10 Fastest Registered Nurse (RN) Programs in 2024

Are you aspiring to join the nursing profession? Discover the fastest RN programs in 2024, together with the requirements, and salary expectations. Programs

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Today's aspiring nurses have many options when it comes to education and don't need to spend four years obtaining a bachelor's degree to begin a fulfilling clinical nursing career. Instead, you can enroll in an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) to become a registered nurse (RN) in as little as 16 months.

Prospective students can choose from traditional universities, community colleges, technical colleges, and specialized nursing schools.

You can even look for schools that offer online options to enjoy a hybrid learning environment, all while maintaining robust coursework, allowing you to kickstart your career while feeling confident about the quality of your education.

What Is a Registered Nurse?

RNs are licensed healthcare professionals who provide hands-on patient care. They practice in hospitals, home care agencies, doctor's offices, long-term care facilities, and many other care locations. Some RNs specialize in specific types of care to work with one patient population. A few RN specialties include:

  • Emergency Department
  • Medical-Surgical
  • Public Health
  • Community Health
  • Intensive Care
  • Home Care
  • Hospice
  • Oncology
  • Pediatric care

RNs also create nursing care plans and perform various patient care activities and work on interdisciplinary teams with doctors, therapists, and other healthcare professionals. They deliver patient care, ensure safety, and educate patients on their disease processes and self-care strategies. While care tasks will depend heavily on the unit in which a nurse works, some everyday registered nurse duties include:

  • Performing head-to-toe assessments
  • Obtaining and recording vital signs
  • Creating nursing care plans
  • Administering medications and treatments
  • Obtaining thorough medical histories and symptoms
  • Prepping patients for exams, procedures, and treatments
  • Using specialized medical equipment for patient monitoring and treatments
  • Educating on self-care and post-treatment care and needs

RNs are often in leadership or management positions as well. They oversee the care provided by licensed practical nurses (LPNs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and other healthcare professionals.

RNs don't need a bachelor's degree or other advanced degrees, like a master's degree, to oversee other healthcare professionals. An RN is enough to be a team leader and delegate care tasks to LPNs and CNAs in a clinical setting.

If you want higher nursing roles, you'll likely need at least a BSN. You can also go for executive or advanced clinical positions with a BSN to MSN program, which is a more advanced degree. Luckily, it's pretty straightforward to continue your nursing education after earning your ADN.

ADN RN & BSN RN Differences

Both ADN and BSN nurses are registered professionals, and both program types prepare students to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. All nurses, whether ADN or BSN-prepared, contribute significantly to the healthcare field.

ADN RN programs typically two years in duration, provide a swift entry into the nursing workforce, addressing the immediate demand for skilled professionals. In contrast, BSN programs typically span four years, delivering a more comprehensive education that emphasizes critical thinking, leadership, and research skills.

ADN-educated nurses excel in hands-on clinical settings, focusing on practical skills, while BSN-educated nurses receive education beyond clinical aspects, preparing nursing students with a broader understanding of healthcare systems and policies. The choice between ADN and BSN depends on individual career goals, with ADN serving as a practical starting point and BSN opening doors to advanced roles and specialties.

Registered Nursing Prerequisites and Requirements

Every nursing program has its list of prerequisites and requirements. However, there are a few basic requirements that all nursing programs require before you start on your career path.

Prior Education

You'll need proof of prior education to enroll in any college program. To be accepted into a nursing school, you must prove that you earned a high school diploma or GED. If you don't have either, consider getting your GED before starting the nursing school application process.

You'll likely be asked to provide official school transcripts so the college can confirm that you earned either a high school diploma or GED. The school of nursing might also require that you have a minimum GPA of 2.0 or higher during high school or other formal education. You'll probably need to contact your high school and request official transcripts be sent directly to the nursing school.

Prerequisites Courses

There aren't usually many required prerequisite courses for ADN programs. If the school does require prerequisites, you'll probably already have them if you graduated high school. Typical requirements include chemistry, physiology, algebra, and biology. If you didn't take these in high school, the nursing program might require you to take a few entry-level courses to cover this requirement.

