How to Become an RN Fast: 3 Potential Paths to Pursue

illustration of nurses at a starting line

“The best things in life are worth waiting for.”

You’ve likely heard it a million times, and while you get the sentiment, 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 (RN) career and want to find a nursing program that will help you earn your scrubs as soon as possible.

You’ll be happy to hear that nursing is a field with a variety 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. Once you’re working, you can always go on to advance your education further in the future.

Keep reading to learn more about your options for how to become an RN fast and see which path sounds like the best route for you.

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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 complete a Practical Nursing program and be well on your way to launching a nursing career in as few as 12 months.1 This approach would allow you to start gaining experience 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 an 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 like nursing homes, according to the BLS.2 Other settings for LPNs include hospitals, physicians’ offices, 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 and meeting all other state requirements would earn them the title of registered nurse (RN).

LPN salary and job growth

The median annual salary of LPNs in 2020 was $48,820, according to the BLS.2 Employment of LPNs is projected to grow nine percent through 2029, which is much higher than the national average projected rate of four percent for all occupations.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 with no pit stops on the way, acquiring an Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) will be the fastest direct route to your career as a registered nurse. If you’re unfamiliar with the field, you might not know 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 in healthcare, 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 diagnoses. 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 Often, these programs are offered online to make it convenient for working RNs to advance their education.

RN salary and job growth

RNs earned a median annual salary of $75,330 in 2020, according to the BLS.2 Continued demand drives growth in the field, with a seven percent increase in employment projected through 2029, which is faster than the national average rate.2

3. A-BSN: The fast lane to an advanced nursing degree

Can be completed in as few as 18 months1

A BSN Second Degree program is another fast-track option for becoming a nurse and is for individuals who already hold a Bachelor’s degree and would like to transition into a nursing career. If you fit this category, even if your degree is in an unrelated subject, an Accelerated Bachelor 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 help 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 may require RN candidates to hold a BSN. Some specialties, such as school nursing and public health, typically require a BSN as well, 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 BSN-RNs choose to go on to obtain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. This option can help prepare you to lead in administrative or technology specialties or teach future generations as a nurse educator.

RN salary and growth

As stated above, RNs earn a median annual salary of $75,330 and face a faster-than-average rate of growth at seven 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? Get the process started—and your questions answered—by signing up for a Nursing Information Session today!

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.”

1Completion time 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 2021]. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/. 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 2021.

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.

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