The sooner you finish your degree, the sooner you can start your career. But how fast can you get through nursing school? Your timeline will vary based on your degree type and other factors, but there are ways to accelerate your overall progress. Learn about the fastest way to become a registered nurse and more with this guide.
How long is nursing school?
The average length of nursing school is two years for an associate degree in nursing (ADN) and four years for a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN).
But there are many factors that could affect how long nursing school is for you:
- Degree type: A bachelor’s degree will take twice as long as an associate’s due to the more advanced subject matter.
- Schedule: Full-time students are often able to move through more courses at a time than part-time students.
- Accelerated programs: Fast-tracked nursing programs or other accelerated degree options help expedite education.
One accelerated option is credit by exam: a system that allows students to test out of college courses. By passing a proficiency test, you can earn the same credits in significantly less time.
Many nursing students are able to test out of multiple prerequisite courses, which can shave off up to one year of school.
Does nursing school go fast?
Whether or not nursing school goes fast will depend on your perspective. A full-time student who also balances work and family responsibilities may feel like they’re so busy that everything’s happening very fast, whereas part-time students who need to draw out their education schedule may feel like it’s taking a long time to reach the finish line.
Nursing school itself has a jam-packed schedule of instructional courses and hands-on clinicals. It is a challenging yet rewarding program that gives students a first-hand experience of fast-paced healthcare careers.
How much of nursing school can be done online?
Depending on your nursing school, a majority of courses can be completed online. Thanks to developments in education technology, it’s now easier than ever to pass courses online without ever stepping foot on campus.
Not every nursing school offers online classes, but that doesn’t mean students can’t take advantage of at-home learning. Many schools allow credit-by-exam credits which are earned by testing out of college courses. Students prove their subject-matter proficiency by taking what’s known as a CLEP test (College Level Examination Program) so that they can bypass taking an entire semester-long course.
CLEP tests are most commonly available for nursing prerequisite courses such as math, writing, history, and more. Because these subjects aren’t specific to understanding the nursing profession, they are a good option for students looking to save time and money.
You cannot start nursing school without prerequisites, so this is an important first step to your education journey.
One part of nursing school that cannot be done online is your clinical requirement. Clinicals must take place in person at a hospital or other medical facility in order for you to learn how to care for patients and operate within a healthcare environment. Clinical requirements vary by program, so verify with your school how many in-person hours are necessary.
What is the shortest nursing program?
An associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) is the shortest nursing program. Many ADN programs can be completed in two years or less, especially if students pursue accelerated degree options such as credit by exam.
There are pros and cons to choosing the shortest nursing program. The biggest pro is that students can get into the workforce much faster than those pursuing a four-year BSN (bachelor’s of science in nursing) degree. Getting a job and nursing experience earlier in one’s career can be a huge benefit for those ready to hit the ground running.
The biggest con to an ADN is that it can limit future career growth and opportunities. A two-year degree doesn’t cover the depth and breadth of healthcare education found with the four-year BSN; because of this, those holding more advanced degrees will experience more career movement and higher earning potential.
ADN degrees can be put toward a BSN later in life should a student choose to go back to school.
How long does it take to become a registered nurse?
The school portion of becoming a registered nurse can take anywhere from 16 months to four years, but another important milestone to consider is the nursing licensure exam, or NCLEX.
Nursing students must pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) in order to become a registered nurse. This exam verifies nursing comprehension in all aspects of the profession, testing critical thinking and subject-matter expertise.
Many nursing students choose to take a test prep course to help them pass their NCLEX on the first try. NCLEX test prep courses are often several weeks long and cover practice questions, test-taking tips, and more.
Students who don’t pass the NCLEX must wait 45 days before retaking the exam. Some states limit the number of NCLEX retakes per year without a refresher course, so investing in a test prep course is a smart way to avoid these delays.
Can I become an RN in one year?
Becoming an RN in one year is very difficult. It requires several stipulations that prevent most, if not all, from achieving this lofty goal. You would need to:
- Test out of prerequisites: Nursing prerequisites can take up to two years on their own. Credit by exam can cut down that time by up to half. Learn how.
- Choose an accelerated program: In order to move through material at the fastest-possible pace, nursing students must choose an accelerated degree program. This may or may not require full-time school availability, as accelerated programs often meet their quick milestones by having students take more classes at a time.
- Pass NCLEX: Students must prepare for and pass their NCLEX on the first attempt in order to meet the one-year goal.
Can you become an RN in one year? On top of passing all your academic requirements, you’ll also need to complete all your clinical hours. This is a challenging feat for anyone who has anything other than school on their plate. Finishing nursing school in one year is an unrealistic goal for most, but there are solutions to efficiently manage your time so you can balance work, life, and education.
The fastest way to become a registered nurse
There are ways to finish nursing school faster. Achieve helps busy adults test out of college courses to earn credits in less time. Our online nursing prerequisites provide a flexible, manageable path for earning your RN. We specialize in supporting CNAs and LPNs move forward in their RN education, and our reviews speak for themselves. Test out of prerequisites and become a registered nurse in less time with Achieve!