Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) Guide

A complete guide to Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs. From program requirements to job prospects to salaries, our guide covers everything you need to know about ADN programs.

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What is an associates degree in nursing (ADN)?

An associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or Associates of Science in Nursing (ASN), is an entry-level degree that prepares you for a career in nursing. The degree typically takes two years  and is the quickest path to becoming a registered nurse. To get an ADN, you can enroll in a community college or online program offering an accredited degree. Some hospitals and medical programs also offer diploma programs for ADNs.

Nurses with ADN degrees can work in a wide variety of clinical settings and provide care at the bedside. ADN nurses have the training and skills to care for patients of all ages, from newborns to seniors. Compared to nurses with bachelor's degrees, ADN nurses typically have a more limited scope of practice.They can administer medications, provide patient education, perform vital signs, administer injections, and perform many other nursing tasks. However, the exact scope of practice of an ADN nurse can vary by state and by facility.

Where can ADN graduates work?

Technically, ADN graduates can work anywhere where there is a need for registered nurses. In addition to hospitals, other settings where an associate’s degree in nursing can lead to a career include:

  • Assisted living facilities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Private practices
  • Public health departments
  • Public school
  • Universities
  • Veterans’ health care facilities

And while an associate’s degree in nursing is the minimum requirement to work as a nurse, some hospitals and other employers prefer to hire nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Others will hire ADN graduates with the expectation that they will enroll in an RN-BSN program and earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing shortly after being hired.

How much do ADN graduates make?

An ADN prepares graduates for a career as a registered nurse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average registered nurse makes $73,300 per year, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $52,080 and the highest 10 percent earning more than $111,220. A 2019 Medscape survey showed slightly higher salaries for BSN graduates than ADN graduates—$80,000 versus $75,000. One reason for the discrepancy can be attributed to the jobs available to ADN graduates. BSN graduates are eligible for more jobs—including those in administrative roles—that might have higher salaries. Although ADN graduates can fill bedside roles, their long-term job prospects are narrower than those for nurses holding a BSN.

How much do ADN programs cost?

The actual cost of ADN programs varies greatly depending on the institution and the number of credits you need to complete—it’s possible that you have transferable credits from previous schooling. The Maine College of Health Professionals estimates ADN degrees to cost $15,000 per school year. In total, this will cost $30,000 for two years.

How to choose an ADN program

When choosing an ADN program, consider the following questions:

  • Is the school accredited? Accreditation ensures that a school has the right content and that instructors are using the right teaching methods. Visit your state’s board of nursing’s website to find a list of accredited schools.
  • What type of program is best for me? Finding a program that fits your learning style and schedule can help you achieve your career goals. Choosing between online and in-person programs or part-time versus full-time programs is a crucial decision.
  • What are the program’s NCLEX pass rates? Comparing nurse licensing exam pass rates can help you determine whether the school is good at preparing its students for the NCLEX exam.
  • Where do graduates work after graduating? The goal for most ADN graduates is to find a job. Consider where a program’s graduates end up and whether their outcomes are are ones that you would be happy with as well.

For more on choosing the right ADN program, check out our guide to choosing a nursing program.

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What's an RN to BSN program?

RN to BSN programs—also known as bridge programs—are for nurses who already have an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN), but want to get a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN). Getting a BSN helps nurses increase their scope of practice and increase their salary. There are more than 700 RN to BSN programs in the United states and 40% of BSN graduates attended bridge programs.

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