How Long is Nursing School? Your Timeline to Becoming a Nurse

illustration of a gloved hand holding a tiny hourglasses

You may know that college isn’t always a cut-and-dried four-year journey. There are different options for different aspirations. And even those can depend on your specific college and program. You’re excited about nursing, but you want to know what to expect—so how long is nursing school?

Whether you are hoping for a quicker route to hit the floor running, or are interested in obtaining advanced credentials, the amount of time you’ll spend in nursing school can vary greatly. Once you have your ideal timeline in mind, see if it matches up with your career objectives.

Nursing has several degree options, and each one is unique in its offerings. We’ve outlined your options to show you how long you can expect nursing school to take. We’ve also talked to experts who have been in your shoes so we could highlight the different experiences of nursing school. Ready to dive in?

Get Your Nursing School Questions Answered at a Nursing Information Session

Reserve Your Spot


Types of nursing roles

Nursing is a diversified profession. There’s no right or wrong answer to what type of nurse to be, but knowing what responsibilities and duties that come with each can help you determine which would be best for you. If your dream is to become a registered nurse (RN), both an associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree can help you get there. If you have hopes of becoming a nurse educator one day, you’ll likely need a little more education, including a master’s or a doctorate.

One of the many great things about being a nurse is that there are a lot of ways to advance in your career and education. Many of these degrees build upon or transition into one another. This means the credential or degree you begin earning now doesn’t have to be the one you’re stuck with forever. Common nursing credentials include:

  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)

There are many nursing credentials that can go deep into various medical specialties and some that stand for certain education levels, so we’ll walk through some of those as well. Let’s start with the basics.

How long does it take to become an LPN?

Becoming an LPN is a great option for those who would like to become nurses as quickly as possible. LPNs do many of the same tasks as RNs, such as taking a patient’s vital signs, obtaining patient histories and providing basic personal care. However, LPNs are not responsible for the more advanced duties such as creating care plans, and they usually report to a supervising RN or physician.

The Rasmussen University Practical Nursing Diploma program can be completed in as few as 12 months for full-time students.1 While state requirements may vary, typically students will need to complete their education and then pass the NCLEX-PN® exam to obtain licensure.

Working as an LPN helps you earn valuable nursing experience and knowledge, and the academic credit earned can provide a solid foundation for those who decide to become a registered nurse.

How long does it take to become an RN?

There’s more than one path to becoming a registered nurse. You can become an RN by earning an Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN).

Both ADN and BSN registered nurses have broader scopes of practice than LPNs, and roles will vary based on the job location (whether it’s in a clinic, a hospital or ambulatory care). Registered nurses often choose to focus their careers on specialized patient care. Popular specialties include pediatrics, geriatrics, intensive care or oncology nursing.

Associate’s degree in Nursing

An Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) is the quickest option for getting started in a registered nursing career. The Rasmussen University Professional Nursing ADN program can be completed in as few as 18 months.Once you have completed this degree, you would need to pass the NCLEX-RN®. After passing this test and meeting all other state licensure requirements, you are a registered nurse and able to specialize and work in a variety of settings.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree

Those interested in becoming a registered nurse also have the option of earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). There are a few options for earning a BSN—the best fit for you will depend on your academic background.

An RN to BSN program is a great option for registered nurses who’ve already completed an ADN program and would like to advance their education. Registered nurses in the Rasmussen University RN to BSN program can earn a BSN in as few as 12 to 18 months.1

For those who aren’t already nurses, the standard BSN program at Rasmussen University can be completed in as few as 33 months.1 Or, if you already have a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, you can leverage that experience to obtain a BSN in as few as 18 months in the Rasmussen University accelerated BSN program.1

If you’re having trouble deciding whether to pursue your ADN or BSN, dig deeper with our article: ADN vs. BSN: Your Guide to Help You Decide on a Nursing Degree

How long does it take to become an APRN?

