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How Long is Nursing School? 5 Surprising Factors

Posted by Marc Costanzo on Thursday, Mar. 26, 2015

When it comes to getting your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), the length of time from start to finish is based on a number of factors. Although the common phrase might be "four-year degree," that doesn't mean everyone completes their coursework in the same amount of time.

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Here are five factors that may affect how long you can expect to be in nursing school:

1. Financial obligations

Everyone comes from a different place when it comes to paying for college. Some people may have college funds that have been built up slowly over the past few decades, while others rely on loans, work study opportunities or scholarships. Finances can cause some delays in education, so if that's a factor for you, be sure to explore NMC's financial aid options.

2. Traditional vs. accelerated nursing programs

In general, a traditional program takes an average of 3.5 years for transfer students, and a high school student without college credits can easily complete the program in four years.

NMC does have an accelerated program for those students who have already earned another bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree. With this program, students can get their degree in as little as 15 months. For more on a traditional vs. accelerated BSN, see our related blog.

3. Course load

Megan Maryott, Director of Enrollment Services at Nebraska Methodist College, cautions students not to make assumptions about course loads. Without proper planning, if you choose the accelerated program, for instance, what seems like a fast track might feel more like you're getting run over.

"I frequently tell students to really be realistic when registering for courses," she says.  "Can you balance 18 hours successfully, or will it be a struggle?  We don’t want students to set themselves on an accelerated path and then need to drop classes, or worse, potentially fail, causing them to add time and money to their plan of study."

4. Family commitments and work schedules

Sometimes, students don't find out how intensive studying and school can be until they're already in a program. Or, they set themselves on an accelerated schedule and find out that family obligations or work create an imbalance very quickly.

"Students often underestimate how much 'life' can happen over a semester," Maryott says.

When setting up your plan, factor family time and any employment into the mix to make sure you won't feel overwhelmed during the program. And don’t forget that most college campuses offer support services to help you get through some of those tougher times.

5. Transfer credits and prerequisites

Before signing up for a program and setting up a timetable for how long you'll be in school, take time to understand exactly how any previous credits will come into play. Find out before you start your nursing program what prerequisite courses you’ll need to take and whether any current credits can count toward your BSN. Set up an appointment with an admissions counselor to take a close look at any existing credits and determine how they’ll fit into your plan. 

No matter how long your journey to a BSN at Nebraska Methodist College might take, students begin doing clinicals in their first year of the program, which means you'll have 3.5 years of patient care when you graduate. That’s 3.5 years of hands-on practice and experience caring for the whole patient rather than just sitting in the classroom learning from textbooks.

"This is one of the reasons our nursing graduates are snapped up so quickly," Maryott says. "Health systems love that our graduates have had so much patient interaction."

If you’re wondering how long nursing school will be for you, set up an appointment with one of our admissions staff to develop a plan and talk about the factors we’ve outlined here.  Or, download our free nursing guide at the link below to learn more about potential education paths and career outlook for those dedicated to the nursing field.

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Topics: nurse education, college, nursing