Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

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Lindsay Smith
Last updated at June 10, 2021

Looking to jumpstart your career in nursing as quickly and inexpensively as possible? Getting your Associate of Science in Nursing might be a good option for you. The two-year Associate Degree in Nursing is the shortest route to becoming a Registered Nurse.

Approximately 30% of ASN grads use the ADN program as a stepping-stone to pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). This is a good option for individuals that have not worked as an LPN and would like to start their career as a registered nurse (RN).

What is an associate degree in nursing (ADN)?

The associate degree in nursing offers the shortest route to becoming a registered nurse. With an ADN you have the education and clinical training necessary to take the NCLEX-RN exam, obtain a license within the state you plan to practice, and begin working in an entry-level position in healthcare. 

An ADN will also give you the base of knowledge and skills required to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) while still making a good salary.

What can you do with an associate degree in nursing?

First and foremost, you can become an RN and start earning a good living. You can also begin pursuing a BSN while you work and begin exploring different specialties.

Within the clinical environment, you can administer medication, discuss symptoms and offer guidance on treatment plans with attending physicians and patients, monitor vital signs, and generally be a part of shaping and delivering the patient's treatment plan.

Where can you work with an ADN?

Registered nurses with an ADN can work in a number of healthcare settings. Doctors' offices, hospitals, surgery centers, nursing homes, and schools are just some of the places you can work. You could even deliver care directly in a patient's home or through a community center.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most RNs (61%) work in public or private hospitals. Just under 20% work in a primary care physician's office or home health office while 7% work in long-term care facilities such as a nursing home.

What is the curriculum and requirements for an ADN?

The ADN curriculum includes 70 credits. Typically an ADN program requires all students to complete the school’s liberal arts core curriculum prior to entering the ADN program. The core curriculum includes:

  • English Composition
  • Communications
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology
  • Statistics

Once you have completed all of the courses above, you will be able to enter the Associate Degree in Nursing program which includes courses in the following subject areas. 

  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Medical-Surgical Nursing
  • Introduction to the Nursing Profession
  • Nursing Health Assessments
  • Professional Issues in Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Psychiatric Nursing
  • Maternal-Newborn Nursing
  • Community Health Nursing

Practical hours and Job training

One of the most important aspects of becoming a nurse is practical hours or “hands-on” experience. The associate degree in nursing provides good theoretical knowledge as well as plenty of practical and clinical training. In fact, students complete more than 700 combined hours of labs, workshops, and community volunteering to gain an understanding of their future job responsibilities.

Are there any online ADN programs?

When it comes to getting an associate degree in nursing online, a significant portion can be completed this way. Most of the core curriculum and theoretical classes can be completed online. However, the hands-on training required through labs and on-the-job training must be done in-person.

You can find online ADN programs near your home or work here.

What if I'm already a Medical Assistant, CNA, or LPN?

Someone working as a Medical Assistant can take a course from a school that offers an MA to ADN path. Likewise, some schools offer LPN-to-ADN programs you can take. Just ensure that the school you choose is accredited and meets all the educational quality standards required. This can be checked through the US Department of Education.

What are the admission requirements?

Admission requirements vary by school. Most of them require math, science, and liberal arts, which are part of the school's core curriculum. Apart from that, typically a written test, interview, and a review of your prior school grades and ACT or SAT scores are general requirements. Sometimes passing exams like HESI, ATI TEAS, and NLN-PAX are also required.

How much does getting an ADN cost?

The fees range from $10,000-$25,000 a year. However, once you're done and become an RN, you can easily earn an average salary of $77,000, and there are almost 100,000 nursing jobs available each year.