How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse?
With more than 70 million baby boomers rapidly aging out of the workforce, researchers estimate that America will lose one million qualified registered nurses to retirement by 2030. While the projected shortage has made nursing one of the healthcare industry’s most in-demand occupations, it is not a role that you can step into without hands-on training and, now more than ever, a bachelor’s degree.
“There is a push by many states and nursing organizations to make the bachelor’s degree a requirement for entry-level nursing positions,” explains LaTonya Santo, EdD, MSN, RN, an associate professor who serves as lead faculty for Ashford’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program.
Santo, a registered nurse since 1997, is referring to New York’s statewide “BSN in 10” law, and the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 call for 80% of nurses to have a bachelor’s degree by 2020. She cites evolving technology and a reevaluation of patient care as just two factors behind the mandate, adding that many nurses would agree that “a four-year bachelor’s degree better prepares you for your career than a two-year associate’s degree.”
How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse?
The amount of time depends on the type of nurse you want to become. For example, if you’re going to become a registered nurse (RN), you will need at least an associate’s degree, which can typically take two years to complete, followed by passing the NCLEX® exam. While an associate’s degree can be a quicker two year option, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree can take four years to complete, but can increase a nurse’s career opportunities.
For many aspiring nurses, the path to a fulfilling and sustainable career involves a combination of college and licensure. The latter largely depends on where you live and your state’s requirements for becoming a registered nurse, and you should conduct your research to ensure you are aware of these local laws.
To help you determine how long it will take for you to become a nurse, here is a breakdown of the educational requirements and licensing process.
Earning Your Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Ashford University’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a four-year undergraduate program that immerses you in essential industry topics, including patient care quality and safety, leadership, community health, transcultural care, ethics, and health information technology.
The BSN is comprised of 14 core courses, the majority of which focus on the nursing field. Additionally, you will take courses in Health Informatics Management, Health Care Administration, Gerontology, and English.
Total Credit Hours
The program is 120 total credit hours (42 major course requirements, 43 general education requirements, and 35 electives).
As a student, you will also be required to complete 90 hours of practice experience that will develop your professional competencies as you collaborate with real-world healthcare providers.
RN to BSN – Additional Admissions Requirements
Applicants seeking admission to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program must meet the following admission requirements prior to the start of the first course at Ashford University:
- Possess a current, active, unrestricted License to practice as a Registered Nurse or its equivalent in at least one U.S. state. Students must maintain an active unrestricted license throughout the program.
- Have earned a nursing (hospital) diploma or Associate degree in Nursing from a regionally accredited or approved nationally accredited college or university**.
- Have earned a grade of C- or higher in Microbiology (with lab), or equivalent, from a regionally accredited or approved nationally accredited institution**.
Community College Partnerships
Ashford has several partnerships with community colleges that may offer associate’s degree in Nursing. These agreements provide smooth transferability to the University. Visit our partner page for more information.
Accreditation, Santo says, is another major factor that employers and nursing organizations are looking at when reviewing the resumes of college graduates. Ashford’s BSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which cites accreditation as “an indication of confidence” in the University to “offer a program of quality, deserving of public approbation.”
Taking Your NCLEX-RN® Exam
Outside of college, the biggest test you’ll take on your path to becoming a nurse is the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN®), the test that will determine whether you are granted a nursing license. In order to take the exam, you will need to complete three steps:
Step 1: Apply for eligibility
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing requires that you submit an application for licensure or registration to the nursing regulatory body where you wish to be licensed. The 59 U.S. nursing regulatory bodies are found in all 50 states (including two each in California, Louisiana, Nebraska, and West Virginia) as well as the District of Columbia, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marina Islands, and the Virgin Islands.
Step 2: Register for your exam
Once you have met the eligibility requirements, you will need to register and pay for your NCLEX-RN® exam.
Step 3: Pass the exam
Once you’ve registered for and scheduled your NCLEX-RN® at a testing center, you will have six hours to compete the exam. There is an optional break after the first two hours of testing, and a second optional break after three-and-a-half hours of testing.
It’s important to note that while all 50 U.S. states use the NCLEX-RN® exam, you will want to research the licensing requirements in your state before taking the exam because many states will ask you to complete a background check or other requirements.
A Shorter Path to Graduation
Many registered nurses who return to college for their bachelor’s degree have already completed the NCLEX-RN®, and your previous success on the test can shorten your path to graduation.
Students in Ashford’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program can earn up to 20 non-traditional elective credits for completing the NCLEX-RN®. In order to receive credits, you must complete the Application for NCLEX-RN® Exam Credit, provide a copy of your current RN license, and submit a 1- to 3-page essay in which you must explain how the exam contributed to your plans to fulfill the BSN program learning outcomes.
Committing to Your Future
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 200,000 new registered nurses will be needed every year through 2026. Completing your college degree in four years and successfully passing your exam on the way to earning your license will require a commitment to your studies and a genuine passion for improving the lives of others. If you’re ready to take the next step, contact an Ashford University advisor about your Bachelor of Science in Nursing today.
Written by Ashford University Staff