Associate Degree in Nursing

About an associate's degree in nursing

  • An associate's degree in nursing (ADN) will give you a solid career foundation in the health care field. Popular among registered nurses (RNs), the ADN provides opportunities to work in entry-level nursing positions. 
  • An ADN can be earned over the course of two- to-three years and the curriculum will include not only nursing, but also liberal arts. After you earn your ADN, you'll need to pass a national licensing examination, NCLEX-RN, in order to begin working as a registered nurse.
  • If you're not quite ready to jump into college coursework but want to enter the nursing field quickly, you can earn a certificate as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). In California and Texas, a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is the job title used. To earn your LPN/LVN certificate, you'll need to complete between one and two years of training at a trade school, community college or technical school.

Why should I earn an ADN or LPN?

  • The job growth for nurses is expected to grow quite a bit over the next few years. Earning an ADN or LPN can get your foot in the door of this in-demand profession and potentially lead to greater opportunities in the future.
  • You should also consider getting an ADN or LPN if you're planning to work in nursing for the long run. Many registered nurses with an ADN take an entry-level position and then use tuition reimbursement programs to earn higher degrees—all while gaining valuable nursing experience.
  • If you're an LPN/LVN, you can enroll in an LPN-to-RN program, where credits earned during your LPN/LVN training are put toward your registered nurse (RN) coursework. 

How long does my program take to complete?

  • One of the biggest benefits to earning your ADN is that it can be completed in as little as two years.
  • LPN/LVN certificate can often be completed in a year.
  • Both of these programs are great options for people who know they want a career in health care, but also want to start working as soon as possible.

Associate's Degree Programs

  • Earning an ADN is the most popular option for registered nurses and opens the door to entry-level staff nurse positions which will provide you with hands-on experience in the medical field.
  • This is the fastest path to becoming a registered nurse as most associate's degree programs last about two to three years.

What certification will I need?

  • After completing your degree program, you'll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
  • In order to sit for the exam, you'll need to apply for a nursing license from your state board of nursing. Since each state has different eligibility criteria, check with your state board to ensure you've met the requirements in order to take the exam.
  • NCLEX is a registered trademark and/or service mark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc.

Are online programs available?

  • Nursing is certainly a hands-on profession, but that doesn't mean online programs aren't available. In fact, there are many associate's and bachelor's degree programs to choose from. Distance learning usually requires to students complete their studies online and conduct their clinical experiences within their local community.

How much will my education cost?

  • An ADN, which takes about two years to complete, averages about $15,052 per academic year (two semesters). Considering an ADN takes two years, you're looking at roughly $31,000 to complete the degree. Cost of tuition only. Prices do not reflect other fees, books, room and board.

Are there prerequisites?

An associate's degree in nursing or a nursing diploma is required to practice as a registered nurse, but entry to a program is based on a few things.

  • Minimum SAT or ACT exam scores
  • GPA range between 2.0 and 3.25 (check your specific school's requirements)
  • 3 years of math, including geometry and algebra II
  • 3 years of science, including biology and chemistry
  • 4 years of English
  • 2 years of a foreign language

What accreditation is there for my program?

  • Accreditation is a sure-fire way to know if a program meets nationally-recognized nursing education standards. Independent accrediting organizations register schools once they've undergone an arduous application process. For students, accreditation is a gateway to potentially reach financial aid eligibility. Secondly, earning a degree at one accredited school allows a student to pursue further education at other accredited schools.
  • The relevant accreditation bodies are listed below. When searching for accredited schools, you don't have to dig too deep. indicates which institutions are NLNAC-accredited using an easy-to-see logo next to the school/program name.
  • A quick tip: Accreditation isn't earned and maintained in perpetuity. Accreditations are usually handed down for a certain amount of time, usually between 5 and 10 years, and are different for each school. It's a good idea to check with your potential program about the length of time it's accredited for.

Main Accreditation Bodies

The Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN), formerly

      NLNAC: Accredits the entire spectrum of nursing programs (associate's, diploma, bachelor's and master's)

The Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE): This body accredits bachelor's and master's nursing programs

  • There's another element students should consider when researching nursing schools. State boards of Nursing approve schools so they can prepare students for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). However, state board approval does not automatically equal school accreditation from one of the national organizations. While most accredited schools are state board-approved, it's always a good idea to check.

Non-accredited schools

  • If you're thinking of attending a non-accredited, but state board-approved school, there can be drawbacks.
  • While you can still take the NCLEX, your nursing profession may stall out if you're seeking additional education. Generally, education from a non-accredited school doesn't qualify students to attend an accredited school.  

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