Nursing Degrees & Schools / How Long Is Nursing School?
Maybe you’re just beginning to think about pursuing a career as a nurse. Or perhaps you’ve been a nurse for years and are finally ready to take a leap in furthering your education.
Regardless of your educational goals, you probably have some questions. How long will this take? Is it reasonable to work during nursing school? Is there anything you can do to speed the process along?
In this post, we’ll explore these questions:
- How long is nursing school?
- How long does it take to become a registered nurse?
- How long is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program?
- How long is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program?
- How long is an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program?
- How long is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program?
- How long is an RN-to-BSN program?
- How long is an MSN program?
- How long is an RN-to-MSN program?
- How long is a Nurse Practitioner (NP) program?
- How long is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Program?
- How long is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program?
- How long is a Ph.D. in nursing program?
- What are the factors that affect time spent in school?
How long is nursing school?
The length of nursing school varies widely from program to program. Some programs, like most RN-to-MSN programs, are designed for completion alongside a full-time job. Although these programs contain more demanding, advanced work, there are fewer classes to juggle at a time.
Length of Nursing Programs
|Type of program||Time to completion|
|Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) program||2 weeks to 3 months|
|Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program||1 year|
|Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) program||1.5-2 years|
|Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program||4 years|
|RN-to-BSN program||1-2 years|
|Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program||1.5-3 years after BSN|
|RN-to-MSN program||3-4 years|
|Nurse Practitioner (NP) program||2-4 years after BSN|
|Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist |
|2-3 years after BSN or MSN|
|Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program||1-3 years after BSN and |
|Ph.D in nursing program||4-6 years after BSN and |
How long does it take to become a registered nurse?
The road to becoming a registered nurse usually takes 2-4 years, which may or may not include required prerequisites. Most ADN and BSN programs require specific classes to be completed before nursing coursework is started, like:
- Human anatomy and physiology
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How long is a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) program?
CNAs are a valuable asset to the healthcare team, often functioning as an extension of the nurse. Although CNAs don’t administer medications, they perform many of the tasks associated with nursing care, including transferring, lifting, and assessing vital signs. Some CNA programs can be completed in as little as two weeks, but most last 4-12 weeks.
- CNAs can work in a variety of settings, including long-term care facilities, hospitals, and home health care agencies.
- Programs prepare students to perform basic care for patients. You’ll also learn about providing and documenting patients’ diets and which symptoms should be reported to a nurse.
- You must pass a CNA certification exam containing written and hands-on elements.
- Programs are offered in community colleges, hospitals, vocational schools, and some high schools.
How long is a Licensed Practical Nurse program?
LPN programs require about a year of education. LPNs don’t have quite as much nursing education as RNs.
- LPNs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, physicians’ offices, and nursing homes. LPNs usually report directly to RNs.
- In addition to learning about basic pathophysiology, students in LPN programs learn to change dressings, perform assessments, and administer medications.
- Students need to pass the NCLEX-PN exam to be eligible for licensure.
- Programs are offered through community colleges or universities.
How long is an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program?
ADN programs lead to certification as a registered nurse after graduation and are the quickest way to obtain work as an RN. Most ADN programs require 18-24 months to complete, including coursework, labs, and clinical training.
- Graduates can hold any position that requires an RN. Jobs include emergency rooms, wound care specialists, infusion clinics, and pediatrics.
- Degrees include classes in pharmacology, obstetrics, behavioral health, pediatrics, and more.
- Students will need to pass the NCLEX-RN examination to apply for state licensure.
- ADN programs are found in community colleges and universities.
How long is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program?
If you decide to pursue a BSN degree without any other college coursework or medical experience, you can expect to graduate in about four years. Classes include English composition and psychology as well as nursing-specific coursework.
- BSN-prepared nurses may be eligible for higher pay and more management positions. BSNs may be viewed more favorably than their ADN counterparts by hiring managers.
- Coursework covers many of the same subjects as ADN programs but places more emphasis on leadership and management.
- Graduates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam.
- Programs are offered through four-year universities.
How long is an RN-to-BSN program?
An RN-to-BSN program allows RNs who have earned an ADN to further their education without completing an entire four-year program. Instead, this program usually takes 1-2 years.
- BSNs may be eligible for increased pay and increased responsibilities, including nurse manager positions.
