Pre-Professional Pathways are not offered as majors at Western, nor are they at most other universities, but they can be incorporated into or taken alongside any degree-granting major offered at Western.

Although Western does not offer a pre-licensure nursing degree, there are a variety of options for preparing to pursue a career as a nurse. In order to become a Registered Nurse (RN) you will need to pass a state board examination (NCLEX) following completion of a certified nursing program usually in one of three settings:

  • Community college (ASN, Associate of Science in Nursing)
  • Four-year university (BSN, Bachelor of Science in Nursing)
  • Graduate program (MSN, Masters of Science in Nursing; a “direct entry masters” is a master’s program that accepts students with a bachelor’s degree but who do not have their RN credential).

To be eligible for a nursing education program, students must complete a specified set of prerequisites and obtain volunteer or paid health care experience. Students may work on completing the prerequisites at Western and apply for entry into an ASN or BSN program elsewhere, with or without completing a degree at Western. Completion of a bachelor’s degree is required for a direct-entry MSN program.

Beyond the Classroom

Western's Pre-Healthcare Professions Advising Office provides mentoring and advising to students interested in pursuing careers in healthcare professions. The office works with students to enhance their chances of gaining successful admission to the professional school of their choice. Services range from individual academic advisement to preparing students for the final application process.

Western's Associated Students is home to 200+ clubs, including those for students pursuing healthcare professions.

Careers and Graduate Studies

By 2020, nursing career requirements are predicted to require a BSN degree for many, or most positions. Western currently offers an RN to BSN program if you are interested in completing your bachelor’s degree after obtaining RN credentials at a community college. 

Pre-Nursing Advising

Health Professions Advising Events

Typical programming events offered include (but are not limited to):


Health Professional School & Grad School Info Fair, October 17

Winter Registration Walk-in Advising: Nov 13 and Nov 14, 12-2 in BI 415



Spring Registration Walk-in Advising: Feb 26 and Feb 27, 12-2 in BI 415



The Healthcare Professional School Application: A session overviewing the process

Fall Registration Walk-in Advising: May 20 and May 21, 12-2 in BI 415



What are the pathways to nursing?

WWU does NOT offer a traditional nursing major, but as a Western student you can pursue any bachelor’s degree while taking the necessary prerequisite courses for entry into a pre-licensure nursing program. Choose a major that best fits your goals and interests, while considering financial constraints.

The two most common paths to nursing school WWU students take are 1) pursuing a major at Western and graduating with a bachelor’s degree before transferring to a pre-licensure nursing program, or 2) completing only prerequisite courses here before transferring to a pre-licensure nursing program. Students may choose to seek their Registered Nurse (RN) credentials through completing an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or a direct-entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Note that by 2020 it is recommended that 80% of all nurses hold a BSN degree.

Requirements for programs vary, so it is important to review the admissions information closely for schools you are interested in. The WA State Nursing Commission website has a list of approved programs available here: (As you are doing your research, note that “direct-entry” is a program designed for those without a nursing background or degree).

Core Courses

Prerequisites vary depending on whether you are applying to nursing school after completing a bachelor’s degree. Regardless of your major, prerequisite courses expected by most schools include



  • 5 credits English Composition (UW requires an additional writing intensive course)
  • 5 credits Communications

  • 5 credits of statistics (MATH 240)

    HUMANITIES & FINE ARTS (likely waived if you complete a bachelor’s degree)
  • 10 credits of humanities (Sociology, Anthropology, etc).
  • 15 credits of visual, literary and performing arts
    (history, music, literature, etc).  
  • 5 credits of Introduction to Psychology (PSY 101)
  • 5 credits of Lifespan Psychology (PSY 230)
  • 5 credits of General Biology (BIOL 101 or  BIOL 204/205)
  • 5 credits of Microbiology (BIOL 245)
  • 5 credits of Chemistry (CHEM 121)
  • 5 credits of Organic Chemistry (CHEM 251 )
  • 10 credits of Anatomy & Physiology (BIO 348/349)

5 credits of Nutrition (HLED 350)


This document is for preliminary advising purposes only – consult with health professions advisors on a regular basis.


Keep informed



ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP): Check with targeted schools whether they recognize AP as college-earned credit. Not all do. It is better to view any earned credits as qualifying to enroll in upper-division courses rather than as “testing out” of prerequisites.


DECLARING A MAJOR: Departments vary in how to declare majors. Behavioral Neuroscience, Biology, Chemistry, Kinesiology, and others allow students to declare as a “pre-major” while addressing their specified prerequisites. Some majors require a specific GPA in certain courses. Declare early, even as a “pre-major”, to help shorten your time to degree. While working on any pre-major content, explore many disciplines to keep your options open.


ACCESS TO CLASSES: High demand exists for upper-division courses, especially in the sciences. Many departments grant enrollment priority to students declared in specific majors over those seeking enrollment for professional school purposes. Registration access procedures for impacted courses can change, and departments generally provide updates via their websites and email notifications, or by checking with the department’s program coordinator.

REPEATING/DROPPING COURSES: When you repeat a course, only your most recent grade is used when Western calculates your GPA. However, the class still shows up on your transcript. Although some students think that repeating a course will help them get into professional schools, this is almost always untrue. Professional schools will take into account ALL college-level coursework when performing their own calculation of your GPA, and this will include any courses you have repeated at Western. Still, in some circumstances it may be appropriate to repeat a course so talk to an advisor to be sure. Also, dropping a course can have an impact on eligibility for financial aid, scholarships, and athletic participation so consider your options carefully and speak with an advisor before making a decision.


SHADOWING: Students should gain shadowing experience with a nurse, and will likely need an RN to write a letter of recommendation. Discuss your shadowing options with Pre-healthcare advisors.


VOLUNTEERING/HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE: The more experience you have working with people in a healthcare setting the stronger your application will be (some programs require it). Becoming certified as a Nursing Assistant (CNA) is one way to show your commitment to nursing and allows you to work with patients before applying to nursing school.


Additional Resources

WWU Health Professions Pinterest:

Association of Colleges of Nursing:

Washington State Nursing Commission approved programs:

Explore Health Careers:


Advising for Healthcare Professions/Career Services Center
Old Main 280                       360.650.4240             


This document is for preliminary advising purposes only. Contact Advising for Pre-Healthcare Professions for updates and changes.