How long is nursing school? The length of your nursing school program can vary quite a bit—anywhere from a year or less to over 6 years of education to become an advanced nursing professional. When applying to the best nursing schools, it’s important to think about what type of nursing school programs are available and how long of a time commitment you’ll be taking on. Ultimately, you shouldn’t choose a nursing school based only on the length of program, but knowing the schedule can help you plan for your future in nursing. In this blog, we’ll cover the length of different types of nursing degrees, what to think about when choosing a nursing school program and the admission requirements for nursing school.

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How Long is Nursing School? Nursing School Admission Requirements How to Decide Which Nursing Program is Right for You FAQs

How Long is Nursing School?

The length of a nursing school program really depends on which of the types of nursing degree you decide to pursue. On average, it will take 4 years to get a nursing degree.

Most nursing students spend 4 years to get their Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN), although it possible to get an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) in just 2 years.

For applicants looking for an even shorter timeline, there are pathways that are 12 months or shorter. If you want to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), you can enroll in LPN programs or CNA certification programs that last anywhere from a few weeks to 6-12 months.

Of course, if you’re looking at pursuing an advanced nursing degree, such as a Nurse Practitioner program or a graduate degree in nursing, you can expect to spend 3-6 years in nursing school.

What affects how long nursing school is?

There are many factors that can affect the length of your nursing school education, from the pathway you take to get your degree to whether you attend full-time or part-time. Here’s a quick summary of factors that affect how long nursing school will be for you:

Nursing School Admission Requirements

Since there are so many different types of nursing degrees and programs out there, the admission requirements are just as different across programs. Researching and meeting program admission requirements can have a big impact on how long nursing school applications are for you and your overall nursing school timeline. They are also essential for how to get into nursing school. So, we’ll dive into the admission requirements by program type next.

Admission Requirements for Diploma in Nursing Programs

Diploma in nursing programs can encompass several different certificate and diploma programs, including Certified Nursing Assistant programs and Practical Nurse Diploma programs. These nursing school programs prepare you to become a CNA or practical nurse.

The common requirements for admission include:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Minimum GPA (for some programs)
  • Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) or the Health Education Systems, Inc. (HESI) exam scores (for some programs)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay

Admission Requirements for Associate’s Degree in Nursing

For a 2-year associate’s degree in nursing, the admission requirements are quite similar. These degrees are typically offered at community colleges and some universities, and they prepare you to become a Registered Nurse (RN). They are shorter than bachelor’s degrees, but their downside is that many employers prefer an RN who has a full 4-year degree instead of an associate’s degree.

Still, they are a more cost-effective and timeline-friendly alternative to a full undergraduate degree for nurses.

The admission requirements for most ADN programs are:

Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Degrees in Nursing

A Bachelor’s level nursing degree prepares you to become an RN, and is the standard undergraduate degree held by nursing professionals. It is possible to become an RN by taking the necessary licensing exams and gaining the proper experience without first getting a BSN, however some applicants choose to upgrade their education. RNs can also find bridge programs to earn a Master’s of Science in Nursing instead if they have higher career aspirations.

4-year nursing degree programs can be quite competitive, so it’s important to craft a very strong application. You can reach out to nursing school admissions consulting services or nursing essay writing services to help you create the best application possible.

The admission requirements for a bachelor’s degree in nursing are more comprehensive:

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Admission Requirements for Graduate Degrees in Nursing

Graduate degrees in nursing include both master’s programs and doctorate degrees in nursing, such as a PhD in nursing or a Doctor Nursing Practice degree. Upon completing these degrees, you can transition from an RN to a Nurse Practitioner or advanced clinical practice nurse. If you’re pursuing a PhD, you can enter into an academic research role in nursing or become a nurse educator. These programs are extremely competitive, so it is crucial to know how to stand out in a nursing school application.

