How Long Is Nursing School for Aspiring Nurses?

Are you considering a career in nursing but unsure about the time commitment required to achieve your goal? We are here to guide you through the various nursing program timelines, answering the question: how long is nursing school? In this blog post, we will explore the different types of nursing degrees and programs, as well as the time it takes to complete them, helping you make an informed decision about the best path for your unique situation.

Key Takeaways

  • Nursing school duration varies from 1-4 years depending on the program and prerequisites.
  • RNs with an ADN can earn their BSN degree quickly through bridge programs, while accelerated BSN programs provide a fast track for second-degree seekers.
  • Graduate degrees in nursing offer specialization opportunities and preparing for the NCLEX is essential before practice.

Duration of Nursing School

A group of nursing students in a classroom setting

The length of time it takes to complete nursing school depends on the type of degree and program you choose to pursue. Practical nursing diplomas, for example, can be completed in as little as 1-2 years. On the other hand, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree typically requires four years to complete. So, how long is nursing school? It varies based on the chosen program. Obtaining a BSN degree can open up job and salary prospects for nursing professionals, as well as provide higher entry-level salary requirements and further educational opportunities in the future.

Keep in mind that various nursing school programs are designed to accommodate the needs of aspiring nurses. You can choose from traditional BSN programs, RN-to-BSN programs, and even accelerated second-degree BSN programs for those with a prior bachelor’s degree in a different field. Each program has unique prerequisites and time commitments, hence it’s necessary to investigate your options carefully before choosing the right path for you.

Navigating the Path to a Nursing Diploma

A nurse demonstrating a medical procedure to a student

If you’re looking for the quickest entry-level nursing program, Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) programs are your best bet. These practical nursing diploma programs typically last 1-2 years and include a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training in various medical skills. Upon completion of the program, students are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).

Choosing the fitting practical nursing program is crucial for your success in the field. You should consult with admissions or career counselors to identify the most appropriate program based on your timeline and professional aspirations. Be sure to allocate ample time for adequate preparation for the NCLEX-PN exam, as passing this exam is necessary to become a licensed practical nurse.

The Road to Becoming a Registered Nurse via an Associate Degree

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a popular option for aspiring registered nurses who want a shorter program than a BSN. The ADN program typically takes two years of full-time study or up to four years of part-time study to complete. This program equips students with the necessary knowledge and skills to become registered nurses, as well as providing them with practical experience in the field.

Starting with an ADN program has several advantages, including less time spent in school and lower tuition and fees compared to a BSN program. However, it is highly recommended that individuals who have earned an associate degree in nursing return to nursing school to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to enhance their career prospects and increase their nursing competencies.

Transitioning from ADN to BSN

For licensed RNs with an ADN, RN-to-BSN programs are designed to build on their existing skills and knowledge, allowing them to earn their BSN degree in a shorter timeframe. These programs typically take as few as 12 months to complete. To transition from an ADN to a BSN, one must:

  • Possess an RN license in good standing with no disciplinary action

  • Have an ADN degree

  • Meet minimum GPA requirements

  • Complete prerequisite courses such as anatomy, physiology, and microbiology.

The benefits of transitioning from ADN to BSN for a registered nurse include:

  • Enhanced nursing skills

  • Increased job opportunities

  • Higher salary potential

  • Leadership and management opportunities

  • Deeper understanding of complex healthcare issues

  • Improved patient outcomes

  • Increased autonomy in decision making on the job

By pursuing an RN-to-BSN program, you can advance your nursing career and open new doors in the healthcare industry.

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing: A Comprehensive Journey

A nursing student participating in a clinical rotation

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is a comprehensive program that takes four years to complete. This degree provides a deeper understanding of nursing competencies, human anatomy, physiology, clinical rotations, and real-world learning experiences compared to an ADN program. The BSN degree is the most frequently obtained degree for Registered Nurses, and there are bridge programs available for those with an ADN to complete a BSN.

Apart from traditional BSN programs, LPN-BSN and RN-BSN programs are also available for Licensed Practical Nurses or Registered Nurses who wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Completion of these programs typically take one to three years and give candidates the opportunity to apply their prior credits towards their bachelor’s degree, hence, finishing quicker than a traditional four-year program.

Accelerated Paths for Second-Degree Seekers

For individuals with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, accelerated BSN programs provide an opportunity to enter the nursing field without starting from scratch. These programs typically take 12-18 months to complete and allow students to leverage their prior knowledge and college credits to expedite their nursing education.

