How to Become an RN If You're a CNA

Nursing prerequisites can be completed online. Discover how long it takes to finish prerequisites and how you can get your RN faster.

March 2024
Registered nurses and doctors posing for the camera

Working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is a great introduction to a career in healthcare. However, if you're like many CNAs, your long-term goal is to become a Registered Nurse (RN). The good news is that the career outlook for RNs is extremely bright. Employment growth for registered nurses is expected to rise by 6% through 2031. This equates to an additional 195,400 jobs for RNs nationwide! 

Not only that, CNAs who transition to RNs can expect a handsome salary increase. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of RNs is $77,600 per year, while CNAs typically get paid an average of $30,310 a year.

Despite the positive outlook, the journey to becoming an RN from a CNA can feel overwhelming. But knowing what's ahead is the first step-in moving toward your goals. Keep reading to discover what it takes to move from a CNA to RN, including options on how to earn college credit in less time. 

How do CNA to RN programs work?

There are multiple reasons to advance your career as an RN from a CNA. As a Registered Nurse, you'll get to provide more advanced care to patients, and you'll also enjoy a higher salary.

Fortunately, there are options for advancing your career from a CNA to an RN. One of the most common ways to become an RN as CNA is through a CNA to RN program. These programs are available at the associate degree (ADN) and bachelor degree (BSN) level. Some CNA to RN programs offer prerequisite courses online, but core courses require on-campus attendance.

The goal of CNA to RN programs is to provide you with more advanced education and prepare you to pass the NCLEX-RN exam, which you must take to become a registered nurse.

As a part of your program, you'll review subjects such as:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Nursing leadership
  • Mental health
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Health and Illness

You may also want to consider whether you want to go to school full-time or part-time. Those who want to earn a degree quickly may prefer pursuing their degree full-time. However, if you want to work as a CNA while in nursing school, you may want to consider a program that allows you to study part-time.

What are the requirements of CNA to RN programs?

The requirements of a CNA to RN program vary based on your degree. ADN programs focus on nursing-related subjects, while BSN programs also have general education requirements.

No matter if you choose an ADN or BSN program, entrance into most programs is competitive. Many programs require a minimum GPA, a high school diploma, a passing score on the TEAS test, and some nursing prerequisites.

You may be able to accelerate your degree by transferring the courses taken in a CNA program towards an RN program. You may be required to demonstrate practical skills to by pass those courses. Generally, you can expect to shorten the timeframe only if you’ve successful completed prerequisites. Most CNA to RN programs require attendance at a local college for some courses.

Test-out of prerequisites and finish your degree in less time! Find out how.

How long does a CNA to RN program take?

Getting your ADN can take two years of full-time study, while a BSN usually requires four years of school. If you work while you are earning your nursing degree, you can expect to take twice that amount of time or more. Luckily, you can accelerate your learning by testing out of prerequisites with credit by exam. Credit by exam allows you to earn credits for college courses by taking one standardized exam. 

How much does a CNA to RN program cost?

The amount you'd spend on a CNA to RN program will differ depending on where you take the program and the program's length. You'll generally spend $40,000 on an associate's degree and $80,000 on a bachelor's degree. Financing options are available. Find out more on how you can save money on nursing school.

Achieve Test Prep offers supportive college prep services

If you're looking to move from a CNA to RN, Achieve Test Prep can help. We help busy healthcare professionals test out of college courses to save time, money, and stress. No matter where you are in your education journey, our college prep services can support your goals without sacrificing work/life balance. Connect with our Advisors to build a personalized plan just for you, mapping out which college courses you can test out of and how to make progress in your nursing career.

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Move towards your education and career advancement goals in less time with a more supportive, flexible program built for busy, working adults.

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Find out how to use innovative learning solutions to finish your degree requirements faster. Why not take the next step and see if you’re a good candidate for our credit by exam program.

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