How Long Does It Take To Become An RN + How To Fast-Track


Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA


Are you considering a career as a registered nurse? Do all the different programs leave you wondering, “How long does it take to become an RN?” It can be confusing to choose the right program, especially if you do not understand your options.

In this article, I will share some information with you about becoming an RN. As you read on, you will find out about different paths to earn a nursing degree, how long they take, and what the curriculum plans are like. I will also share some information about the job outlook and income for registered nurses and answer some frequently asked questions to help you decide which program is best for you.



WHAT IS AN RN?


An RN, which stands for registered nurse, is a healthcare professional who has graduated from a nursing program and obtained a professional license to practice in the field of nursing. RNs provide care to patients of all ages across the lifespan working in a variety of settings and specialty areas.



WHAT ARE THE THREE TYPES OF PATHS AVAILABLE TO BECOME AN RN?


Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN):

An associate degree in nursing is the minimum degree you can earn to become a licensed registered nurse.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN):

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is the highest undergraduate nursing degree you can obtain and become a licensed RN.

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Accelerated BSN):

An accelerated BSN program is an undergraduate nursing program designed for individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field who wish to pursue a nursing degree.



TYPICALLY, HOW MANY CREDITS DO YOU NEED TO COMPLETE TO BECOME AN RN?


The credit requirements for nursing programs differ from one school to the next, depending on which degree you pursue. Students can expect to earn between 50 and 120 credits.

ADN:

On average, ADN programs require students to complete between 65 and 70 credits.

BSN:

Most Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs have curriculum plans consisting of 100 to 120 credits.

Accelerated BSN:

The number of credits you need to complete an Accelerated BSN degree varies, depending on the number of transferable credits you have from your previous bachelor’s degree. Typically, students in these programs need between 50 and 60 credits to earn the BSN.



TYPICALLY, HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME AN RN?


“How long does it take to become an RN,” is one of the first questions prospective students ask when trying to choose a nursing program. The time it takes to become a registered nurse can vary from 12 months to six years or more.

ADN:

You can earn an associate degree in nursing in as little as two years if you study full-time. Part-time students may take three years or longer.

BSN:

Earning a BSN takes an average of four years for full-time students and five to six years for part-time students.

Accelerated BSN:

The Accelerated BSN program option is one of the shortest. Most programs are completed in 12 to 18 months.



HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME AN RN THROUGH THE ADN PATH?

(Below are 18 examples of how long it takes to become an RN through the ADN path at some of the popular schools in the nation.)


EXAMPLE #1: State Fair Community College - Sedalia, MO

State Fair Community College offers a full-time two-year Associate of Applied Science in Nursing degree. You will earn a Professional Certificate in Practical Nursing in the first year and then complete the second year to earn the AAS in Nursing. The school also offers advanced placement opportunities for candidates who are currently licensed LPNs or paramedics.

The program features a 112-credit curriculum, which includes 55.5 credits toward the Professional Certificate in Practical Nursing and 60.5 credits toward the associate degree. Classes are completed on campus, and clinical placements are arranged by the school.


EXAMPLE #2: Mid-State Technical College - Wisconsin Rapids, WI

At Mid-State Technical College, you can earn an associate degree in nursing in as little as two years. To graduate with an associate degree, students must earn a total of 66 credits. The school also offers LPN to ADN and Paramedic to ADN fast-track options. LPNs receive up to 43 credits for prior coursework, and paramedics may receive up to 37 credits for their previous coursework, which means students in the fast-track programs may only need to take an additional 23 to 29 credits to earn the associate degree in nursing. The programs are offered in a hybrid/blended format, with full-time enrollment required.


EXAMPLE #3: Joliet Junior College - Joliet, IL

Juliet Junior College offers a traditional two-year Associate of Applied Science nursing degree and an LPN to RN fast-track option. Traditional students must accomplish 72 credits to meet graduation requirements. After completing the class, LPN to ADN transitions, LPNs pursuing the degree are awarded 15.5 credits for prior learning, making the total credits needed for graduation 56.5. The program is only offered full-time and is delivered in a hybrid format, combining traditional in-person classes, web-based classes, and in-person clinicals.


EXAMPLE #4: Bismarck State College - Bismarck, ND

The associate degree nursing program at Bismark State College is referred to as a 1+1, which is a Practical Nurse Certificate to associate degree nursing program. After the first 11 months of the two-year program, you are eligible for the Certificate in Practical Nursing and may register to take the NCLEX-PN. You will then transition to the second year and complete the Associate in Applied Science in Nursing degree. The program features a 60-credit curriculum and a mixed method of learning, including campus-based classes, an Interactive Video Network, and independent online classes.


EXAMPLE #5: Iowa Central Community College - Fort Dodge, IA

At Iowa Central Community College, you can earn an associate degree in nursing in two years, including one summer semester. The program is offered in a traditional campus-based format and includes 720 hours of clinical practicum. The curriculum requires students to complete 78 credits.


