Many nursing candidates opt for a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) when they first begin their nursing journeys. If you’re eager to strap on a stethoscope and get to work, ADNs are the quickest way to get started in the nursing field. You’ll be able to work in facilities including hospitals or doctor’s offices.
An ADN is the minimum degree required to work as a nurse. ADNs require two years of training from an accredited nursing school. Nurses who earn their ADN must then sit for the NCLEX exam to earn their license to practice.
In this article, we will explore:
- ADN curriculum
- ADN nursing certifications
- ADN program cost
- Nursing school waitlists
- Average ADN nursing salary
- Jobs available for ADN degrees
- Is an ADN degree worth it?
- ADN to BSN
Associate Degree in Nursing programs include prerequisites, nursing-specific courses, and clinicals. An ADN program typically lasts 18-24 months. Throughout the program, you’ll take courses and complete hands-on clinicals that will prepare you to care for patients as a nurse.
Associate Degree in Nursing programs include prerequisites, nursing-specific courses, and clinicals. Nursing students can expect to cover the following subjects in their prerequisites and nursing coursework:
- Adult nursing care
- Anatomy and physiology
- Basic pharmacology
- Behavioral health
- Foundations in Nursing
- Maternal and child nursing care
ADN program clinicals
Nursing clinicals are part of an ADN program, too. They give nursing students an inside look at what it will be like to work with patients.
First, you’ll study nursing skills in a controlled lab environment, where your instructor will ensure you meet nursing standards of care. Then, put your skills into action with real patients.
Most nursing schools partner with healthcare providers for clinical opportunities. Nursing students work under the supervision of their instructor and a nurse during clinicals.
Some people might think an associate’s in nursing is easier than other nursing school options. However, this isn’t necessarily true. You will still be completing rigorous coursework and grueling clinicals.
Many ADN programs require students to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0. Of course, the harder you work in nursing school, the more prepared you’ll be to graduate and find a job.
Taking the NCLEX
Once your associate degree in nursing is complete, there’s one final step — passing the NCLEX. This test qualifies you to begin work as a nurse. It tests your critical thinking skills and contains between 75 and 265 questions.
Some ADN program students choose to enroll in NCLEX prep courses so they feel more confident going into the exam. When you’re nearing graduation, you will need to submit an application for licensure and an application for the exam.
If you don’t pass the NCLEX-RN on your first try, you can retest after 45 days.
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ADN nursing certifications
Certifications are not required for nurses with an associate degree. However, they do add value to your resume. Nurses who earned their RN licensure may want to consider earning an additional certification. Some of the most popular options include the CNE, the CCRN, and the PCCN.
Certified Nurse Educator
The Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) certification prepares RNs to teach other nurses in a nursing school or as an in-house educator at a healthcare facility. You will need further education outside your ADN degree to take this exam: Eligible RNs must have a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing.
Critical Care Registered Nurse Certification
The Critical Care Registered Nurse Certification (CCRN) is ideal for RNs who plan to work in emergency care settings, like a hospital emergency room or a trauma care center. There are multiple variations of this certification, including adult, pediatric, and neonatal. You can get a certification that helps with direct care, or certification for nurses who influence care of acutely/critically ill patients but do not provide care directly.
Progressive Care Nursing Certification
The Progressive Care Nursing Certification (PCCN) qualifies nurses to deliver direct care to acutely ill patients. This specialty certification is a good fit for nurses who want to work in intermediate care, direct observation, stepdown, telemetry, transitional care, or emergency departments. Candidates must complete a certain number of clinical practice hours.
ADN program cost
The cost of an Associate’s Degree in Nursing varies considerably among nursing programs. You can expect to pay between $6,000 and $20,000, depending on whether you attend a public or private school.
Community colleges are a popular choice for many people working toward their ADN due to their affordability and flexibility.
Some nursing schools have waiting lists due to high demand. Schools with shorter wait times for new students may cost more. Other costs can include uniforms, supplies, and textbooks. Nursing students can expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $300 for a stethoscope (depending on quality) and roughly $50 to $100 for one set of scrubs. Textbooks and other required educational materials can cost up to $1,000 per semester.
Nursing school waitlists
Unfortunately, nursing school waitlists are common. With nurses in high demand, many people are answering the call to become nurses. Some nursing schools cannot meet the growing surge of nursing applicants, causing backups in their admissions departments.
Keep in mind that being waitlisted is not the same as being rejected for admission. If you are notified of waitlist status, don’t get discouraged. This simply means you meet all criteria for admission, but you need to wait until there is an opening.
Ask the school about their waitlisting policies so you know what to expect. Other questions to ask if you are waitlisted:
- Where do I rank on the waitlist?
- What is the average wait time?
