Thanks for your question! The length of nursing programs depends mainly on three factors:
1. What education level you’ve already achieved when you begin the nursing program
2. What your goals are with a nursing degree
3. How much time you can devote to a nursing program
If you have a high school diploma or a GED, you can enter the field of nursing by enrolling in a certificate practical nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). These programs are offered at community colleges and vocational schools, and they typically take twelve months to complete.
If you want to become a Registered Nurse, you need either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Associate’s degrees take one to two years, depending on the program and the pre-requisites that you may have to complete before beginning. Bachelor’s nursing programs usually take four years, with the first two years devoted to general liberal arts courses and nursing pre-requisites and the second two years covering actual nursing classes and clinical experience. Once you’ve completed either of these programs, you also have to pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
Increasingly, employers are looking for nurses with bachelor’s degrees or higher. Many RNs work for several years and return to school part-time to get the next level of education, such as a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs usually take one to two years, while RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs typically take two to three years. Doctoral degrees in nursing are the highest educational level you can get in the field, and the length of time varies by program.
The goals you have in becoming a nurse are tied to the type of program you enter, so they also affect the length of time it takes to get into the field. If you want to enter the workforce quickly, becoming either an LPN or getting an associate’s degree and becoming an RN may be your quickest routes. If you want broader professional opportunities and greater earning potential, getting a bachelor’s degree or higher will give you more options. There are also certain types of nursing that can only be practiced with a more advanced degree, so if you are passionate about a particular area of nursing, you’ll want to investigate what is specifically required in that specialization.
The last factor that affects how long a nursing program takes is whether you’re going full-time or part-time. Many nursing schools offer both options, as well as online and blended (some online/some classroom) programs. In this way, they are able to accommodate the range of students' needs. Hope this helps, and good luck!