How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse?

December 20, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Making a career change is always a big decision. One of the biggest questions people ask when making this decision is how long will the transition take. After all, even if someone is unsatisfied with their current line of work, they still have to consider the time and financial investment for schooling, passing examinations, and successfully landing a new job.

While this is all certainly true of nursing, there are also several advantages that make it a popular choice for people seeking a more rewarding career. It is possible to complete entry-level nursing or nursing assistant programs in as little as one-to-two years. Even becoming a registered nurse (RN) can take a shorter amount of time than other career pathways.

The following helpful overview can give you a clear picture of how long it can take to become a nurse, particularly becoming an RN.

What Is A Registered Nurse?

A registered nurse is a nurse who has received a degree from an accredited program at a nursing school and passed any legal requirements to receive a nursing license. To maintain their license, there are usually requirements for minimum practice hours and continuing education.

RNs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, skilled nursing facilities, and home health. While working closely and receiving direction from physicians and nurse practitioners, RNs may also supervise care given by other nurses, nursing assistants, and technicians.

The other primary type of nurse is a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Becoming an LPN generally requires less schooling and has less strict licensing requirements than an RN, but LPNs generally will have less responsibility and lower levels of compensation.

How Long Does It Usually Take to Become a Nurse?

Many factors can determine how long it takes to become a nurse, including the type of nurse you want to be, the type of degree you’re pursuing, previous education, and whether you are going to school full time or part time. For example, to become an RN, you can complete a two-year associate’s degree, but four-year bachelor’s degree programs are becoming more common.

A prospective nurse who has completed prerequisites and is able to attend school full time could complete a nursing program, pass the licensing examination, and land a job in two to three years. In other situations, starting at the very beginning and attending nursing school part-time could require upwards of five years.

Everyone is different, and when estimating your path, you should try to be realistic and make the best choices to balance your long-term goals with your current life.

Types of Nursing Degrees

There are several specific degrees you can receive to become a nurse, and the type of degree you pursue can have a significant impact on how long your schooling will take. The three most common nursing degrees for registered nurses include:

  • Associate of Science, Nursing (ASN)— takes the shortest amount of time, and is generally a two-year program.
  • Bachelor of Science, Nursing (BSN)— typically a four-year program and is increasingly becoming the standard for RNs.
  • Master of Science, Nursing (MSN) — is a postgraduate degree designed to train nurses for administrative and managerial roles, and generally takes an additional two years.

Passing Licensing Examinations

Once a prospective nurse has graduated from a nursing school with their chosen degree, the next step is passing the licensing examination and receiving a nursing license. While state boards will have different specific requirements to receive a license, in the United States there is a single national examination, which is called the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). RNs must pass a version of the test, called the NCLEX-RN, while LPNs must pass the NCLEX-PN.

The test covers the basic skills and knowledge that an entry-level nurse needs to know in order to safely practice as a nurse in the United States. While students are given up to five hours to complete the NCLEX, it can take up to six weeks to receive results, so this waiting period is another factor that any prospective nurse should account for.

Nursing Specialties and Finding Your Preferred Area

While it is theoretically possible to receive a job offer on the first interview you go to, you should expect your first job hunt to take anywhere from weeks to months. Even in a high-demand field like nursing, many employers still try to find nurses with experience, so landing that coveted first job may take some time.

While some nurses are happy being a generalist who finds work wherever it is most needed, many others choose to pursue a specialty. Common nursing specialties can include:

  • Pediatrics
  • Critical care
  • Trauma
  • Medical-surgical
  • Gerontology
  • Home health care

Think about your skills, preferred working environment, and clinical strengths when deciding on a specialty. If you like fast-paced, high-pressure environments, critical care may be right for you. If you prefer one-on-one patient care, making independent decisions, and flexible hours, home health can often be a great niche.

Quick Tips to Reach Your Nursing Goals

No two pathways to becoming a nurse are the same. Before taking on the commitment, make sure that becoming a nurse is something you have the qualities and characteristics for. If you feel the calling, here are some tips that have helped many nurses reach their goal of becoming a nurse in a realistic, and reasonable, amount of time:

  • Talk to nurses you know about what they did right or what they might have done differently when becoming a nurse
  • Make your financial plan and line up finances early in the process
  • Research and apply to multiple nursing programs to improve your chances of getting in
  • Study hard and join a study group to make sure you stay focused on your coursework
  • Practice and prepare for the NCLEX by taking practice examinations, or even study courses

In the long-term, once you become a nurse, it can become less about how long it took, but what path you took to get there. Ultimately, try to emphasize doing what’s right for you, and avoid taking shortcuts just because you want to cross the finish line, or reach the mountain top. It will be there no matter how long you take.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance time between work, home, and caring for a child or loved one. That’s why the team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offer one-on-one support in the comfort of your home. We are always looking for loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision.

Applying for a position with Care Options for Kids is quick and simple. Our online application process eliminates the need to come into a local office until you are ready to meet with our Director of Nursing. Your application, resumé, license, and CPR card are all uploaded online. Care Options for Kids provides services in counties throughout the state of Florida. We make it as easy as possible to join our team. Call today at (888) 592-5855.