Fastest Ways to Become a Nurse

10 Min Read Published November 6, 2023
How to Become a Nurse Fast

Becoming a nurse does not have to be a long, drawn-out process. There are many ways to become a nurse, some in as little as 11 months. Knowing the process of how to become a registered nurse quickly can be daunting, but here are 7 ways to start the journey. 

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Grand Canyon University
GCU’s RN-BSN program is tailored to meet the needs of the RN adult learner and to maximize the strengths that the working RN already possesses. Transfer up to 90 credits and earn a BSN in as little as 12 months. GCU’s online classes allow you to study at the times that work for your schedule while still enjoying a close connection with your classmates and instructor via online discussions.
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Purdue Global

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The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington’s online programs are designed to help you achieve more in your nursing practice with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They offer convenient, flexible options for completing your RN to BSN or BSN online, both designed to fit into your busy schedule.
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Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
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Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

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7 Fastest Ways to Become a Nurse

1. Paramedic to RN Programs

If you are a paramedic looking for a way to become a registered nurse faster, you are in luck!  Paramedic-to-RN programs are designed to provide licensed paramedics with a streamlined opportunity to further their education and transition into an RN role. 

There are 2 Paramedic to RN pathways:

  • Paramedic to an associate degree in nursing (ADN)
  • Paramedic to a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN)

These programs recognize the unique skills and experience that paramedics bring to the healthcare field. Typically, paramedics have a solid foundation in emergency medical care, patient assessment, and critical thinking, which are valuable assets in the nursing profession.

Program Length

The duration of each program can vary depending on the institution and the specific program structure. 

  • On average, paramedic to ADN programs usually take around 1.5 to 2 years to complete. 
  • Paramedic to BSN programs typically take around 2 to 4 years to finish. 

Curriculum

Courses cover a range of subjects, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, nursing theory, and community health nursing. These programs include both classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience in various healthcare settings, allowing paramedics to apply their expertise in real-world scenarios and develop a well-rounded skill set.

Salary

Moving from a paramedic role into an RN position also allows you to make more money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),  paramedics earn a median annual salary of $36,930, which is notably lower than the BLS's reported annual salary of $77,600 for nurses!

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2. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) & Licenced Vocational Nurse (LVN) Programs

If your goal is to start working as soon as possible, becoming an LPN  or LVN is a great initial step. 

As an LPN, you can work at the bedside, in clinics, and in many other places where nurses are hired. It’s important to know that the scope of practice for an LPN is not the same as an RN. You will be restricted in some practices — such as administering IV medication - and your facility should provide guidance on these restrictions. While both RNs and LVNs play essential roles in patient care, RNs generally have a more extensive and diverse range of responsibilities due to their advanced education and training.

Program Length

Most programs are 11 months, roughly 3 semesters, or 40 credit hours. This route may or may not include a clinical component within the curriculum, and many people report being able to work part-time throughout the program if necessary.

Salary

The median annual salary for an LPN is $55,860 as of May 2022, according to the BLS. However, LPNs in certain areas can earn well over $60,000.  In fact, the lowest 10 percent earned around $40,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $72,650!

3. LPN-ADN Programs

LPN to ADN programs offer a focused and efficient pathway for LPNs to advance their careers by becoming registered nurses. They provide an opportunity to build upon your current LPN foundation while acquiring the knowledge and competencies required for the expanded role of an RN.

Program Length

An LPN-ADN program can take around 1.5 to 2.5 years to complete, depending on factors like program structure and whether the student is attending full-time or part-time. Some programs may offer hybrid options to accommodate working LPNs.

Curriculum

The LPN to ADN curriculum covers a wide range of subjects, such as nursing theory, advanced patient care, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, and nursing leadership. These programs typically include hands-on clinical experiences that allow LPNs to enhance their clinical skills, develop critical thinking abilities, and become proficient RNs in various hospital and healthcare settings.

Salary

According to ZipRecruiter, ADNs earn an annual median income of $80,707 per year or $39/hr, which is significantly higher than LPN annual income. However, income can range widely depending on factors such as location and whether you work full-time or part-time. ZipRecruiter reports that the highest ADN-RN earners make up to $162,500!

4. LPN-BSN Programs

Several LPN-to-RN bridge programs result in BSN degrees. LPN to BSN programs offer LPNs a quicker educational pathway to attain a BSN and start a career as an RN.

Like LPN-ADN programs, LPN-BSN programs are designed to recognize and build upon the practical experience and skills that LPNs already have while also preparing them for more comprehensive and leadership-oriented roles as RNs.

However, LPN to BSN programs offer a more comprehensive education that includes a broader range of nursing courses. These typically include critical thinking, research skills, leadership training, and a deeper understanding of nursing theory. BSN graduates are often better prepared for roles in leadership, management, research, and specialized nursing practice.

