How Long Does it Take to Get an Associate's Degree in Nursing?


According to, the associate's degree in nursing (ADN) is the quickest route to becoming a registered nurse (RN). It takes as little as two years for some students to earn the ADN, while others may take three to three and one-half years. Although most programs are designed to be completed in two years, that time is increased if you have to take preparatory courses or if you only attend school part time.

Preparatory Courses

  • It will take longer than two years to complete an associate's degree in nursing if you have to first earn a high school diploma (required for admission to an ADN program) or take preparatory courses. How much longer depends on the number of additional courses you must take. Even if you have a high school diploma, if you can't demonstrate proficiency in subjects such as algebra, biology and chemistry, you will have to take refresher courses before starting the two-year nursing program.

Part Time vs. Full Time

  • It will also take longer than two years to complete an associate's degree in nursing if you don't attend school full time. Many students choose to attend part time so they can hold a job and earn an income while working on their degree. How long it takes to earn an associate's degree in nursing as a part-time student depends on how many classes you take each semester.

Other Options

  • Some schools offer a shorter route to the associate's degree in nursing for those who are already a licensed practical nurse or licensed vocational nurse. An LPN-ADN or LVN-ADN program usually takes less than two years to complete. Some students do so in as little as one year.


  • When you successfully complete an accredited ADN program, you can't practice nursing until you take and pass the NCLEX-RN, a national examination required for licensing. Some students spend a considerable amount of time preparing for this exam after completing the ADN program.


  • According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, as of 2006 there were 850 programs nationwide offering the associate's degree in nursing. The two-year ADN program, typically offered at junior and community colleges, prepares students to care for patients in a variety of settings. The time spent in school includes both classroom instruction and clinical experience, but focuses less on nursing theory than on technical skills. In addition to nursing courses, the curriculum includes anatomy, microbiology, physiology, chemistry, psychology, nutrition and the liberal arts.

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