EXAMPLE #6: Seminole State College of Florida - Sanford, FL

At Seminole State College of Florida, you can earn an Associate of Science in Nursing degree in five semesters of full-time study or choose to enroll part-time and graduate in seven semesters. You will complete 72 credits, including general education, electives, and nursing courses. The program is offered in a hybrid/blended format, with clinicals completed at local healthcare facilities.


EXAMPLE #7: Mississippi University for Women - Columbus, MS

Mississippi University for Women offers a two-year, fast-paced Associate of Science in Nursing. Students complete 71 credits, including 11 credits earned from prerequisite courses. The program is designed in a full-time format and features campus and web-based classes, as well as an optional externship program between the first and second years and a preceptorship before graduation.


EXAMPLE #8: Jackson State Community College - Jackson, TN

The Associate in Applied Science in Nursing program at Jackson State Community College is a 65-credit program. The program takes two years, including one summer semester, and requires full-time attendance. The college also offers an LPN to RN program, which can be completed in three semesters. Candidates for the LPN to RN program must complete 20 credits of prerequisite coursework to be accepted and complete a total of 57 credits. Classes are offered in a hybrid format, combining in-person and online learning with in-person clinicals.


EXAMPLE #9: Cape Fear Community College - Wilmington, NC

Cape Fear Community College offers a traditional associate in Applied Science nursing degree and an LPN to RN fast-track program. The traditional program is a 69-credit pathway offered in a hybrid format. The LPN to RN pathway is a 31-credit, two-semester program that features online and in-person learning as well as a clinical component. Both options are designed for full-time study.


EXAMPLE #10: Eastern New Mexico University - Roswell, NM

At Eastern New Mexico University, you can complete the ADN in two years. The program is a campus-based pathway that includes classroom lectures, lab simulations, and off-site clinicals. Students must complete 51 to 54 credits.


EXAMPLE #11: Pikes Peak Community College - Colorado Springs, CO

The associate degree nursing program at Pikes Peak Community College can be completed in four semesters after meeting the prerequisite course requirements. Students complete 70.5 credits, including 14 prerequisite credits and 56.5 nursing credits. The program is designed for full-time study, with students completing between 12 and 17 credits each semester. Students learn theory in a classroom setting and develop clinical skills through laboratory simulation and hands-on clinical practicum.


EXAMPLE #12: Rogue Community College - Grants Pass, OR

At Rogue Community College, students in the associate degree nursing program must complete a total of 102 credits, including 45 prerequisite courses, which must be completed before beginning nursing courses. The program is formatted to be completed in five semesters once all prerequisites are completed and requires full-time study. Didactic instruction takes place in the classroom, and clinicals are completed with an approved preceptor at designated partner sites.


EXAMPLE #13: Great Basin College - Elko, NV

The Associate of Applied Science in Nursing program at Great Basin College features synchronized distance learning for theory courses, state-of-the-art simulation labs on campus, and clinical opportunities within your home community. Students must complete 21 prerequisite credits before being admitted to the nursing program and complete an additional 49 credits, completing a total of 70 credits to earn the degree. The program is a full-time track designed to be completed in four semesters.


EXAMPLE #14: Kapiolani Community College - Honolulu, HI

The Associate in science nursing program at Kapiolani Community College is a 72-credit program. Students attend classes and simulated skills labs on campus and clinicals in diverse healthcare settings. The program is full-time and can be completed in four semesters.


EXAMPLE #15: Community College of Allegheny County - Pittsburgh, PA

At Community College of Allegheny County, prospective students can choose between the traditional RN track, LPN to RN, or fast-track option. To earn the associate degree, all students must earn at least 67 or 68 credits. The traditional track is a five-semester pathway. The Fast-Track and LPN to RN programs can be completed in four semesters, depending on the number of credits you transfer. The programs are offered in campus-based and online formats and are designed for full-time study.


EXAMPLE #16: Rowan College of South Jersey-Gloucester - Sewell, NJ

Students at Rowan College of South Jersey-Gloucester earn an associate in Applied Science in nursing with just four semesters of full-time study. Classes are held in the fall in spring semesters. The program features a 60-credit curriculum and is designed in a blended format.


EXAMPLE #17: Eastern Maine Community College - Bangor, ME

The Associate in Applied Science in Nursing degree at Eastern Maine Community College is a 70-credit program that is completed in four full-time semesters (after completing the required prerequisites). The program is offered in a blended format consisting of online and in-person classes and face-to-face clinical experiences.


EXAMPLE #18: Massachusetts Bay Community College - Framingham, MA

Massachusetts Bay Community College offers traditional and fast-track options for pursuing an associate degree in nursing. To earn the degree, students complete between 68 to 72 credits. The traditional pathway is a two-year plan. The fast-track program offers an advanced placement curriculum designed for licensed practical/vocational nurses and paramedics to pursue an associate nursing degree. In this pathway, students complete 61 to 65 credits over three semesters. The college offers a mix of in-person and online classes as well as clinical practicum experiences in a variety of healthcare settings.



HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME AN RN THROUGH THE BSN PATH?

(Below are 18 examples of how long it takes to become an RN through the BSN path at some of the popular schools in the nation.)


