Can I become a Registered Nurse with an associate degree?

Do you mind telling me if you have an associate degree in nursingor bachelor degree in nursing? I plan to apply … But I only have an associate degree in nursing. Can I apply? Thank you. Castleberry (

Castleberry asks a common question. Like many Internationally Educated Nurses she asked her peers on a forum. Forums are a great place to get more information, but sometimes the information is not accurate. In this article I will answer her question based on my experience working both with Internationally Educated Nurses and with CARNA, the licensure body in Alberta. Although each province has some differences, many are based on the same foundation.

There are two important factors in becoming registered as a nurse in Canada:

  1. Education abroad
  2. Registration abroad
  3. Both will be expanded in this article.

Education Abroad

Traditionally, in Canada, people wanting to be a nurse had many options:

  • going to college to earn a 2 year diploma, or
  • going to university to get a 4 year degree.

More recently changes have been created in the expectation for Canadian nurses: college programs have been phased out as only degrees are acceptable in many provinces.

Where does that put an Internationally Educated Nurse? According to regional coordinator of CARNA, Penny Davis, in 2010 Internationally Educated Nurses with a 2 year diploma from outside of Canada can still apply to become a registered nurse. Because the getting a licence requires an IEN to be equal to a Canadian educated graduate, IENs with a 2 year diploma can expect to take more upgrading. NOTE: It is important to research what is required in your province, things do change.

It is important to ensure that you do not send copies of your documents unless required. For many provincial bodies the documentation has to come from your institutions back home directly.

Getting forms signed and sent from home, when you are there, is one way you canΒ save time.Β (Forms are available on the websites of the provincial registration bodies.

Registered Abroad

I have met many Internationally Educated Nurses that graduated and came to Canada without registering back home. I have also met others that do not have registration back home. Still others are refugees, without the ability to get documents that prove registration and education.

The documentation process, the first step in becoming a registered nurse in Canada regardless of province, is very thorough. An Internationally Educated Nurse must be able to prove her education and registration. For those who can not do that, the process takes longer. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure you are registered as a nurse before you come to Canada. If you have not done so, complete the process.

    To fail to do so lengthens the time it takes to have your documents evaluated.

  • If you do not have a regulation body and process back home. This may become a problem to your registration as an RN in Canada. Ask your education institution to explain the process in a letter that they send with the educational forms. It may not help, but it is worth it to try.
  • Contact your embassy to see how you can get the required documents or forms completed. If you can not, and you want to be a nurse in Canada, you may need to look at being educated in the Canadian education system.

Many IENs become frustrated with the licensure process and how long it takes for an IEN to become an RN in Canada. For some it can take six months, for others more than a year to have the documents evaluated. The better prepared you are, the smootherΒ  and quicker the process.


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