Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN/ASN)An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) is a two-year degree that prepares students to become registered nurses (RNs). The program typically includes internships, classroom instruction, and/or clinical rotations. ADNs are among the fastest ways to enter the field of nursing. They are also known as Associate of Nursing (AN) degrees, or Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (AAS) degrees.
Students who earn an ADN are qualified to take the NCLEX-RN and apply to become licensed as a registered nurse. Most ADN programs are offered by technical schools, nursing schools, or community colleges. Some 4-year colleges and universities offer ADN programs. Programs are also available at a few hospitals throughout the country.
Programs which culminate in an ADN are focused on technical skills rather than theory. They are the quickest route to becoming a registered nurse, which makes them quite popular among nursing students.
It is quite common for students who earn their ADN to continue their education and earn a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN). These programs typically take 4 years to complete, but there are a number of accelerated programs (or "fast-track" programs) available. These programs, often referred to as "bridge programs", allow nurses who already hold an ADN to earn a BSN in as little as two years. If a bridge program interests you, be sure you earn your associate's degree from an accredited school or program. Doing so will make it much easier for you to transfer your credits to other institutions, and will ensure that your degree is accepted by employers.
PrerequisitesADN applicants must hold a high school diploma (or equivalent), and are usually required to complete courses in biology, chemistry, math, and English. Some programs only accept applicants who pass an aptitude test, submit proof immunization, maintain a certain GPA, and/or submit to a background check.
CurriculumAssociate Degree in Nursing programs are designed to train students in the technical skills required for entry-level nursing jobs, and to teach students about patients' health needs. ADN programs typically include courses in microbiology, physiology, nursing pharmacology, anatomy, introductory psychology, and nursing fundamentals.
ADN students are also required to complete a certain amount of hands-on clinical experience, working directly with patients and medical equipment under the supervision of an experienced nurse. Different ADN programs offer different amounts of clinical experience. Before committing to any program, you should make sure that it offers an adequate amount of hands-on training.
ADN vs BSN DegreesBoth ADN and BSN degrees qualify students to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for RN licensure. As a result, many students have a hard time deciding which degree is a better choice.
The biggest difference between ADN and BSN degrees is the amount of time and the number of credit hours required for completion. ADNs take much less time to complete than BSNs (2 years vs. 3-4 years). If you hold a bachelor's degree in a field unrelated to nursing, however, you can enroll in an accelerated BSN program, which only takes 1-2 years to complete.
ADN programs focus more on practical skills than BSN programs, which delve more deeply into theory. The core curriculum of both programs is typically quite similar, involving courses in community health nursing, gerontological nursing, pediatrics, maternal and newborn nursing, psychiatric nursing, and more. BSN programs include courses not offered in ADN programs, such as nursing technology, nursing research, and nursing informatics.
The starting salaries for RNs holding an ADN are, surprisingly enough, quite similar to the starting salaries for RNs holding a BSN. A BSN, in general, will only yield an additional $5,000 of annual income. However, nurses with BSNs are eligible for a host of advancement opportunities that are unavailable to nurses with ADNs.
ADNs are quicker, easier, and less expensive than BSNs. BSNs, however, are more valuable degrees in terms of career advancement and marketability. Both are great ways to get started toward a career in nursing. Only you can decide which path is right for you.