EXAMPLE #1: University of Central Florida - Orlando, FL

The University of Central Florida offers a BSN program that is available in four pathways: traditional, concurrent (earn ASN and BSN concurrently), accelerated second degree, and RN to BSN. The traditional and concurrent program pathways require students to complete 120 credits and take four to five years, based on whether you enroll part-time or full-time, and feature a hybrid learning format. The second-degree and RN to BSN pathways are 30-credit tracks. The second-degree program takes 18 months to complete and features a hybrid learning format. The RN to BSN program is fully online and can be completed in as little as three semesters.


EXAMPLE #2: New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing - New York, NY

New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing offers a traditional four-year BSN program. The program features a 128-credit hour curriculum. The program is designed for full-time study and consists of a blended learning format with web-based and classroom instruction as well as diverse clinical experiences.


EXAMPLE #3: University of California-Los Angeles - Los Angeles, CA

The BSN program at the University of California-Los Angeles is a traditional, four-year program that requires students to enroll full-time. The program features a rigorous curriculum requiring 180 to 215 units of credit and is designed in a campus-based format with guided simulation and clinical practicum experiences.


EXAMPLE #4: Ohio State University - Columbus, OH

At Ohio State University, you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in four years, excluding summer sessions. The School of Nursing has introduced a new curriculum that consists of 106 credits that will be implemented in August of 2023 and moving forward. Students who have already completed prerequisites or have other credits may opt for part-time enrollment but will still complete the program in four years. Classes and lab simulations are offered on campus, and clinicals take place at OSU’s medical campus. SU’s med


EXAMPLE #5: Drexel University - Philadelphia, PA

Drexel University offers four- and five-year BSN pathways with options for co-op experiences, which are work experiences integrated into your plan of study. The BSN 4-year program includes a cooperative experience in Acute and Chronic Illness that results in six months of work experience. The 5-year program includes three cooperative experiences, resulting in 18 months of work experience. The school also offers a two-year option for students who have completed nursing-related coursework prior to enrolling at Drexel. To earn the BSN, students must complete 181 credits. All programs are designed for full-time enrollment and feature a blended learning format.


EXAMPLE #6: University of Wisconsin-Madison - Madison, WI

The BSN program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison features a 124-credit curriculum plan consisting of 53 nursing credits and 71 general education credits. After completing all general education and pre-nursing requirements, which takes 18 to 24 months, you can complete the remaining nursing courses and clinicals in a two-year course sequence as a full-time student. Classes are completed on campus, and clinicals are completed in a variety of healthcare settings, as arranged by the School of Nursing.


EXAMPLE #7: Georgia College & State University - Milledgeville, GA

At Georgia College & State University, the BSN program is offered in a blended format offering classroom and web-based instruction. It takes students approximately four years to complete the program, two years to complete the required Liberal Arts and Sciences core curriculum, and two years to complete the nursing curriculum. The program features a 120-credit curriculum, which includes 42 general education and pre-nursing credits and 78 nursing credits.


EXAMPLE #8: University of Kentucky - Lexington, KY

The University of Kentucky’s BSN program is offered in a four-year, traditional format. The 120-credit hour program is featured in a hybrid format that offers classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction. The program is formatted as a full-time study plan, with students completing between 12 and 17 credits each semester. The four-year plan consists of five semesters of study, including one summer session.


EXAMPLE #9: University of South Carolina - Columbia, SC

The University of South Carolina offers traditional four-year BSN and two-year RN to BSN programs. The traditional pathway features classroom and web-based instruction as well as laboratory simulations and clinical practicum hours. Traditional BSN students commit to full-time enrollment. The RN to BSN is offered in an online format, and although it is listed as a two-year program, some students graduate in as little as 12 months. All students must achieve a minimum of 120 credit hours to earn the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.


EXAMPLE #10: University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, MI

At the University of Michigan, you can enter the BSN program as a freshman and graduate in four years or eight semesters, attending in fall and winter semesters only, or you may transfer into the sophomore entry pathway and complete the program in seven semesters, including one summer semester. Both plans are full-time programs and require the completion of 128 credit hours to meet graduation criteria. Didactic coursework is completed on campus. The program also includes more than 1,000 hours of hands-on clinical practicum.


EXAMPLE #11: University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

The University of Pittsburgh offers a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree formatted for full-time enrollment. The program features a 124-credit hour curriculum. Students attend classes and laboratory simulations on campus and participate in clinical experiences in various healthcare settings, as arranged by Clinical Placement Faculty.


EXAMPLE #12: University of Virginia - Charlottesville, VA

The University of Virginia has two options for earning a BSN, the traditional four-year, full-time pathway or the part-time RN to BSN pathway. The traditional program is a campus-based option. The RN to BSN program is offered in a hybrid format requiring monthly in-person classes with all other courses online. All BSN students must complete at least 120 credit hours. RN to BSN students earn up to 48 transfer credits from general education coursework from their previous degree, which means they must complete at least 72 credits at UVA.


