How Long is Nursing School? A Guide to Education Levels

Determining how long nursing school is requires understanding different nursing programs and educational obligations.

Nursing degrees and prerequisite courses allow students to start and advance their nursing careers.

For instance, those participating in the CNA program earn their certification in 4 – 12 weeks.

However, students pursuing a DNP degree require 2 – 10 years of education, depending on where they start.

This article explains how long nursing school is for various nursing certifications and degrees.

It also introduces each education level to describe how particular careers affect nursing.


Education Level Program Length
Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) 4 – 12 Weeks
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) 1 – 2 Years
Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) 2 – 3 Years
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) 2 – 4 Years (ADN to BSN program)
Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) 2 – 7 Years, depending on the education level
Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) 2 – 10 Years, depending on the education level


The table above estimates how long nursing school is, depending on a student’s current education level.

Nevertheless, numerous factors influence students’ time to complete these programs, which I’ll discuss later.

How Long it Takes to Become a CNA

A certified nursing assistant or CNA provides a limited scope of primary care that focuses on the physical aspects of patient care.

CNAs’ daily tasks include moving, bathing, feeding patients, checking vitals, cleaning rooms, and documenting vital information.

These medical professionals assist registered nurses and LPNs with duties that do not require advanced training.

Because CNAs receive limited training, they often work under a registered nurse’s supervision.

CNAs play a vital role in healthcare by relieving specific responsibilities, so registered nurses can provide more advanced care.

It takes approximately 4 – 12 weeks to become a certified nursing assistant from an accredited program.

Ultimately, state laws and the CNA program determine how long it takes to become a certified nursing assistant.

Length of Time to Earn CNA Certification

  •  4 – 12 weeks of education and training

How Long it Takes to Become an LPN

A licensed practical nurse or LPN performs medical responsibilities beyond CNA duties.

It’s because LPNs receive additional education and training regarding patient care.

They also work under the supervision of a registered nurse as support staff.

LPNs monitor patient vitals, collect specimens/samples, assist with wound care, assist with urinary catheters, and perform other advanced tasks.

Overall, it takes approximately 1 – 2 years to become a licensed practical nurse due to the advanced training compared to CNAs.

Length of Time to Become an LPN

  • 1 – 2 years of education and training

How Long it Takes to Earn an ADN Degree

An ADN degree is an associate’s degree in nursing.

It’s the first degree a nursing student earns to become a licensed registered nurse or RN.

It’s also the foundational degree for registered nurses due to the educational requirements needed to enter the field.

Registered nurses work in various healthcare settings providing direct and indirect patient care.

It includes working in hospital settings, research, law, entrepreneurship, travel nursing, and numerous other professions.

Many registered nurses work outside of hospital settings.

RNs also have a broader scope of responsibilities than CNAs and LPNs due to their education and expertise.

For example, registered nurses administer medications, perform diagnostic tests, implement nursing care plans and provide advanced medical care.

They also supervise CNAs and LPNs who work as support staff to manage less advanced patient care responsibilities.

It takes 18 – 24 months to become a registered nurse with an associate’s degree in nursing for full-time students.

Length of Time to Earn an ADN Degree

  • 18 – 24 months of education and training

How Long it Takes to Earn a BSN Degree

A BSN degree is a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

After receiving additional education and training following an ADN degree, nurses can earn their bachelor’s.

Registered nurses who pursue a BSN degree have a broader scope of responsibilities and career opportunities than nurses possessing an ADN degree.

RNs with a BSN degree also have a better chance of being hired for various roles due to their education, training, and expertise.

Some professions only hire nurses who’ve obtained their BSN.

Those who want to become nurse practitioners must also complete their former education before pursuing an MSN or DNP degree.

Finally, some educational institutes and colleges offer LPN-RN bridge programs to help LPNs earn a registered nursing degree faster.

It takes approximately 38 – 48 months to earn a bachelor of science in nursing.

However, it does not include students pursuing a BSN part-time and prerequisite coursework before the nursing program.

Length of Time to Earn a BSN Degree

  • Two years for RN to BSN programs
  • Four years for new nursing students

How Long it Takes to Earn an MSN Degree

The MSN or master of science in nursing degree is the foundation for nurses to become advanced practice registered nurses.

Advanced practice registered nurses generally specialize in one of four career paths.

It includes nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA), and clinical nurse specialists.

Each career offers numerous opportunities to implement advanced patient care, provide leadership within nursing communities and work as a primary care provider.

For example, nurse practitioners act as primary care providers, prescribe medications, diagnose patients, and open clinics.

These medical professionals earn six-figure incomes due to their extensive knowledge and expertise.

It takes approximately 2 – 7 years to receive an MSN degree, depending on where a nursing student is in their education.

To illustrate, students who start nursing school need approximately six to seven years to earn an MSN degree.

However, students who’ve obtained their BSN degree earn their MSN in as short as 18 months!

The time to get a degree also depends on the career path, such as pursuing a CRNA or NP specialty.

Length of Time to Earn an MSN Degree

  • 2 – 6 years of education and training

How Long it Takes to Earn a DNP Degree

The DNP or Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree is the education level beyond the MSN degree.

Nurses who earn the DNP have the broadest scope of practice within the nursing profession and earn high incomes due to their educational background and capabilities.

There’s also a Ph.D. in nursing for those who want to focus on the advanced clinical aspects of healthcare. In addition, a Ph.D. in nursing is research and science-focused, so it’s great for medical professionals who wish to pursue medical research.

This article, Getting Your Ph.D. in Nursing, breaks down the differences between earning a DNP and Ph.D.

It takes approximately 2 – 9 years to make a DNP degree based on a student’s current education level.

For example, nursing students without prior education usually require 7 – 10 years to earn a DNP degree.

However, students who earned their MSN degree obtain their DNP within 18 months in some cases.

The time to make a degree also depends on the specialty, with some fields requiring more education than others.

Length of Time to Earn a DNP Degree

  • 2 – 9 years of education and training

Factors That Influence How Long Nursing School is

Remember how long nursing school is, varies from student to student, and numerous factors affect its overall length.

It includes a student’s status (part-time or full-time), prerequisite completion, and specialization, among other factors.

Nursing school completion length is also affected by the students starting education level.

For example, students who’ve obtained their BSN complete their MSN faster than students taking the LPN-to-RN bridge program who want to earn their MSN degree.

The various nursing programs require anywhere from 4 – 12 weeks (CNA) to 10 years (DNP).

Registered nursing professions, in particular, require 2 – 10 years, depending on the student’s prior education and part-time/full-time status.

Factors That Affect Nursing School Length

  • Student status (part-time or full-time)
  • Completion of prerequisite courses
  • Accelerated nursing programs
  • Does the student take summer/winter courses?
  • Education focus (CRNA, NP, CNS, CNM)