How long does it take to become a registered nurse?

August 4, 2016

community nursing

Nursing is a great career choice for a variety of reasons. Not only does the field offer a lot of options and specialties to choose from, but salaries are competitive, and the work can be exciting. But that’s not all. As a nurse, you have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. In some instances, you may even play a part in saving a life. That’s not a bad way to spend a workday.

If you are wondering how to become a registered nurse, one of your first questions might be how long it takes. It can take anywhere from two to four years to become a registered nurse depending on what type of degree program you are interested in.

Associate degree program

For those who want the quickest route to becoming a registered nurse, you might want to consider an associate degree program. In most cases, an associate degree program can be completed in two years.

Typical classes often include pharmacology, anatomy and nutrition. Students also take nursing-specific classes and are required to complete clinical assignments in hospitals and healthcare facilities getting hands- on experience working with a nurse. Associate degree programs are usually offered at private technical schools and community colleges.

Bachelor’s degree program

Another option to become a registered nurse is a bachelor’s degree program. Bachelor’s degree programs can typically be completed in four years of full-time study. Classes are similar to those required in an associate degree program. But in addition to the basics, students also get a broader education and take classes in humanities, psychology and nursing ethics. Colleges and universities offer four-year nursing programs.

In order to decide what program is right for you, it’s helpful to determine what your career goals are. For example, nurses who want to go into management or become an advanced practitioner, such as a midwife, need a bachelor’s degree. But an associate degree program allows you to enter the workforce quicker than a bachelor’s program.

Keep in mind, if you choose a two-year program, it can take a little longer to complete if you are required to take prerequisites before starting nursing classes. For example, some schools require students to complete general education classes, such as biology, anatomy and nutrition before getting accepted into a nursing program.

Getting licensed

After you graduate from either an associate degree or bachelor’s degree nursing program, you still have to become licensed. You can take your state licensing exam as soon as you feel prepared. Some people prefer to take a short break after graduating from nursing school and study for a few months before taking the exam. But others choose to take the exam a few weeks after they complete school while the information is fresh in their mind.

The bottom line is if you want to become a registered nurse, you can plan on it taking anywhere from two to four years before you’re working in the field.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.