Though Accelerated BSN programs are intensive and demanding, they offer a distinct opportunity for career changers to become registered nurses in a shorter timeframe compared to traditional programs. Graduates of these programs qualify to take the NCLEX-RN exam and commence their nursing careers.

Mastering Nursing: The Graduate Degree Experience

Graduate degrees in nursing, including nursing degrees, offer the chance to specialize in different areas of the nursing field, such as health research, hospital administration, and patient care. Generally, a BSN degree and several years of professional nursing experience are required to pursue a graduate degree in nursing. These advanced degrees can potentially increase earning potential and provide opportunities for careers in public health and service.

Whether you’re interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse midwife, pursuing a graduate degree in nursing can help you achieve your career goals and enhance your expertise in your chosen area of specialization. This advanced education will open new doors in the healthcare industry and set you apart from your peers.

Specializing Further: Postgraduate and Doctoral Opportunities

For those looking to advance their nursing careers even further, becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) may be the right choice. To become an APRN, individuals must first become a licensed registered nurse, earn a master’s or doctoral degree, accumulate clinical practice hours, and pass a national certification exam. This process typically takes 2-4 years to complete, ensuring a solid foundation in nursing practice.

APRNs enjoy increased autonomy in decision making, higher salaries, and the opportunity to specialize in specific areas of patient care. Pursuing a postgraduate or doctoral degree in nursing can set you apart as a leader in the healthcare industry and provide a rewarding and fulfilling career in nursing.

Preparing for the NCLEX: Your Final Step Before Practice

A group of nursing graduates celebrating their NCLEX-RN exam success

Before you can officially start your nursing career, you must take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam, irrespective of whether you obtained a bachelor’s or associate degree. There is a minimum waiting period of 45 days before a candidate is eligible to retake the NCLEX-RN exam if they do not pass on their first attempt. The passing rate for the NCLEX-RN exam is higher for BSN degree holders than for those with associate degrees.

Determining when to take the NCLEX-RN exam is a personal decision that should be based on your level of comfort and confidence with the material. It may be beneficial to spend a few months in intensive study following nursing school before taking the exam.

Bear in mind, your success on the NCLEX-RN exam is the final step before commencing your nursing career.

Frequently Asked Questions

You might still have queries about nursing school and the nursing profession. This section compiles some frequently asked questions and provides answers to help clarify any lingering doubts or concerns you might have.

What is the fastest you can become an RN?

The fastest route to becoming an RN is through an ADN program, which typically takes two years to complete. These programs provide the necessary knowledge and skills for aspiring registered nurses and are less time-consuming compared to BSN programs. Once you have completed an ADN program and passed the NCLEX-RN exam, you can officially become a registered nurse.

How long should a nursing student study?

Nursing students should study consistently throughout their program. It is suggested that nursing students:

  • Study for approximately 3 hours for every 1 hour of lecture time

  • Take into account their individual learning styles

  • Consider the complexity of the coursework, as it may affect the amount of time needed for study.

Creating a study schedule that allows for consistent and devoted study time each day is necessary.

Can I be an RN at 40?

Yes, individuals can become RNs at any age, as long as they meet the educational and licensure requirements. Many nursing programs cater to a diverse range of ages and backgrounds, and there are resources and support available for older adults in nursing school.

Your age should not deter you from pursuing a rewarding career in nursing.

Is becoming an RN really hard?

Becoming an RN can pose challenges, but they can be overcome with dedication, hard work, and proper support. Nursing programs are rigorous and demanding, combining classroom lectures, laboratory work, and clinical experiences. However, with effective study techniques and time management skills, you can successfully handle the challenges of becoming a registered nurse.

What’s the easiest type of nurse to become?

The easiest type of nurse to become is a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Here are the steps to become an LPN:

  1. Complete a practical nursing diploma program, which typically takes 1-2 years of study.

  2. Pass the NCLEX-PN exam.

  3. Once you pass the exam, you can officially become a licensed practical nurse.

  4. As an LPN, you will provide primary care and support to other nurses in various healthcare settings.


In this blog post, we have explored the various nursing school timelines, ranging from practical nursing diplomas to advanced practice degrees. We discussed the different types of nursing degrees and programs, as well as the time it takes to complete them. With determination, hard work, and proper support, you can successfully navigate the path to becoming a nurse, regardless of your age or educational background. Embrace the challenge and embark on a fulfilling and rewarding career in the nursing profession.