Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Overview

Ayana Dunn, BSN, RN
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Updated May 29, 2024
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Learn about ADN programs, admission requirements, jobs, and potential salaries in this guide.
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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

An associate degree in nursing (ADN) prepares you to become a registered nurse (RN) in just two years. Demand for RNs is high, and nursing salaries reflect this demand. Explore how to earn an ADN, what to expect, and RN jobs after graduation.

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

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Core Concepts of an ADN Program

The associate degree in nursing explores nursing safely, ethically, and legally. Learners in online programs receive the same training as their on-campus counterparts. Remote learners need a reliable internet connection and a computer. Programs usually offer tech support and services, such as advising, counseling, and tutoring, online or by phone.

Coursework covers nursing foundations, such as the healthcare system, safety, ethical, and legal concerns, and patient-centered care. Students learn practical, nursing, and organizational skills such as:

  • Running tests
  • Taking vitals
  • Administering medical treatments
  • Preventing infection and injury
  • Updating healthcare records
  • Communicating and collaborating with healthcare professionals
  • Caring for pediatric, maternity, and geriatric populations.

Clinical and Lab Components in an ADN Program

In addition to coursework, the ADN curriculum includes simulation labs and on-site clinical rotations at partner healthcare settings. While ADN coursework is delivered online, students must complete clinical hours in person at a healthcare facility near their homes.

  • Simulation labs allow students to practice skills in a controlled, safe environment.
  • In clinical rotations, students practice clinical skills they learned in simulations. They learn to care for a few patients under the direction of a preceptor and assigned clinical instructor.
  • Accredited ADN programs typically include at least 400 hours of clinical experience and meet state licensure and national accreditation requirements. Clinical hour requirements vary by state and program.

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 application fee

Additional supplemental materials could include a resume, recommendation letters, and a personal essay outlining reasons for pursuing an ADN. Candidates may also need to describe their career goals and any applicable training, such as CPR, first aid, and volunteer or work experience. Applicants must also submit fingerprints, pass a background check, and pass a drug screening to participate in clinicals.

ADN Jobs

ADN graduates can pursue several nursing jobs based on their needs, goals, and personalities. ADN programs do not allow students to specialize during their programs. Yet, nurses can specialize when applying for jobs and gaining RN experience. Specialties, like emergency or critical care nursing, usually require prior nursing experience or a nursing residency.

Nurses can earn nursing certifications after they gain experience in their specialty. Nurses may need to earn their bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree to advance their careers in certain specialties.

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $86,070. Their typical responsibilities include:

  • Conducting assessments
  • Educating patients
  • Administering treatments
  • Performing diagnostic tests

Critical Care Nurse

Critical care nurses earn an average annual salary of $81,543. Their typical responsibilities include:

  • Caring for post-surgery and critical patients
  • Responding to medical emergencies
  • Transferring stable patients
  • Comforting patients and families

Emergency Nurse

Emergency nurses earn an average annual salary of $77,631. Their typical responsibilities include:

  • Performing triage
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Responding to changes
  • Stabilizing patients

Long-Term Care Nurse

Long-term care nurses earn an average annual salary of $70,606. Their typical responsibilities include:

  • Assisting with daily living activities
  • Orienting residents to reality
  • Administering daily medications
  • Preventing falls

Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses earn an average annual salary of $67,332. Their typical responsibilities include:

  • Educating parents
  • Administering medication and childhood vaccines
  • Providing age-appropriate care
  • Performing physical exams

Average ADN Salary

Nurses who’ve earned their ADNs make an average annual salary of $77,000, according to Payscale data from March 2024. Their average hourly rate is $32.56. Your salary may vary based on your location, facility, and years of experience.

Employment opportunities for nurses look bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects nursing jobs to grow by 6% from 2022 to 2032, faster than average for all occupations. About 193,100 positions are projected to open each year during that time.

6% between 2022-2032
Projected Job Growth for All RNs

$76,000
Average Annual ADN Salary

$32.47
Average Hourly ADN Salary

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.

Many nurses start by earning an ADN because of its value and flexibility. An ADN lets you become an RN after just two years. An ADN can be ideal for career changers, those who need to start earning as soon as possible, or those who are not positive that they want to commit to a nursing career.

However, due to the more extensive education and practice requirements in bachelor’s programs, graduates with a BSN typically enjoy more responsibility and higher pay than ADN holders.

If you advance your career, you can apply your credits and work experience to earn a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) with an RN-to-BSN bridge program. To become an advanced practice registered nurse, you must complete a master of science in nursing (MSN) after earning a BSN.

Advantages of an ADN

  • check-circleProvides the skills and degree needed to become an RN
  • check-circleLess time and financial commitment than a four-year degree
  • check-circleCredits can potentially transfer to an RN-to-BSN bridge program

Disadvantages of an ADN

  • x-circleFewer opportunities for advancement than a BSN
  • x-circleLower earning potential than a BSN
  • x-circleLess training than a BSN

Page last reviewed on May 21, 2024