How Long Does It Take to Become an RN If You Already Have a Bachelor’s Degree?

Submitted by admin on Tue, 02/27/2024 - 14:24
A woman daydreaming about becoming a nurse

An aging workforce and growing demand for healthcare services mean high demand for new nurses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 6% growth in registered nursing roles from 2022 to 2032. An estimated 193,100 nursing jobs per year will be available during this period with many roles filled by new nurses.

Healthcare employers need second-career nurses and graduates of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs to serve patients of all ages. If you’re interested in changing careers, you may wonder how long it takes to become a registered nurse. Before exploring your degree options, let’s look at the reasons to pursue a nursing career.


Why Now is the Time for a Nursing Degree

Your interest in a nursing career might be driven by an interest in helping others and pursuing a healthcare career. An investment in a nursing degree is an investment in a fulfilling career with many benefits. Here are three reasons a career in nursing may be right for you.


Public Trust in Nurses

Registered nurses work on the front lines of patient care by assessing and treating people of all ages. They care for people in pain and distress, educate patients on healthier living, and promote preventative medicine. The patient-nurse relationship overcomes communication barriers and builds the trust necessary for improved health.

New nurses benefit from high public trust in the nursing profession built by previous generations. Gallup’s 2023 ratings of the most trusted professions placed nurses at the top of the list for the 22nd year in a row. This trust level makes it easier to care for patients and improves health outcomes.


Opportunities for Career Growth

The 2022 National Nursing Workforce Study found that the median age for registered nurses dropped from 52 to 46 over two years. The primary reason for this drop was 200,000 nurses with ten or more years of experience leaving the workforce. Forty-one percent of registered nurses reported less than a decade of experience.

BSN graduates with leadership experience in previous careers are well-positioned for roles as charge nurses and supervisors. They can also use perspectives shaped in other fields for improved processes in clinical settings.



The time, energy, and money spent on a nursing degree result in high salaries compared to many other professions. The BLS found a median salary of $81,220 in 2022, while all occupations studied by the bureau earned a median salary of $46,310. Nurses working with government agencies ($92,310) and hospitals ($82,250) earned above the median wage.

There is a high ceiling for registered nursing salaries as the BLS notes that the top 10 percent of earners made $129,400 yearly. Your location also makes a big difference in the salary you can earn as a nurse.


Distinguishing Traditional and Accelerated Nursing Degrees

Aspiring nurses can start their careers by enrolling in a nursing program. The entry point for generations of nurses was a diploma or two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). These degrees remain options for entry-level nurses, though career growth is more likely with undergraduate degrees.

The BSN is now the most common degree at initial licensing, with 47.2% of registered nurses entering the field with that degree in 2022. BSN-prepared nurses were only 39% of registered nurses in 2015. Traditional BSN and Accelerated BSN degrees offer different pathways into nursing careers.


Traditional BSN

Traditional BSN programs appeal to recent high school graduates and those without undergraduate degrees. A Traditional BSN curriculum includes general studies requirements, foundational science courses, and nursing classes. Nursing students also complete supervised clinical experiences on or near their campuses.

This nursing degree option typically takes four years to complete. Tuition and housing costs throughout enrollment make this a more expensive option than Accelerated BSN degrees. Traditional BSN programs are entirely or mostly in-person, with limited online learning options.


Accelerated BSN

Accelerated BSN degrees are designed for career-changing professionals with bachelor’s degrees. This nursing degree option does not require the completion of general studies courses due to previous undergraduate work. Nursing coursework and clinical experience requirements are comparable between Traditional and Accelerated BSN degrees.

The nursing-focused designs of Accelerated BSN programs mean students can graduate in less than two years. Accelerated nursing programs range from entirely online to online coursework with short campus residencies.


Requirements for Nursing Program Admission

Traditional and Accelerated BSN programs differ in that the latter require bachelor’s degrees for program admission. Prerequisite courses vary from university to university, though most programs follow similar best practices for foundational training. 


Nursing Career Paths

Graduates of BSN programs complete licensure through state boards before entering the workforce. Staff nurse was the most common job title for registered nurses in 2022, with 56.5% of respondents to the National Nursing Workforce Survey. Other nursing roles found in the survey included: 

  • Case Manager (10.9%)
  • Nurse Manager (7.3%)
  • Nurse Educator (3.3%)

Early-career nurses often work as generalists, providing care across different care areas. Additional training and credentials support nursing specialization based on patient needs or professional interests. High-demand specializations cover areas such as:

  • Cardiac-Vascular Nursing
  • Home Health Nursing
  • Hospice and Palliative Nursing
  • Inpatient Obstetric Nursing

A BSN and clinical experience open career opportunities beyond hospital settings. It is also possible to build on the BSN with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) for future roles in research and leadership.


Getting Started on an Accelerated Nursing Degree

Take the first step toward becoming a nurse today. Enter your Zip code below to access our comprehensive list of Accelerated BSN programs nationwide.