How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse?


An illustration of a doctor answering "How long does it take to become a nurse?" to a group of students in a medical setting.

In the past 15 years, a growing number of career-changers with an aptitude for science and a desire to help others have been pursuing a nursing degree—and schools are responding by offering a variety of programs tailored to meet the rising demand for qualified professionals.

So what does this range of educational options mean for you? How long would it take for you to become a nurse?

Length of time to completion and program intensity varies, so it’s important to consider what will work best to meet your individual academic, career and personal goals.

The most common path involves obtaining a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN). This degree is awarded after four years of study that includes general education courses as well as nursing education courses. Not only do you earn the degree, but you’ll also be able to sit for the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX).

For those with an associate degree and a license to practice nursing, a degree completion program (RN to BSN) normally takes an additional 18-24 months.

In Search of the Fastest Route

While an undergraduate nursing degree takes four years to complete, most career-changers are looking for a quicker path—and, in prospective employers’ eyes, they might have something extra to offer.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, students in accelerated programs are often more focused and quicker studies than traditional students. Employers prize nontraditional nursing grads, valuing them for the breadth of experience they bring to the health care field.

Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree
About 2 Years

Most students who have a four-year degree in another discipline want to get into the nursing profession as quickly as possible. Typically, an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing will take about 60 semester hours, or about two years, to complete. Some schools schedule their sessions without breaks, meaning a student could be finished in as few as 16 months, or even within one calendar year.

Depending on your educational background, you may need to take prerequisites in subjects such as physiology, chemistry, statistics, nutrition and microbiology before starting a nursing program.

Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing
About 3 Years

Sometimes called an entry-level master’s, the direct-entry option builds on students’ previous learning experiences to provide an alternative path for folks who do not want a second bachelor’s degree (although some MSN programs actually award a bachelor’s degree as well).

These combined-curricula programs usually consist of three years of full-time coursework, with baccalaureate-level classes taken in the first year, followed by two years of graduate study. Many students take the NCLEX licensing exam during the program, earning their RN before their grad-level courses begin.

Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice
About 2 Years

Master’s entry in nursing practice (MENP) programs are usually even more accelerated, with full-time students earning their master’s degree in 16 to 24 months. The MENP prepares students to take the NCLEX, while also preparing them for clinical leadership roles as a licensed professional nurse.

Students graduate with an MSN and are entry-level practitioners.

The MENP program at Elmhurst University includes 21 courses and takes two years to complete. The program is rigorous, with students immediately beginning clinical courses while integrating master’s-level theory courses.

The MENP opens up a world of career possibilities. New nurses can get jobs in hospitals, schools, clinics, research institutions, nursing and residential care facilities, and in private practice.

How Long Does it Take to be a Nurse at Elmhurst?

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