Last, but certainly not least, you can climb the nursing ladder with a graduate-level nursing education, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). It should be noted that graduate-level programs are often specialized and do not universally prepare students for all graduate-level roles—for example, would-be nurse practitioners or nurse anesthetists will need to seek out specialized programs. With a more general MSN degree, you’ll be prepared to work as a nurse educatornurse manager, nurse administrator or in other nursing leadership positions.

To qualify for entrance into an MSN program, you will first need to earn a BSN. Once you have that in hand and satisfy any other entrance requirements, you’ll have the ability to complete the Master of Science in Nursing program at Rasmussen University in as few as 18 to 27 months.1

And although an advanced degree requires several years of schooling, the perks are worth it to many people. The BLS reports that medical and health services managers earned a 2021 median annual salary of $101,340, and postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers earned a median annual salary of $77,440.

There are also advanced practice options that include more patient care including nurse practitioners, nurse midwives or nurse anesthetists (CRNA). Both options can include earning a master’s or doctorate depending on your goals, which can lengthen your time in school. But, like a more general MSN, earning an NP graduate degree can also pay off with the potential for higher earnings after graduation. In 2021, the median annual wage for nurse practitioners was $120,680.2

To become a nurse practitioner, you’ll first need to hold your BSN and then earn a graduate degree in the nurse practitioner specialty you hope to practice in. This can include an MSN or DNP specializing in family medicine, adult gerontology, pediatrics or psychiatric-mental health, among others. All specialties of the Rasmussen University Nurse Practitioner MSN program can be completed in as few as 27 months.1 That said, program lengths will depend heavily on the specific institution and the program. For instance, BSN to DNP programs will generally be longer than MSN programs.

Working while earning a nursing degree

We know that school is expensive, and you may balk at the thought of quitting your job in order to pursue your dreams. While it may not be ideal, working through nursing school is doable. It may extend your overall time in school, but earning money to pay for school and other necessities may be worth it.

Brittney Wilson, BSN-RN and blogger at The Nerdy Nurse®, suggests finding a job that allows you time to study.

“If you can’t find something where you can study, find something where you’ll get good clinical experience, like working as a CNA,” she says.

While you may want to finish school as quickly as possible, don’t worry if you don’t follow a traditional path. Wilson explains how it took her four years to earn an ADN. “I did not get in the first time I applied, so I used the additional year to complete all the classes that would be required for my eventual bridge to BSN.”

Find a schedule and combination of work and school that’s right for you. Remember—you are not alone, and many have been in your shoes before. With a little perseverance and determination, your nursing career goals can be achieved.

What will your nursing school journey look like?

So how long is nursing school? As you can see, the answer can get a little complicated—much of it will depend on what your goals are and your current level of education.

Having an idea of how much time you can commit to a nursing program is an ideal way to start narrowing down which path to choose. For more information to help you choose between two of the most common entryways into the nursing field, check out our article, “Practical Nursing vs. Professional Nursing: Understanding the Differences.”

1Time to completion is dependent on number of transfer credits accepted and the number of courses completed each term.
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed May 2022] Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.

NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN are registered trademarks of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc.
The Nerdy Nurse is a registered trademark of The Nerdy Nurse LLC.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in May 2015. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2022.

About the author

Kirsten Slyter

Kirsten is a Content Writer at Collegis Education where she enjoys researching and writing on behalf of Rasmussen University. She understands the difference that education can make and hopes to inspire readers at every stage of their education journey.


Related Content

Related Content

This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen University to support its educational programs. Rasmussen University may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit for a list of programs offered. External links provided on are for reference only. Rasmussen University does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

