Trying to figure out how to get ahead is something every student tries to do, even nursing students.

One of the ways nursing students try to do this is by seeing if they can get certifications. One such certification is the Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering if you can get the ACLS certification as a nursing student, and even if you can, should you. I’m going to cover all of that in this article.

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Can You Take ACLS as a Nursing Student?

Here’s the quick answer:

A nursing student can take the ACLS certification but probably shouldn’t because of the cost and time associated with getting the certification. Also, not every specialty requires the certification, and for those that do, the employer typically pays for it.

What is ACLS

If you’re reading this, I assume you already know what ACLS training is and what purpose the ACLS certification serves. I’m going to cover it real quick anyway.

The reason is that if you don’t really understand what ACLS is, then the rest of my explanation on why I don’t think you should bother taking it won’t make as much sense.

In a nutshell…

ACLS is a course geared towards healthcare professionals who care for patients who could go into cardiopulmonary arrest or have any other cardiovascular emergencies. ACLS training teaches you a set of clinical algorithms you can use in such emergencies.

The ACLS course is done through the American Heart Association and completing the course gives you a completion card that’s good for two years.

Towards the end of that two years, you’ll have to take an ACLS recertification class to get recertified in ACLS.

A common example of a medical professional who has to be ACLS certified is an ER registered nurse.

Why You Shouldn’t Bother Taking an ACLS Class Before Graduating Your Nursing Program

I can understand why as a nursing student, you might want to get ACLS certified. You’re probably thinking it will help you look good and stand out when you’re applying for jobs, but I’m not sure it’s going to give you that desired effect.

1. You’re Not Using It

While I’m sure to a certain degree it might help you stand out, I’m not sure an ACLS cert will necessarily improve your chances of getting hired as a new grad nurse.

You see the ACLS certification as far as I’m concerned, is not very helpful if you’re not in a situation you can use it and if you’re still a nursing student, you’re probably not using it.

2. It’s Expensive

The certification is not cheap. At the time of this writing, it’s a couple of hundred dollars just to sit for the exam. That’s not counting any extra study material you might want or need.

It’s not super expensive but if you’re a struggling college student that money would be better spent buying NCLEX prep courses like this one to make sure you pass boards the first time.

3. It’s Time Consuming

Taking the certification exam requires you to take a significant chunk of your time out of your already busying nursing school study schedule.

While once again it’s probably something you could do, the question to ask yourself is whether or not it’s really worth it.

4. You’re Employer Will Pay for the Exam and Pay You

When I got into a nursing specialty that required ACLS my employer paid for me to take the class and paid for me to take the certification exam. More likely than not you’re going to be in a similar situation.

Why pay for it out your pocket if your employer is willing to do that.

Here’s What You Should Do Instead

While there are some small benefits to getting your ACLS in nursing school if your main goal is to stand out or give yourself an advantage over others when applying for jobs, here’s what I think you should do instead.

1. Get Your LPN

Getting your LPN while in nursing school is a better option because it can start giving you valuable real-world experiences as a licensed nurse.

It may or may not give you an advantage in hiring. But the benefits of working through your jitters as a new grad while still in nursing school is still worth it.

Further Reading
I go over getting your LPN in Nursing and whether that’s a good idea or not in the article Can a Nursing Student Take the LPN Exam?

2. Join a Professional Nursing Organization

I don’t talk much about professional nursing organizations but I probably should because they serve a lot of important roles.

For the purposes of this topic I think it would be a great way to start networking with nurses who may be managers or in specialties you would like to be in.

Imagine wanting to go into critical care nursing and being able to meet a nurse manager from one of the ICU’s in town

Let Me Know What You’re Thinking

Doing either one of the above things I mentioned I think will serve you better in the long run than prematurely getting your ACLS.

What’s your motivation for wanting to get your ACLS as a nursing student? Do you agree with my points? Let me know.

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Frequently Asked Questions

You shouldn’t bother getting the ACLS while you’re still in nursing school. Not every nursing specialty requires the ACLS certification, and for those that do, your employer will typically pay for your certification.

ACLS is a course for medical professionals who take care of patients who could go into cardiovascular emergencies like cardiopulmonary arrest. ACLS training teaches healthcare professionals a set of clinical algorithms they can use in such emergencies.