How Long Does IT Take To Graduate From Nursing School?

Nursing schools offer degree programs from the diploma to doctoral degree levels. Students can gain training to enter the nursing field or pursue continuing education to advance their nursing careers. Typically, undergraduate nursing degrees or diplomas take two to four years to complete, whereas graduate degrees would be an additional two years or more. View article »

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  • 0:04 Nursing Diploma
  • 0:58 Associate of Science…
  • 1:55 Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • 3:07 Master of Science in Nursing
  • 4:00 Doctoral Degrees in Nursing

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Video Transcript

Nursing Diploma

Licensed practical nursing diploma programs are the most common option offered at this level and take around one year to complete. They're open to applicants who meet placement test and prerequisite nursing course requirements. Once admitted, students take core classes covering such areas as:

  • Medical-surgical nursing
  • Maternity nursing
  • Nursing leadership

And, while most students pursue a nursing associate degree to gain RN positions, a registered nursing diploma program can also prepare students for these careers. These learn-by-doing diplomas usually take two to three years to complete. The nursing diploma is primarily offered through teaching hospitals and includes classroom and clinical courses in nursing topics. In addition, some teaching hospitals that offer nursing diplomas require that general education coursework be completed at a nearby community college.

Associate of Science in Nursing

Associate of Science in Nursing programs typically take two years to complete, and they can require anywhere from 69 to 100 credit hours of coursework. They're most commonly found at community colleges, vocational schools, and universities. Admission requirements can include a high school diploma that meets minimum GPA and course requirements, in addition to acceptable scores on the ACT, SAT, or a placement exam. Alongside general education courses in writing, business, communications, and humanities, required classes typically include:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Nursing practice
  • Behavioral health nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Microbiology
  • Surgical nursing

Depending on the state, earning this degree is usually sufficient for taking the Registered Nurse test and working as a nurse. Graduates may also pursue continuing education in nursing.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing typically takes four years to complete, like most bachelor's degree programs. As with associate's degree programs, applicants need to have a high school diploma, and they may also need to meet minimum GPA and high school prerequisite course requirements. Additionally, entrants may need to pass certain undergraduate courses with an acceptable GPA before they are permitted to declare the major. Some of the required general education courses may include philosophy, science, English, theology, and sociology. Nursing-related topics can cover:

  • Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Wellness
  • Illness
  • Nursing process
  • Mental health nursing
  • Professional nursing roles
  • Nurse management
  • Nursing in a specialized setting

There are also some RN-to-BSN programs for previously licensed RNs who want to complete their bachelor's degrees. Because entrants are expected to have previous college education, they can be completed more quickly, usually in around 18 months. Often, these programs are available in online formats in order to accommodate the scheduling needs of working nurses.

Master of Science in Nursing

A Master of Science in Nursing often takes two years for full-time students and is designed for those who already work as RNs and would like to move into leadership or specialized positions. Nurses can also increase their salary potential by earning an MSN. Some specialization options that an RN can pursue are:

  • Community health nursing
  • Nursing education
  • Oncology
  • Mental health nursing
  • Women's health
  • Nursing management

To be admitted, applicants need to have a current RN license. In addition, they may need to have earned a particular undergraduate GPA. Certain prerequisite courses may also be required for admission, especially if applicants completed their undergraduate degree in a non-nursing field. Other application materials can include transcripts, professional reference letters, application essays, and GRE scores.

Doctoral Degrees in Nursing

Nursing doctoral degree programs, such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice, Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, and Doctor of Nursing Science, often take between three and five years to complete, though this depends on the program and whether a student is enrolled full- or part-time. Students can enter a doctoral nursing program upon completing their bachelor's or master's degree in nursing or through an accelerated BSN to PhD program. Doctoral level programs can prepare nurses for a variety of upper-level jobs, including:

  • Nurse scientist
  • Certified nursing midwife
  • Clinical nursing specialist
  • Nurse practitioner


The time it takes to graduate from nursing school can vary based on the degree earned. After finishing a diploma, associate's, or bachelor's degree program, graduates can find nursing-related jobs or they can further their education through master's and doctoral degrees.


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