It's critical to understand that the requirements for accelerated nursing programs may be a bit different compared to typical nursing schools. For example, accelerated programs may require that you take all general education requirements before beginning the nursing program. This format allows you to focus solely on nursing practice education rather than trying to take everything simultaneously. So, when an accelerated program provides a timeline for completion, you must understand that this may not include general education requirements that you must complete.

Entrance Exam

Some ADN programs require prospective students to take an entrance exam, such as the HESI or TEAS. These tests assess the likelihood you'll be successful in nursing school. Every entrance exam is a little different, so you'll need to know which test you must take and then take a prep course to be ready to pass the test. In addition, some entrance exams test basic healthcare knowledge, so you'll need to brush up on nursing and healthcare topics before taking the exam.

Related: 10 Best DNP Programs in 2024

Health Assessment

Nursing school doesn't only provide nursing theory in lecture halls. You'll also complete clinical experiences in hospitals and other healthcare facilities where you'll work with actual patients. But before you can provide hands-on care, you'll need a health assessment to ensure you're in good health.

Check with the school to see if they have a specific form they want to be completed by a care provider or if any standard physical exam form will work. You'll also want to get a list of required immunizations to be sure you are up to date before spending time with patients.

CPR Certification

Most ADN nursing schools will require you to be certified in CPR before enrolling. In addition, some schools want you to have a specific type of CPR for healthcare providers. They might even specify that the certification comes from the American Heart Association or American Red Cross, so check with the nursing faculty before you purchase and pass your CPR class.

Criminal Background Check

Your clinical experiences will put you face-to-face with vulnerable populations such as older adults or pediatrics. To ensure patients are safe while being cared for by nursing students, nursing schools require students to take and pass a criminal background check. You might also be required to provide fingerprints too.

If you've been convicted of any crimes, disclose this information on your nursing school application and during the criminal background check and fingerprinting process. Never lie about your criminal history or fail to disclose it because this will cause you far more trouble than telling the truth from the beginning.

Drug Screening

The last nursing school requirement is to submit a drug screening. Like the criminal background check, this ensures the patients you care for during clinical experiences are safe. Drug screenings require you to visit a clinic or laboratory to provide a urine or blood test, depending on the school's requirements.

Fastest Registered Nurse Programs in 2024

The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most when selecting a nursing school. We've also reviewed other criteria, like NCLEX pass rates, graduation rates, student-faculty ratios, price, learning format, duration, and admission rates for hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the U.S. to be sure we're giving you the most comprehensive list of RN licensure programs possible.

1. University of Charleston

The University of Charleston in West Virginia has over 50 years of experience delivering nursing education. They offer the fastest nursing program comprising 61 credit hours delivered in a hybrid learning format. UC's RN program is designed to cater to the needs of working individuals, featuring a hybrid structure with online courses on weekdays and in-person classes and clinicals every other weekend. The university has reported a graduation rate ranging from 63% to 77.3% and program pass rates fluctuating between 88.5% and 83% over the past four years.

Along with standard admissions criteria such as a high school diploma, the university requires all prospective students to take the TEAS entrance exam and pass with a 60% or higher. 

  • Duration: 16 months
  • Cost: $380 per credit hour; $22,800 total
  • Accreditation: ACEN 

2. Rasmussen University

If you're looking for an ADN-RN program offered across 17 campuses in five states, then Rasmussen University might be best for you. This fast-track hybrid RN program boasts no waiting list at many of their campuses, so you can begin your nursing program fast and finish quickly too. There's no need for pre-nursing coursework and there are eight start dates per year.

Rasmussen has nursing school faculty with real-world, hands-on clinical experience, so you'll be well-prepared for your career. Because there are several campuses, it's challenging to report NCLEX pass rates, so be sure to ask about this information when talking to admissions staff at the school.