Since these are higher level degrees and programs, the admission requirements are even more stringent:

  • Bachelor’s degree (or master’s degree for some doctorate programs)
  • Minimum GPA
  • Standardized test scores (GRE)
  • CASPer test
  • Nursing school personal statement
  • Nursing school supplemental essays
  • Nursing school letters of recommendation
  • Extracurriculars for nursing school
  • Nursing school CV
  • Minimum years of clinical nursing experience
  • Nursing school interview

How to Decide Which Nursing Program is Right for You

How long nursing school is can be a deciding factor in choosing which nursing program to apply to, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration. When researching potential programs and trying to narrow down your list, think about the following four items before you choose your finalists:

1. Career goals

How long nursing school is for you will largely depend on your career goals as a nurse. If you want to become a licensed practical nurse, your time in school will be drastically shorter, but as an LPN you will have different job responsibilities and lower pay overall. If you ever decide to pursue your RN certification you’ll most likely need to go back to school and get a degree. RNs who want to increase their earning power or open up new career doors may also choose this option. Of course, if you want to become an advanced clinician in nursing, expect to spend at least 6 years or more getting your education.

2. Level of nursing experience

Your level of nursing experience and current certification will have an impact on which program you pursue. If you’re upgrading your education you will of course need to go back to further your education. However, there are ways to shave some years off this by applying for bridge programs or accelerated nursing programs.

If you don’t have enough years of clinical experience to meet admission requirements, though, you’ll need to focus on earning enough hours. Or, you might decide to apply for a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist program or nurse midwife program, which may require you to gain experience in a specific nursing specialty.

3. Program availability

Your location may decide which nursing degree programs are available near you. Even if you apply for an online nursing degree, there are clinical learning opportunities that you will be required to attend in-person. And, there are far fewer online nursing schools so there may not be an option close by to you. The same goes for bridge programs, which are comparatively fewer than traditional nursing schools.

Carefully consider whether you are able to relocate for your desired program or if there are ideal options near your location.

4. Admission requirements

When choosing a nursing school, it’s essential to check out the full list of admission requirements. First, you need to make sure you meet them all, including the minimum GPA or standardized test scores and have the required work experience and nursing school prerequisites.

Once you’ve chosen what type of nursing degree to pursue, the length of program will be pretty much the same across the board, so it will come down to which programs are the best fit for you and which ones you have the best shot of getting accepted into.


1. How long is nursing school?

The length of nursing school can depend on a few things, including the type of nursing degree or program, whether you attend full-time or part-time and what path you take in your nursing education. On average, nurses spend 4 years to get their bachelor’s degree in nursing, but there are programs for licensed practical nurses that 1 year long or even less. If you’re planning to get a graduate degree in nursing, you can spend up to 6 years or more in school.

2. Are there any accelerated nursing school programs?

Yes, there are accelerated nursing programs which can cut down on the time it takes to get your nursing degree. There are also bridge programs for licensed nurses to get the degree of their choice and skip certain educational steps, so long as they meet the requirements for admission.

3. Are there any online nursing school programs?

Yes, there are online nursing schools. Typically they are the same length as traditional nursing school programs, however some allow you to complete the coursework of your degree at your own pace, so you have the chance to finish your studies faster.

4. What’s the shortest nursing school program?

The shortest nursing school program is the Certified Nursing Assistant program, which can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Other short nursing school programs include online LPN programs, which are usually 1 year or less.

5. How long does it take to become an LPN?

Becoming an LPN, including the necessary schooling and licensure requirements, can take anywhere from 1-2 years.

6. How long does it take to become an RN?

To become an RN, you’ll first need either an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing, and then complete the necessary nursing licensure exam. It will take anywhere from 2-4 years to become an RN.

7. How long does it take to become a NP?

To become an NP you’ll need to complete a nurse practitioner program or at least a master’s degree in nursing. You’ll also need to complete the necessary clinical hours before you can become licensed as an NP. It takes 6-8 years on average to become an NP.

8. Can you become a nurse without getting a degree?

To become a CNA or LPN, you don’t need a college or university degree, just a diploma and to complete the necessary certifications or licensing exams. To become an RN or NP, you do need the necessary degree in order to practice.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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