logo-accreditation-acen logo-accreditation-ccne chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors-masters 0 Credits 90 Credits 180 Credits 48 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE Start Here MASTER'S DEGREE PURSUERS End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE End Here MASTER'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 90 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 180 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-msn chart-credential-laddering-nursing-programs chart-credential-laddering-nursing DNP MSN RN to BSN LPN to RN Bridge Accelerated BSN Professional Nursing ADN Practical Nursing Diploma Pre-Licensure Post-Licensure icon-colored-outline-bank icon-colored-outline-certificate icon-colored-outline-circle-dollar-sign icon-colored-outline-folder-search icon-colored-outline-hand-heart icon-colored-outline-head-blocks icon-colored-outline-head-cog icon-colored-outline-head-heart icon-colored-outline-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-outline-hospital icon-colored-outline-lifelong-learning icon-colored-outline-light-bulb-analytics icon-colored-outline-location-pin icon-colored-outline-magnifying-glass icon-colored-outline-monitor-healthcare icon-colored-outline-monitor-paper-search icon-colored-outline-nurse-rays icon-colored-outline-padlock-shield icon-colored-outline-person-presenter-screen icon-colored-outline-scales ras-logo-flame ras-logo-horizontal ras-logo-stacked icon-colored-advance icon-colored-arrows-cross-curve icon-colored-briefcase-star icon-colored-build icon-colored-bulb-analytics icon-colored-certificate icon-colored-continual-development icon-colored-duo-chatbox icon-colored-folder-mortarboard icon-colored-forward-ribbon icon-colored-gears-clock icon-colored-globe-pen icon-colored-growth icon-colored-hand-bubble icon-colored-hand-stars icon-colored-hands-gear icon-colored-head-blocks icon-colored-head-cog icon-colored-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-hospital-building icon-colored-laptop-cbe-skyscraper icon-colored-laptop-checkmark icon-colored-laptop-webpage icon-colored-location-map icon-colored-location-pin icon-colored-monitor-paper-scan icon-colored-mortarboard-dollar icon-colored-national icon-colored-people-chat-bubbles icon-colored-person-cheer-star icon-colored-person-laptop-checkboxes icon-colored-person-screen-instructor icon-colored-person-whiteboard icon-colored-phone-chatbox icon-colored-police-light icon-colored-prep icon-colored-presenter icon-colored-regional icon-colored-save-time icon-colored-shirt-hat icon-colored-skyscraper icon-colored-state icon-colored-student-centered icon-colored-support icon-colored-world-experience icon-triangle-arrow-up-plant icon-triangle-calendar-pencil icon-triangle-clock-rotating-arrows icon-triangle-display-gears icon-triangle-hand-right-speech-bubble icon-triangle-laptop-coding-brackets icon-triangle-mortarboard icon-triangle-paper-ribbon icon-triangle-person-cheer-star icon-triangle-person-juggle icon-triangle-triple-people-chat-bubble icon-modality-campus icon-modality-field icon-modality-online icon-modality-residential icon-arrow icon-bank icon-camera icon-filter icon-general-chart icon-general-connect icon-general-degree icon-general-discuss icon-general-email icon-general-find icon-general-hat icon-general-heart icon-general-laptop-building icon-general-laptop icon-general-leader icon-general-map icon-general-money icon-general-paperwork icon-general-people icon-general-phone icon-general-speak-out icon-head-heart icon-info-circle icon-mail-forward icon-mglass icon-play-solid icon-quote-mark-left icon-quote-mark-right icon-scales icon-share-square-o icon-simple-chat icon-simple-desktop icon-simple-find icon-simple-hamburger icon-simple-phone icon-spinner icon-tag icon-testimonial-quotes icon-util-checkbox-white icon-util-checkbox icon-util-checked-white icon-util-checked icon-util-chevron-down icon-util-chevron-left icon-util-chevron-right icon-util-chevron-up icon-util-circle-arrow-down icon-util-circle-dot icon-util-language-switch icon-util-loading icon-util-open-window-link icon-util-pdf-link icon-util-refresh icon-util-x rebrand-arrows icon-social-facebook-colored icon-social-facebook-square-colored icon-social-facebook-square icon-social-facebook icon-social-google-plus-square icon-social-google-plus icon-social-instagram-colored icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin-square-colored icon-social-linkedin-square icon-social-linkedin icon-social-pinterest-p-colored icon-social-pinterest-p icon-social-twitter-colored icon-social-twitter-square icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube-play-colored icon-social-youtube-play graduate-cap-star-coin hand-coin hand-heart nurse-stethoscope-rays card-send-smile person-yoga-pose suitcase-star