Becoming a nurse takes an average of four years, but that time frame could be longer or shorter depending on the type of program you pursue. For instance, you could choose a part-time program that extends your schooling, or you could enroll in an advanced nursing program that adds years to the process but leads to higher pay. Ultimately, how long nursing school lasts depends a lot on you and your goals.

Regardless of the level of education you decide to pursue, nursing school programs include supervised clinical experience in addition to classroom training. This means that nursing students spend some of their time hitting the books and the rest of the time in a lab or completing hands-on training at a hospital or medical center.

How many years is nursing school?

The length of nursing school depends on the type of career you’d like to pursue. The most common path to a nursing degree involves earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) over the span of four years to become a registered nurse. This is also possible with a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a nursing diploma, but it could be tougher to find employment without a full BSN.

In some cases, however, nurses decide to pursue advanced certification or additional credentials. Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), typically spend an additional year or more earning a master’s degree or a doctoral degree after their BSN.

Some nursing students may also choose to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN), which is typically made possible through community colleges or technical schools. LPN and LVN programs typically take around one year to complete, but they may take longer.

Type of nursing program How long is nursing school?
Licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) program 1 year, but potentially longer
Nursing diploma 2 to 3 years
Associate degree in nursing (ADN) 2 to 3 years
Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) 4 to 5 years
Master of Science in nursing (MSN) 5 to 6 years
Doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) 5+ years

How much does nursing school cost?

How much you’ll pay for nursing school depends on an array of factors, including where you go to school, how much financial aid you receive, which nursing degree you pursue and how long you spend pursuing your degree. However, you can get a general idea of nursing school costs by taking a look at national figures for average tuition and fees.

According to recent numbers from CollegeBoard, public two-year in-district schools set students back an average of $3,770 per year in tuition and fees during the 2020-21 school year. Meanwhile, students at public in-state four-year schools paid $10,560 per year on average in tuition and fees.

Nursing students typically pay a lot more to attend college out of state or to study nursing at a private university. Average tuition and fees at public out-of-state universities that offer four-year degrees worked out to $27,020 for the 2020-21 school year. Attending a private four-year school cost students an average of $37,650 per year in tuition and fees.

For advanced degrees, NurseJournal estimates average total costs of $35,000 to $75,000 for a MSN and $40,000 to $70,000 for a DNP. Between a four-year bachelor’s program and the additional two-plus years of graduate school, nursing school could total well over $100,000.

How much do nurses earn?

As you decide how long you want to be in a nursing program, you should also consider your future earnings. Nor surprisingly, individuals who spend the most time in nursing school tend to earn the highest salaries.

The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found the following median annual wages of nurses:

  • Licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN): $48,820.
  • Registered nurses: $75,330.
  • Nurse midwives: $111,130.
  • Nurse practitioners: $111,680.
  • Nurse anesthetists: $183,580.

Can you get a nursing degree online?

You can pursue a nursing degree online, although you’ll need to complete the clinical component of your studies in person. This means that students will spend the bulk of their nursing degree program learning at home on their own computer, yet their school will help them coordinate with a lab or medical center for experiential, hands-on training.

While the cost of nursing degrees varies widely, you may find that pursuing a nursing degree online is considerably more affordable. As you decide how long to spend in nursing school and which type of nursing program you want to try out, compare the costs involved for tuition and fees, and potentially even room and board if you plan to live on campus.

How to pay for nursing school

When it comes to paying for nursing school, most students start the process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form helps federal and state governments determine how much aid you may be eligible for, if any.

The FAFSA form also helps the government determine eligibility for federal student loans. Federal student loans come with benefits like income-driven repayment plans, deferment and forbearance. Federal loans can also help students qualify for loan forgiveness plans like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which is commonly used by nurses who work in public service positions.

When federal student loans aren’t enough to pay for nursing school, some students also use private student loans. While student loans from private lenders do not come with federal student loan benefits, they can come with low interest rates and excellent terms that make them an attractive option.

In addition to loans and federal aid programs, many nursing students also apply for scholarships and grants that help pay for school. Finally, there are an array of student loan forgiveness programs for nurses outside of PSLF, which can include the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program, the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, military loan forgiveness for nurses and more.

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