  • Duration: 21 months
  • Cost: $432 per credit; $51,404 total
  • Accreditation: ACEN (at the following campuses)
    • Florida -- Central Pasco, Fort Myers, Ocala, and Tampa 
    • Minnesota -- Bloomington, Mankato, Moorhead, and St. Cloud 
    • Wisconsin -- Green Bay and Wausau 
    • Kansas -- Overland Park 

3. Midway University

Are you looking for an ADN nursing education program with an evening option that you can complete in 18 short months? Midway University offers an accelerated undergraduate nursing program focusing on classroom theory coursework and supervised clinical laboratory experiences. Situated in Central Kentucky, this school equips you to take and pass the NCLEX-RN. You'll also be able to seamlessly transition into the RN to BSN program if you decide to pursue your BSN nursing degree.

The school proudly reports the NCLEX pass rate for the ADN program was 95% in 2020 and 94% in 2021. And the average NCLEX-RN pass rate for the previous three years was 96%.

  • Duration: 18 months
  • Cost: $849.33 per credit (full-time); $950 per credit (part-time)
  • Accreditation: ACEN for ADN and BSN programs

4. Denver College of Nursing

In just six quarters across 18 months, you can earn your ADN from Denver College of Nursing. With campuses in Denver and Houston, you'll complete didactic and clinical coursework to build a foundation of nursing education that will translate into a successful registered nursing career.

This program consists of 110 total credits, with 86 of these earned during the nursing program. In addition, you must meet all standard nursing school prerequisites to be accepted, including passing an entrance exam.

  • Duration: 18 months (full-time)
  • Cost: $200 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: ACEN

5. ECPI University

With multiple campuses, the ACEN-accredited nursing program at ECPI University can be completed in 18 months and student must earn 71 credit units. So not only will you be ready to sit for the state NCLEX-RN exam, but you'll also be ready to begin your nursing career quickly. This nursing program curriculum covers ethical, legal, and regulatory topics while teaching you nursing courses, diagnoses, and treatments.

The school reports NCLEX-RN pass rates by location, so be sure to ask about the specific pass rates of the campus you plan to attend to get the most accurate information. 

  • Duration: 18 months
  • Cost: 5 semesters x $9,900 = $49,500 (estimate)
  • Accreditation: ACEN (at the following Virginia campuses)
    • Manassas, Newport News, Richmond, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach

6. Hartwick College

This school is a bit different than the others because it offers an accelerated BSN program. Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, offers an 18-month Rural Nursing Opportunities Program that achieves a bachelor's degree in nursing. This accelerated nursing education program includes 16 nursing courses taught in four to six-week blocks covering didactic nursing coursework and clinical experiences. Each class can be completed in four to six weeks, and clinical labs can be done on weekends and weekdays.

Hartwick requires completing all general education courses before starting the nursing program. You'll also be required to take a writing competency exam and achieve a writing level 4 before beginning the nursing program.

  • Duration: 18 months
  • Cost: $1,019 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: ACEN

7. East Ohio College

East Ohio College in East Liverpool offers a direct admission program serving students from Ohio and the surrounding areas of Pennsylvania. The nursing faculty teach you essential nursing skills, such as the nursing process, health promotion, therapeutic communication skills, and other health sciences topics.

  • Duration: 18 months
  • Cost: $20,085 (full-time enrollment and for one academic year)
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Eductation Schools (ABHES)
    • Approved by the Ohio Board of Nursing

8. Herzing University

Herzing University offers its associate's degree in nursing at five campuses located in four states: Florida, Ohio, Alabama, and Tennessee. This nursing program comprises 72-73 credit units offered through a hybrid learning format. You'll take general education classes online and attend in-person nursing classes, labs, and clinical experiences. Approved transfer credits range from 52-54 credits.

The program is career-focused and flexible. You'll learn face-to-face from experienced faculty and receive lifelong career advancement and coaching support from the school. In addition, if you have a prior healthcare certification like an LPN, RT, or paramedic, you can complete this program faster during a bridge pathway course.

  • Duration: 20-24 months
  • Cost: $695 per credit (core nursing courses)
  • Accreditation: ACEN (at the following campuses)
    • Akron, Ohio
    • Birmingham, Alabama
    • Orlando, Florida

9. West Coast University

This ADN nursing education program boasts no waitlist and multiple start dates every year. West Coast University offers a diverse list of clinical experience partners that will expose you to numerous clinical specialties and experiences. In addition, you'll connect with your nursing curriculum through technologically advanced simulations in the skills labs to master nursing techniques and build muscle memory even before you attend clinical.

