How Long Does It Take to Go from an RN to a BSN?

How Long Does It Take to Go from an RN to BSN?

Just as registered nurses (RNs) take care of their patients, they also need to take care of their livelihoods. Holding an associate degree in nursing is a great starting point for those who are interested in joining the medical world quickly as an RN—in as little as two years, in fact.

But over time, RNs with an associate degree may find themselves wanting more responsibility, a more robust role at their place of employment, or a higher salary. If this is the case, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) could be the perfect way to meet your goals.

Getting Started

If you’re an RN and are ready for more, enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program is the best next step for career advancement.

Enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program is the next logical choice for RNs with an associate degree who envision a long career in the medical field. Nurses who hold a BSN are typically in higher demand and often earn higher salaries than an RN who just has an associate degree. Earning a BSN can also make it easier to continue your education even further, whether you hope to get a master’s degree or additional medical certificates at any point in the future.

Plus, RN-to-BSN programs are built specifically for working RNs, meaning that the skills and lessons are designed just for you—and the program itself is designed to accommodate the often-demanding work schedules of currently employed RNs.

The schools that offer these programs understand that their students are working full-time jobs and strive to minimize your need to take time off from work just to complete your coursework. You can also often use your job or other relevant experience from working in the medical field to support your education.

Meeting the Demand

And planning ahead for continuing your education could really pay off: America is currently facing a nursing shortage due to an aging population and the dramatic impact that COVID-19 has had (and is expected to have for many years to come) on the health care field. The field of nursing is expected to have higher-than-average job growth (7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) from 2019 to 2029. Many areas of the country have already seen a higher demand than past years for well-qualified individuals who hold a BSN.

Earning a BSN degree can be a great way to help fill this gap in demand, increase your knowledge, and even increase your earning potential doing what you love.

RN-to-BSN Program Timeline

Going back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree may seem like an uphill battle that could take a lot of time and cost even more money. Most bachelor’s programs take at least three or four years to complete, which can feel like an eternity when you're already working in the field you love and you're eager to level up.

But we have good news! When you hold an associate degree as an RN, you have already completed two years of the education required for a BSN. That means you’re likely already halfway to earning your BSN before you’ve even stepped foot back in the classroom.

In as little as 18 months, you could be done with the coursework and have earned your BSN. That time could fly by since most programs offer a variety of class options to help students fit school into their busy lives—including both face-to-face and online class options as well as part-time and full-time scheduling choices.

This flexibility allows those enrolled to take classes as needed—without changing their daily routine drastically. The more classes that students can fit in each semester, the sooner they can graduate and be on the job as a nurse with a BSN.

You can pursue your education goals without neglecting your own personal and professional responsibilities!

Is an RN-to-BSN Program a Good Fit for Me?

Before committing your time and money to an RN-to-BSN program, it’s important to know if you’re the right candidate.

Schools that offer RN-to-BSN programs will be looking for a specific type of student to enroll in their program. First, these programs are designed to support RNs who are looking to increase their earning potential and skill level by earning a bachelor’s degree. Candidates for this program must already hold an associate degree in nursing and must have worked (or currently be working) as a registered nurse.

Someone who is aspiring to earn their BSN but has not yet earned an associate degree in nursing will not qualify for an RN-to-BSN program. Nor will students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. In both cases, however, students may choose to enroll directly in a typical Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to earn their nursing credentials.

Ask Yourself These Questions

If you’re a candidate for an RN-to-BSN program, there are still other factors to consider before enrolling. It’s important that you evaluate your lifestyle and responsibilities before going back to school. Here are some questions to consider before deciding to enroll in an RN-to-BSN program:

  • Do I have time to go back to school?
  • How much time per week do I have to spend on school work?
  • Do I have the resources to pay for school?
  • Will my current employer help pay for my education?
  • Can I apply to the IAF scholarship and award programs?
  • Do I need to work while I am in school?
  • Do I have family responsibilities that will make it difficult to go back to school?


It’s also important to think about what type of student you are (such as whether you’d do better in an online or on-campus environment) so you can find the school that is the perfect fit and will help you succeed in the classroom.

Once you have a strong understanding of your commitment level, learning style, and potential obstacles, you’ll be better able to determine how long it might take you to finish school with a BSN.

Ready to find a nursing program that’s right for you? The Imagine America Foundation has a robust network of partner schools who are eager to help you begin or advance your nursing career!

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