EXAMPLE #13: Villanova University - Villanova, PA

Villanova University offers a traditional four-year BSN program and a second-degree accelerated BSN program. In the traditional program, which requires completing 136 credits, you will spend much of the first two years learning on campus at the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing Learning Resource Center. The final two years involve classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction. The second-degree pathway, which is offered in a distance-learning format with clinicals in your hometown, features a 75-credit curriculum and is offered in a 14-month Express Track or a 72-credit 23-month Flex Track plan.


EXAMPLE #14: University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio - San Antonio, TX

The traditional BSN program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is a 22-month program. Students must complete four semesters of prerequisite content prior to admission to the nursing component for the final four semesters. All classes, clinicals, and laboratory simulations are conducted in person on campus. The curriculum is completed in two phases, pre-nursing course requirements, which include 60 credits, and nursing major courses, which includes an additional 60 credits. Candidates with a non-nursing bachelor’s may earn the BSN through the Accelerated BSN pathway by earning 60 credits. Both pathways are full-time, with classes held in the fall and spring semesters.


EXAMPLE #15: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Chapel Hill, NC

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a traditional BSN and accelerated BSN degree, as well as a Military Pathway for Armed Forces Veterans and Active-Duty service members. Traditional BSN students must complete 120 credits, including 60 prerequisite credits, prior to admission into the nursing program. The program takes four years to complete, including five semesters of upper-level nursing. The ABSN program is a four-semester, 60-credit plan designed for students who have earned a prior bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. The Military Pathway is also a 60-credit program. All programs are completed on campus with clinical practicums at designated sites.


EXAMPLE #16: University of Alabama at Birmingham - Birmingham, AL

The BSN program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is a 126-credit hour program. It includes 60 nursing prerequisite credits and 66 nursing course credits. Students typically complete prerequisites in a two-year timeframe before transitioning to the nursing component for an additional five semesters of study. The university also offers a second-degree option, which features a 66-credit hour curriculum designed for applicants with a non-nursing bachelor's degree. The second-degree program is completed in five semesters and is not considered an accelerated BSN program. Both pathways require full-time study with campus-based learning and clinical practicums.


EXAMPLE #17: University of Washington - Seattle, WA

At the University of Washington, the BSN program is a full-time program designed for students who have achieved 60 college credits or a previous non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Once accepted into the program, students begin the BSN component as juniors, complete 50 nursing credits for a total of 110 college credits, and graduate in two years. The program features in-class lectures, clinical simulations in the university’s Learning Lab, and more than 1,000 hours of preceptor-supervised clinical practicum.


EXAMPLE #18: University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA

The University of Pennsylvania offers a four-year, direct-entry BSN program. The program is designed in a full-time, campus-based format. Students complete 120 credit hours, including approximately 900 clinical hours.



HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME AN RN THROUGH THE ACCELERATED BSN PATH?

(Below are 18 examples of how long it takes to become an RN through the Accelerated BSN path at some of the popular schools in the nation.)


EXAMPLE #1: University of Florida - Gainesville, FL

The Accelerated BSN program at the University of Florida is a full-time program designed to be completed in four consecutive semesters. Students begin the program in May and graduate the following August. Nursing classes and laboratory activities are completed on campus. The program features a 60-credit curriculum that includes 765 clinical hours.


EXAMPLE #2: University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio - San Antonio, TX

At the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, you can complete the ABSN program in 15 months. The program requires continuous, full-time study. All courses, labs, and clinicals are completed in person at the school and a network of clinical sites throughout San Antonio and surrounding areas. Students complete 60 credit hours and 1,590 direct clinical hours.


EXAMPLE #3: Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center - New Orleans, LA

At LSU-Health Sciences Center, the ABSN program is completed in less than two years, with five 16-week blocks. The program features a hybrid format with classes in person and online, lab simulation occurring on campus, and clinicals are completed at LSU Medical Center and other partner sites. Students complete 77 credits.


EXAMPLE #4: University of Kentucky - Lexington, KY

The University of Kentucky’s Accelerated BSN program features a hybrid format that combines online didactic coursework with in-person laboratory simulations and clinical practicums. The program takes 16 months to complete, including attending summer terms, and features a 54-55 credit curriculum plan.


EXAMPLE #5: University of Rochester - Rochester, NY

The University of Rochester offers part-time and full-time options to earn an accelerated BSN, allowing you to complete the program in 12 months (three semesters) or 24 months (six semesters). The program consists of 49 credits, 90 lab hours, and 720 clinical hours.


EXAMPLE #6: Northeastern University - Boston, MA

At Northeastern University, the ABSN program can be completed in 16 months. The program features a blended online format with online classes and face-to-face encounters for labs on campus and clinicals in various healthcare settings. The program offers a 67-credit pathway.


EXAMPLE #7: University of Southern Maine - Portland, ME

The University of Southern Maine offers a 15-month, full-time Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Students complete 66 credits. The program is presented in a blended format with on-campus and online courses, campus-based labs, and direct patient care clinicals.


EXAMPLE #8: University of Wisconsin-Madison - Madison, WI

You can earn your BSN through the accelerated path at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in just 12 months. The program offers a 49-credit curriculum consisting of didactic coursework, laboratory simulations, and hands-on patient care. Most classes are conducted online, with in-person campus visits required for labs.


