10 Best Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs in 2023

An ADN is an excellent place for future nurses to begin their education and kickstart their careers.

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  • Workforce Development Columnist
    Specializes in Workforce Development, Education, Advancement. Has 25 years experience.
10 Best Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs in 2023

If you've spent any time looking into nursing programs, you probably have lots of questions about which degree program will give you the best hands-on experience so you can begin your registered nursing (RN) career.

While some leading organizations advocate for nurses to attend a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program, many associate degree in nursing (ADN) programs provide robust coursework and prepare students well for the NCLEX-RN and on-the-job skills.

To help prospective students decide if and which ADN program is best for them, we've narrowed down the 10 best available in 2023, along with information on degree prerequisites, requirements, salaries, and more.

What Is an ADN?

Getting an ADN is an excellent place for future nurses to begin their education.

Most programs take 18 months to two years to complete. Once completed, nursing careers with a wide range of possibilities, work environments, and types of patients are available.

What Classes Do ADN Nurses Take?

ADNs can be offered at community colleges, state colleges, technical colleges, and some four-year universities but always have a significant focus on core nursing classes and clinical experiences. The robust curriculum, including a blend of classwork and hands-on coursework, means students will be well prepared to take the NCLEX-RN exam and begin in a clinical nurse role upon graduation.

Since ADN students work towards an associate of applied science, coursework in general education and nursing is required. Standard classes include:

  • Fundamentals of Nursing
  • Nursing care of adults
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Behavioral Health
  • Microbiology
  • Humanities
  • Psychology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Chemistry

Can ADNs Be Taken Entirely Online?

ADN programs aren't entirely available online because students must complete hands-on courses, nursing skills in an in-person practice lab, and hands-on patient care in a healthcare facility.

Learning that you can't get your first nursing degree in a fully online program may be disappointing. However, nursing care requires practice and muscle memory to become proficient. These skills are acquired over diligence and time, so to ensure safe and effective care for the thousands of patients in your nursing career future, in-person training is a necessity.

Where Can ADN Nurses Work?

Nurses with an ADN have many career options and opportunities. They can work in any care setting that provides hands-on healthcare. Most ADN RNs work in the hospital setting. However, many work in home care, long-term care, and other state and private facilities. The most common care settings employing associate degree nurses include:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Home care agencies
  • Physicians' offices
  • Educational services
  • Government agencies
  • Schools
  • Community Centers
  • Hospices
  • Dialysis Centers
  • Telephonic and Virtual care settings

ADN Prerequisites and Requirements

ADN programs are often the choice for first-time nursing students because it allows them to become RNs in a short time and quickly reach their career goals. However, because this is an excellent entry point for a long nursing career, there are several prerequisites and requirements.

Proof of Prior Education

Proof of all previous education during the application process will be required. The school requires verification of a high school diploma, GED, and any prior college credits. These documents can be requested from attended schools, and they'll send official transcripts directly to the ADN program of choice.

Prerequisite Studies

Many ADN programs have a list of prerequisite courses. For most people, these courses will have been completed during high school. However, aspiring students must sometimes complete a few chemistry, physiology, or algebra classes before beginning the nursing program. Those who didn't graduate high school but earned a GED may have more courses to complete before starting nursing coursework.

Pre-Entrance Exam

Most nursing programs require the completion of a pre-entrance exam, such as the TEAS or HESI. These tests assess the likelihood of passing the nursing school curriculum. Each standardized test is a bit different, but most tests the knowledge of general health subjects and skills like problem-solving and reading comprehension.

Taking a test prep course for these exams is a good idea because retakes are limited. Check with the college's nursing faculty or admissions office for details about passing scores and retake opportunities before scheduling a pre-entrance exam.

Related: 10 Fastest Registered Nurse (RN) Programs in 2023

CPR Certification

Completion of a CPR certification course is often a requirement of ADN programs. In addition, many schools require a specific type of CPR, like CPR for the Healthcare Provider. Some even require it from a particular organization, such as the American Heart Association. Be sure to check with the nursing program of choice to ensure the correct certification is completed.

Health Requirements

Nursing school means providing hands-on nursing skills in healthcare facilities. Specific health requirements must be met to keep students and patients safe while completing the nursing program. Standard health requirements include:

  • Overall Health Physical
  • Drug Screening
  • Health Immunizations

Criminal Background Check

Nurses care for vulnerable patient populations like pediatrics and senior adults. Nursing schools and healthcare facilities must ensure the safety of patients while students are gaining nursing practice experience by requiring students to complete a criminal background check. Always disclose past convictions because dealing with these issues openly and honestly is the best practice.

Best ADN Programs in 2023

The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most while selecting schools, with the addition of graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rates of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

1. Howard College

Texas has many things that make it a great state to live in. While prospective students might not think nursing schools are one of the top reasons, they might need to think again.

Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, is number one on the list and has operated an ADN program since 1976. This program is approved by the Texas Board of Nursing and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The school has had a 100% NCLEX-RN pass rate in three of the last six reported years. This statistic should provide confidence that students graduate prepared to take the state exam and begin their nursing careers. Education will cost around $2500 per term for in-state students and just over $5000 for out-of-state students.

2. Cayuga Community College

Accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and Registered by the Office of Professions, NYSDE, are just a couple of reasons the ADN program at Cayuga Community College made the list.

This nursing program in Auburn, New York, boasts a 2021 100% NCLEX-RN pass rate and a 2019 55% program completion rate. The 2019 class also met a 100% employment rate within six months of graduation, which surpassed the goal of 80%. Estimated spending is around $2,500 per semester for in-state tuition or just under $5,000 per semester for out-of-state.

