How Long is Nursing School for Registered Nurses?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the job outlook for registered nurses is expected to expand by 6% in the next eight years. This growth is faster than the average for all occupations, emphasizing the abundant opportunities for soon-to-be and seasoned registered nurses.

So, how long does it take to become a registered nurse? It can take anywhere from two to four years, depending on the path you take and the degree you want to pursue. Of course, if you want to advance your degree, it’ll take longer, but at a minimum, you can expect at least two years of schooling.

Nursing Education: Terms to Know

As you begin your dive into the sea of nursing school and its requirements, you’ll come across a few common terms, including:

  • RN, short for registered nurse, is a title for licensed medical professionals trained to provide hands-on patient care in various medical settings.
  • ADN, short for associate’s degree in nursing, is an accelerated technical program that allows people to become nurses in just two years.
  • BSN, short for Bachelor of Science in Nursing, is an advanced four-year degree RNs may complete.
  • Professional nurse is often used to refer to RNs with a BSN degree.
  • Technical nurse is often used in reference to RNs with ADN degrees.
  • The NCLEX-RN exam, or National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, is the test you must pass to become a licensed RN.

How Long is Nursing School?

It takes at least two years to become a nurse, although it can take four or more years to advance your degree. The program you choose will dictate how long it takes to become a registered nurse.

Two-Year Technical Program

Soon-to-be registered nurses can take an accelerated route to obtain their RN licenses by enrolling in a two-year technical program. The license you’ll get after graduating and completing applicable exams is called an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN).

These programs pack a lot of information into two short years, and the demanding credit load isn’t for everyone. Between classroom learning and a rigorous clinical schedule, the process is challenging. These programs often focus heavily on clinical training, as the accelerated course track doesn’t leave much time for the comprehensive approach of a bachelor’s degree.

However, if you’re hoping to fast-track your degree, an associate’s degree in nursing from a technical program might be a good option. You can always advance your education later in your career by completing your bachelor’s degree, should you want to pursue other opportunities.

It’s important to note that not all states offer accelerated entry-level nursing programs. Accelerated programs are available in 49 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Four-Year Bachelor Program

Many nurses enter the workforce with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or higher degree, with over 70% of nurses in 2022 in the industry with a higher degree. If you decide to go this route and obtain your BSN, you’ll complete four years of schooling to get your license.

During the course of your schooling, you’ll complete credits in a diverse range of sectors to cover skills you’ll use throughout your career. Coursework is comprehensive, often including credits on:

  • Leadership
  • Clinical training
  • Advanced theory
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Nursing ethics
  • Nursing theory
  • Emergency care
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy and physiology

The coursework can vary from one program to the next. During clinical training, most soon-to-be RNs participate in experiences in local hospitals, psych facilities, long-term care facilities, and similar medical settings.

Accelerated Programs

Aside from the accelerated technical nursing program, nurses at varying levels can further their education via various accelerated programs. Many schools throughout the country offer accelerated baccalaureate and master’s programs in nursing, allowing current nurses to advance their degrees quickly.

Some in-person programs allow nurses to complete their advanced degrees without setting foot in a classroom. It all depends on the program.

The timeline to completion depends on your current degree and the program. For example, many accelerated BSN programs take 11 to 18 months to complete, although some tip the scales to just over two years. If you’re stepping up from your BSN to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), you can typically earn the degree within three years.

Choose the Route That Works for You

Becoming a registered nurse is a worthwhile and rewarding career path, albeit demanding between rigorous exams and busy clinical schedules. Whether you choose to start with an associate’s degree in nursing or continue your education to get your master’s degree, you can expect a minimum of two years of nursing school to become an RN.

Regardless of your path, there are abundant opportunities in the nursing profession. You can choose different specialties, like flight and transport or pediatrics, or advance into management. Furthermore, experts predict strong job growth in the coming years, ensuring ample opportunities in the future.