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Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Overview

ADN programs place students on the fastest route to become registered nurses (RNs).

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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Opportunities With an ADN

partial online offering
clinical hours required
Explore the nursing field
See if a nursing career fits your goals and temperaments without committing to a 4-year program.
Credit transfer
Credits from an ADN can transfer to a 4-year college to obtain a BSN.
Become an RN
Getting an ADN provides the necessary credentials and prepares students to take the NCLEX-RN.
Skills Learned
Critical thinking, communication, and organization.


Featured ADN Specialties

ADN programs place students on the fastest route to an entry-level nursing career, appealing to those who want to start working as soon as possible. For example, ADN-holders can become OB/GYN nurses, travel nurses, and neonatal nurses. The table below describes these roles in further detail.

adn or bsn Required
High Demand

Registered Nurse

RNs lead teams of nurses to care for patients in clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes. They work the day or night shift to monitor and treat caseloads of patients, including infants, adults, and the elderly. In 16 states, RNs also prescribe medications.
Salary $73,300*
Job Outlook 7% growth from 2019-29
Learn More About Registered Nurses
adn or bsn Required


OBGYN nurses provide medical services to women and infants. Under the direction of obstetricians and gynecologists, they deliver care in clinics, private doctor’s offices, and hospitals. They may focus on helping women in various stages of reproduction, including pregnancy, labor, or postpartum.
Salary $60,000*
Job Outlook 7% growth from 2019-29
Learn More About OBGYN Nurses
asn or bsn Required

Travel Nurse

Travel nurses work on a contract basis. High demand areas such as operating rooms, intensive care units (ICU), and emergency rooms need travel nurses across the country. Their assignments last for weeks or months. International work may run as long as two years.
Salary $79,000*
Job Outlook 7% growth from 2019-29
Learn More About Travel Nurses
adn or bsn Required

Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal nurses administer care to sick or critically ill infants in the ICU or neonatal intensive care unit. The job includes working with pediatricians and nursing staff, while also providing instructions to parents. Most hold years of experience as RNs, and neonatal nursing certificates.
Salary $60,797*
Job Outlook 7% growth from 2019-29
Learn More About Neonatal Nurses
*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale

How Much Will I Make With an Associate Degree in Nursing?


Hourly Salary


Monthly Salary


Annual Salary


Guide to Entry-Level Nursing

How to Get a Associate Degree in Nursing

Decide Type of ADN Program
Figure out if you want to take classes online or in person.
Find ADN Program
After deciding which factors are important to you in a school, use our degree finder to find programs that fit your criteria.
Apply to ADN Programs
Common application requirements include a high school diploma or GED certificate, ACT scores, high school GPA, and official transcripts.
Secure funding for ADN programs
There are many ways to finance your degree, including financial aid, grants, scholarships, and loans.
Attend ADN classes
Online courses recieve the same training as on-campus courses, but clinical hours must be completed in person.
Graduate with an ADN
Congrats on earning your degree! Now you can take the NCLEX-RN and become a registered nurse (RN), or use your credits to advance your degree.

Admission Requirements for an ADN Program

Admission requirements for two-year ADN programs vary by school. However, applicants must typically submit:

  • A high school diploma or GED certificate
  • Proof of completing high school coursework in math, biology, chemistry, English, world languages, and humanities
  • Official transcripts
  • A high school GPA of 2.0 or higher
  • ACT scores (18 in English, 19 in math) and SAT scores (450 in English, 460 in math)
  • An application and supplemental materials, including a resume, recommendation letters, and a personal essay outlining reasons for pursuing an ADN. Candidates may also need to describe their career goals, along with any applicable training, such as CPR, first aid, and volunteer or work experience

Core Concepts in an ADN Program

ADN programs feature courses in nursing practice, prepare learners for the NCLEX exam, and develop through both classroom work and clinical experience. ADN students take classes that may include:

  • Introduction to the nursing profession
  • Professional issues in nursing
  • Health assessments
  • Microbiology and immunology
  • Medical-surgical nursing
  • Pediatric nursing
  • Maternal-newborn nursing

These competencies help nurses meet patients' needs and employ logical thinking and accurate nursing skills like:

  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals
  • Demonstrating management skills
  • Educating patients and staff
  • Employing personal characteristics
  • Engaging in professional development
  • Ensuring quality and safe care
  • Establishing interpersonal relationships with patients and nursing staff
  • Practicing ethically and legally
  • Managing nursing care
  • Using cognitive ability

Clinical and Lab Components in an ADN Program

In addition to coursework, the ADN curriculum includes simulation labs and on-site clinical rotations.

  • Simulation labs allow students to practice skills in a controlled, safe environment.
  • In clinical rotations, students learn to care for patients under the direction of a staff nurse and assigned clinical instructor, Students learn, under supervision, to care for a small number of patients.
  • Accredited ADN programs typically include 500 hours of clinical experiences and meet state licensure and national accreditation requirements.

What to Expect From an Online ADN Program

Distance learners receive the same training as their on-campus counterparts. While coursework is delivered online, clinical hours must be completed in person at a healthcare facility near the student's home. However, during the current pandemic, some programs may offer virtual clinical experiences.

Online courses fall into two categories: asynchronous, which includes prerecorded lectures students can access on their own schedules, and synchronous, which simulates the traditional classroom experience through a live feed or similar format. Remote learners need a reliable internet connection and a computer. Programs offer tech support, along with services like advising, counseling, and tutoring, online or by phone.

Should I Get an ADN or BSN?

An associate degree in nursing and a bachelor's degree in nursing both prepare graduates to take the NCLEX-RN. However, due to the more extensive education and practice requirements involved in bachelor's programs, graduates with a BSN typically enjoy more responsibility and higher pay than ADN-holders.

While a BSN typically takes longer to complete than an ADN, there are many RN-to-BSN bridge programs that allow bachelor's students to expedite graduation.

Advantages to an ADN

  • Provides necessary credential to become an RN
  • Allows candidates to explore the field without committing to a four-year program
  • Credits can potentially transfer to another four-year degree

Disadvantages to an ADN

  • There are better options for individuals committed to a nursing career
  • Less competitive in the job market
  • Does not provide the necessary training to pursue a speciality

Explore ADN Programs

Reviewed by:

Portrait of Theresa Granger, Ph.D., MN, NP-C

Theresa Granger, Ph.D., MN, NP-C

With over two decades of teaching and clinical practice as a family nurse practitioner, Dr. Granger is an expert in nursing education and clinical practice at all levels of education (associate, baccalaureate, and graduate). She has published and lectured extensively on nursing education and clinical practice-related content. Her expertise ranges from student advising and mentoring to curricular and content design (both on ground and online) to teaching and formal course delivery. Dr. Granger is one of the founding faculty members of the University of Southern California’s first ever fully online graduate family nurse practitioner program.

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