EXAMPLE #9: Emory University - Atlanta, GA

With Emory University’s Accelerated BSN program, you can become a registered nurse after just one year of full-time study. The program is full-time and completed over three semesters, and features a distance-learning format for classes. You will earn 48 credits and complete 660 preceptor-supervised clinical hours.


EXAMPLE #10: University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

The ABSN program offered at the University of Pittsburgh is designed as a full-time program that can be completed in three consecutive semesters. Classes are held on campus to prepare you to transition to clinicals in healthcare settings. The program features a 54-credit curriculum and 810 hours of clinical practice.


EXAMPLE #11: Baylor University - Dallas, TX

Baylor University offers both online and on-campus options to earn an accelerated BSN. The programs are full-time and can be completed in one year, with only two campus visits required. The curriculum consists of 62 credits, including 720 hours of clinical practicum.


EXAMPLE #12: University of Central Florida - Orlando, FL

With credit from your previous bachelor’s degree, you can earn your BSN through the accelerated path at the University of Central Florida in four semesters, including two summer sessions. The program features a rigorous 60-credit curriculum and more than 700 clinical hours. Classes are held in a distance-learning format, with clinicals arranged near your home region.


EXAMPLE #13: Loyola University Chicago - Maywood, IL

At Loyola University Chicago, the ABSN program can be completed in 16 months. The program is available in a distance-learning format featuring online classes and in-person nursing skills, simulation labs, and clinicals, or you may opt for the on-campus ABSN option. Both options require a commitment to full-time study. In this program, you will complete 66 credits.


EXAMPLE #14: Creighton University - Omaha, NE

Creighton University students earn an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing in just 12 months through the full-time program. The program combines online pre-class lectures with campus-based classroom learning, labs, and clinical practicums. The curriculum includes 58 credits of coursework and clinical hours.


EXAMPLE #15: Michigan State University - East Lansing, MI

You can fast-track into a nursing career in 15 months at Michigan State University. The ABSN program is a full-time pathway that is completed in four consecutive semesters. The 47-credit program features a hybrid format of online and classroom learning as well as in-person clinicals.


EXAMPLE #16: University of Washington - Seattle, WA

The University of Washington offers a full-time, four-semester Accelerated BSN program. Coursework and Learning Lab are completed on campus, and over 1,000 hours of hands-on clinicals are completed at the University’s community partnership sites. The program features an academically rigorous 79-credit hour curriculum.


EXAMPLE #17: New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing - New York, NY

The ABSN program at New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing is a 15-month, full-time program completed in four consecutive semesters. Most classes are completed online, with a few campus visits required. The program consists of 64 units of credit.


EXAMPLE #18: Virginia Commonwealth University - Richmond, VA

At Virginia Commonwealth University, the Accelerated BSN program is a five-semester program, which includes two summer semesters. Students earn 67 credits and complete more than 660 clinical hours. The program features a distance-learning format with minimal on-site requirements.



HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO OBTAIN YOUR RN LICENSE AFTER COMPLETING YOUR RN PROGRAM?


After finding the answer to, how long does it take to become a registered nurse, you probably wonder how long it takes to become licensed. Depending on the state where you apply, it could take up to eight weeks to get your RN license after graduating. Once you apply to take the NCLEX, you will likely be offered test dates within 30 days of your request. Although test results may arrive sooner, it can take up to six weeks to receive official notification of your results.



HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO FIND A JOB AS AN RN AFTER OBTAINING YOUR RN LICENSE?


The time it takes to find a job after obtaining your RN license depends on the individual. Some students receive employment offers contingent upon becoming licensed before graduating. With a current nationwide shortage of nurses, finding a job should be easy if you put in the effort.



8 MAIN FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE HOW LONG IT TAKES TO BECOME AN RN


As you ponder the question, “How long does it take to become an RN,” you may wonder what factors influence the time it will take you to earn your degree. The following are eight main factors that may impact how long it takes you to become a registered nurse.

FACTOR #1: The Type of Program You Choose

The main factor that influences how long it takes to become an RN is the program you choose. Associate’s and Accelerated BSN degree programs typically take two years to complete, and Traditional BSN programs take an average of four years.

FACTOR #2: Whether You Enroll Part-Time or Full-Time

The decision of whether to pursue your degree part-time or full-time is one you should weigh carefully. If you choose to enroll part-time, you could extend the time it takes to graduate by a year or more.

FACTOR #3: How Many Semesters You Are Enrolled Each Academic Year

Some RN programs only offer classes for two semesters each year, while others include summer semesters. If you have the option of taking summer classes, it could make a difference in how long it takes you to become an RN.

FACTOR #4: Whether You Get a Spot in the Upper-Division Nursing Classes

Admission to a college or university does not always mean a guaranteed spot in upper-division nursing classes. If you pursue a traditional BSN program, you must first complete general education and pre-nursing prerequisite classes. Some schools require you to complete those classes before applying to the nursing program and taking upper-level courses.

