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How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse

By Kati Kleber, MSN RN; FreshRN

1. Are you wondering how long does it take to become a nurse? In this post, we will answer this question. In this article, we will explore the various pathways to becoming a registered nurse, as well as provide an overview of the length of time it takes to complete each type of program.

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

3. Types of RN Degree Programs

4. Nursing Degree Options

Nursing has several degree options, and each one is unique in its offerings. Let’s find out the most popular ways of becoming a nurse. We talk about the differences in this blog post a little bit more.

1. How Long Does it Take to Become an RN With a Diploma?

This type of program is offered by hospitals and other healthcare organizations and typically takes between 18 and 24 months to complete. They are very skill-focused, and diploma program graduates are very technically-competent upon graduation. However, graduation from a diploma program is not equivalent to an undergraduate or associates degree.

2. How Long Does it Take to Become an RN With an Associate’s Degree?

3. How Long Does it Take to Become an RN With a Bachelor’s Degree?

A BSN is the most popular route to becoming a registered nurse and is the preference of most hospitals. This four-year degree offers a comprehensive education in nursing and prepares students for graduate-level study or for a career in nursing.

Newer option: If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can complete an accelerated BSN program. These programs are very intensive and expensive, but are a quick path at approximately 12-18 months.

4. How Long Does it Take to Become an RN With a Master’s Degree?

MSN programs are designed for nurses who want to advance their careers and become leaders in the field of nursing. These programs offer concentrations in areas such as adult-gerontology, family nurse practitioner, or nurse educator. Most MSN programs require between 36 and 48 months to complete.

There are multiple options to becoming an MSN-prepared RN in addition to your typical pathway of first obtaining your BSN and then picking an MSN pathway.

9. ADN-to-MSN Programs

There are programs available for nurses with an Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) to bridge to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) without first obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). These programs are commonly known as RN-to-MSN programs or ADN-to-MSN programs.

10. Direct-Entry MSN Program

A Direct Entry Master’s program for nurses, also known as an Entry-Level Master’s (ELM) program or a Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN), is a graduate-level program designed for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field but wish to pursue a career in nursing.

In a Direct Entry Master’s program, students complete a combination of undergraduate and graduate nursing coursework in an accelerated timeframe. The program typically takes about 2-3 years to complete and includes clinical rotations and hands-on experience in a healthcare setting.

Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and become licensed as registered nurses (RNs). They also earn a Master’s degree in Nursing, leading to career advancement opportunities and specialization in a particular area of nursing.

Direct Entry Master’s programs are becoming increasingly popular as they allow individuals to transition into a nursing career more quickly and efficiently than traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs. However, they require a significant time commitment and may have higher tuition costs than traditional nursing programs.

11. How Long Does it Take to Become an RN With a Doctorate or PhD?

DNP and PhD programs are the highest level of education that a nurse can achieve. DNP programs offer a focus on clinical practice and leadership, while PhD programs focus on research. Most DNP programs will take six to eight years to complete, and students must have a BSN and MSN before enrolling.

The exception: There are direct-entry DNP programs for people who already have a bachelor’s degree. These programs tend to take approximately 3-4 years to complete (in addition to the time it takes to get the bachelor’s degree required for entry), and you will take your nursing board examination (NCLEX-RN) during the program. These are extremely intense and often expensive programs.

12. Career Options for a Doctorate-Prepared Nurse

The career options for a doctorate-prepared nurse are similar to that of an MSN-prepared nurse, but also include:

13. So, how long does it take to become a nurse?

The answer is—it varies! Depending on the degree pathway you choose, it can take anywhere from 18 months to 8 years to become a registered nurse after high school. No matter which route you choose, though, be assured that you will receive an excellent education in one of the most rewarding professions around.

Nursing FAQs

14. What is the best way to become a nurse?

The answer to this question depends on your:

There is no “right” answer to this, and thankfully there are many different pathways to get your RN license and degree!

15. What are the most common types of nursing roles?

The three most common types of nursing roles are:

There are many other types of nursing roles out there, so it’s important to do your research to find the one that suits your interests and career goals!

16. What is the fastest way to become an RN?

The fastest way to become an RN is:

17. Can you become an RN in 2 years?

Yes. You can complete an ADN program in 2 years, if breaks are minimized. You can also complete an accelerated BSN program in 12-18 months.

18. What is the average salary for an RN?

Salaries vary widely in the United States, depending on the state you live in, the organization you work for, and the role you hold.

19. How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner?

To become licensed as an NP, you must have at least a master’s degree. This tends to take about 5-7 years from post-high school education to MSN.

20. What advancement opportunities are available after becoming a registered nurse?

Your ability to advance depends on your education level. If you have a diploma or ADN, advancement will be difficult. If you have your BSN, you can be considered for:

To have increased opportunities, one likely needs to obtain an MSN.

21. What are the different jobs you can have as an MSN-prepared RN?

There are a wide variety of subspecialties within Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs, which allow nurses to develop expertise in a specific area of nursing. Here are some examples of subspecialties within MSN programs:

These are just a few examples of subspecialties within MSN programs. Other options include nursing leadership, healthcare policy, gerontology, and public health.

22. Why should I become a nurse?

There are many reasons to become a nurse! Nurses are in high demand, and the job outlook is excellent. Nurses enjoy a good salary and benefits, and the work is both challenging and rewarding. Nurses also have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of their patients. The degree is quite versatile, so if you are working in one area of nursing but need a change of pace, there are plenty of other opportunities.