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How Long Does It Take to Complete an RN to BSN Program?

It may take less time than you think.

If you’re considering going back to school to earn your BSN, you probably have a lot of questions. Will it be worth it? Can I keep working while I’m going to school? Where should I go? Should I attend classes in person or online? Like many students, one of your biggest concerns may be how long it will take to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Like many things in life, the answer really is "it depends."

The good news is that you can probably make the transition from RN to BSN in less time than you might think.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an RN to BSN Program?

The Advantages of Earning Your BSN

The data shows that nurses with a BSN have access to greater career opportunities and make more money than nurses without a bachelor’s degree. According to PayScale, the median salary for an RN with a BSN is more than $62,952 per year—higher than the median salary of $59,408 for an RN without a bachelor’s degree.1 Moreover, nurses with bachelor’s degrees often make more during the course of their careers than nurses without the BSN.

The opportunities for nurses with a BSN are greater, too. A BSN opens the door to positions in management, advanced patient care, and clinical research. Government organizations such as the military and the U.S. Public Health Service require practicing nurses to hold a BSN. A bachelor’s degree in nursing is also a requirement if you’re considering becoming a nurse educator or are interested in obtaining advanced certifications like certified pediatric nurse (CPN), advanced oncology certified nurse (AOCN), or certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).2

Depending on where you live, the greatest advantage of obtaining your BSN may be that you’ll be prepared for changing licensing requirements. New York State has already passed a "BSN-in-10" law requiring RNs to obtain their BSN within 10 years of licensure3—and many other state legislatures are considering similar measures.4 If you want to prepare yourself for a future in nursing, obtaining your BSN is vital.

What Can I Expect?

The kinds of classes you’re expected to take varies from school to school, but if you’re in a program like the RN to BSN at Walden University, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the curriculum will typically be divided into three categories:

  • Core nursing courses
  • General education
  • Electives

Core nursing courses typically include the following topics:

  • Trends in nursing
  • Health assessment
  • Clinical research
  • Healthcare policy 
  • Information technology
  • Public health
  • Clinical health practice
  • Leadership and management  

In addition to these advanced-topic courses, you’ll often also be required to take general education courses not completed in your associate program. While courses can vary, they are typically in areas such as English, mathematics, science, and history. While it may seem like these courses have little or nothing to do with nursing, they’re designed to help develop your critical-thinking, problem-solving, and communications skills—skills that will help you become a better nurse, a better leader, and a better advocate for your patients, no matter where you go with your degree in the future.

So How Long Will It Take?

Typically, most BSN programs require students to finish 120 semester hours to obtain their bachelor’s degree. Students who are registered nurses will have completed up to half of these credits in their associate program. These are broken down into coursework and clinical training/practical learning. Fulfilling program requirements can take anywhere from one year of full-time study to three to four years at a part-time pace, depending on program requirements and transfer of credit.

It’s also possible to earn your BSN while you continue to work, a pathway that often makes it possible to take advantage of the education benefits offered by your employer, including tuition reimbursement. Earning your degree online also offers you the ability to progress through your program at a pace that works for you and your busy schedule.

The bottom line? While earning your BSN online will mean serious work, it can also mean serious benefits to your career. Considering an online nursing degree program? Walden University’s online RN to BSN program is designed for working nurses and allows you to transfer up to 75% of your credits using previous academic courses, professional development, and demonstrated college-level knowledge.

Discover how Walden’s RN to BSN online program is helping more RNs earn their BSN degree online—and in less time.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) Completion Program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

1Source: and National salary estimates may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, do not guarantee actual salaries or salary growth, and are subject to change.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,