20 Best ADN Programs in Illinois in 2024

If you dream of becoming a registered nurse and serving the people of Illinois, our meticulously selected ADN programs will provide you with the knowledge and skills to make a meaningful difference in patients' lives. Programs


Becoming a registered nurse (RN) in Illinois involves exploring several educational pathways. Among them, the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is one of the fastest and most popular options.

Considering this, we've provided everything you need to know to apply for an ADN in Illinois, along with salary expectations after graduation and recommendations for the best programs in the state.

Best ADN Programs in Illinois

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 NCLEX pass rates, graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rate of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

1. Black Hawk College

In Moline, Black Hawk College offers an ADN program at an estimated annual tuition of $4,046, ensuring affordability without compromising quality education. With a solid 92% NCLEX pass rate and ACEN accreditation, the college equips students for a successful nursing career.

2. College of DuPage 

Nestled in Glen Ellyn, the College of DuPage offers a well-structured ADN program that sets a strong foundation for aspiring nurses. With a commendable 92% NCLEX pass rate and ACEN accreditation, the program ensures students receive the necessary preparation for a successful nursing career. With a comprehensive curriculum and an estimated annual tuition of $5,519, the College of DuPage provides a promising pathway to excel in healthcare.

3. Elgin Community College

Elgin Community College offers an ADN program at an estimated annual tuition of $3,628, providing an affordable pathway to a nursing career. With a respectable 88% NCLEX pass rate and ACEN accreditation, the college is committed to delivering a quality nursing education to its students.

4. Waubonsee Community College

At Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, aspiring nurses can enroll in an ADN program at an estimated annual tuition of $5,597. With a 90% NCLEX pass rate and ACEN accreditation, the college sets a strong foundation for students' nursing success.

5. Southeastern Illinois College 

Southeastern Illinois College, located in Harrisburg, offers an ADN program at an estimated annual tuition of $5,697, providing a valuable investment in nursing education. With an exceptional 98% NCLEX pass rate and ACEN accreditation, the college stands out as a top choice for nursing students.

Score School Program City Estimated
NCLEX Pass Rates
(Avg. 2018-2022)
99.59 Black Hawk College ADN Moline $4,046 92% Yes
96.92 College of DuPage ADN Glen Ellyn $5,519 92% Yes
96.35 Elgin Community College ADN Elgin $3,628 88% Yes
94.78 Waubonsee Community College ADN Sugar Grove $5,597 90% Yes
92.60 Southeastern Illinois College ADN Harrisburg $5,697 98% No
92.23 Joliet Junior College ADN Joliet $3,695 94% No
91.00 Moraine Valley Community College ADN Palos Hills $1,610 89% No
90.75 John A Logan College ADN Carterville $5,616 96% No
90.33 Danville Area Community College ADN Danville $4,191 83% Yes
87.94 Kaskaskia College ADN Centralia $6,064 94% No
87.60 Southeastern Illinois College ADN Harrisburg $5,697 93% No
87.55 Oakton Community College ADN Des Plaines $6,277 94% No
87.09 Shawnee Community College ADN Ullin $4,875 91% No
86.66 McHenry County College ADN Crystal Lake $7,319 95% No
86.63 College of Lake County ADN Grayslake $6,235 83% Yes
85.94 Ambria College of Nursing ADN Hoffman Estates $14,901 98% Yes
85.05 Kankakee Community College ADN Kankakee $5,999 91% No
84.06 Carl Sandburg College ADN Galesburg $3,232 75% Yes
83.61 Lincoln Land Community College ADN Springfield $6,245 90% No
82.36 South Suburban College ADN South Holland $5,277 87% No

What Is an ADN?

An ADN is an entry-level degree that provides students with the necessary knowledge and skills to become RNs. Upon completion of an ADN program, students are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed.

ADN Coursework

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?

Acquiring nursing skills requires hands-on learning and real-life practice, which can't be fully replicated in an entirely online environment for an initial nursing degree. Because of this, ADN programs aren't entirely online, as in-person skills training and direct patient care experiences in healthcare facilities are needed. However, plenty of ADN programs offer online coursework options, providing a hybrid environment for working students or those who require more flexible schedules.

Where Do ADN-Prepared Nurses Work?