FACTOR #5: Your Previous Educational Experience

Even if you do not have a previous bachelor’s degree to qualify you for an accelerated nursing program, you could still receive credit for previous college coursework. Depending on the type of courses you took before enrolling in an RN program, you could reduce the time it takes to become an RN by receiving transfer credit.

FACTOR #6: Whether You Have Relevant Prior Experience

Some nursing programs offer students the opportunity to earn credit for prior experience, such as military training or independent research. Schools that offer this option usually require students to participate in prior learning assessments to determine the extent of their knowledge and skills. Keep in mind schools are not required to offer this option, but if they do and you have the right type of experience, you could become a registered nurse a little faster by earning experience-related credits.

FACTOR #7: The Need to Repeat a Class or Clinical Assignment

The time it takes to become an RN could also be affected by your success or failure in the program. If you perform poorly in the clinical setting or need to repeat a class, it could extend the time it takes you to graduate. It can be disheartening and make you question if you have made the right decision, but as a nurse and healthcare educator, I can tell you that the time it takes to repeat a class or clinical assignment can make a significant difference in how successful you are later in your career. So, do not give up if this happens to you!

FACTOR #8: The Number of Clinical Spaces Available

Depending on the size of the school and enrolled students, some schools find it necessary to schedule students in different clinical groups. If clinical spaces are limited and you are not admitted to the first clinical rotation or group, it could mean finishing the program a little later than expected. While this is not a common occurrence, it is something worth considering and asking academic advisors about before you commit to a program.



10 EXCELLENT TIPS TO FAST-TRACK HOW LONG IT TAKES YOU TO BECOME AN RN


If you want to fast-track your way to becoming a registered nurse, you may be looking for ideas to make that happen. The following are some tips and advice to help you accomplish getting into a fast-track program and earn your degree in as little time as possible.

TIP #1: Do your research into different program options.

One of the best ways to fast-track the time it takes you to become an RN is to research several programs before committing. The more schools you look into, the more options you have and chances to find a school that offers a program that fits your timeline.

TIP #2: Make a list of programs that align with your goals.

Another important factor to consider is the program’s goals and expected student outcomes. By researching school websites, you can find RN programs that align with your goals and expectations. Choosing a program that aligns with your goals can make a difference in the time it takes to get your RN because you can feel satisfied with your program choice and move forward with pursuing your degree.

TIP #3: Verify admission criteria and make sure you meet all requirements.

Having worked with students applying to nursing and healthcare programs, I have seen many students whose applications were delayed or rejected because they did not ensure all admission requirements were met before submitting their applications. If you want to be active in fast-tracking your way to becoming an RN, make sure you verify and meet all admission criteria before applying.

TIP #4: Gather necessary documents NOW.

When you apply to nursing school, you will be required to submit several items with your application, such as a resume, school transcripts, and letters of recommendation. By gathering some of the necessary documents now, you can save time in the application process, which could help you get on the fast track to earning your RN degree faster.

TIP #5: Get some type of healthcare experience.

Admission to registered nursing programs can be a competitive process. Nursing schools consider many aspects of a candidate’s application, and one thing that always stands out is previous healthcare experience. The type of program you plan to pursue may not require experience. However, if you can get work or volunteer experience in any type of healthcare setting, it could make your application stand out, which could mean getting a coveted spot in a program ahead of other candidates and fast-tracking your way to becoming an RN.

TIP #6: Complete all prerequisites before applying.

Fast-track RN programs are typically designed for students who have a non-nursing bachelor’s, which means you could have some, if not all, of the required prerequisites already. Verify the prerequisite requirements for the schools that interest you, and if you have not yet completed them all, consider taking those courses before applying. Although some schools allow students to complete a limited number of their remaining prerequisites after being accepted, you could make your fast-track path smoother and faster by accomplishing these requirements before applying.

TIP #7: Get mentally prepared for the rigorous curriculum.

Something a lot of prospective fast-track students fail to realize is these programs must meet the same stringent graduation criteria as a traditional four-year program. To succeed on a fast track and become an RN, you must be committed to the rigorous work the program requires, which means becoming and staying mentally tough.

TIP #8: Consider testing out of some classes for credit.

Another great option to fast-track how long it takes you to become a registered nurse is to test out of some of the required classes. This process, called credit by examination, is common among many college students, and there are several options. The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) testing is a popular option. Other options include the Thomas Edison Credit by Exam Program (TECEP), DSST testing, and Advanced Placement testing. Before taking any of these exams, be sure to verify the school you plan to attend accepts test scores from these sources for credit by exam.

TIP #9: Develop a support system.

Being on a fast track to your RN means taking on a lot of responsibility. Students can spend 60 hours or more each week solely on the program. You will work through tough classes, nursing labs, and clinical practicums that leave you feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. Having a good support system is one of the best ways to help yourself through this process. Whether you lean on friends, family members, classmates, or professors, be sure you have someone to talk to when things get tough.

TIP #10: Keep communication between you, your professors, and your academic advisors open.

