Nursing Degrees: The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Several mentally stimulating academic paths can result in a nursing diploma or degree. These pathways include the diploma in nursing, associate degree in nursing (ADN), bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), and the direct-entry master of science in nursing (MSN). This piece will explore the associate degree in nursing. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


Registered nurses (RN), of which more than 3 million exist in the United States, are multifunctional professionals who have completed an approved nursing program and attained state licensure to care for patient populations across all stages of the life span. Some of the RN's duties and responsibilities include assessment, development of the plan of care, collaboration, patient advocacy, health promotion, disease prevention, psychosocial support, client and family education, documentation, evaluation, performance of procedural hands-on skills, and reinforcement of spiritual needs.

Persons in the US who want to become RNs have up to four intellectually stimulating educational paths from which they shall select. Pre-nursing students may apply to for admission to diploma programs, associate degree nursing (ADN) programs, baccalaureate degree (BSN) programs, or entry-level graduate (MSN) degree programs. Persons who successfully complete any of the four types of prelicensure nursing degree programs will need to pass the same national test, called the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), to receive licensing to legally practice as an RN.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Path

This piece will focus on the associate degree in nursing (ADN), which is the the most popular mode of entry into a nursing career in the US at the time of this writing. In fact, more than half of all newly graduated RNs produced by US schools of nursing every year possess various types of associate degrees in nursing. The associate degree in nursing (ADN) is very similar to the associate of science degree in nursing (ASN) and the associate of applied science degree in nursing (AAS) because the nursing courses and clinical practicum requirements are nearly identical. The defining difference between the three types of associate degree holders is the fact that nurses who possess AAS degrees may need to take more general education courses to to fulfill the core curriculum requirements for attainment of a baccalaureate degree in nursing at many schools.

In general, students who have earned the ADN have an adequate level of readiness to engage in safe nursing practice at the minimally competent level. Most associate degree nursing programs require an average of 72 semester credit hours prior to completion. Moreover, some of these credits might need to be earned as prerequisite courses prior to initiating the application process. Typical prerequisite courses that might need to be completed prior to applying to the school of nursing may include anatomy, physiology, English composition, Microbiology, speech, psychology, and lifespan growth and development. Some ADN programs enroll students once per year, whereas other schools admit a cohort twice yearly.

ADN Coursework

The nursing coursework is comprised of a conflation of theory and hands-on clinical practicum to sufficiently educate and train generalist nurses for entry level employment in all types of healthcare settings. The curriculum normally consists of subjects such as:

  • Dosage Calculations
  • Medical-Surgical Nursing (Adult / Pediatric)
  • Hands-on Clinical Practicum
  • Psychiatric / Mental Health Nursing
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Obstetric / Maternal Health Nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Gerontological Nursing
  • Nursing Fundamentals

Associate degree nursing programs were first created in the 1950s and are typically offered at community colleges, vocational schools, state universities and technical colleges. Numerous ADN programs have formed articulation agreements with an array of colleges and universities to facilitate smooth transfer of credits and enable enrollment in baccalaureate nursing degree completion programs.

What Jobs Can You Do With an Associate Degree in Nursing

Anyone with an ADN can find jobs in the following areas...

  • Doctor's Offices
  • Insurance Providers
  • Retirement Communities
  • Health Practitioners Office
  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient Centers


VickyRN. (2009, July 30). Entry Into RN Practice (Part1): Associate Degree Nursing (ADN). Retrieved April 19, 2014, from

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.
srvjamz said:
Good bye diploma nurses...good bye LVNs..good bye ADNs...

I wouldn't be so quick to say goodbye. LVNs and ADNs are still getting hired, even though the jobs might not be in the acute care hospital.

And people can keep their hospital jobs. My personality is not cut out for hospital work. I enjoy having plenty of downtime during a shift and controlling the outcome of my work days.

I have my RN via associates degree. I wanted to start working fast and for me the decision was an economical one. A 4 year degree at close to $8000 a semester($64000) compared to a 2 year degree at $2500 a semester($10000). Both would get me an RN, so it was a no brainier. I passed the NCLEX first try at 75 questions. I currently work at a job that isn't my dream job, actually thinking of finding another position, I have an interview Monday somewhere else, but make close to $30/hr.

I am also in a RN to BSN completion with plans to graduate in Dec. 2015. So far it's been super easy working full time and going to school part time. My current job also pays up to $6000 a year for BSN completion which equates to 12 credits at my current school. I am excited to get my BSN, I haven't had any interviews with hopsitals and I think it's because I don't have a BSN, which I think is a shame. I am committed to getting my BSN but financially it just didn't make any sense, it was all about numbers for me. I couldn't justify spending $50000 more for my RN in addition to losing 2 years of working.

Specializes in Medical-Surgial, Cardiac, Pediatrics.

Most hospitals that require BSN degrees now do so because they are not only aiming for higher status, they also can be choosier in a more populated area. When you live in rural areas where the closest four year institution is five to six hours away versus maybe two for a community college, you'll take the two year option, and so will the small hospitals who need the nurses in that area.

While much of the west and east coast with larger, denser populations and hospitals serving those can deny two-years over four-years, the small hospitals that service other areas can't. And while they won't always be Trauma I or II facilities, nurses do many of the same duties and more, since they have to be flexible enough to adapt to a smaller environment with less support.

So diploma RNs, ADNs, and LPNs aren't going away anytime soon, and shouldn't, simply for the fact that the United States has much more diverse geographical issues to overcome, and very different populations to serve with more limited educational access. Without ADNs and LPNs, many rural areas in the midwest, southwest, and the south would be really hurting for any quality nursing access at all.

And this wasn't directed at the OP, more the turn that the thread was taking in general.

Your post was very helpful!