3. University of Charleston

Love mountains and want a top-ranking nursing school? Check out the University of Charleston in Charleston, West Virginia. This top ADN program is hybrid and only takes 16 months to complete. In addition, the college has over 50 years of nursing education experience, so be prepared to learn everything needed to be a successful NCLEX-RN candidate and bedside nurse.

With over 3,000 nursing student graduates, this program boasts a 2019 NCLEX-RN pass rate of 100% and program completion rates of over 90% in 2018 and 2019. In addition, students can begin the program at three different times throughout the year, which offers flexibility to fit their needs.

4. Rasmussen University

Rasmussen University is a national leader in nursing education. They have 19 campuses across five states, increasing the chances of getting a nursing degree close to home. This hybrid nursing program requires no pre-nursing coursework, most campuses don't have waiting lists, and many have multiple start dates yearly.

Students will learn all about patient care skills, clinical decision-making, and professional confidence and gain a well-rounded nursing perspective. They'll also be well prepared for the NCLEX-RN but must check in with the college to get the exact pass rates for their chosen campus.

Rasmussen's ADN program is ACEN accredited.

5. Galen College of Nursing

Galen's two-year ADN is a great place to start a healthcare career. The program has four starts each year and campuses in Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accredits the school. It will take 24 months to complete the program, but no prerequisites are required to start because all general education classes are included in the nursing curriculum.

6. Chabot College

If sunny California and a degree in nursing are calling, consider Chabot College in Hayward. This nursing program has seen excellent success with seven years of 100% NCLEX-RN pass rates from 2016 to 2022.

All applicants must achieve 62% or higher on the ATI TEAS exam and meet all standard application requirements. Applications are only accepted once a year and a maximum of 40 students are selected. This nursing program will cost approximately $7,000, not including uniforms and fees.

7. Santa Monica City College

Santa Monica City College is the second California school on our top ten list. This nursing program meets the standards of the California Board of Registered Nursing and is accredited by ACEN. All students must complete Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Microbiology before beginning the nursing program.

The school boasts an 89% program completion rate, a 91.55% NCLEX-RN pass rate, and a 100% job placement rate for the 2021-2022 graduating class. The school's vision is to embrace excellence in education while preparing nursing graduates to work as RNs with a foundation for lifelong learning.

8. Big Bend Community College

Big Bend Community College in Washington prepares nursing students to become safe and responsible practitioners. The school is approved by the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and accredited by ACEN.

The program will take 24 months to complete and is offered fully in person. The most recently reported NCLEX-RN pass rate was 80%, and the school reports a recent graduate rate of 73% of all nursing students. In addition, they offer post-graduation employment assistance, and the latest data shows that 100% of all graduates were placed in a job upon graduation.

9. Excelsior College

Excelsior College offers two different associate's degrees for prospective nursing students. You can choose from an Associate in Applied Science in Nursing program or an Associate in Science in Nursing program. They have similar nursing coursework requirements but vary in general education requirements. No matter which program is chosen, students will be well on their way to a successful career because all graduates receive free preparation for the NCLEX-RN exam.

This program has a unique format. First, students take all of their nursing coursework online. Then, during their nursing capstone, they travel onsite to complete laboratory and clinical experiences. NCLEX-RN pass rates for Excelsior come in at 67%, and the school admits 67% of all applicants.

10. Montgomery College

Rounding up our top ten nursing schools is Montgomery College in Maryland. The nursing program is a selective application-based program that limits its per-semester admission to 192 students. The nursing curriculum is completed over two years. The program is accredited by ACEN and approved by the Maryland Board of Nursing.

Upon completion, graduates can utilize clinical reasoning, practice patient-centered care, and be proficient in current technologies and informatics. If students want to continue their nursing education after obtaining their ADN, the school has several nursing transfer agreements to colleges with ADN to BSN pathway programs.

Outlook and Salary Expectations of RNs in 2023

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that more than 203,000 new registered nurse positions will be created between 2021 and 2031. This increase in job opportunities, current staffing shortages, and the aging US population make it an excellent time to begin a nursing career.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for registered nurses in 2021 was $77,600 per year or just over $37.00 per hour. It's critical to note that BLS doesn't break down salary ranges between ADN and BSN nurses. There is also some variation in nursing salaries depending on location within the United States and nursing specialty.


Q: Is an ADN worth it since many organizations are pushing for BSN nurses?

A: Unfortunately, the answer to this question depends on what you want for your nursing career. If you want to go to school in the shortest amount of time but still obtain your RN, this is the degree for you. However, if you want to go into teaching, leadership, or a few other specialties, you might choose a BSN program instead.

Q: Can I complete my ADN as a part-time student?

A: Finding RN programs with part-time, evening, or weekend options is getting harder and harder. Most programs require you to be a full-time nursing student to become an RN.

Related: 10 Best Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs in 2023

Q: How hard is obtaining my BSN after getting my ADN?

A: There are many RN-to-BSN programs out there for nurses who already have an RN licensure. All you have to do is find the best one that fits your schedule and career goals. In addition, many RN-to-BSN bridge programs are also offered online so you can balance work, home life, and school simultaneously.

Q: Is there a specific RN licensure exam for ADN Nurses?

A: No. All RNs take the NCLEX-RN to become licensed in the state in which they live.

Q: Do I have to have a BSN to work in pediatric nursing?

A: No. Many ADN nurses are in specialties, including pediatric nursing.

AD DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links. These links are designed for allnurses to generate revenue at no cost to you. The websites you visit are operated by third parties and have no influence in our recommendations, which are grounded in research.

Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa is a nurse with over two decades of experience in leadership and workforce development. She loves to help other healthcare professionals advance their careers.

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