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How Long Is Nursing School?

Nurses can begin entry-level practice with a year-long nursing school program, and career advancement comes with completing a 2-year or 4-year undergraduate program. Graduate degrees for advanced practice nursing add several more years of education. View article »

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  • 0:04 Nursing School…
  • 0:45 Licensed Practical…
  • 1:46 RN Diploma and ADN Programs
  • 2:56 Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • 3:52 Master of Science in Nursing
  • 4:36 Doctoral Programs

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Video Transcript

Nursing School Completion Times

Depending on your desire, abilities, and available time, you have a number of nursing education program options from which to chose. Program lengths vary from 1-8 years, according to the level of education and the duties involved with the profession at those respected levels.

Students can begin practicing as nurses following a 1-year vocational nursing program, while registered nurse licensure generally requires at least two years of nursing school. However, the full educational course leading to a doctorate in nursing can take eight years or more. The most popular nursing school programs are a 2-year associate's degree in nursing and a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Licensed Practical Nurse Programs

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), sometimes known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), assist registered nurses and provide basic patient care. Nursing school programs for LPNs are typically one year long and involve classroom work as well as supervised clinical experience. LPN program graduates are able to take the NCLEX-PN exam, which grants the graduate the LPN license. Typical training for a licensed practical nursing program includes courses such as the following: basic nursing, first aid, introduction to pharmacology, introduction to geriatric care and introduction to psychological care.

LPN training is available through vocational-technical schools and community colleges and allows the graduates to seek entry-level positions. Graduates can choose to take a transitional training program to become a registered nurse (RN).

RN Diploma and ADN Programs

To become a registered nurse (RN), candidates must complete a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing program and become licensed. Diploma programs are only offered by certain hospitals and are not as prevalent as degree programs. Earning a diploma qualifies licensed graduates for entry-level RN positions. Nursing diploma programs can take 1-3 years to complete.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

ADN programs offered through community and 4-year colleges last 2-3 years and qualify graduates for entry-level RN positions. Nursing associate's degree programs at community colleges can be taken either during the day, night, or on a weekend schedule. Students study nursing fundamentals, which include the following: anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology and nutrition.

Students are also required to participate in nursing clinicals, which allow the student to practice everything that he or she has learned in a controlled environment. These tasks include understanding normal and abnormal heart sounds and breath sounds, monitoring a patient's charts, and preparing a patient's bed.

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Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Similar to a diploma or ADN program, a bachelor's degree in nursing can lead to a career as a registered nurse, but the BSN also provides the foundation for graduate and advanced study in nursing. Students without nursing experience can take a full 4-year BSN program and licensure exam, while those with an ADN or prior RN licensure can take a 2-year RN-to-BSN program. Prospective nurses with a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing can enroll in a 2-year accelerated BSN program.

Courses in a nursing bachelor's degree program include the following: anatomy and physiology, statistics, nutrition and diet, nursing theory and research, and common general education requirements. A BSN also requires that the student participate in advanced clinicals in hospitals, nursing homes or even psychiatric facilities.

Master of Science in Nursing

A master's degree in nursing is generally needed for administrative positions as well as highly specialized care nursing positions, or opportunities in teaching and research. Admission to graduate nursing school programs requires a bachelor's degree. Some universities offer online education.

The 2-year Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program involves classroom study, research and clinical experience. Possible courses include the following: evidence-based research, end of life care, pharmacology, ethics and informatics. An MSN student can choose to specialize in a field such as nursing leadership, anesthesia, case management or nurse practitioner.

Doctoral Programs

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs take around three years to complete following a bachelor's degree and focus on clinical practice. This degree prepares nurses for leadership positions in which the graduates are expected to keep the balance between offering a higher quality of care while remaining on budget.

The Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc) program allows nursing students to act as scientists as they investigate and research the health care system. Some popular areas of study include health care economics and statistical analysis. Requirements for graduation include: participation in more clinicals, conducting original research, and writing and defending a dissertation.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing program prepares students to research and investigate the nursing industry to advance the care provided at hospitals and nursing homes. Similar to the DNSc program, nursing PhD candidates must also run research projects and complete the dissertation process.

Nursing school can be as short as one year long for an LPN program or as lengthy as eight or more years for a doctorate. LPN and RN programs require that you sit for the appropriate National Counsel Licensure Examination (NCLEX) in order to practice.

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