Nurses with an ADN have many career options and opportunities and can practice in most care settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing Homes
  • Home Care Agencies
  • Physician Office
  • Educational Services
  • Government Agencies
  • Schools
  • Community Centers
  • Hospices
  • Dialysis Centers
  • Telephonic and Virtual Care Settings

ADN Prerequisites and Requirements

Acceptance to an ADN program comes with several prerequisites and requirements, including:

  • Proof of Prior Education: Verification of high school diploma or GED.
  • Prerequisite studies: Research your program for the exact courses needed.
  • Pre-Entrance Exam: Tests like the TEAS or HESI.
  • CPR Certification: Varying depending on the program.
  • Criminal Background Check: To ensure patient safety.

ADN Program Cost in Illinois

The expenses associated with pursuing an Associate Degree in Nursing in Illinois vary widely due to several factors. Below are key financial aspects to keep in mind when planning your nursing education budget:

  • Tuition: There is a notable variation in tuition costs across public and private institutions in Illinois, as well as between in-state and out-of-state students. Private schools and non-resident tuition typically carry higher fees.
  • Supplies: This category may include textbooks, medical supplies, and other essential educational materials. Costs can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
  • Technology Fees: Students enrolled in hybrid or online ADN programs may incur additional expenses for technology, software, or access to digital learning platforms.
  • Lab & Clinical Fees: Certain courses may require fees for the use of specific materials or equipment necessary for practical training.
  • Miscellaneous Fees: These often include application fees, graduation fees, and other administrative costs that are crucial to the educational journey but sometimes overlooked.
  • Living Expenses: Costs related to daily living, such as food, housing, utilities, and personal expenses, are particularly significant for students who plan to study full-time without working or those who may need to relocate for their education.

Understanding the comprehensive costs associated with an ADN program in Illinois is essential for effective financial planning and maintaining focus on your academic objectives. Exploring the Most Affordable ADN Programs available in 2024 can also aid in managing your educational expenses.

ADN Salary Expectations in Illinois

In the dynamic landscape of nursing salaries, the distinction between ADN and BSN prepared registered nurses is pivotal. BSN RNs are likely to earn more, yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not differentiate between the two.

RNs nationally earn:

  • Mean Hourly Wage: $45.42
  • Mean Annual Wage: $94,480.00

According to the BLS, registered nurses in Illinois earned salaries just below the national average in 2023. With 139,910 RNs employed, Illinois ranks in the top 25th percentile nationally for RN employment.

 RNs in Illinois earn:

  • Mean Hourly Wage: $42.14
  • Mean Annual Wage: $87,650.00

As of 2023, the highest paying states for RN's are:

  • California: $137,690.00
  • Hawaii: $119,710.00
  • Massachusetts: $113,440.00
  • Oregon: $111,030.00
  • Alaska: $109,210.00

While the BLS does not provide data to compare ADN RN to BSN RN salary, ZipRecrutier's reports identify a difference in salary. 

BSN RNs in Illinois earn an average wage of:

  • Hourly Wage: $39.00
  • Annual Wage: $80,499.00

ADN RNs in Illinois earn an average wage of:

  • Hourly Wage: $37.00
  • Annual Wage: $76,553.00

Cities with the highest ADN RN salary in Illinois are: 

  • Rockford: $82,896.00
  • Chicago: $79,061.00
  • Elgin: $78,202.00
  • Naperville: $77,990.00
  • Joliet: $72,223.00

Is Pursuing an ADN in Illinois Worth It?

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) provides a swift and cost-effective pathway into the nursing profession, aligning perfectly with the ongoing demand for healthcare professionals in Illinois. Like any major decision, choosing to enroll in an ADN program comes with its set of advantages and challenges.

Pros of ADN Programs in Illinois

  1. Quick Entry to the Workforce: ADN programs typically require two years to complete, enabling graduates to enter the nursing field sooner than those who undertake a four-year BSN.
  2. Cost-Effectiveness: Generally, ADN programs are more affordable than BSN programs, particularly those offered at community colleges, which are noted for their lower tuition rates.
  3. Broad Accessibility: Numerous community colleges and technical schools across Illinois offer ADN programs, providing education to a diverse range of students from various backgrounds.
  4. Thorough NCLEX-RN Exam Preparation: These programs are designed to thoroughly prepare students for the NCLEX-RN, the essential licensure exam for nurses.
  5. Flexible Scheduling: ADN programs frequently offer flexible class schedules, including evening and weekend options, to accommodate students balancing other personal and professional responsibilities.