One of the great things about this school is that they provide test prep services for your licensure exam once you graduate. You can receive one-on-one counseling and tutoring, which should make passing the NCLEX-RN a breeze.

  • Duration: 20 months
  • Cost: $799 per credit; $48,733 total tuition cost
  • Accreditation: Granted approval from the Florida Board of Nursing

10. Howard College

Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, offers an ADN registered nursing degree program that has a hybrid format for the second year online lecture portion to provide flexibility and upward mobility for nursing students. While Howard doesn't offer an RN to BSN program, they provide several articulation agreements with Texas universities, making obtaining your baccalaureate degree in nursing easy.

The ADN program began in 1976, so this school is rich in nursing history. However, don't mistake their deep roots. They are on the cutting edge of education and have offered online course formats since 2003. They must be doing something right because their 2020 ADN grads earned a 100% pass rate on the NCLEX-RN

  • Duration: 24 months
  • Cost: $2,460 (in-district); $4,320 (out-of-district)
  • Accreditation: ACEN 

2024 RN Job Projection

As of 2022, there were 3,172,500 nurses in the US. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that nursing jobs will grow 6% faster than average, adding 177,400 new positions by 2032 with a total of 3,349,900 nurses.

This projection doesn't take into account the existing nursing shortage, creating a significant opportunity for aspiring nurses. The demand for RNs is fueled by the slow growth in nursing school enrollment, coupled with a substantial portion of RNs expected to retire in the next 15-20 years. Even with challenges post-COVID-19, where some nurses have left the workforce, the demand for skilled nursing professionals remains high. The aging population with increased healthcare needs adds to the excitement of being part of a dynamic and evolving healthcare landscape.

In essence, the job projection for RNs is not just a statistic – it's a golden opportunity. The need for skilled nursing professionals is thriving, and you, as a potential future nurse, have the chance to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of healthcare.

Salary Expectations for RNs in 2024

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median RN salary in 2021 was $81,220, or a little over $39.05 an hour. Unfortunately, BLS doesn't differentiate its pay data between ADN and BSN nurses.

However, ZipRecruiter provides valuable insights into pay variations for ADN and BSN registered nurses.

ADN RN Salary:

The national average annual salary for ADN nurses is $80,320, with the majority earning between $63,500 and $72,500 annually. Here are the top five highest-paying states for ADN RNs:

  1. Washington: $99,301
  2. New York: $88,028
  3. Vermont: $86,437
  4. California: $84,528
  5. Maine: $82,150

BSN RN Salary:

For BSN nurses, the national average annual salary is $90,046, and most BSN RNs earn between $79,500 and $89,999 annually. Here are the top five highest-paying states for BSN RNs:

  1. Washington: $106,746
  2. New York: $100,338
  3. California: $98,011
  4. Massachusetts: $90,593
  5. Vermont: $90,305

These salaries are general guidelines, as nursing pay varies based on geographic location, tenure, and specialty.

Are Fast RN Programs Worth It?

To assess the value of enrolling in one of the fastest RN programs, aligning your educational pursuit with a commitment to high-quality learning tailored to your preferred pace is crucial.

Accelerated nursing programs are often structured in quarters (10 weeks) instead of semesters (15-16 weeks), empowering students to master more coursework in a shorter timeframe. Some programs even allow you to progress at your own pace, ensuring mastery of the curriculum before advancing. These programs may align with your preferences if you thrive in a fast-paced environment and excel under accelerated learning conditions. Conversely, a rapid program might not be the optimal fit if you prefer a measured and gradual approach to education.

It's vital to dispel the misconception that "fastest" implies compromises in educational quality. Accredited programs, even those labeled as fast-paced, rigorously adhere to educational standards and fulfill all necessary requirements. Opting for a program accredited by relevant authorities guarantees a comprehensive nursing education.

