How Long Does It Typically Take to Get a Nursing Degree?
There are many options when it comes to getting a degree in nursing. People with an interest in this highly rewarding, stable, and quickly growing career can pursue well-paid job opportunities after several years of education. The requirements for becoming a working nurse depend on what program you choose and what specialization interests you.
For many, it can seem difficult to achieve a nursing degree because of the time commitment. And while some, more advanced specialties in the nursing field do require that you be in school for six to eight years earning a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, there are indeed opportunities to become a working nurse after completing only a couple of years of higher education.
If you are looking to further your nursing education to work in the medical field, this article can help. Continue reading to learn about different careers and discover which nursing position is right for you.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Nursing Degree?
The number of years it takes to become a nurse depends on what type of nursing degree you choose to pursue. Along with varied time requirements, different nursing degrees give you different levels of professional responsibility. There are many kinds of licenses, certifications, and credentials that nurses can obtain.
Three of the most common credentials are:
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
Generally speaking, LPNs require the least amount of higher education, then RNs, followed by APRNs who require the highest amount of nursing education and training.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these nursing roles and which nursing degree program each requires.
Licensed Practical Nurse: Career Review
Becoming an LPN is typically seen as the best option for people who have an interest in nursing and want to be able to work professionally as quickly as possible. This is primarily because these nursing professionals are not necessarily required to have a bachelor’s degree.
In place of a bachelor’s degree, LPNs complete an accredited practical nursing program. This is often completed in as little as twelve months and students undergo basic training in nutrition, anatomy and physiology, and nursing techniques.  Practical nursing programs can be found at technical schools, community colleges, and online.
The coursework for these programs focuses on these topics:
- Practical nursing skills
- Supervised clinical experiences
When students graduate from their practical nursing programs, they receive a certificate in practical nursing. Before they begin working, they must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). Once they pass this exam, they receive a license to work as an LPN.
Compared to other professions in the field of nursing, the duties of an LPN are focused on basic care because LPNs practice does not involve the higher-level decision making taught in registered nurse programs. These include:
- Checking blood pressure and other vital signs
- Inserting catheters
- Helping patients bathe and dress
- Give oral medications
- Communicating healthcare concerns with patients
- Reporting patient statuses to RNs and doctors
Scope of practice for practical nurses varies by each state based on the nurse practice act. Practical nurses cannot complete evaluation of the plan of care.
The median annual salary for LPNs is $47,480.  With experience, LPNs can advance to supervisory positions which offer higher pay.
Registered Nurse: Career Review
RNs have more responsibility than LPNs, so the job requires more extensive training in the areas of assessment, advanced monitoring and interventions and decision making.
You can become an RN either by completing an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN). While the majority of nursing skills learned in an ADN and a BSN program are similar, BSN programs differ in that they expand their education into leadership, research and critical thinking.
BSN degrees typically take four years to complete, while an ADN degree can be completed in two to three years. Programs for both degrees can be taken at colleges and universities both in-person and online.
Individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in another discipline can transition to the profession of nursing by completing either an accelerated BSN program or a direct entry masters’ program. A direct entry masters provides generalist nursing knowledge that allows the individual to sit for the NCLEX-RN.
RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam before becoming licensed to work professionally.
RNs are more directly involved in patients’ medical care than LPNs. Their duties often include:
- Assessment and evaluation of care
- Administering intravenous medications and blood products
- Coordinating treatment plans
- Performing diagnostic tests and analyzing results
- Supervising the work of LPNs and other aides (BSN earners)
The median annual salary for this professional nursing career is $73,300; however, that number fluctuates based on a number of factors, including education.  According to PayScale, ADN degree holders earn roughly $71,000 per year  , while those who complete a BSN program average $86,000 per year  . It’s worth noting that BSN-prepared nurses can also move on to higher managerial positions, such as a hospital’s Chief of Nursing.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse: Career Review
APRNs are RNs (who have a BSN or completed a direct entry master's program) who go on to complete graduate coursework that develops advanced assessment, diagnostic and planning skills to provide health care to patients as independent practitioners.
To become an APRN, you first have to complete a BSN degree or direct entry master's degree. From there, you’ll need to pursue a master’s of science in nursing degree (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
While the length of the program will vary based on the particular nursing specialization being pursued, most MSN degrees can be earned in an additional eighteen months to two years on top of the time it takes to complete the BSN degree. Online DNP programs can take anywhere from three to four years after earning a BSN for full-time students to complete; part-time students can expect the program to take up to six or seven years to complete.
APRNs are a highly valued and integral part of the healthcare system. There are four types of APRNs, each with a unique set of advanced medical tasks:
- Certified registered nurse anesthetists
- Certified nurse-midwives
- Clinical nurse specialists
- Certified nurse practitioners
The average salary for this professional nursing career is over $96,000 per year.  APRNs who transition into health services management roles can earn even more.
Become a Nurse Quicker By Earning Your Degree Online
Earning a BSN degree is a necessary step if you want to maximize your potential salary as a nurse. While in-person BSN degrees take four years to complete, you can earn an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) in just one year through online ABSN programs.
Online nursing degrees are becoming more popular every year. Pursue your career goals with reputable and fully accredited online nursing programs.
The content published on our blog is reviewed by credentialed healthcare professionals to give you the most up-to-date and professionally accurate information. This particular article was professionally reviewed by Colleen Sanders, RN, FNP-BC on April 20, 2021.
 Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine. The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011. E, Undergraduate Nursing Education. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209873/
 BLS. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm
 BLS. Registered Nurses. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
 PayScale, Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) Degree. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Associate_Degree_Nursing_(ADN)/Salary
 PayScale, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Bachelor_of_Science_in_Nursing_(BSN)/Salary
 Payscale. Average Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Advanced_Practice_Registered_Nurse_(APRN)/Salary