Hello and welcome to our guide on how long does it takes to become a nurse.
By the end of this article, you will know how long it takes to become a nurse and the different pathways to a nursing career, including educational requirements, clinical experience, and the skills expected from each role.
Here are the questions you’ll find the answers to in this article:
Nursing is a challenging and fulfilling career. Arming yourself with the knowledge before taking on the long journey will help in decision-making.
Now, let’s begin learning about the path to becoming a nurse!
What are the Types of Nursing Degrees?
Before heading into your education to become a nurse, you first have to consider what kind of nursing degree you need from institutions that have passed accreditation.
These educational degrees include the hands-on training and the coursework required to pass the courses.
Here are some of the available degrees:
A Diploma in Practical Nursing (PN) is the entry-level educational credential for pursuing a nursing career.
Diploma programs can be considered the fastest way to jumpstart your nursing path.
The Practical Nursing Diploma is usually offered by community colleges, hospitals, and vocational colleges. These programs cover vocational training, emergency standard procedures, and personal care.
They teach fundamental nursing skills and focus on the most practical requirements, featuring procedures and knowledge needed in a nurse’s day-to-day duties.
As a result, these programs do not run very long and can be completed quickly, especially if you are studying full-time.
Typical length of program: 12 months (1 year)
Associate Degree in Nursing
An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a tertiary education undergraduate nursing program.
Community colleges and nursing schools offer this ADN program. Some programs may require prerequisite courses in natural science subjects.
These degrees teach a more comprehensive range of skills. They focus on the foundations of nursing and other specialized fields of study. The training required in the curriculum focuses on exposing the student to multiple specializations.
Typical length of program:24-36 months (2-3 years)
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a tertiary education undergraduate nursing program. You can take this straight from high school – you do not need an ADN to qualify.
Universities typically offer bachelor’s degree programs. The BSN degree is widely accepted in many nursing fields.
The bachelor’s degree includes a range of required units in mathematics and natural sciences, like chemistry and microbiology, alongside nursing theory and training.
Typical length of program: 36-48 months (3-4 years)
Accelerated Nursing Program
Perhaps you’ve already taken an undergraduate degree and taken many core courses in previous semesters that should be transferable to another degree. The Accelerated Nursing Program could be an option for you. The accelerated BSN program could stretch out longer for part-time students.
Since you are catching up on subjects not taught in your original undergraduate degree, you may find this course quite intensive. However, after the course, you will be equipped with the same knowledge as nursing undergraduates in the market.
Typical length of program: 12-24 months (1-2 years)
If you have received these beginner degrees, you can upgrade your knowledge to either a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctoral Degree. However, you can pay attention to the next step later in your experience.
What are the Kinds of Nursing Credentials?
When you have finished your education programs in nursing, you will be able to pursue a career in nursing.
While there are several different requirements to become a nurse in every country, and in the case of the US, every state, there are available lengths and conditions that you need to achieve before becoming a full-fledged nurse.
Here are some of the basic entry-level roles in nursing:
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is technically not a nursing position. However, it plays an equally important role in the healthcare system and provides an excellent experience for those who want to become registered nurses.
The primary responsibilities and tasks of a CNA are caring, bathing, monitoring patients, and checking in on patient vital signs and day-to-day health concerns.
CNAs usually find employment at hospitals, as well as nursing and long-term care facilities.
To become a CNA, you need to acquire a state license to practice.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is a nurse that specializes in the care of patients.
The main responsibilities and tasks of an LPN are bathing, feeding, and assisting patient movement, keeping records of patients, changing bandages, monitoring blood pressure, handling blood and urine samples, and relaying patient physical and mental health concerns.
LPNs are typically employed at hospitals, physicians’ offices, home health care, and nursing facilities.
To become an LPN, you need to graduate with a nursing diploma. You also need to pass the NCLEX-PN and acquire a state license to practice.
Registered Nurse (RN)
A Registered Nurse (RN) is the most typical kind of nurse due to the comprehensive employment and range of responsibilities they are trusted with within the healthcare settings.
