Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

The profession of nursing holds a special place in today’s U.S. healthcare system. Nurses are taking on expanded roles in order to provide comprehensive care to patients across the lifespan, with complex needs and various health conditions. While there are a number of educational paths and specializations that you can pursue within the field, earning your associate degree in nursing (ADN) is one path that can lead to becoming a licensed registered nurse.

ADN Programs

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is an undergraduate degree that allows students to gain core knowledge and clinical skills in the field of nursing. Most associate’s programs are two-year degrees, but there are some programs that can be completed in as little as 18 months. Students who graduate with an ADN may be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which is the exam required to become licensed as a registered nurse.

Finding the best ADN program for you may appear to be tricky given the numerous options you have. But the key is to keep your career goals at the forefront of your decision. Think about where your degree can take you in terms of practice settings, and the kind of impact you want to have in the nursing field.

Can I get my Associate Degree in Nursing online?

You should also factor in current circumstances into your choice. You may be interested in a particular program, but the school offering that program is not in your state. Find out if the school gives you the option of completing that program online.

Today, you’ll find that many colleges and universities offer ADN programs online. Earning your ADN online may be a more viable option for you if you are working full time alongside the degree or simply want to go through coursework at your own pace.

It is best to review admissions requirements to determine which online ADN program works best for you.

Should I pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing?

One reason you may consider pursuing an associate’s degree in nursing is that it helps to equip you with the skills you need to jumpstart your career as a registered nurse, while also ensuring that you are well-prepared should you decide to earn a more advanced degree such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) later on in your career.

Earning your ADN is also a fairly quick way to become a registered nurse as it takes only two years to complete. Other programs, like a BSN program, take four years to complete.

ADN Program Admission Requirements

Admission requirements will vary by school. It is best to take time to review the admissions requirements and process for your desired ADN program. Some admissions processes will require interviews, and others won’t. Requirements to gain admission into an ADN program may include:

  • A high school diploma or GED. Many schools will require prospective students to have earned a minimum GPA for entry into their program.
  • High school Chemistry and Biology (with final grades)
  • SAT scores
  • A personal essay
  • HESI exam

This list was updated in January 2022, please be sure to check with your preferred university for the most current information.

ADN Curriculum

No two ADN programs are the same though there is some crossover in terms of the topic areas covered. Prospective students should expect to take a combination of prerequisite courses and nursing classes. Foundational ADN classes may include:

  • Microbiology
  • Foundations in Nursing
  • Chemistry
  • Behavioral Health
  • English
  • Communications

Most ADN programs typically require clinical hours.Depending on your state board of nursing, clinical hours may be required to apply for licensure/registration as a nurse. Through clinical hours, you will learn how to apply the knowledge you have gained in the classroom to real scenarios in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and other medical settings.

Nursing Careers with an Associate Degree

One benefit to earning an ADN is that it can open you up to a wide range of career paths and work environments. Some nursing careers you can pursue with your associate’s degree in hand, in addition to pursuing RN licensure include:

  • Registered Nurse
  • Outpatient/Personal Care Nurse
  • Physician’s Office Nurse
  • Nursing Care Facility Nurse

Earning your ADN allows you the freedom and flexibility to choose from many registered nurse career paths to find which one aligns with your interests. Becoming a RN and pursuing additional specialities may also require additional credentials.

ADN Career Salary

RN with an ADN salaries vary widely. Your location, practice setting and number of years of experience could all play a role in how much you earn. As of May 2020, the median annual salary for registered nurses is $75,330, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The lowest 10% of RNs earned less than $53,410 that year, while the highest 10% made more than $116,230.

For those planning to enter the nursing field, it is important to note that employment of registered nurses is expected to increase as the healthcare system continues to evolve. From 2020 to 2030, the BLS projects a 9% increase in RN jobs.


Find below some basic questions to help you determine whether earning your ADN is worth it.

How long does it take to get an Associate Degree in Nursing?

Generally, ADN programs take two years to complete. Depending on the status of your credits (such as if you have applicable transfer credits,) you may be able to earn your ADN in a shorter amount of time. For others, such as part-time students, earning your ADN may take longer than two years.

What is an ADN nurse?

An ADN nurse may be a registered nurse who has earned their associate degree in nursing so that they can provide nursing care to patients. They may discuss symptoms with patients, provide medication to patients, monitor patient’s medical records, and report the medical status of a patient to doctors. Duties of an ADN nurse may vary depending on the career path they are pursuing and the environment in which they work.

Can you be an RN with an associate degree?

Earning your associate degree is the minimum educational requirement needed to become a registered nurse, for some states, as well as passing the NCLEX. You can also become an RN by obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN); however, a BSN may take four years to complete.

Last updated January 2022.