How Long is Nursing School?

NursingFebruary 24, 2015

"Well... how long is nursing school?" It's a question you may often hear when you tell your loved ones that you want to be a nurse. Your answer will depend on your rate of completion of prerequisite nursing classes as well as which nursing program you choose to attend. Accelerated programs are available if you're seeking a fast-track to becoming a nurse; alternately, if you need to complete your education while working and taking care of a family, there are flexible courses that go at a slower pace.

Prerequisite Courses

Prerequisite courses can make it difficult to determine how long your education will take, since completing them is entirely dependent on your personal situation. If you want to complete your prerequisites sooner, you can take classes during summer sessions in addition to regular semesters. Summer courses cover the same information at an accelerated pace, with longer classes being held every weekday. You are allowed few absences, so make sure you can dedicate the time specifically to these courses. There are also classes you can attend a few times a week in the evenings. You might not be able to take as many classes as a traditional student, but the flexibility to fit classes into your busy schedule can make it ideal for some students. Also, some prerequisites can be completed entirely online, which may prove beneficial to busy students.

Nursing Program Duration

The type of program that you enter will determine how long schooling will take, and once you enroll, you will also be issued your target graduation date. A traditional nursing program is 2 years in length — with summers off and all the standard school breaks. An accelerated program can be completed in a year and a half, or 16 months, with no break for the summer. These programs can be more expensive because summer tuition is typically higher than for fall or spring semesters. New BSN programs are being introduced for students with a prior Bachelor's degree or medical field experience that are comprised of one year of intensive study. If you fit this category and want to earn your BSN, this could be an interesting option to explore, though these programs are not as common as traditional programs.

So, How Long is Nursing School?

Despite all of these factors, the duration of your nursing education depends on your educational goals as well: For an Associate Degree in Nursing, expect to spend two to three years in school before graduating; for a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing, plan to spend four to five years. Alternately, if you're interested in becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse, a year-long course of study is typical. If it works with your lifestyle, an accelerated course of study combined with summer prerequisite courses could reduce any of these estimates. Also, don't forget that you'll need to pass the NCLEX to work as a registered nurse or LPN, so the length of study is not the only consideration when selecting a nursing program. A quality program will prepare you to pass this test, not just move you through school, so be sure to check the NCLEX pass rate of a program before you enroll. Most of all, always consider what pace of learning would work best with your individual needs and responsibilities.