ADN programs, which require less coursework than BSN programs, are often among the fastest RN programs. Accelerated RN to BSN programs can serve as bridge programs for ADN RNs, providing a foundation for further education.

When deciding on the right educational path, consider your learning style and the program's accreditation status. This ensures a well-informed choice aligned with your educational goals and preferences.

Significance of Choosing an Accredited RN Program

The significance of accreditation in RN programs cannot be overstated. Let's explore why it is of paramount importance:

  • Educational Standards: Accredited RN programs consistently uphold curriculum, faculty qualifications, resources, and clinical training standards, which are validated through regular evaluations.
  • NCLEX Preparation: Attending a nursing program that is accredited can significantly improve your preparation for the NCLEX-RN exam.
  • Prerequisite for Licensing: In many states, obtaining a license to practice as a registered nurse requires graduation from an accredited program. 
  • Career Opportunities: RN graduates are preferred by employers as their education aligns with national standards, providing more career options and flexibility for relocation to states that mandate nursing school accreditation.
  • Credit Transfer: Credits earned in an accredited RN program are more likely to be recognized by other nursing institutions, which makes it easier for transfer students or those aiming for advanced degrees like a BSN, MSN, or even DNP.
  • Professional Credibility: Completing an accredited associate nursing program enhances professional credibility, demonstrating education and training in alignment with national standards while also contributing to the advancement of nursing practice.
  • Financial Aid: Accreditation is a requirement for federal financial aid eligibility, making accreditation pivotal for students who want financial aid while pursuing an RN education.

Aspiring nurses must ensure their selected programs are accredited by recognized bodies such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) for ADN programs and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) for BSN programs. 

FAQ and Additional Readings

We've covered lots of great information, but choosing a nursing program is tough and can leave you with many questions. So, we've rounded up some of the most common nursing licensure, nursing school, and ADN nursing program questions for you below.

Q: Will I have a different license type if I graduate from an ADN program versus a BSN program?

A: No. Graduating from an ADN or BSN program still gets you an RN license after passing the NCLEX-RN exam. The only difference is the type of nursing degree you obtained - an associate degree in nursing versus a bachelor of science in nursing. Nurses with BSNs go to school for four years and can hold higher-level management positions, but there is no difference between the two degrees when it comes to hands-on patient care.

Q: Can I take my ADN program online?

A: Some ADN programs offer online courses. However, it's critical to understand that no ADN programs will be delivered in a fully online environment because you'll need to be present to complete practice lab and clinical experiences.

Q: Can I go from an ADN to a BSN?

A: Many schools have RN to BSN programs, often called bridge programs. These programs are for healthcare professionals with a registered nursing license but not a BSN degree. You can find RN to BSN programs offered online and accelerated programs too.

Related: 10 Best RN to BSN Programs in 2024

Q: Can I go to nursing school part-time or in the evening?

A: Unfortunately, most schools of nursing only offer full-time, daytime programs. However, don't give up if you need an alternative nursing school format. Look for local schools that offer programs during the evening, on weekends, or part-time so you can achieve your dream of becoming a nurse.

Q: Why should I consider starting my nursing career with an ADN when the AACN recognizes the BSN as the minimal educational requirement?

A: Navigating the options and pathways in a nursing career can be overwhelming. While the AACN recognizes the BSN as the minimal educational requirement, it's essential to emphasize their full support for the pivotal role of ADN RNs across the complete spectrum of nursing responsibilities.

Q: What is covered in an ADN program, and how many credit hours will I need to graduate?

A: You'll take between 60 and 70 credit hours to obtain your ADN. You'll also complete about 500 hours of clinical experience. During nursing school, you'll take many courses, including pathophysiology, pharmacology, and anatomy, along with nursing classes.

Q: Can I get an ADN if I already have a baccalaureate degree in another discipline?

A: Yes, if you've already completed a bachelor's in another field, you can get an ADN as a second degree. Getting your associate's degree is a great choice when you want to complete a short program to get started in the nursing profession.

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Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa Mills has 26 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Workforce Development, Education, Advancement.

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