One of the frequent questions from inventors new to the US patent process (besides how much it is going to cost), is how long is it going to take? Prospective applicants are often dismayed to learn how long (and expensive) the process is, but it has actually gotten better! Every patent application is different, but there is some information about average times.
This blog post from the USPTO has all the details, but the quick version is that the average time it takes to get the first response from the USPTO (aside from acknowledgement of the application) is just under a year and three months, and average time to a final decision is under two years. This may seem like a long time, but given that the USPTO has had a substantial increase in applications, and is committed to maintaining (and improving) the quality of examination, it is actually pretty good. They've made it happen by improving training, hiring more examiners, and finding areas of efficiency, and they are working on further reducing the time.
The takeaway message for inventors considering applying for a patent is to be patient and prepared.