How to Become a Registered Nurse in Under Two Years

A group of diverse nursing students in an accelerated BSN program
A group of diverse nursing students in an accelerated BSN program

Registered nurses work with patients of all ages to treat illnesses and improve their health. The positive impacts of nursing have resulted in the profession being among the most trusted and popular in the United States. Yet despite this esteemed recognition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates approximately 193,000 job openings for registered nurses each year through 2023.

An aging workforce and patient population contribute to a long-term shortage of nurses in the United States. Hospitals and clinics across the country will need new waves of registered nurses to meet ongoing patient demand. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) unlocks opportunities at an essential moment in nursing.


The Right Time for a Nursing Degree is Now

The median age of a registered nurse in America fell from 52 in 2020 to 46 in 2022 due to 200,000 nursing retirements. Fifty-four percent of surveyed nurses in 2018 were aged 45 and older, creating the potential for even more retirements. Traditional college students and career-changing professionals can fill these gaps by pursuing nursing degrees.

Nursing schools often include courses on healthcare for aging patients due to growing healthcare needs. The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) estimates that 23% of America’s population will be 65 and older by 2060, compared to 16% in 2018. This growing share of the population will need exceptional patient care provided by registered nurses.

Ongoing nursing shortages are worsened by healthcare disparities based on income and geography. New nurses can immediately impact entire communities when working in rural areas and low-income neighborhoods. No matter the setting, registered nurses can help their patients navigate difficult situations through compassion and exemplary care.


The Pathways to a Nursing Career

Career-changing professionals may wonder how they can become RNs fast given the urgency of the moment. The most basic entry-level degree for registered nurses is an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) with more nurses entering the profession with BSN degrees. Exploring the ins and outs of each degree while considering a nursing career is worthwhile.



An associate’s degree is the minimum education level for anyone who wants to complete the NCLEX-RN. State nursing boards use this national exam as part of their licensing processes. ADN students typically complete their course requirements in two years with accelerated options, reducing that time to 18 months.

Community and technical colleges focus on essential clinical skills in their ADN programs. Prerequisites for ADN degrees include high school diplomas with coursework achieving minimum GPAs set by programs. An associate’s degree curriculum may consist of the following courses:

  • Intro to Clinical Practice
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Alterations
  • Management and Professional Concepts
  • Advanced Clinical Practice

ADN students also complete simulation labs and clinical experiences before graduation. This nursing degree option remains the second-most common path for initial nursing licensure. The 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey found that 35.6% of registered nurses in 2022 held associate’s degrees at first licensure.



This survey also found that registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees at initial licensure grew from 39% of respondents in 2015 to 47.2% in 2022. The share of associate degree holders declined from 38.5% of respondents in 2015. The BSN has evolved into the preferred entry-level degree for nursing employers.

Applicants to BSN programs must demonstrate academic success in high school or associate degree programs before admission. The prerequisites for a bachelor’s nursing degree are more substantial than ADN programs. BSN applicants may need to demonstrate strong grades in the following courses:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Elementary Statistics

The curriculum for a BSN program is more comprehensive than an associate’s degree. BSN students combine hands-on clinical skills with leadership, public health, and nursing research lessons. This degree path also requires more clinical hours than ADN programs, thus providing the direct patient contact necessary for career preparedness.

Traditional BSN programs typically require four years of study including multiple semesters of general education courses. However, there are also accelerated online BSN options for students who earned bachelor’s degrees in other fields. Accelerated BSN degrees can be completed in two years or less with hybrid and online options at many nursing schools.


Learn why more men are choosing to enter nursing as a second career.


The Benefits of a BSN

BSN-trained nurses stand apart from ADN graduates for several important reasons. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) reported better NCLEX-RN pass rates for those with BSNs than ADN holders. In the first quarter of 2023, test takers with BSNs passed at an 83.26% rate, while ADN graduates achieved a 79.14% pass rate.

Nurses who complete BSNs are also better prepared for the day-to-day challenges of patient care. A 2022 study found that hospitals with higher percentages of BSN-trained nurses lowered surgical mortality rates than other clinical settings. An earlier study concluded that every 10-percent increase in the share of nurses with BSNs resulted in a 24-percent boost in survival odds for patients.

The comprehensive training completed in BSN degree programs results in higher median salaries. BSN-trained nurses reported a median salary of $67,000 to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, while ADN-trained nurses earned a median salary of $63,000. The BLS concluded that the top 10% of professional earners earned $129,400.

Choosing a BSN over an ADN also raises the ceiling on future career choices. BSNs are better positioned for promotions, graduate education, and nursing leadership roles. You can become an RN fast and start working toward these goals with a BSN from Holy Family University.


Learn Essential Patient Care Skills at Holy Family University

Holy Family University trains career-changing professionals for nursing careers through its Second Degree Distance Hybrid BSN. This innovative program only takes 14 months of full-time study while providing valuable clinical experiences. Applicants with bachelor’s degrees in other fields need the following prerequisites for admission:

  • Anatomy & Physiology I and II
  • Microbiology with Lab
  • Nutrition
  • Elementary Statistics

The program’s entirely online courses cover topics like Older Adult Health Promotion and Medical Surgical Nursing. Hybrid BSN students complete a one-week campus residency with hands-on experience supervised by experienced faculty. Holy Family University assists students in identifying clinical experiences through free placement services.

Second-career nurses receive high-quality education in Holy Family’s accelerated program. The BSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing. Program graduates also outpaced the national average for NCLEX-RN pass rates from 2017 through 2022.

Find out how Holy Family University’s Second Degree Distance Hybrid BSN creates opportunities for a new career.