How Long Is Nursing School?: Your Quick Guide

The journey to becoming a nurse holds many paths. Here's your guide to finding the right one for you.

Nursing School graduate

So, you want to become a registered nurse? The first step on your journey is to finish a nursing program. Through classroom and clinical training, nursing school teaches you the essential skills you’ll need for the role and to care for patients. But how long is nursing school?

The path you take to become a nurse can vary, as there are numerous options of different lengths to getting a nursing degree. It also depends on whether you are a part-time or full-time student and what type of nursing degree you choose to pursue.

To help you decide on your education path, here’s a guide to the different types of nursing school degrees, including program facts and how long it would take to complete each of them.


Practical Nursing Diploma or Degree 

  • Timeframe: 1-3 years 
  • Credential: PN
  • The quickest way to start your nursing career.
  • Usually offered by hospitals, technical schools, and community colleges.
  • Focuses more on specific nursing topics instead of general education, and more time is spent in the clinical setting rather than in the classroom.
  • You can gain on-the-job experience very quickly.
  • At the end of the practical nursing program, you’ll qualify to take the NCLEX-PN and become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)


Associate Degree in Nursing 

  • Timeframe: 2 years 
  • Credential: ADN
  • Offered in community colleges.
  • One of the degrees you can earn to prepare to become a Registered Nurse (RN).
  • Coursework is more rigorous than the nursing diploma as it focuses on general education classes, classroom learning, and practicum experience in various clinical settings.
  • At the end of the ADN program, you can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to become an RN.


Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Pre-Licensure)

  • Timeframe: Anywhere from 3-5 years
  • Aspen University’s accelerated BSN program can be completed in three years and prepares you to become a Registered Nurse (RN). 
  • Credential: BSN
  • Many employers prefer nurses with a BSN for their entry-level nursing positions, as it is considered the gold standard for nursing education. 
  • This program is more comprehensive than the ADN.
  • Courses include research, leadership, informatics, community health, and many others.
  • Focuses on general education classes, classroom learning, and various clinical practicum experiences in different patient populations—pediatric, mental health, geriatrics, and adult health.
  • Once you’ve completed the pre-licensure BSN program, you can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to become an RN.


Master of Science in Nursing 

  • Timeframe: Anywhere from 2-6 years 
  • Credential: MSN
  • BSN is a prerequisite to obtaining an MSN.
  • Prepares you for advanced and specialized nursing roles that include:
  • Each specialty has different credits and clinical hours that must be completed by the end of the program.
  • For some specialties, you will need to take an exam at the end of the MSN program for prescriptive authority or to become certified in the specialty. MSN-Nurse Practitioner programs are one example of this.  


Bridge programs 

1. LPN to RN

  • Timeframe: 9 months to four years 
  • For LPNs wanting to become an RN.
  • Bridges between two career levels include: 
    • LPN to ADN 
    • LPN to BSN
    • LPN to RN 
  • Prepares LPNs to take the NCLEX-RN exam that will give them the RN credential

2. RN to BSN

  • Timeframe: 1-2 years 
  • For RNs that hold an ADN degree.
  • Schools take into account the RN’s work experience, which allows the program to be completed in a shorter time. 
  • Note: Aspen University’s online RN to BSN program enables flexibility for working nurses. 

3. RN to MSN

  • Timeframe: 2-3 years 
  • For RNs who don’t hold a BSN and want to obtain an advanced nursing degree.
  • Must have an associate degree or diploma in nursing, valid RN license, and meet GPA requirements for admission into the program.

Regardless of which program you choose, you’ll want to select one that aligns with your goals, time, and needs, as nursing school is a long-term commitment. Make sure to do what works for you, and know that if you want to continue your educational journey, there are so many options and opportunities. 


Aspen University can help you advance your career with our affordable online RN to BSN, MSN, and DNP degree programs. Want to become an RN? Consider the BSN Pre-Licensure program.


Dr. Margarita DavidDr. Margarita David is a doctorally-prepared Registered Nurse, #1 Bestselling Author, and founder of the Dr. Registered Nurse Success Academy, LLC. that provides tutoring, mentoring and consulting to prospective nurses, nurses, and students in graduate and doctoral studies. Dr. David also has a YouTube channel called Dr. Registered Nurse, where she makes videos on hard-to-understand nursing school concepts easy to comprehend. She also holds a Bachelor in Business Management & Administration and a Masters in Nursing Education and Leadership. She has been married for over 20 years and is a mother of three! Follow her on Instagram and YouTube!

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