How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse?

NursingDecember 27, 2023

Now is an exceptional time to enter the nursing field. The current physician and nursing shortages have created opportunities for people to start, grow, and nurture a career in patient care as a nurse. To enter the profession and take advantage of these opportunities, aspiring nurses need to complete a few steps, including enrolling in a nursing school program
For those wondering how long it takes to become a nurse, the answer is that it depends. The specific steps required to become a nurse, and thus how long it takes, depend on the type of nurse an individual wishes to be. 
How to Become a Nurse
The length of time required to become a nurse varies depending on the desired profession and the type of training program or degree an individual enrolls in.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Practical Nurse?
Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) typically takes a little over a year, although some programs may be longer. After finishing a practical nursing diploma or certificate program, which can be completed in as little as 15 months, individuals need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) and then apply to get their license to practice. 
How Long Does It Take to Become a Registered Nurse?
To become a registered nurse (RN), individuals need a minimum of an associate degree, commonly referred to as an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). This option typically takes two years to complete, followed by passing the NCLEX-RN and becoming licensed to practice. This can be the best option for people who want to enter the registered nursing field as quickly as they can. This route also allows individuals to gain hands-on experience in the field faster, which may be beneficial for those who wish to later earn an advanced degree and further their careers. 
Prospective RNs can also opt to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. While an associate degree is the minimum requirement for an RN, a BSN can improve an individual’s employment opportunities in the healthcare field, as many employers set a BSN as the minimum educational requirement for nursing jobs. A BSN may also increase a nurse’s potential for advancement into jobs with greater responsibilities.
The length of time it takes to earn a BSN varies. If the individual already holds an ADN, the program usually takes two years to complete. If they’re going into a BSN program without an ADN, the program typically takes up to four academic years to complete. This time frame does not include the time required to pass the NCLEX-RN and become licensed.
How to Advance Your Nursing Career
Earning an ADN or a BSN allows individuals to enter into the nursing field. For nurses who want to move higher up in the field and pursue roles in nurse leadership, graduate degrees are often required.
RNs with a BSN can choose to pursue a masters degree to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). This advanced degree deepens nurses’ existing knowledge while also allowing them to focus their expertise on a nursing specialization, such as pediatrics, women’s health, or mental health. An MSN is required for certain advanced nurse roles such as nurse practitioner and nurse anesthetist. 
The length of time needed to complete an MSN program depends on the degree previously held. Individuals with a BSN can usually complete an MSN program in two to three years. Work experience also factors into the MSN; earning the advanced degree usually requires a minimum of 500 hours of clinical nursing experience.
Nurses interested in advanced roles can also pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. This terminal degree allows nurses to fortify their expertise at the highest level, including within the context of a specialized field. While the DNP is not required for advanced nursing roles, there is an ongoing push to make it the educational benchmark for certain professions.
How long does it take to become a nurse with a DNP? As with other degrees, it depends on what degree the individual already holds. For those with an MSN degree, earning a DNP can usually take about one to two years. BSN degree holders who want to bypass an MSN and earn a DNP can expect the program to take about three to four years to complete.
Nursing Job Outlook
The job outlook is bright for nurses. The projected job growth for registered nurses between 2022 and 2032 is 6%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), double the 3% average growth projected for all professions in that time period. 
As the population ages and continues to grow, the demand for nurses will grow along with these trends.  There will also be generations of nurses retiring over the next 10 or more years so the opportunity for new and younger nurses to advance their careers will be required to fill the roles of those leaving the profession.
Those who continue their education and pursue advanced roles are expected to have abundant opportunities. The BLS projects job growth for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives will be 38% between 2022 and 2032, well above the average.
Pursue a Rewarding Career
Nursing is more than just a profession. It’s an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Regardless of the level of nursing an individual pursues, and how long it takes to reach that nursing level, the work can be essential in helping a healthcare facility deliver quality care that improves patients’ lives.
Fortis’ nursing programs can help prepare you for a career in this critical field. We offer nursing programs at many locations, including practical nursing diploma and Associate Degree in Nursing program options. Learn how we can help make your dream of becoming a nurse a reality.
Recommended Readings
6 Essential Clinical Nursing Skills
How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse
How to Become an ER Nurse
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, AACN Fact Sheet — DNP
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage Fact Sheet
American Nurses Association, How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse
American Nurses Association, Tips on How to Pass the NCLEX Exam
American Nurses Association, Types of Nurse Practitioner Specialties
American Nurses Association, What Is Nursing?
Association of American Medical Colleges, AAMC Report Reinforces Mounting Physician Shortage
Indeed, How to Get a DNP Degree (Plus Definition, Benefits and FAQs)
Indeed, Learn About Being a Registered Nurse (RN)
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners