The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) predicted that more than 200,000 new registered nursing positions will become available yearly between 2016 and 2026. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics echoed this sentiment, predicting that employment of registered nurses will grow an additional 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, with about 194,500 new jobs created annually.
There is an extremely high demand for RNs in the United States today, yet we are currently facing a nursing shortage. There are not enough registered nurses to meet the growing need of our population. What does this mean for you, as a prospective nurse? There are high levels of job security and competitive wages available to aspiring RNs today.
If you are interested in helping patients and working in an in-demand field, nursing may be the right path for you. However, you may be concerned about the investment involved. How long does it take to become a nurse? Does it require many years in medical school?
Let’s discuss the many paths you can take to becoming a nurse and the steps you need to take to pursue this growing and impactful career.
How Long is Nursing School?
This question has a complex answer. Why? There are several educational paths you can take to enter the nursing profession. You can spend up to four years preparing for your RN license.
In most states, to become a registered nurse (RN), you must earn a two-year associate degree in Nursing (ADN) or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Upon completion of either program, you will then be required to sit for and pass the NCLEX-RN examination. Successful completion of this exam will grant you licensure as an RN.
While an associate degree is the minimum requirement for an RN in the United States, a BSN degree is required by many employers today. It is also becoming a standard in the nursing field. Some states, such as New York, are implementing legislation that requires nurses to earn a bachelor’s degree within ten years of initial licensure. According to Nurse Journal, over 82 percent of employers report a strong preference for nurses with a BSN degree, and 41 percent of hospitals and healthcare facilities now require a BSN from job candidates.
Not only this, but a BSN degree can also improve a nurse’s opportunities for higher salaries and leadership responsibilities such as administrative and management roles.
Experienced RNs with an associate degree can also pursue an RN-to-BSN degree later in their careers, to advance their growth potential and meet certain employer requirements. An RN-to-BSN is a flexible type of nursing program that is offered either in-person or online, and part-time or full-time. The length of an RN-to-BSN program can vary depending on the number of credits transferred. At University of Bridgeport, the RN-to-BSN program may be completed online in one academic year, plus one summer semester.
Choosing the Right Nursing Program
Studying to become an RN typically includes courses in anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, nursing practice and theory, and psychology. With many options available, there are multiple ways to achieve your dream of becoming an RN.
Earning an ADN and becoming a registered nurse is usually the shortest option to become an RN. These programs are typically less time-consuming and more affordable than traditional BSN programs.
ADN programs take about two years to complete and focus primarily on clinical skills application. Yet, as noted above, many employers prefer to hire BSN-prepared nurses in today’s healthcare industry. Not to mention, the AACN recognizes a BSN as the minimum education requirement for professional practice.
Whereas ADN programs focus mainly on applied skills training, standard four-year BSN programs offer a more profound and comprehensive curriculum, including nursing research, disease prevention, informatics, patient advocacy, and so much more. This level of coursework is designed to prepare aspiring nurses to obtain leadership positions and make an even greater impact in the healthcare field. BSN programs are traditionally offered in-person, but may incorporate online or hybrid classes for added flexibility.
Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field can become nurses in under two years via a second-degree BSN program, otherwise known as an Accelerated BSN (ABSN). These programs often offer online coursework, skills and simulation labs, and clinical placements to prepare you to confidently enter the healthcare field as a nurse in as little as fifteen months.
An RN-to-BSN program offers accelerated coursework for students who have earned their associate degree in Nursing and RN license, but want to return to school to complete their BSN degree.
RN-to-BSN programs are great if you are a registered nurse looking to expand your career and educational mobility. While program length can vary depending on the school and number of transfer credits a student has, the University of Bridgeport’s (UB) RN to BSN program is possible to complete the program in one academic year plus a summer semester.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Registered Nurse?
Upon completing your coursework, clinical hours, and degree, it’s time to apply for licensure and take your NCLEX licensing exam to practice legally as an RN.
Nursing graduates must submit an application for licensure to their state nursing regulatory board to be eligible for the NCLEX exam. Once qualified, candidates may register for the NCLEX test and prepare for the exam, though preparation begins on the first day of nursing school.
The exam will test your knowledge in the field of nursing. It includes complex, multiple-choice questions featuring several correct answers, leaving it up to you to determine the most accurate choice. You will have up to five hours to complete the examination.
Official results are available about six weeks after the exam is taken. If you pass the NCLEX and meet all other requirements, you become officially licensed as an RN in your state. Keep in mind if you fail to pass the first time, you must wait 45 days before you will be allowed to try again.
Whether you choose to pursue a traditional two-year ADN, a four-year BSN, or an accelerated ABSN or RN-to-BSN program, it’s essential that you research and choose the best program for you and your career goals. Which degree pathway aligns with your professional, educational, and personal scheduling needs?
No matter what path you choose, you’ll be entering a discipline with growing opportunities for nursing professionals to help impact your community’s lives.
Reach out today to learn about the variety of nursing programs UB offers. We can’t wait to help you start your future or continued career as an RN today!