Cons of ADN Programs in Illinois

  1. Career Advancement Limits: Some employers, especially in specialized or leadership roles, may require a BSN, potentially restricting career advancement for ADN graduates until they further their education.
  2. Competitive Disadvantages: In a job market that increasingly values BSN-prepared nurses, those with an ADN might encounter disadvantages, particularly in settings with higher educational demands.
  3. Future Educational Needs: With the nursing field trending towards a BSN requirement for RNs, ADN graduates are advised to consider BSN bridge programs to stay competitive and meet evolving employer expectations. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nearly 28% of employers require a bachelor's degree, and 72% strongly prefer baccalaureate-prepared nurses.
  4. Limited Opportunities in Specialized Areas: Advanced roles in research, public health, or management are more often accessible to those with a BSN or higher qualifications.
  5. Continued Education Requirements: While an ADN qualifies you to practice as an RN, advancing into specialized or administrative roles typically necessitates further education, such as a BSN or an MSN.

Choosing an ADN in Illinois offers significant benefits and lays a strong foundation for a nursing career. However, it is vital to consider your long-term career goals and educational needs when making this decision.

How to Choose a Nursing School

Reasons for choosing a nursing school will vary per student and their specific needs. Some students value the cost of education, while others may place greater emphasis on NCLEX pass rates, academic reputation, or other factors.

Although it will vary by individual, a survey by allnurses revealed the top 11 reasons nursing students chose their programs:

  1. Cost
  2. High NCLEX Pass Rate
  3. Location
  4. Academic Reputation
  5. Availability of Financial Aid and Scholarships
  6. Length of Time to Obtain Degree
  7. Flexibility of Schedule
  8. Curriculum
  9. Campus and Surroundings
  10. Nursing Clinicals Location
  11. Availability of Online Courses

Ultimately, prospective students should assess their needs and pick schools that best fit them.

Importance of ADN Program Accreditation in Illinois

Beyond the various factors to consider when selecting an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program, accreditation is paramount for those charting their career and educational paths in Illinois. Here's why accreditation is indispensable:

  • Educational Quality: Accredited ADN programs in Illinois adhere to stringent standards in curriculum development, faculty qualifications, resource availability, and clinical training, ensuring that the education meets or exceeds national benchmarks.
  • NCLEX-RN Exam Preparation: Being enrolled in an accredited program significantly bolsters your preparation for the NCLEX-RN exam, thereby enhancing your chances of success on the first attempt.
  • Licensing Flexibility: While a state-approved program enables practice within Illinois, lacking accreditation may hinder your ability to secure licensure in other states without undergoing further accredited education.
  • Employment Prospects: Graduates from accredited programs are often preferred by employers because their education complies with national standards, which assists in job placement and supports smoother transitions across state lines for career opportunities.
  • Credit Transferability: Credits from an accredited program are more likely to be accepted by other educational institutions, crucial for those aiming to advance their education with further degrees such as a BSN, MSN, or DNP.
  • Professional Reputation: Earning a degree from an accredited program boosts your professional standing by aligning your education with recognized standards and promoting the advancement of nursing practices.
  • Access to Financial Aid: Accreditation is essential for eligibility for federal financial aid, a critical resource for many students.

Prospective nurses in Illinois are advised to choose programs accredited by reputable organizations such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the National League for Nursing's Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA). While the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is also highly respected, it does not offer accreditation for ADN or diploma nursing programs.

FAQ and Additional Readings

Q: How do I transfer my nursing license to Illinois?

Illinois is not part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), so you must apply for licensure with the Illinois Board of Nursing.

Q: Are there specialization programs for nurses in Illinois?

Many schools in Illinois offer advanced nursing degrees, allowing RNs to specialize in pediatric, geriatric, family nurse practitioner, acute care, and more.

Q: Is it better to have an ADN or a BSN?

While obtaining an RN license after completing an ADN is possible, the opportunities after graduation and beyond are more significant with a BSN degree. BSNs focus more on research, leadership skills, and evidence-based practice, whereas an ADN primarily focuses on clinical skills.

Additionally, many healthcare institutions now require BSN-prepared RNs to fulfill various accreditation and Joint Commission requirements and achieve Magnet status prestige.

Edited by Erin Lee
3-4 sentences top 5 schools

Editorial Team / Admin

Erin Lee has 12 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care, Procedural, Care Coordination, LNC.

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