The rigorous nature of fast-track registered nursing programs can often leave you feeling like a number instead of a person with a name, especially if your coursework is delivered in a distance-learning format. It is easy to feel as though you have fallen through the cracks or your instructors do not care. From experience, I can assure you that it is not so; your instructors want you to succeed.

However, your faculty and advisors have great responsibility in the programs, as well. Sometimes it is difficult for them to reach out to each student. This is where the responsibility falls on you to keep the lines of communication open. You can communicate in person, by email or phone, or through a video call. Just be sure you do it! By keeping communication open between yourself and your teachers and advisors, you can work together to address any issues that may impede your timely completion of a fast-track program to your RN degree.



WILL THERE BE A DEMAND FOR YOU AFTER BECOMING AN RN?


Data indicates there will be a demand for you after you become a registered nurse. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be a 6.24% increase in registered nurse jobs between 2021 and 2031.

2021-31
+6.24%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)



HOW MANY ANNUAL JOB OPENINGS ARE THERE AFTER BECOMING AN RN?


According to the BLS, there will be approximately 203,200 job openings for registered nurses each year through the next decade. There are projected to be 19,540 new positions and 183,660 replacement jobs.

NewReplacementAnnual Job Openings
(New + Replacement)
19,540183,660203,200
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)



HOW MUCH CAN YOU EARN AFTER BECOMING AN RN?


Registered nurses earn between $61,260 and $129,400 per year, based on years of experience. The average pay for RNs nationwide is $42.79 per hour, $1,712 per week, or $7,420 per month. This salary is equal to $89,010 annually.

Level of Experience Hourly Weekly Monthly Annual
Entry-Level $29.45 $1,178 $5,100 $61,250
1-4 Years of Experience $32.06 $1,282 $5,560 $66,680
5-9 Years of Experience $39.05 $1,562 $6,770 $81,220
10-19 Years of Experience $48.61 $1,944 $8,430 $101,100
20 Years or More Experience $62.21 $2,488 $10,780 $129,400
Average Salary $42.79 $1,712 $7,420 $89,010
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)



BONUS! IS THE LENGTH OF TIME YOU SPEND TO BECOME AN RN WORTH IT – MY PERSONAL OPINION


If you asked, “How long does it take to become a registered nurse?" you probably also wonder if the time it takes is worth it. It is important to consider a few factors while deciding if becoming an RN is worth it.  

For example, you can earn your degree in as little as one to two years for some programs. The job outlook is positive, with the BLS predicting more than 203,000 available each year, an increase of about 6.24%. When you combine that with an average annual salary of approximately $89,000, the option looks promising.

On a personal note, as a registered nurse, you can impact the lives of patients, families, communities, and organizations. Your role in promoting health and wellness can influence people for generations. I believe, without a doubt, that the length of time you spend to become an RN is worth it... 100%!



MY FINAL THOUGHTS


The decision to become a registered nurse is exciting, but it can lead to lots of questions. One of the main questions is, "How long does it take to become an RN?” In this article, I shared different ways you can become a registered nurse and provided you with examples of some of the top programs in the country to make that dream come true. There is a current demand for nurses, an excellent long-term job outlook, and good income-earning potential, which means this is the perfect time to find a program and begin pursuing your degree!



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR EXPERT


1. Typically, How Many Years Does It Take To Become An RN After High School?

It typically takes two to four years to become an RN after high school.


2. Typically, How Many Years Does It Take To Become An RN Through The ADN Path?

You can become an RN through the ADN path in as little as two years if you enroll full-time.


3. Typically, How Many Years Does It Take To Become An RN Through The BSN Path?

BSN pathways are typically designed as four-year programs. However, some students choose to enroll part-time, which could extend the time it takes to graduate and become an RN.


4. Typically, How Many Years Does It Take To Become An RN Through The Accelerated BSN Path?

Typically, it takes 12 to 18 months to become an RN through an accelerated BSN path.


5. What Is The Fastest Path To Become An RN?

The fastest path to becoming an RN is an accelerated BSN program. These programs are designed for students who hold a non-nursing bachelor's degree and who wish to transition to a nursing career or earn a second degree in nursing.


6. What Is The Longest Path To Become An RN?

The longest path to becoming a registered nurse is the BSN pathway.


7. How Long Does It Take To Become An RN Online?

Online RN programs typically take the same amount of time as campus-based programs, which means you could earn your degree in two to four years, on average.


8. Are Online RN Programs Faster Than On-Campus RN Programs?

Some online programs may allow you to study at your own pace, which could make your progress faster than a traditional on-campus program. Other online programs require students to follow a scheduled cohort pattern that aligns with their campus-based program schedule.


9. How Old Will I Be When I Become An RN?

That decision is entirely yours. How old you will be when you become an RN is determined by your age when you begin your degree program and the number of years it takes you to complete the program.


10. Can The Duration Of RN Programs Vary Depending On The Type Of Program?

Yes, the duration of RN programs varies depending on the type of program.


11. Can The Duration Of RN Programs Vary Depending On The School?

Each school determines the curriculum plan of study and schedule for its RN programs. Therefore, the duration of RN programs can vary depending on the school.


