Nursing Programs You Can Complete in About a Year or Less
If you’re ready to get your nursing career on track fast, consider one of these programs.
It’s no secret that healthcare is one of the fastest-growing career fields in the country. One reason? One of the largest generations in American history, the baby boomers, is aging. This will lead to an increased need for healthcare services and a continued demand for qualified healthcare professionals. Luckily, the educational programs of many important healthcare roles can be completed in a year or less, allowing eager nursing students to get to work quickly to fill the growing need.
Statistics underscoring the demand for healthcare workers abound: For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 85% of adults over 65 have at least one chronic health condition. And 56% of adults over age 65 have at least two chronic health conditions. This creates a significant need for healthcare.
The nursing profession has been experiencing an increase in demand for qualified nursing professionals for years and will continue to do so as the baby boomer generation ages, says Jenna Liphart Rhoads PhD, RN, CNE, assistant nursing professor at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay.
“Additionally, nursing roles continue to morph and expand from bedside/acute care to preventative health and education roles,” she says.
The next decade will also lead to baby boomers leaving the workforce. By 2029, the youngest members of this generation will be at retirement age, leaving millions of jobs open. One huge area predicted to be affected by this generational shift is nursing. About half of all current registered nurses (RNs) are over 50. Together, these factors make right now a great time to jump into a nursing career.
Consider exploring these programs that can be completed in a year or less.
Home Health Aide
Home health aides are projected to see a staggering 34% growth over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Programs can be completed in as little as 4 to 6 weeks, although full semester options that last several months are also offered. Your program will go over the skills you need to assist people in their homes with activities such as bathing, eating, dressing, and other daily hygiene tasks. You’ll also learn how to take vital signs and monitor patients for safety.
Certification isn’t required by all states. When it is, you’ll need to complete at least 75 hours of training in a program that’s been approved by your state. Programs might be offered by local home health agencies, hospices, health services agencies, or even online. Keep in mind that you’ll need to complete some in-person clinical training if you choose to attend an online program. Most states require at least 16 hours.
Home health aides generally take on tasks such as:
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) complete programs that are approved by their state and earn certification. Programs can require as few as 75 hours or as many as 180 hours depending on your state. Program lengths will also vary depending on state requirements and the structure of your program, but most can be completed in 1 to 4 months. Nursing assistant programs are offered by nursing facilities, health departments, hospitals, community colleges, and technical skills.
“Home health aide or CNA programs are a good fit for people who want to enter the healthcare field quickly,” says Rhodes. “[They] allow people to get their foot in the door of healthcare. Many CNAs and home health aides eventually attend nursing school and can gain experience that is valuable for their nursing education.”
Nursing assistant programs offer the educational foundation you need to provide care for patients in hospitals and other facilities. You’ll cover topics such as:
You’ll have plenty of opportunities once you earn certification. The BLS predicts 8% job growth for CNAs over the next decade. In addition to hospitals, you’ll find job opportunities in skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation faculties, mental health hospitals, and more. On the job, you’ll take on daily tasks such as:
“CNA jobs are often physically and emotionally demanding and are best suited to those who enjoy working with people and want to make a difference in others’ lives,” Rhoads says.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) take on more advanced duties than CNAs. You’ll spend at least nine months in school, but you’ll potentially see a significant jump in your salary and in your responsibility. You’ll work closely with doctors and registered nurses and take on tasks such as medication administration. You’ll often supervise CNAs and home health assistants. Plus, you’ll find plenty of opportunities: LPNs are predicted to see a 9% job growth in the coming decade, according to the BLS.
“LPN programs allow people to enter healthcare more quickly than RN programs and are great for those who enjoy working with people in a fast-paced environment,” says Rhodes. “Becoming an LPN would provide a higher-paying job than (that of) an aide, and there is a possibility for a wider variety of roles. LPNs generally have more autonomy and have a higher scope of practice as well.”
You’ll need to attend a nursing program approved by your state and earn licensure before you can become an LPN. All states have their own licensing rules for LPNs. In California and Texas, LPNs are called Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs). LPN programs are offered by community colleges and technical schools.
Programs can be as short as nine months and as long as 18 months. LPN programs are normally about 60% clinical training. Some programs might allow you to complete the rest of your education online. You’ll need to take and pass the NCLEX-LPN exam given by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) to earn your LPN license and begin looking for work.
Once on the job, you’ll take on daily tasks such as:
Registered Nurse (RN)—Accelerated Program
Earning your license to work as a registered nurse (RN) typically takes longer than a year. However, accelerated programs can allow you to earn your license quickly. These programs are designed to help address the nursing shortage and add more qualified RNs to the healthcare workforce.
Not everyone is eligible for an accelerated program. You’ll need to already have a bachelor’s degree in another field before you can begin. Your accelerated RN program will allow you to apply the credits from your current bachelor’s toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). It’s important to note that your current bachelor’s degree will need to have included enough science and humanities credits to fulfill the requirements of a BSN.
Your accelerated RN degree will allow you to earn a BSN by focusing solely on nursing credits and clinical work for a year. It’s important to note that these programs are intensive, demanding, and have strict requirements.
An accelerated RN program will allow you to apply the credits from your current bachelor’s toward a BSN.
“All nursing prerequisites must be completed prior to beginning a fast-track RN program because the programs consist of only nursing courses,” says Rhodes. “Due to the grueling nature of fast-track RN programs, students are strongly cautioned against working a job while attending school.”
However, a fast-track program will allow you to earn licensure quickly. The exact requirements for these programs depend on the school offering them and on RN licensure rules in your state. You’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam before you can apply for licensure in your state.
Once you have your RN license, your daily job duties can vary depending on your specialty. Having a specialty is a great way to focus your nursing knowledge. You can get a quick overview of some popular RN specialties below.
Source: Salary and job growth data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, as of 2020