How long do you have to go to school to be a nurse?

I was thinking about becoming a nurse and wanted to know how long you would go to school for and also how much money you would be paying for school without a full scholarship.

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Five answers:

It all depends what kind of nurse you want to be. Deciding what kind of nurse you want to be depends on how long you want to be in school - and how many years you can afford to be in school for - and also, what kind of future salary you're hoping to make. Here's a chart to help you out.

  • Certified nurse assistant (CNA): 2 years at a community college + certification exam; salary range is $25,000-30,000/year
  • Registered nurse (RN): 4 years in an undergraduate bachelor's program + licensing exam; salary range is $65,000-75,000/year
  • Nurse practitioner (NP): 4 years in an undergraduate bachelor's program and 2 additional years in a master's program; can do more things that doctors can do; salary range is $65,000-75,000/year

In terms of how much you'd be paying for a school out of pocket, it depends on whether you go to a state/community school or a private university. Private universities can cost $60,000/year in tuition alone - this doesn't even take into account books, room and board, etc. A more cost effective route is to check out state schools within the state where you live - most places have an in-state tuition discount for residents. If you do your homework, you can probably find a place that'll charge $5,000-10,000 per year. Also, lots of people take out loans to pay for nursing school, which they pay back in their first few years of nursing. Since RNs usually don't have a problem finding jobs, this is a fairly safe (and common) route to go.


thank you it helps me for a school project. this is what i would like to be when im oldeer

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There are also two year RN programs but it is more difficult to find work if you do not have the 4 year degree to go with your RN

I did mine in 5 years because I chose a university that required co-op opportunity (3, 6 month internships) that allowed me to work in 3 very different hospitals. I was much more prepared going to the real job after those! She is right though, I got some academic scholarships, but I am still paying $600 a month until 2024. I am currently attending a state school for my graduate degree, and theirs is only $2,500 a semester (plus books, supplies which are far fewer than undergrad).

When you worked at the hospitals did you get to stay and work there once you finished you internships?

I actually have my nursing job right now because of an internship I did in my senior year of nursing. Many facilities like to hire people that either work for them during school or have done internships for them because they already know you and how you work, and know that you will be a good fit for the unit or area already. My first nursing assistant job started as an internship during school and ended up lasting 3 years! It is actually the ideal way to do it, becaause you gain experience and become comfortable along the way!

Thank you. Do you think when you are looking for an internship at a hospital you should go to a hospital that you would like to work at once the internship is over?

Thank you Jen this is really interesting!

Thanks for all the helpful info!

Thank you,Stephanie. The information you've provided is very helpful for me as a pre-nursing student.

when i grow up i really want to be a nurse, but i don't know what university to go to ? can you help me out?

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Belle, to be honest, and some may disagree with me, it matters very little to an employer what school you went to for nursing if you are not going to a university affiliated hospital (who give preferential employment to students of that university). You may go to a small college, large state school, prestigious university, etc and will still have little trouble finding a job.

Whoever honestly commented saying RNs make as much as a nurse practitioner. Is beyond me. A NP is basically on the doctor level. donot listen to that comment of the salaries


@Barbie It would be great if you shared some data for that. Jen Page actually cited some actual figures that show a pretty even average salary level. It would be super helpful if you could post your sources on this so our students have more data to refer to as they make decisions.

I go to school in boston looking to be a NP my career center told me the figures besides the fact that I personally know a np for years at my local doctors office. And I know about 25 RNS. NP make WAY more than 65,000 and the level of school they require is way more on a doctor level than just a nurse. Because nps are responsible and can write prescriptions ( one reason)

Usually people become RN first and when they want to move up the ladder / make more money they go back to school after enough experience to become an NP

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To tag along to the above answer, for financial reasons sometimes people get a more basic nursing accreditation first (which takes less time and costs less), and then once they are working and making money, they enroll in programs to get more advanced nursing degrees. There are many transitional educational programs that help people with one type of nursing degree further their education while still working. For example, there are many programs for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to become registered nurses (RNs). They can do this while they are still working, so this is a much more economical option for some people. Similarly, RNs who do not have a bachelors of science in nursing (BSN) can work while they go to school to get their BSN. Many hospitals are interested in hiring RNs with their BSN because they have more knowledge to apply when they are working. There are also BSN to MSN (masters of science in nursing) programs that a person can also do while they are working. It means a busy schedule, but again, can help you pay for school because you are earning money. Sometimes, you can even get your employer to help pay for the transition program because they want their nurses to have as much education as possible!

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This is great info. I am currently working full time, attending grad school, doing additional research for my job, and doing my clinical time for nursing education. The workload is heavy, but if you are going back for a second degree (ADN to BSN for instance) many of the people who would be in teh class with you are older, have families, and work full time. These programs are usually specifically tailored for working people. It's tough, but very doable. I attend a hybrid class system. I go in every Tuesday, and since I am taking 2 classes, the rortate every week which i s face to face and which is online (which does not mean less work). I like this system because I have become friends with many of the people in my class, and we have the support of each other as well as the professors.

Do you think it is better to go for your BSN and MSN rather than just becoming an RN?

Thank you Suzzane this is really interesting!

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Just to add that there are fast track programs that are one and half years for students with four year bachelor of science degrees. This is to keep in mind if you have other interests in the sciences as nursing is quite a diverse field and having a background in human physiology, biochemistry is an asset in areas like a cardiac care nurse, surgery nurse, etc . By the way, I am not saying that this is a must but an option to consider as you have many options in nursing and can also consider applying for medicne with an undergrad degree in science and experience as a nurse.


It depends on what type of nursing degree you want. An RN usually takes around 3 to four years, an LPN around 2. It all depends on what state you live in. Look up your state's board of nursing online. They should have a wealth of information for you. Hope this helps! Also call a local college and see if you can meet with someone in the nursing department to ask questions to!


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