurriculars, and other factors that impact your candidacy.

Ready to take the next steps toward your nursing education? Read Nurse.org's How to Get Into Nursing School Guide to find out what you should do next.

Leona Werezak
Leona Werezak
Nurse.org Contributor

Leona Werezak BSN, MN, RN is the Director of Business Development at NCLEX Education. She began her nursing career in a small rural hospital in northern Canada where she worked as a new staff nurse doing everything from helping deliver babies to medevacing critically ill patients. Learning much from her patients and colleagues at the bedside for 15 years, she also taught in baccalaureate nursing programs for almost 20 years as a nursing adjunct faculty member (yes! Some of those years she did both!). As a freelance writer online, she writes content for nursing schools and colleges, healthcare and medical businesses, as well as various nursing sites.

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