12. Can The Duration Of RN Programs Vary Depending On The State?

The duration of RN programs can vary by state, as each school must align with guidelines by both the U.S. Department of Education and state regulatory bodies.


13. How Long Does It Take To Become An RN At A Community College?

Most community college RN programs take an average of two years to complete.


14. Typically, How Long Does It Take To Become An RN With A Bachelor’s Degree In Another Field?

You can become an RN with a bachelor’s degree in another field in as little as 12 months through an accelerated BSN program.


15. Typically, How Long Does It Take To Become An RN After Working As A Certified Nursing Assistant?

The time it takes to become an RN after working as a CNA varies. Some schools give credit for work experience as a CNA, and others do not. So, careful planning with an academic advisor is essential.


16. Typically, How Long Does It Take To Become An RN Nurse After Working As An LPN/LVN?

LPN to RN programs can take one to four years, depending on whether you pursue an ADN or BSN.


17. Typically, How Long Are ADN Clinicals?

ADN programs typically include a minimum of 500 clinical hours.


18. Typically, How Are BSN Clinicals?

Typically, students in BSN programs complete between 700 and 1,000 clinical hours.


19. Typically, How Long Are Accelerated BSN Clinicals?

Accelerated BSN clinicals are usually the same as BSN clinicals, averaging 700 to 1,000 hours.


20. Will I Be Able To Work Part-Time During The Duration Of My ADN Program?

Some students work part-time during an ADN program. I suggest discussing scheduling options with your academic advisor and employer to make sure your schedules work well together.


21. Will I Be Able To Work Part-Time During The Duration Of My BSN Program?

It is possible to work part-time while completing a BSN program. Careful planning of your school and work schedules is essential to succeed at both.


22. Will I Be Able To Work Part-Time During The Duration Of My Accelerated BSN Program?

It is difficult to work, even part-time, during the duration of an accelerated BSN program. Program directors usually advise students not to work while pursuing the ABSN.


23. Can I Complete An ADN Program Part-Time, And If So, How Long Does It Take?

Some ADN programs are offered part-time. Most students who pursue these programs graduate in an average of three years.


24. Can I Complete A BSN Program Part-Time, And If So, How Long Does It Take?

There are some schools that offer part-time options for BSN students. If you enroll part-time, it could take five to six years to complete the program.


25. Can I Complete An Accelerated Bachelor Of Science In Nursing Program Part-Time, And If So, How Long Does It Take?

There are a few accelerated BSN programs that allow you to enroll part-time. The ones that do typically take two to two and a half years to complete.


26. Can I Fast-Track My ADN Program?

It is possible to fast-track an ADN program.


27. Can I Fast-Track My BSN Program?

Yes, you can fast-track a BSN program.


28. Can I Fast-Track My Accelerated BSN Program?

An accelerated BSN program is a fast-track program. You may reduce the time it takes to graduate, depending on your previous college credits, but most schools have a set sequence of classes you must take in a certain period.


29. Will Fast-Tracking My RN Program Affect My Eligibility For NCLEX-RN?

No, as long as you graduate from an accredited RN program, you can apply to take the NCLEX-RN.


30. Do I Have To Complete My ADN Program In A Certain Amount Of Time, Or Can I Finish It At My Own Pace?

The time allowed to complete your ADN is determined by the school you attend. Some schools allow students to work at their own pace, and others do not.


31. Do I Have To Complete My BSN Program In A Certain Amount Of Time, Or Can I Finish It At My Own Pace?

Like the ADN program, some BSN programs allow students to work at their own pace. However, most schools limit the maximum amount of time a student can take to earn the degree.


32. Do I Have To Complete My Accelerated BSN Program In A Certain Amount Of Time, Or Can I Finish It At My Own Pace?

Accelerated BSN programs usually do not offer the option to work at your own pace. Instead, they follow a strict, rigorous course schedule.


33. How Long Does It Take To Become A Nurse Practitioner After Becoming An RN?

In most cases, if you are an RN with an associate degree in nursing, you can become a Nurse Practitioner in three to four years. Baccalaureate-prepared RNs typically take two years to become an NP. Keep in mind most NP programs typically require at least one year of clinical nursing experience before you enroll.


34. How Long Does It Take To Become A Nurse Anesthetist After Becoming An RN?

From the time you become an RN, it can take six years or longer to become a Nurse Anesthetist. You will likely need up to three years of relevant work experience before applying to a CRNA program. Then, the program can take an additional three to four years to complete.


35. How Long Does It Take To Become A Nurse Midwife After Becoming An RN?

After becoming a registered nurse, it can take three to five years to become a nurse midwife. You may need at least one year of practice experience as a licensed RN. Then, the nurse-midwifery program can take between two and four years.


36. How Long Does It Take To Become A Nurse Educator After Becoming An RN?

According to eligibility criteria for the National League for Nursing, you must have a master's or doctoral degree in nursing to become a Certified Nurse Educator. With a current ADN, you could earn your master's in two to three years or a doctorate in four or five years. With a BSN, you can earn your master's in two years or your doctorate in three or four years. Typically, you must also have at least two years of nursing experience.


Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).