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How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse?

Jun 4, 2015 Joanna Hughes

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse?

Jobs for nurses are predicted to grow by nearly 20 percent in the 10 year period between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is credited to a "perfect storm," of factors, including the entrance of millions of new Americans into the healthcare system due to the Affordable Care Act and the aging of the Baby Boomer population resulting not only in more patients in need of care, but also in an exodus of retiring nurses. If you're one of the many people considering field of nursing, here's what you need to know about what it takes.

Many Different Educational Pathways

There are several types of nurses, each of which involves a different time commitment. For example, to become a certified nurse assistant (CNA), an Associate's degree from a two-year community college program and the passing of a certification exam suffices. Registered nurses (RNs) require a four-year Bachelor's degree along with licensure, while nurse practitioners (NPs) must meet the requirements of RNs and also undertake a Master's degree in the field. Additionally, nurses looking to advance their careers or take on administrative and teaching roles may choose to pursue the Ph.D. in Nursing. In additional to traditional routes, accelerated and online programs offer more opportunities than ever for prospective nurses to get the education they need to enter the field. When choosing a nursing school, selecting one that is accredited is paramount. Not only will a degree from an accredited institution help you get a job, but it also ensures that your education meets the prescribed standards of excellence in the field.

What to Expect in Nursing School

While there's no universal nursing school curriculum, students enrolled in nursing programs can expect to take coursework in a broad range of topics, including biology, physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, psychology, chemistry, and nutrition. However, a nursing education is not strictly procured in the classroom. The typical curriculum also includes a clinical portion in which students learn and practice skills in healthcare settings while interacting with patients and their families.

The Cost of Nursing School

Depending on the school you attend and type of program, the cost of nursing school varies widely. For example, programs at community colleges and states schools will cost significantly less than at private institutions. According to Nursing360, the total cost for nursing school -- including everything from tuition to supplies to state nursing license exams -- can range between $5,000 and $40,000 per semester. Online nursing schools can also offer a reduced cost nursing education, particularly if you factor in funds saved on everything from commuting costs to living expenses. Nursing360 further estimates that the average semester cost of attending an online nursing school is approximately $7,500 per semester. While nursing school involves an investment of both time and money, there are also plenty of rewards. Not only does a career in nursing promise job security and an average salary of just under $70,000 for RNs and just over $95,000 for NPs, it also comes with something truly invaluable: the chance to make a difference in the lives of people in need.

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