You have decided to become a Nurse, and it is fair to have confusion over how long it takes to become one. Well, there is no clear answer to that, because the course completion time varies depending on the course you opt for.

But hey; you shouldn’t worry. You know we have you covered. Right?

So, in this article, we compile for you all the information required to break down your walls of confusion and set you forward on your path to becoming a Nurse and serving the people. We will discuss – the time required for each certificate, diploma, or degree course to complete, the fastest and most efficient way to get your RN status and reveal the most common degree option among aspirants, and much more.

So, stay tuned –

Nursing School’s Course Duration for Each Degree & Diploma/Certificate

The various nursing schools offer various types of courses that enable you to become a Nurse. The vocational, community schools offer courses to help you become a Certified Nurse Assistant or Licensed Practical Nurse. The other nursing schools or colleges or universities offer associate or bachelor’s degree courses. 

Let’s explore the course duration for each existing nursing course –

How Long Is Nursing School

Diploma or Certificate

Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)

As a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) you will assist the RNs or healthcare professionals in their daily tasks. To become a CNA, you need to pass the state nursing board’s CNA certification examination post-completion of your training course.

The certified nurse assistant program could take anywhere between 4-16 weeks to complete.

*Each state has a different CNA Certification exam and you need to take the exam in the state you need to work in.

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Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

As an LPN you will just like CNAs assist the RNs and Doctors or healthcare professionals. You will take care of the patients by monitoring, checking Blood pressure, delivering medications, and assisting them with their routine, like changing clothes or using restrooms, etc.

The Licensed Practical Nurse program could take anywhere between 12-18 months to complete. Post-completion, just like nurse assistant’s you too require to pass the National Council Licensure Examination to be job ready.

Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

As a LVN you will work with the physicians and RNs providing patient care, changing bandages, and assisting patients to dress, walk or eat.

This program takes around 1 year to complete. Post-completion to be job ready, you need to earn your licensure by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Vocational Nurses, or NCLEX-VN.

Degree Programs

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

This is an associate degree course and you will be learning the foundational knowledge of nursing and some quality clinical hands-on experience, which is super worth it.

The associate degree program is typically quick and completed in around 2 years. However, some might take even 3 years to complete, depending on their pace.

Just like any Nursing course, you with an associate degree also need to pass the national licensure examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse and be job ready.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A BSN degree prepares you well for the challenges and scenarios of the nursing world. The knowledge is more in-depth and the clinical experience is more robust. It will provide you with greater opportunities, considering studies or jobs with more responsibilities and higher salaries.

The Bachelor’s degree program typically takes around 4 years to complete. However, some might take even 5 years to complete, depending on their pace.

Just like any Nursing course, also with a BSN degree, you need to pass the national licensure examination (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse and be job ready.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Master’s degrees are graduate degrees and in the nursing world as well, it is a revered one. With this degree, you could aim for higher roles, leadership positions, and a 6-figure salary mark like – nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, etc.

The master’s degree typically takes around 2 years to complete, if you opt for full-time and if you dedicate yourself part-time, it might take some additional time depending on your pace.

But again, you can meanwhile clear the NCLEX-RN exam and start working with a BSN Degree and then attempt the master’s degree.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

This is a Ph.D. degree and you could obtain the highest roles, research roles, or educator or subject matter expert roles, post obtaining this degree. This is a self-paced program and most aspirants require around 4-6 years to earn a Doctorate degree.

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The Fastest and Efficient Way to Get Your RN Status

Associate Degree in Nursing

You might have guessed it right. Yes, the fastest and most efficient way to get your RN status is through getting an associate degree in nursing.

The ADN requires 2 years to complete, and with some preparation time for the NCLEX-RN exam, consider a few months or even a year, you could become an RN in about 2-3 years’ time.

This method is not only the fastest but also efficient, allow us to explain how –


It is Affordable costing you only between $4,000 to $19,000. Most other certification program will also cost you something around that. But with an ADN program, there are other benefits as well.

Higher Education Opportunity

With an associate degree, you could get a master’s through the RN-MSN program or a Bachelors’s through the RN-BSN program. So, if the situation demands an upgrade, your associate degree would never disappoint you.

Quick entry into the workforce

In just 2-3 years you are qualified to enter the workforce and start earning.


The starting salary of RNs is about $50,000 – $77,600 per year. Mind you, this is the salary of an RN, and nowhere it says with associate or bachelor’s degree, so all the RNs earn the same.

But, yes with time and experience, the higher degree tends to get promoted or get salary hikes. As you know by now, you can upgrade your studies with an ADN.  

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The Most Common Degree Option Among Nursing Aspirants

The BSN or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is the most common and sought after by the aspirants. Almost 51.1% of RNs hold a BSN degree as their highest education.

But why? There could be many reasons but the main reason is – no worries to upgrade your studies and manage work-learn balance.

Read -> How To Get A BSN?

Other advantages are –

  • Job availability, where you out-compete the rest.
  • Higher earning potential, and better increment than non-degree holders.
  • Career advancement opportunities to higher or advanced positions.

However, here are the other degree holder’s data –

  • There are almost 24.3% of RNs that hold an ADN as their highest education.
  • Only a meager 4.1% of RNs hold a nursing diploma.
  • Surprisingly 18% of RNs hold a Masters’s degree or an MSN.
  • And, there are nearly 3% of RNs that hold a Ph.D. degree as their highest education.

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What is Nursing

How Hard Is It to Get into Nursing School?

Getting into a Nursing school could be competitive. Just like you, there are many aspirants that want to pursue this rewarding career. There are certain prerequisites that are set by schools and it varies per school. The standard prerequisites –

  • A healthy GPA in your high school
  • Having science or maths as subjects
  • SAT or HESI scores; wherever applicable

Is Nursing School Even Hard?

Yes, they are quite tough. Training a future generation of healthcare warriors can’t be easy. The programs are rigorous, and hectic, with an immersive approach to preparing you for patient care.

There might exist tight project deadlines, extended clinical hours, lab skills, and some challenging exams to take. But whatever it may be you shouldn’t feel defeated and instead hone your time management skills, and work smarter.

Is Nursing School A Lot of Math?

The Nursing profession generally requires very basic math skills like algebra and most programs would only require one college-level math class.  

Is Nursing School Even Worth It?

Of course, it is. In just a few years you could become job ready and start earning close to $80K per year and that too with just an Associate degree. Which other associate degree would make you eligible like nursing does?

Yes, the programs are tougher than the other degrees but, it is absolutely worth it to invest yourself in it. Given you have a desire to become a nurse and serve the people. 


-> 7 Best Online Nursing Degrees for 2023

-> Nursing Degree- Best Schools, Major & Programs

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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.