- Can I take prerequisite courses now?
If you prefer not to wait, you can always apply to some other nursing programs. You may get admitted sooner. Waitlist times vary depending on the school and the location.
It’s also important to know that ADN programs typically have the longest waitlist times since they are popular. You may have to wait as little as one semester or as long as three years. It all depends on the school.
Average ADN nursing salary
Nurses with ADNs earned a national average of $73,000, according to payscale.com.
The average ADN nursing salary may vary based on employer.
Nurses with ADNs can work in a variety of settings, including doctor’s offices, hospitals, home health agencies, and outpatient care centers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for RNs is expected to grow by 6% between 2021 and 2031. And although many hospitals do favor candidates with their BSN degree, registered nurses with an associate’s in nursing will still be able to find work, although you may not be able to work at a hospital right away.
For more details, request a free nursing salary estimate by creating a free account with Incredible Health. Find out quickly what other nurses with your education and experience earn.
Jobs available for ADN degrees
As a nurse who completed an Associate Degree in Nursing program, you’re qualified to work in a variety of healthcare settings. You may choose to work at a:
- Insurance company
- Doctor’s office
- Hospital (including specialty hospitals)
- Outpatient care center
- College or university
- Nursing home
- Home healthcare company
Jobs available for RNs with an ADN degree include:
- Home care nurse
- Patient coordinator
- Care coordinator
- Clinical associate
- Pediatric nurse
- Clinical nurse liaison
- Clinical research associate
- Oncology RN
- Emergency room RN
- Infection preventionist
It’s true that an ADN degree might not lead to all the jobs a BSN could find. But it’s also true that your associate’s in nursing will qualify you to work in a variety of interesting, challenging, and fulfilling roles as a nurse.
In addition to the list above, many nurses with ADN degrees choose to work as travel nurses, finding work in different parts of the country.
ADN to BSN
Many nurses who have an ADN degree choose to go back to nursing school later and continue their education. One of the most common options is ADN to BSN (or RN to BSN). If you have your Associate’s Degree in Nursing and would like to further your education to get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), this track is a good fit for you.
RN to BSN programs can be completed online through an accredited institution. Most RN to BSN programs take 18-24 months to complete.
Since many states require a BSN degree for RNs, and many hospitals prefer nurses with their BSN, it’s never a bad idea to continue your education. This will boost your earning potential and allow you to step into leadership roles.
Is an ADN degree worth it?
At the end of the day, an ADN degree can 100% be worth it for certain students. However, it’s important to weigh all of the options and consider what’s best for your specific situation. This is especially true if you’re weighing enrolling in a BSN program vs an ADN one.
An Associate Degree in Nursing has benefits, such as a lower cost and shorter program duration (2 years) compared to a BSN program. So, you could get a job and start working sooner. But it comes with drawbacks, too.
For example, an ADN degree might not open as many doors as many hospitals prefer to hire nurses with a BSN. A BSN program also goes more in-depth than an ADN one. Nurses with BSNs also earn more than their peers with an ADN ($89,000 vs $73,000, according to payscale.com).
The bottom line: an Associate’s Degree in Nursing is an excellent starting place for wherever you want to go in the field of nursing.
Most ADN programs take two years to complete. Your associate’s in nursing could take slightly shorter or longer depending on what school you attend and how quickly you work through your classes. Your time will be spent doing coursework and clinicals to earn your degree.
If you have your associate’s degree in nursing, you’re qualified to work in settings such as a hospital, doctor’s office, or nursing home. You may choose to work as a pediatric nurse, care coordinator, or a travel nurse. While a BSN will open doors to higher positions, you won’t have any trouble finding a job with an ADN degree — especially considering the current nursing shortage in the U.S.
At the end of the day, the answer to this question will differ for everyone. Some ADN pros and cons include that the program is affordable and fast, but many employers prefer nurses with a BSN. An ADN degree may or may not be the best decision in your specific situation. However, you can always build on an ADN degree later if you decide to return to school for your BSN.
Once you have your ADN degree, you can start job searching. There are plenty of nursing jobs available all over the country for nurses who have completed their ADN nursing programs. Use Incredible Health — where employers apply to you — to find the full time, part time, or per diem job you’re looking for. Click here to get started today.
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- “NCLEX & Other Exams.” ncsbn.org. Accessed June 9, 2022.
- “Certified Nurse Educator.” nln.org. Accessed June 9, 2022.
- “Get Certified.” aacn.org. Accessed June 9, 2022.
- “PCCN (Adult).” aacn.org. Accessed June 9, 2022.
- “Registered Nurses.” bls.gov. Accessed June 9, 2022.
- “The 2021 American Nursing Shortage: A Data Study.” usa.edu. Accessed June 9, 2022.