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How Long Does It Take to Become a Registered Nurse?

Once you have made the decision to become a registered nurse, you may be wondering how long you will have to go to school in order to become an RN. You can either get your associate’s degree with the registered nurse certification or you can get a bachelor’s degree in nursing with registered nurse certification. Most find many reasons to choose one of those options over the other, but let’s look at each of those two options more closely.

In order to become a registered nurse, you have to qualify and take the National Council Licensure Examination. In order to qualify for that exam, there are three different paths: an associate's degree, a diploma program, and a bachelor's degree. Each program prepares the student to take the NCLEX test for registered nurses. The differences between these programs often show up when it comes to the career path the RN takes after graduation. These differences can influence your choice in education.

If you want the quickest option to becoming a registered nurse, you will want to find an associate’s degree program that will lead you on the path to getting your RN certification.
An associate's degree takes 2 years traditionally. However, if you already have an LPN/LVN degree, that can shorten to 1 year. When you earn an associate's degree in nursing (ADN), you take classes in anatomy, physiology, health assessment, nursing foundations, microbiology, mental health nursing, maternal care, adult health, and legal/ethics for nurses. Those who already have an LPN/LVN degree have a basis in anatomy, nursing skills, and physiology already. That is what shortens their requirement time.

There are technical schools and many community colleges who offer these types of degrees. There is nothing wrong with just getting an associate’s degree in order to become a registered nurse. You will find that many registered nurses starting out had only an associate’s degree before they went on and continued their education. Most associate’s degree programs that lead to registered nursing certification take two years to complete. Depending on the amount of time you can commit to learning, the program could take as long as three years because of the practicums that the nursing students have to take. It is definitely recommended that you take as much time as you need to in order to be better prepared to pass your state’s certification exam to become a registered nurse.

The longer option to becoming a registered nurse is to go on and earn your bachelor’s degree in nursing. These degrees can be found at most colleges and universities that offer four-year degrees. A bachelor's degree takes four years. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is a traditional 4 year degree. You have to complete all the general education requirements that other students have to complete on top of the nursing classes. Besides the classes you take in the ADN or diploma programs, the students take classes in statistics, advanced anatomy/physiology, clinical nursing foundations, pathophysiology, health assessments, geriatrics, and other topics.

You will find that your BSN degree will take at least four years to earn, sometimes longer. It rarely takes less than four years to complete a BSN degree because of all the courses that a nursing student must take. These programs are highly competitive though, so only pursue this line of education if you have the time and ability to make good grades in all of your classes. Even your general education classes matter when it comes to being accepted into the BSN program.

In short, depending on which educational path you choose, it takes anywhere from two to four years to become a registered nurse. Getting the degree is important, no matter which degree you choose to earn. However, neither of those degrees mean anything if you can’t pass the certification test to become a registered nurse. That is the most important part. So make sure you study and get enough rest before you take your test so you will be on your way to becoming a registered nurse.