- RN-to-BSN programs cover nursing theory, public health, and ethics.
- There is no additional licensure exam.
- RN-to-BSN programs are offered at universities, many of which also offer traditional BSNs.
How long is an MSN program?
Master of Science in Nursing programs are available to BSN-prepared nurses who wish to further their nursing education. Expect to spend 1.5-3 years studying for an MSN. Fortunately, most MSN programs are designed for nurses who are employed full time.
MSN degrees are available in:
- Nurse informatics
- Healthcare policy
- Public health
- Nursing administration
- Nursing education
- Potential employment opportunities may include nurse management, educating future nurses, nurse midwifery, and government roles.
- MSN programs involve courses in pharmacology, pathophysiology, and learning to analyze statistical research.
- Graduation usually requires a 2.5 GPA.
- MSN programs are only offered through universities.
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How long is an RN-to-MSN program?
RN-to-MSN degrees allow registered nurses who hold an ADN to progress directly into their master’s degree. These programs last 3-4 years and are designed to be completed while working full time.
- After graduating with your master’s degree, you can pursue a career in research, administration, or education.
- Required classes include advanced pharmacology and pathophysiology.
- There is no additional testing required after graduation from an MSN program.
- RN-to-MSN programs are offered through many universities.
How long is a Nurse Practitioner (NP) program?
A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who works independently to provide healthcare. Traditional NP training is a masters-level program requiring 2-4 years of education.
- NPs are able to diagnose health conditions, prescribe medications, and order and interpret laboratory tests.
- Depending on which type of nurse practitioner you are training to become, you’ll receive training on adults, geriatric populations, women’s health, or other specialties.
- After graduation, you’ll be eligible to sit for a certification exam.
- These programs are offered by certain universities.
How long is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Program?
CRNAs have advanced training in anesthesia administration. These programs require an additional 2-3 years of training beyond a BSN.
- CRNAs have the most earning potential of advanced practice nurses and work in surgery centers, hospitals, and emergency centers.
- CRNA programs emphasize medical history and development of anesthetic plans for surgical patients.
- An exam is required for licensure after graduation (NCE Resources | NBCRNA).
- There are only about 125 CRNA programs in the United States.
How long is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program?
A DNP is one of the most advanced degrees a nurse can earn. These programs will take 1-3 years to complete after a BSN or MSN.
- A DNP can work as a nurse practitioner or hold an administrative role, such as a chief nursing officer in a hospital.
- Leadership, management, and advanced nursing skills all receive significant focus during DNP coursework.
- An examination may be required, depending on which degree of study you choose.
- DNP programs are only offered through universities.
How long is a Ph.D. in nursing program?
A Ph.D in nursing focuses intensely on research and scientific study. Most nurses with their Ph.D don’t hold clinical roles – instead they work in academia or research. This degree takes the longest, usually between 3-6 years after a BSN and MSN.
- Nurses with Ph.D.s may train future nurses at any level of study. They may also analyze scientific data and publish their findings.
- Ph.D. programs focus intensely on quality research, teaching theory, and curriculum development.
- Ph.D. programs usually require a dissertation.
- Programs are available through universities.
What are the factors that affect time spent in school?
The chart above provides a general guide for how long you’ll spend in nursing school. But other factors can change your timeline too.
Full time vs. part time
While more advanced programs may offer part-time options, most LPN, ADN, and BSN programs require full-time enrollment.
Taking time off
It’s not usual for students to take a semester off from school for the birth of a child or a family emergency. Most programs limit these.
Deciding to further your nursing education presents some unique challenges. But it can also unlock doors to higher earning potential, more career options, and even chances for advancement within your current job.
If you’re looking for more information about furthering your career, check out our Nursing Career Resources page!
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What type of program is right for me?
Only you can determine which program is right for you. Start by determining your career goals and figure out which program makes the most sense for you!
What type of program is most common?
According to Campaign for Action, 57% of RNs held a BSN degree in 2020. This is part of a larger trend to BSN programs becoming increasingly more popular than ADN programs.
What’s the quickest route to entering the healthcare field?
If you’d like to gain healthcare experience as quickly as possible, find a CNA program. You can gain experience working directly with patients and earn a living while pursuing a nursing license!