How Long Do I Go To School?

In order to become a registered nurse, you must graduate from high school, attend an accredited nursing school and then pass a licensing examination that is given by the state in which you are going to practice nursing. You cannot sit for the licensing examination without having first graduated from a school of nursing.


People can prepare for Registered Nurse (RN) licensure in any one of three kinds of programs. There are advantages to each type of program. You must evaluate many different factors in order to decide which program best meets your needs –cost, length of the program, and long-term career goals - are among the most important things to consider.

Baccalaureate program

This is typically a 4-year program of study affiliated with a college or university. This type of program combines an almost equal amount of liberal arts education with nursing education and leads to a bachelor of science degree in nursing. This educational program prepares the nurse to work in a variety of health care settings – acute care hospital, long term care, community health, industry and clinics. You must have a bachelor’s degree if one of your long-term goals is to continue on for post-graduate education (Master’s degree or Doctorate degree) in nursing.

Diploma program

A diploma program is usually based in a hospital setting as opposed to a university/college setting. The length of the program is generally 3 years, with the primary focus being the clinical nursing courses and experience. Some diploma programs are affiliated with a local college or university where you can enroll in courses that can eventually lead to a bachelor’s degree.

Associate degree program

This type of nursing preparation is generally affiliated with a junior, technical or community college. There is some liberal arts education combined with the nursing course of study. The whole program is completed in a 2-year period of time, leading to an associates degree in nursing.

If you attend and complete either a diploma or an associate degree program, you can, at any time, apply to and attend a college or university nursing program and take all of the additional courses necessary to obtain a bachelor degree. A growing number of colleges and universities now offer a baccalaureate completion program that is designed specifically for RNs with diploma and associate degrees who wish to earn a baccalaureate degree. These programs generally require an additional 2 years of study.

[ top ]