How to Become an RN Fast

Submitted by admin on Thu, 12/07/2023 - 16:14
A clinical nurse specialist who started out as a registered nurse

Hospitals and healthcare organizations nationwide need more nurses to meet patient volume demands. Nursing retirements and an aging patient population mean job opportunities for newly graduated nurses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates 203,200 registered nursing openings will become available annually from 2021 to 2031.

Motivated and compassionate professionals in any field can switch to nursing careers thanks to accelerated degree programs. There are many different nursing degrees, career paths, and specializations to consider. Career-switching professionals have a few good reasons to choose nursing over other professions.


Why Seek a Second Career in Nursing?

The 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey found that 37.9% of all registered nurses have been licensed for 10 years or less. This rate was a significant increase from the 30.5% of nurses in the same category in the 2020 survey. Present and future generations of nursing professionals - including career-changing professionals - who want more fulfilling careers.

Second-career nurses combine newly learned nursing and clinical skills with competencies acquired in their previous professions. Communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills forged in other jobs also power success in nursing roles. They may also know how to manage stress and work life balance if they’ve worked in other fast-paced environments.

The impactful work done by registered nurses translates into respect by the general public for the profession. Recent polls by the Varkey Foundation, YouGov, and The Harris Poll placed nursing among the top 10 most respected professions. Second-career nurses find more important roles in their communities than in other jobs.

There is also a good return on investment for professionals switching to nursing careers. The BLS found a median salary of $77,600 for registered nurses in 2021, far exceeding the $45,760 median salary for all professions. Top earners in the profession averaged $120,250 per year in salary, offering glimpses into the career’s upward mobility.


Explaining Nursing Career Paths

Newcomers to the nursing profession may not be aware of the different levels of nursing practice. The term “nurse” is applied to different roles within a nursing team. Career-changing professionals should start by understanding the differences between licensed practical nurses and registered nurses.


Licensed Practical Nurse vs. Registered Nurse

Licensed practical nurses - or licensed vocational nurses, in some states - are considered non professional nurses and can only provide basic care and administrative assistance in clinical settings under the direct supervision of an RN or another licenced independent practioner (LIP). This level of nursing requires state licensure after completing a diploma or certificate program. From retirement homes to hospitals, licensed practical nurses are tasked with that are deligated to them by an RN or other LIP.

Registered nurses receive training for more advanced clinical tasks during undergraduate degree programs and clinical hours. They may be asked to supervise licensed practical nurses for improved patient experiences. Typical job responsibilities for registered nurses include:

  • Administering treatments prescribed by nurse practitioners or physicians
  • Facilitating diagnostic testing and analysis
  • Creating treatment plans in collaboration with patients and care providers
  • Providing health education about common diagnosis, treatment, and medication

Learn what is required to apply for your RN license in your state.



Second-career nurses find higher career ceilings as registered nurses than licensed practical nurses. The trend toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) as the profession’s entry point means higher pay and better chances for career advancement. Registered nurses build the foundations for specialized care during their undergraduate work.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) notes that there are more than three times as many registered nurses as physicians in the United States. BSN-trained nurses can meet patient demands and collaborate with specialists with additional certifications. Specialties for registered nurses include:


Distinguishing Nursing Degree Types

The NCSBN and state licensing boards set the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) as the minimum standard for professional registered nurses. ADNs may be the fastest paths to initial licensure but many nurses prefere to complete BSNs prior to initial licensure. The 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey found a decrease in ADNs and an increase in BSNs at licensure over a seven-year period.

ADN programs through community or technical colleges typically take two years to complete. The ADN curriculum focuses on the theoretical foundations of nursing practice. ADN students may be asked to complete the following courses prior to completing clinical hours or capstone projects:

  • General Anatomy and Physiology
  • Intro to Clinical Care Management
  • Microbiology
  • Nursing Health Promotion
  • Sociology

BSN degrees based at universities often require four years to complete. Nursing students combine the aforementioned courses with advanced lessons in ethics, leadership, and nursing management. 

The growing preference for BSNs over ADNs stems from increased degree requirements by employers that are based on a body of literature that reveals improved patient outcomes in facilities that employ BSN prepared RNs. BSN graduates are also poised for the advanced degrees necessary for future nurse practitioner roles. Career-changing professionals can find BSN programs that fit their current schedules and career aspirations.


Choosing the Right Program for Your Nursing Career

Professionals who already hold bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines need not repeat four years of college to earn BSNs. Accelerated Bachelors of Science in Nursing (ABSNs) provide high levels of nurse training in half the time of traditional programs. ABSN programs recognize previous undergraduate coursework and focus on the skills needed for nursing.

Even more exciting is the fact that aspiring nurses don’t need to spend time on university campuses to earn ABSNs. Many accelerated nursing programs offer 100% online courses. Students work with clinical placement specialists to find supervised hours in their communities. Online ABSN programs provide the flexibility essential for professionals moving into nursing careers.

The quickest nursing program is not the only consideration for career-changing students. Important considerations for any applicant include a program’s faculty, NCLEX-RN pass rates, and student resources. A growing list of ABSN programs makes it easier to find the right program for you.

Take the first step toward becoming a nurse today. To help you find your perfect fit, we’ve compiled a list of high-quality, accredited online ABSN programs. Simply enter your Zip code below to find which program(s) are available in your area.