Program Length

LPN to BSN program lengths can vary; however, they typically take around 3 years to complete. In some cases, students may take up to four years to complete their program, depending on whether they attend full-time or part-time. 

Salary

According to ZipRecruiter, BSN-trained RNs earn an annual median income of $90,046 per year or $43 hr, which is significantly higher than an LPN annual income. ZipRecruiter also reports that the highest BSN-trained nurses earn over $153,500.

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5. RN Diploma

An RN diploma, often referred to as a nursing diploma or hospital-based nursing program, is a type of nursing education program that leads to becoming an RN. However, graduates earn an RN diploma - not an ADN or BSN. 

Diploma programs are typically offered by hospitals. While these programs were common prior to the 1970s, they have become less prevalent in recent years, with many institutions transitioning to ADN and BSN programs. 

It's important to note that throughout most of the country, many RN diploma programs are being phased out or replaced by ADN and BSN programs due to the evolving demands of the nursing profession and the increasing emphasis on higher levels of education for nurses. ADN and BSN programs are more widely recognized and may be preferred by healthcare institutions, as they offer more comprehensive education and better career advancement opportunities.

Program Length

RN diploma programs typically take 16 months to three years to complete. After completing an RN diploma program, graduates are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN to obtain their RN license and practice as registered nurses. 

6. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An ADN degree is one of the fastest ways to become a nurse. These programs bypass general education classes and focus entirely on the coursework needed for nursing. 

However, there are some considerations you’ll want to think about with an ADN. There may be career growth limitations with an ADN. Many charge RN or other leadership positions are often reserved for bachelor’s prepared nurses, and many hiring managers also prefer hiring BSN-trained nurses. 

In addition, if you want to eventually become a master’s or doctorally-prepared RN, it is easier to get there if you already have a BSN.

Most healthcare systems, especially Magnet-designated ones, are now trying to hire only bachelor’s prepared nurses, but this shouldn’t discourage you from taking this path.

Smaller community hospitals and long-term care facilities might be a great fit with an ADN degree. Many ADN-degreed nurses are even able to take advantage of tuition reimbursement benefits offered by their employers: the facilities where they work help to fund their pursuit of an advanced degree. There are many ADN to BSN programs that can help you advance your career when the time is right for you.

Program Length

Associate degree nursing programs are typically two years in length but may take a little longer depending on how quickly you complete coursework.

Salary

As mentioned earlier, ZipRecruiter reports that ADNs earn an annual median income of $80,707 per year or $39/hr!

 

7. Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN)

An ABSN option is available for people who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field and want to accomplish a BSN quickly. 

To enter an accelerated bachelor’s program, one must have a degree in any other field, accomplish the mandated prerequisite courses, and have a strong GPA upon applying.

Program Length

Program length ranges from 11 months to 2 years and depends on several factors, including clinical components, whether the program follows the traditional academic calendar, and/or offers holiday breaks/weekends off/semester breaks.

How Can I Earn My Nursing Degree Faster?

Some nursing programs have set curriculums, and you cannot graduate earlier. But others will have some flexibility. 

BSN students will have the greatest opportunity to complete a four-year degree program quickly.  Though nursing courses and clinical rotations have a strict progression, you can complete nursing school prerequisites and gen ed courses ahead of time or at an accelerated rate.

Here are some tips that will get you out of the classroom and into your scrubs faster:

1. Take classes during the summer or semester breaks

Many programs will offer general education courses or even some non-clinical nursing courses, such as research, informatics, or ethics, during the summer months. Take advantage of the time off and take advantage of class offerings. This may help you graduate a little earlier or at least lighten your course load during the upcoming semesters. 

2. Find a mentor to guide you

A mentor can be a professor, a clinical instructor, or even a nurse you met during your clinical rotation. This individual will help guide you throughout your nursing education and, ideally, through the process of getting your first job. Mentorships can create long-lasting relationships and provide you with the guidance to graduate with a nursing degree successfully. 

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Nursing school can be hard, extremely stressful, and intense. Some classes might just not click, and that’s okay. Pharmacology, pathophysiology, and human anatomy tend to be the more difficult classes and a regular struggle for a lot of students. That’s why it is important to remember that you can ask for help. Speak to your professor, form a study group, or get a tutor. Do everything possible to set yourself up for success. 

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Mariam Yazdi
BSN, RN
Mariam Yazdi
Nurse.org Contributor

Mariam is a writer and travel nurse from El Paso, Texas. After three years in the ICU, she hit the road with her husband and two pups, living in San Francisco, Tennessee, and Los Angeles. Currently in New York City, Mariam is a nurse journalist for Nurse.Org. Catch her on Instagram @mariamcat.

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