How to Become an RN Fast: 3 Potential Paths to Pursue
The best things in life are worth waiting for.
You’ve heard it a million times, but this old adage just doesn’t sit right with you. You know what you want, and you’re not one to wait around for it. You prefer life in the fast lane, plus you have bills to pay and professional goals to reach. You simply don’t have the luxury of waiting.
You’re motivated to launch your registered nursing career, but spending several years in school is the last thing you want. You’re looking for fast-track RN programs that will help you earn your scrubs as soon as possible.
You’ll be happy to hear that nursing is a field with plenty of entrance options to suit your preferences. So if you want to become a nurse fast, you can find a path to fit your needs. And once you’re working, you can always go on to advance your education further in the future.
Keep reading to learn how to become an RN fast and see which path sounds like the best route for you.
1. LPN lane: The ultimate fast track
Can be completed in as few as 12 months1
If you’re itching to enter the field, the fastest way to become a nurse would be taking the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) route. While you wouldn’t actually be an RN, you could launch a nursing career in as few as 12 months.1 This would allow you to start gaining experience (and earning a paycheck) with the option to work toward RN status later on.
What do LPNs do?
LPNs are valuable players on the nursing team. But what exactly do they do? These healthcare professionals are responsible for taking patient vitals, distributing medications and administering basic patient care, such as changing bandages and IV drips, among other duties, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.2
They typically work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or doctor and are sometimes responsible for overseeing nursing aides. The most common place of employment for LPNs is nursing and residential care facilities, according to the BLS.2 Other employers include hospitals, offices of physicians, home healthcare services and government facilities.
Career advancement for LPNs
LPNs who wish to advance their education can go on to apply their knowledge in a bridge program to earn their Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN). This plus passing the NCLEX-RN licensure exam would earn them the title of registered nurse (RN).
LPN salary and job growth
The median annual salary of LPNs in 2017 was $45,030, according to the BLS.2 Employment of LPNs is projected to grow 12 percent through 2026, which is faster than the national average rate of 7 percent.2
2. ADN avenue: A rapid route to an RN role
Can be completed in as few as 18 months1
If you have your sights set on the coveted role of RN, acquiring an Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) will be the fastest direct route to your career as a registered nurse. Many don’t realize that an RN title can be earned with either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. By opting for your ADN, you could be launching your registered nursing career in as few as 18 months.1
What do RNs do?
It’s one of the most prevalent professions, but what exactly do registered nurses do? RNs work under the supervision of physicians and are responsible for many patient care duties. This includes creating care plans, performing diagnostic tests and teaching patients how to manage their diagnosis. Most RNs are employed in hospitals, according to the BLS.2 They can also work in a variety of other settings, including nursing homes, private practices, schools, prisons and more.
Educational advancement for RNs with an ADN
Many RNs with an Associate’s degree choose to build upon their education and experience by enrolling in an RN to BSN program, which can be completed in as few as 12 months.1 Many schools offer these programs online to make it convenient for working RNs to advance their education.
RN salary and job growth
RNs earned a median salary of $70,000 in 2017, according to the BLS.2 Continued demand drives growth in the field, with a 15 percent increase in employment projected through 2026, which is much higher than the national average rate.
3. A-BSN: The fast lane to an advanced nursing degree
Can be completed in as few as 18 months1
Another fast-track option for becoming a nurse is for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree of some sort. If you fit this category, even if your degree is in an unrelated subject, an Accelerated Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (A-BSN) degree is the optimal choice for you. If you’re looking to change careers and become an RN fast, this option could allow you to do so in as few as 18 months.1
What do RN-BSNs do?
BSN nurses typically perform the same duties as the ADN duties mentioned above. However, this degree qualifies them to take on greater responsibilities and could open doors for many interesting nursing specialties. RNs with a BSN have the advantage of qualifying for more job postings, especially within large, urban or magnet hospitals, some of which require all RN candidates to hold a BSN. Some specialties, such as school nursing and public health, typically require a BSN also, as do many nurse management roles.
Educational advancement for RNs with a BSN
Obtaining your BSN isn’t the end of the line in the nursing field. In fact, a BSN opens many more doors should you seek advancement in your career. Some registered nurses go on to obtain their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, which can propel you to lead in administrative specialties or teach future generations as a nurse educator.
RN salary and growth
As stated above, RNs earn a median annual salary of $70,000 and face a faster-than-average rate of growth at 15 percent, as reported by the BLS.2 RNs with a BSN tend to earn slightly more than RNs with an ADN, though the true opportunity for increased earning potential comes from the array of nursing specialties and managerial roles open to nurses with BSN degrees.
Jump-start your nursing career
Now that you know how to become an RN fast, what are you waiting for?
If you’re still unsure which path is the best choice for you, learn a bit more about the nuances of each educational option. For a better understanding of the path ahead, check out our article “Nursing Training: A Closer Look at the Road to Becoming an RN.”
1Time to complete is dependent on accepted transfer credits and courses completed each quarter.
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed March 2019]. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2017. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2019.