Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Guide

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An associate degree in nursing, or ADN, helps students get into the healthcare field as quickly as possible. In addition to completing the ADN, students must also take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, in order to become a registered nurse (RN). There is a wide range of job opportunities available for ADN graduates in a range of settings, such as a hospital or a physician’s office. To qualify for an ADN program, most applicants must meet certain GPA and course requirements in high school, particularly in math and science. Once achieved, an associate degree in nursing can lead to a fulfilling career as a nurse providing hands-on care for patients in a number of environments.

View our full ranking list of top ADN programs here.

What Is an ADN?

An ADN is an associate degree in nursing. It requires two years of study and is the fastest path to becoming a registered nurse (RN). Licensure after graduation is also required, which is achieved in most states by taking the NCLEX-RN.

The ADN can be earned at a community college or vocational school. Students learn a range of topics, including nursing foundations, adult care, behavioral health, pharmacology, and maternity and child care. The degree is an essential step for any individual with the desire to become a registered nurse.

How to Choose an ADN Program

Students should choose an ADN program that offers a quality education and a strong potential for successful job placement, as well as the ability to meet their individual needs. At a bare minimum, the program should be accredited either by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Applicants should also review tuition and the potential for financial aid. Because future RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain licensure, applicants should check on each school’s pass rate. This indicates how well students are prepared to attain this crucial certification for practicing nursing.

Other factors when considering top ADN programs include proximity and how far a student wants to travel in order to attend classes. Class size is also an important consideration because access to quality time with instructors can better prepare students to graduate and pass the NCLEX-RN.

ADN Curriculum

Any nursing school curriculum will cover a wide range of topics as part of the ADN program. Students begin by taking general education nursing classes in topics that include anatomy, physiology, biology and nutrition. Labs and clinicals are also an integral part of the ADN program curriculum.

Students reviewing ADN program curricula will also note classes such as nursing skills, emergency care, pediatric and obstetric nursing, and medical-surgical nursing. Some of these ADN classes will be lecture-based, while others provide more hands-on instruction in order to fully prepare students for the NCLEX-RN and for a career as an RN.

How Long Is Nursing School?

The typical ADN program length is two years. It takes this long to complete the required number of classes and labs as well as clinical hours. Once a student earns an ADN, an RN license can then be acquired after passing the NCLEX-RN.

Admission Requirements and ADN Prerequisites

Different programs have varying ADN nursing prerequisites, which can include a minimum high school GPA. Typically, students need at least between a 2.5 and 3.0 GPA to qualify for admission. There may also be specific course requirements, particularly in high school math and science.

Other ADN prerequisites include taking the Test of Essential Academic Skills, or TEAS. This exam tests applicants on their abilities in the following subject areas: reading, math, science, and English and language usage. It is a common test for students pursuing a degree in the health sciences field.

Applicants may also be expected to submit an essay, personal statement, and letter of recommendation when applying to their chosen programs.

What Can You Do With an ADN?

Students wondering what they can do with an associate degree in nursing should become familiar with the hiring landscape in the health sciences field. Most graduates’ first ADN job is an internship, which allows them to hone in on a specialty area. Work environments are varied and can include an emergency room, intensive or progressive care unit, neonatal ICU, operating room, skilled nursing facility, outpatient clinic or a physician’s office.

RN jobs can involve either direct or indirect patient care. While many RNs choose hands-on care working directly with patients, others provide care in alternative settings such as insurance companies, government agencies, schools or community health facilities.

Graduates of an ADN program can expect to qualify for the following types of jobs:

  • School nurse
  • Radiology nurse
  • HIV/AIDS nurse
  • Fitness/nutrition nurse
  • Plastic surgery nurse
  • Labor and delivery nurse
  • Pediatric home care nurse
  • Home health nurse
  • Long-term care nurse
  • Dialysis nurse

ADN Salary

The average ADN salary depends on the geographic location and the exact job. For hourly positions, those who hold an ADN can expect an average of $28 an hour. Salaried positions are typically $67,000 per year. Those who may wonder how getting an ADN affects salary rates as compared to other degrees can explore more competitive health care industries, such as surgical hospitals and home health care services. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can also help applicants qualify for positions with higher pay.

Frequently Asked Questions About ADN Degrees

What Is the Difference Between an ADN and a BSN?

An ADN is a two-year associate degree while a BSN is a four-year bachelor’s degree. While graduates of either program typically qualify for the same entry-level positions, a BSN-prepared RN can also qualify for more advanced positions and higher pay. An ADN program, on the other hand, can be completed more quickly and requires fewer tuition expenses.

What Is the Difference Between an ADN and an RN?

An ADN is a degree, while registered nurse (RN) is a job title and license that you can earn after completing an ADN or BSN degree. Some vocational schools and hospitals also offer two-year RN diploma programs, but this represents a very small percentage of all nursing students and has been phased out in favor of ADN and BSN programs.

Do Hospitals Hire Nurses with Associate Degrees?

Yes, hospitals do hire nurses with associate degrees, although it is becoming increasingly common for them to prefer BSN candidates. However, with a distinct labor shortage in the medical field, nursing professionals with any degree will still be in demand, both in hospitals and in other health care practices.

Do Accelerated ADN Programs Exist?

Most ADN programs take at least two years to complete when classes are taken full time. Those who hold an associate degree in nursing and wish to advance their career, however, can complete an accelerated RN to BSN program. This degree typically takes two additional years of study to complete.