Everything You Need to Know About Studying for your Associate Degree – Nursing in Pennsylvania
Consistent with many other areas of the USA, Pennsylvania is experiencing a shortage of nurses and nurse educators and this shortage is forecast to continue for some years. Educational institutions across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania offer a variety of programs that lead to an associate degree in nursing.
Graduates of these programs may then take the NCLEX-RN licensure examination and be approved to practice as an RN. The average pass rate for ADN graduates in the Keystone State is above the US national average. However, the pass rates at individual educational institutions can vary quite significantly.
Course lengths for ADN programs vary and there are options to study both full and part-time. The average course length for an associate degree is two years, although some institutions require a significant number of pre-requisite college-level courses.
Benefits of Associate Degree Programs
The majority of associate degree programs in Pennsylvania are offered by community and technical colleges. These types of institutions have built their reputations around employing faculty with previous working experience that they are able to leverage to benefit the education of their students. Associate degree programs may also enable an earlier entry into the healthcare workforce than bachelor’s programs. This enables graduates to quickly build up their working experience and to offset the cost of their studies while still retaining the option to return to their studies at a later time.
Accreditation and Licensing in Pennsylvania
Educational institutions use accrediting organizations to demonstrate that their programs meet and achieve educational standards. The two accrediting organizations for ADN programs are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
Licensing in Pennsylvania is managed by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing. For an educational institution to obtain Board approval, the curriculum of their ADN program must be considered as suitable preparation for the NCLEX-RN examination. Among other criteria, in Pennsylvania, this is measured by a requirement to maintain an 80% pass rate for first-time takers of the examination.
In addition to educational institutions requiring approval, RNs must obtain an individual license in order to practice in the state. ADN graduates obtain a license by passing the NCLEX-RN examination at the end of their program of study.
Pennsylvania is not a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact. Residents of a non-compact state are not eligible for a multistate license. This may restrict career mobility for RNs registered in the state in the future.
Overview of Associate Degree Programs in Pennsylvania
There is a good choice of ADN programs in Pennsylvania and entry to the more popular courses can be very competitive. Specific requirements vary by program and institution but often include significant pre-requisite college-level courses, minimum GPAs, nursing admission tests and the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS). However, an academically demanding admissions process does not guarantee that a particular institution has always performed strongly in preparing graduates for the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. Where educational establishments are finding it difficult to maintain a consistent 80% pass rate for their graduates in the NCLEX-RN examination, there is often a strong drive to raise standards through the admissions process.
There are a number of different ways of referring to associate degrees in nursing. These include ADN, for Associate Degree, Nursing; AN, for Associate of Nursing; ASN, for Associate of Science in Nursing; and AAS, for Associate of Applied Science in Nursing. As long as the institution granting the degree is fully accredited by either ACEN or CCNE and approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing, graduates of all of these types of associate degrees are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN examination to obtain a license to practice as a Registered Nurse in the state.
Choosing an Associate Degree Program in Pennsylvania
There are 25 associate degree programs to choose from across Pennsylvania offered by universities, technical colleges, and community colleges. The most critical factor in choosing an institution is that it is fully accredited by either ACEN or CCNE, and has approval from the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing. After this has been confirmed, other factors to consider include:
- The type of educational institution and the quality of the teaching;
- Curriculum and educational philosophy;
- Pre-requisite courses and admissions process;
- Length of program;
- Clinical hours and where these take place;
- Program outcomes such as the pass rates for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam compared to the state and nationally, student course completion rates, student satisfaction rates, and graduate hiring data;
- Tuition and additional costs.
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2 Year Nursing Programs in Pennsylvania
Delaware County Community College
Delaware County Community College serves an area west of Philadelphia within Delaware and Chester County. The college offers an Associate in Applied Science qualification at the conclusion of its four semesters, 71 credit nursing program. The course is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and fully approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing.
The college offers clinical and laboratory learning experiences, under the supervision of nursing faculty, at a variety of health-care agencies. These experiences provide students with the opportunity to apply classroom learning in direct patient-care situations.
The nursing curriculum aims to prepare students for the state licensure examination (NCLEX-RN) so that they may take up positions as new staff nurses in a variety of settings. The pass rate for graduates of Delaware County Community College in the NCLEX-RN examination exceeds the threshold set by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing and is also above both the state and US average.
901 S. Media Line Road
MEDIA, PA 19063
Harcum College is a two-year private college located in Bryn Mawr, PA. The Nursing program at Harcom aims to promote excellence in nursing education through general education studies, nursing studies and supervised clinical experiences in a variety of healthcare settings. The course is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing.
The nursing program covers 66 credits with an additional 33 credits of pre-requisite courses specified. Entry is competitive and a minimum GPA of 2.8 is required. At completion, graduates are awarded an Associate of Science in Nursing and are then eligible to take the National Council for Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Pass rates are in line with the threshold required by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing but below the state and US average.
750 Montgomery Avenue
BRYN MAWR, PA 19010
Montgomery County Community College
At Montgomery County Community College nursing students explore an integrated curriculum which incorporates seminar, classroom, laboratory, and clinical experiences leading to an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree in Nursing and eligibility to take the National Council for Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The first time pass rate for graduates in the NCLEX-RN is some percentage points higher than the state and national average and comfortably above the threshold required by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing.
Three classes are admitted to the nursing program each academic year and students may complete the course on a full or part-time basis with courses taught throughout the year. Admission is highly competitive and is based on a point system and ranking procedure. The course is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing.
340 Dekalb Pike
BLUE BELL, PA 19422
Mercyhurst University is a private Catholic university located in the north-west corner of the state around 20 minutes from the city of Erie. It offers its two year Associate of Science program at its traditional college campus environment in North East, PA. There are two options on offer at Mercyhurst, a five-semester, full-time, weekday program, and an eight semester part-time, evening and weekend program.
The course is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing. Graduates are eligible to sit the NCLEX-RN examination and pass rates are above the threshold required by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing but below the state and US average.
16 West Division Street
NORTHEAST, PA 16428
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences started as a nursing college more than 100 years ago. It boasts a state-of-the-art simulation lab and partners with LG Health/Penn Medicine for clinical placements.
The college, located in Lancaster, offers a two-year track and a three-year track associate degree program. Both programs require 67 credits. In the two year program, students meet during weekdays and evenings for classes and clinical experiences. For the three year track, students meet one or two evenings per week and complete the clinical requirements on Saturday and Sunday, every other weekend during daytime or evening hours.
The college is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing. Graduates are eligible to sit the NCLEX-RN examination and pass rates are comfortably above the threshold required by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing and the state and US average.
850 GREENFIELD ROAD
LANCASTER, PA 17601