How Long Does a Nursing Degree Take?


One of the first things any prospective college student wants to know is how long it’ll be before they can graduate and get to work, and nursing students are no exception. So, how long does a nursing degree take? The short answer is, it depends.

There are three different routes of entry into a nursing career, and this is only for basic nursing:

–        Students can get nursing diplomas through a teaching hospital, which takes between two to three years.

–        Students can obtain associates’ degrees through a community college, technical college, or vocational school, which takes between eighteen months to two years.

–        Students can go for bachelors’ degrees through a college or university, which takes about four years (less for returning students enrolled in accelerated degree programs)

All of these routes will set students up to become either licensed practical nurses or registered nurses, depending on their states’ regulations. In every case, they will still need to sit for their National Council Licensure Examinations before they can practice.

Going Beyond a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN)

In some cases, students may wish to continue their nursing education to graduate and post-graduate programs. In that case, their nursing degrees can progress like this:

–        Students can go from having four year bachelors’ degrees, to getting their master’s in nursing (MSN) in subjects like nursing education or nursing administration. This takes another two years or so, for about six years total.

–        Students can then go on to obtain their doctorates’ (DNP or PhD in Nursing), to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). This takes about another two years, for a total of eight to ten years.

–        Students may also enroll in one of dozens of different continuing education programs, to allow them to further specialize their nursing education. This can take between thirty hours, to over a hundred, spaced out over a number of months.

Is More Education Always Better?

A lot of people have become convinced that a higher degree is always better, but that may not necessarily be the case. Students who wish to become, and stay, registered nurses can easily get by with a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, it doesn’t really pay to get anything less than that- though nursing diploma programs and associates’ degrees are both acceptable entry points into nursing, more and more employers are insisting on bachelors’ degrees for their new hires.

Nursing students should also be aware that educational requirements for them are constantly in flux, so what is considered a sufficient degree today may not be a few years from now. How long does a nursing degree take to fall out of favor? That varies. Some employers still prefer diploma program nurses over other nurses because of their programs’ greater emphasis on clinical practice, while others do not. For the most accurate picture of what kind of education is required for nursing jobs in their areas, nursing students should contact their states’ Boards of Nursing for industry information and educational requirements.

How to Speed Up Your Nursing Degree

If nursing degrees seem like they take a lot of time to you, there are ways you can try to speed up the process. For one, if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject, or you’ve taken liberal arts classes for another major, see if your school will offer you entry into an accelerated degree program. These programs are shorter than a traditional BSN, but offer the same core classes. They are intended for students pursuing nursing as a second career.

If you are still in high school, consider taking Advanced Placement coursework. Getting a good score on AP tests is a great way to waive certain college courses. This can help you get rid of some liberal arts classes for your nursing major, though it won’t waive any of your core coursework.

How long does a nursing degree take? It depends on the student, and the degree itself. It might seem like a long time before you’re able to graduate, but today’s nursing programs are designed to pack a lot of information into a short period of time. Don’t rush through your degree program- take your time to do well, and you’ll have a much easier time, a higher GPA, and a better chance of being accepted into a graduate nursing program.

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