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How Many Years of College to Be a Nurse?

Are you ready to start a professional career in nursing? The response could be less than a year, two years, four years, or six years and up, depending on the degree. If that sounds complicated, this guide describes nursing degrees, various kinds of nursing school programs, and the duration of each program. It also outlines a few different nursing career paths.

How Many Years of College to Be a Nurse?

For the information you need to start planning for nursing school, continue reading.

You can expect to become a registered nurse in around 2-4 years, depending on which nursing program you go with (ADN or BSN) and your education level.

Nurses fall into three major categories. These are the years of education, in order:

  • Licensed practical nurses/licensed vocational nurses (LPN/LVNs)
  • Registered nurses
  • Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), such as nurse practitioners (NPs)

When most people think of nurses, they typically think of RNs. RNs can pursue one of three pathways: an ADN, a BSN, or a nursing diploma.

The most frequent degree for registered nurses is a bachelor’s degree (BSN). According to the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey, over half (51.1%) of RNs reported having a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of nursing education.

The ADN, held by 24.3% of nurses, is the second most prevalent degree, followed by the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), held by 17.9% of nurses.

The MSN is the bare minimum of education needed for most positions as APRNs.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse?

Between 2016 and 2026, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) projected that there would be an annual increase in the number of registered nursing posts to over 200,000. In agreement with this assessment, the U.S.

Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of registered nurses will increase by an additional 9 percent between 2020 and 2030, translating into the creation of over 194,500 new jobs yearly.

RNs are in great demand in the United States, but a nursing shortage exists. The increasing needs of our population cannot be met by the current shortage of certified nurses.

In your opinion, as a potential nurse, what does this mean? Aspiring registered nurses can now expect competitive pay and strong levels of employment security.

Become a nurse if you want to work in a high-demand industry while assisting patients. You might be worried about the required investment, though. What is the duration required to become a nurse? Does medical school need to be attended for a long time?

Let’s talk about the various routes to becoming a nurse and the actions one must take to pursue this expanding and significant job.

Nursing Programs to Study

LPN/LVN Program

How many years of college to be a nurse? The quickest entry-level nursing curriculum for nurses is an LPN/LVN program, which typically lasts one year and sixteen months. All nurses, LPNs, and LVNs are paid the least and have the least authority and professional autonomy.

Many healthcare professionals regard this as a great entry-level position. After completing this program, you can test your knowledge nationally by taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for Practical Nurses.

Between LPNs and LVNs, there isn’t much distinction. The phrase is LPN in all states except Texas and California, where it is LVN.

Nursing Diploma

The National Nursing Workforce Survey from 2022 shows that just 4.1% of registered nurses (RNs) have a nursing diploma as their highest degree, down from 12.3% in 2013. Nursing degrees are the least frequent type of schooling.

Nursing diplomas are directly offered by hospitals and hospital-based nursing schools, unlike other nursing degrees. They may take one to three years to finish.

After receiving your nursing diploma, you can sit for the national licensing exam, known as the NCLEX-RN.

Associate Degree in Nursing

The average ADN program lasts two years to finish. ADNs represent nearly a quarter (24.3%) of all nurses’ highest level of nursing education. The quickest and most accessible route to becoming an RN is this one.

However, many businesses demand or highly prefer a BSN for leadership roles, and this degree does not prepare you for immediate entry into an MSN program.

Many nurses begin their careers with an ADN and later complete a nursing bridge program to achieve a BSN or MSN because it takes less time and the tuition and fees are usually lower. You can also sit for the NCLEX-RN with this degree.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

The most popular degree for registered nurses is a BSN; 51.1% of RNs say that their highest degree is a BSN.

For full-time students, a BSN often takes four years to complete. On the other hand, bridge programs allow you to finish a BSN in three years if you have an ADN and nursing experience.

After completing your BSN degree, you will be qualified to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. The BSN program prepares you for the MSN and covers more ground and in-depth topics than the ADN curriculum.

Master of Science in Nursing

One must complete an MSN program to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), such as a clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, or nurse midwife.

In contrast to BSN programs, MSN programs are tailored toward a particular specialty, such as nurse-midwifery or family practice. RNs hold a 17.9% MSN as of 2022.

While programs vary from 18 to 30 months, full-time MSN students normally complete them in two years. There are 36-month RN-to-MSN programs available.

When you graduate, you will be qualified to sit for the relevant board certification exam.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The DNP, also called a terminal degree, is the highest degree that may be obtained for the nursing profession.

DNPs will be required for newly certified registered nurse anesthetists starting in 2025. For RNs, this is the least prevalent degree.

In 2022, a mere 2.7% of registered nurses indicated that their greatest nursing education level was a DNP.

Related:

How Long is an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) Program?

How Long is an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) Program?

Earning an Associate’s Degree in nursing is the shortest path to becoming a Registered Nurse. Completing an ADN program generally takes two to three years.

Though ADNs do not have the same training in leadership and research that Registered Nurses who have earned BSNs do, those who choose the ADN path learn the same nursing procedures and work in the same settings.

Community colleges offer programs that can be taken online or in-person full-time or part-time.

Most ADN students will have completed at least 700 clinical hours before they graduate from their program.

How Long is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program?

Choosing to be a Registered Nurse with a BSN degree takes longer than doing so with an ADN degree but provides you with more generous compensation, the opportunity to take on leadership roles, and many more options for advancement.

Completing a BSN program generally takes four years.

Attending a full-time baccalaureate program is the most common and direct way of earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

These programs generally include two years of general education classes such as English Composition, Math, and History and courses that are prerequisites for the nursing program, followed by a two-year program that teaches advanced principles of nursing and clinical training.

Once you have graduated from a BSN program, you will be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination) and become licensed by your state to become a Registered Nurse.

Several nursing certifications can add value and credibility to your role and professional standing if you specialize in a particular care area.

Each certification has its requirements, including an RN degree and license, a minimum number of direct-care hours in the chosen specialty, and passing a certification test.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Registered Nurse (RN)?

On average, an incoming nursing student can expect to become a licensed Registered Nurse (RN) in roughly three years.

This is after a student fully completes the academic program at an accredited college or university.

You may be eligible for an accelerated program if you are interested in becoming an RN but already possess a bachelor’s degree in another field.

These programs may accept general education credits earned from other degrees, thus eliminating several semesters’ worth of coursework.

When you pursue an accelerated nursing degree, the estimated time until completion is reduced to only 18 months.

No matter which program you choose, becoming an RN requires successful completion and a passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

Students must apply with a state-level nursing board to sit for the exam. Preparation is key, and the ability to pass this crucial test may affect how long it takes to achieve RN certification.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Practical Nurse (PN)?

Most states require one to two years to become a practical nurse. Although this is a faster path to becoming a nurse, students should know that their career options may be more limited. How Many Years of College to Be a Nurse?

LPNs may assist other nurses with routine medical duties or provide basic-level care such as dressing, feeding, and tending to patients.

LPNs must sit for and pass the NCLEX-PN exam. Even students who want to take an accelerated path should study hard for the exam because there is a 45-day waiting period to retake it.

When it comes to LPN programs, there are numerous options available, including traditional and accelerated programs.

It may be best to consult an admissions or career counselor before deciding on the best program for your timeline and career goals.

CSN Team.

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