An RN’s primary responsibilities and tasks are assessing patients, administering medications and treatments, performing diagnostic tests, operating medical equipment, and liaising with the patient and their families about concerns and health medication.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs are typically employed at hospitals, physician offices, home health care centers, outpatient care centers, and nursing facilities.
To get an RN license, you need to graduate with a nursing diploma, an Associate degree, or a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. You also need to pass the NCLEX-RN and acquire a state license to practice.
From here, there are a lot of specializations that you can complete to level up your career. For example, RNs can aspire to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). You can go into fields like pediatrics.
This usually requires completing a Master of Science in Nursing program (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice program (DNP).
Here are some of the careers in store for those who want to pursue a master’s degree like MSN program or DNP program:
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Nurse Anesthetist (CNA)
- Nurse Midwife (CNM)
How Long Will it Take to Get a State License
If you are interested in becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, you can jumpstart your career and get your state license by taking the state boards.
Getting a state license varies from – you guessed it – state to state. Not only will the state boards differ, but the processing for a state license will also require some wait.
To give some idea, here is some research from NomadHealth on some states’ time frame for a permanent license:
- Arizona: 4-8 weeks
- California: 10-12 weeks
- Florida: 30 days or four weeks
- Hawaii: 10-15 business days
- Nevada: 8-24 weeks
- Pennsylvania: 8-10 weeks
- Tennessee: 6 weeks
- Washington: 3-4 weeks
How Long Will it Take to Study for the NCLEX?
Now that you have gone through the necessary education and training, it’s time to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). No matter what nursing educational background you come from, you need to take and pass this exam to become a Registered Nurse and above.
The NCLEX is managed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Test takers must register for the NCLEX-PN exam (for LPNs) or the NCLEX-RN exam (for RNs).
Registration for the NCLEX requires contacting your state’s Nursing Regulatory Board (NRB) and paying a licensure or registration fee.
The suggested studying time for the NCLEX is around one to two months. Of course, depending on your timeline and confidence in taking the exam, it could take longer.
Those who want to take the NCLEX in one go and pass should study well. It is entirely possible to fail. There is a policy with a 45-day minimum wait time to take the next exam.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse?
If you want to determine the amount of time it takes to become a nurse, you can estimate your path using the figures we outlined.
It depends on your nursing education, the type of nursing position you want, and your future career goals.
One way to get the nursing experience quickly is to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. Though not officially a nurse, they have the caretaking skills that make a great starting point for full-fledged nursing careers.
This path requires a training program that could last one to two months. After that, the aspiring CNA must take the state boards and get the state license, which could take a month or more depending on the state they plan to practice. This career could be made in 3 to 4 months.
The fastest way to becoming a nurse is the path to becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse. You need a year to get your Diploma in Practical Nursing and get your state license, which could take anywhere from 12 to 18 months.
The most typical path people take to become a nurse is through the Bachelor’s degree in Nursing and then take the NCLEX. You need 3 to 4 years to complete the degree and training, and then some months to study, take, and pass the NCLEX. This approach could take anywhere from 36 to 50 months or 3 to 4.5 years.
As you can see, there is a stark difference in the pathways, and it depends on the educational path and specialization that the aspiring nurse has chosen.
If you want to find out how long your path to a full-fledged nursing career will take you, consider the following formula:
Level of Education with On-the-Job Training Hours + Studying Time for the NCLEX and/or a state license = Nursing Journey
The path will look very different for many people, but you should consider these when planning out your nursing career.
Becoming a healthcare professional is not a journey to be taken lightly, but there are a lot of institutions and programs that incentivize the growth of the nursing sector. The industry itself puts forward protections for practitioners, especially given the recent global pandemic.
Given the growing demand for nurses and healthcare workers, nursing is a stable career with future growth and opportunities. This demand even spurs financial aid from different benefactors in the enrollment of aspiring healthcare workers.
While it may require long hours and physical and emotional strain, it is a worthy and fulfilling career path that everybody should consider.