10 Best Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs in 2024

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

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If you've spent time researching nursing programs, you likely have many questions about which one offers the best hands-on experience to kickstart 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 which ADN program is best for them, we've narrowed down the 10 best available in 2024, along with information on degree prerequisites, requirements, salaries, and more.

What Is an ADN Program?

The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program is a two-year degree pathway leading students to become an RN after passing the NCLEX-RN exam. 

It provides essential education in nursing theory and clinical skills. The most common career for ADN graduates, once they become an RN, is the ability to work in a variety of healthcare settings, including clinics, nursing homes, and hospitals. 

They can choose to obtain certifications and pursue advanced degrees that specialize in various nursing fields such as pediatrics, gerontology, oncology, critical care, and labor and delivery. Most, if not all, even go on to pursue a Bachelor of Science (BSN) degree or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

What Is the ADN Curriculum About? 

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

ADN RN Clinical Hour Requirements

ADN and RN programs have specific clinical hour requirements that are essential for the comprehensive development of nursing students. Typically, ADN programs require a minimum of 500 clinical hours, serving as a foundation for gaining diverse and practical experiences in various healthcare settings. This allows nursing students to develop a well-rounded skill set that is crucial for their roles as registered nurses.

The clinical hour component is a cornerstone of ADN education, contributing significantly to the development of nursing skills vital for effective practice. During clinical hours, students engage in:

  • Assessment: Hands-on activities to evaluate and analyze patient conditions effectively.
  • Patient Education: Opportunities to enhance communication skills and convey medical information clearly to patients.
  • Medication Administration: Practical experience in administering medications with precision and proficiency.
  • Critical Thinking: Application of critical thinking skills to solve real-life healthcare dilemmas and make informed decisions.
  • Application of Curriculum: Integration of theoretical knowledge gained in the curriculum into actual patient care scenarios.
  • Vital Signs: Practice in measuring vital signs, a fundamental skill for monitoring and assessing patients' overall health.
  • Interacting with Healthcare Teams: Collaborative experiences with healthcare teams to develop seamless teamwork within interdisciplinary environments.
  • Hands-on Nursing Skills: Practical application of various nursing skills such as wound care, IV therapy, and basic nursing procedures.
  • Time Management: Learning to manage time efficiently in a fast-paced healthcare environment.
  • Cultural Competence: Exposure to diverse patient populations, fostering cultural competence in nursing practice.
  • Ethical Decision-Making: Navigating ethical dilemmas and making decisions aligned with ethical standards in healthcare.

These diverse experiences in clinical settings are integral to bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. Through clinical hours, nursing students not only navigate the complexities of healthcare scenarios but also develop the competence and readiness required for a successful and impactful career in nursing.

Are Online ADN Programs Offered?

Online ADN programs aren't entirely available remotely 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, but most work in the hospital setting. Others 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 nurses are very versatile and diverse. While some may opt to work in these settings, others may choose to specialize in certain medical fields, or they may pursue leadership roles to advance their careers.

ADN Prerequisites and Requirements

ADN programs are often the choice for first-time nursing students because they allow 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.

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 2024

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 ACEN accredited, 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. The tuition fee is only $72 per semester hour with a base amount of $150 for in-district residents, while out-of-district residents are charged $132 per semester hour with a base amount of $180. 

2. Cayuga Community College

Accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and Registered by the Office of Professions, NYSDE, these 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%. In-district residents pay a total amount of $2,568 per semester while out-of-state or country applicants need to pay $5,136 per semester.

3. University of Charleston

Do you 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. An ADN program costs $380 per credit hour with a total program tuition of $22,800. Moreover, the University of Charleston's ADN program is ACEN accredited, ensuring a high standard of education and preparation for aspiring nurses.

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 tuition fee costs $409 per credit.

The University holds ACEN accreditation for its ADN nursing programs at the following campuses:

  • Florida -- Central Pasco, Fort Myers, Ocala, and Tampa campuses.
  • Minnesota -- Bloomington, Mankato, Moorhead, and St. Cloud campuses.
  • Wisconsin -- Green Bay and Wausau campuses
  • Kansas --  Overland Park campus 

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.

The tuition fee will depend on the state you plan to enroll in. For a general overview, their nursing education courses cost around $435 per quarter credit hour. 

Galen College of Nursing holds ACEN accreditation for its ADN programs at the following campuses: 

  • Florida – Gainesville, Miami and Tampa Bay 
  • Kentucky – Louisville 
  • Ohio – Cincinnati
  • South Carolina – Myrtle Beach 
  • Tennessee- Nashville 
  • Virginal -- Richmond

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.

The entire program costs around $4,000 to $5,000 for over two years excluding books and uniforms. 

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.

Tuition fees for a resident student registering for 19 credits will amount to $1,955.48, excluding class-specific fees.

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.

Online course tuition fee is $550 per credit, excluding academic service fees, technology fees, and other miscellaneous fees.

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.

Depending on the credit hours you take, Montgomery's tuition fee rates for Maryland residents can range from $341.80 for one credit to over $5,127 for 15 credits.

2024 ADN RN Job Projection

As of 2022, the US had 3,172,500 working nurses, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 6% faster-than-average growth in nursing jobs, adding 177,400 new positions by 2032, reaching a total of 3,349,900 nurses.

This growth presents a significant opportunity for aspiring nurses, driven by the existing nursing shortage, slow enrollment in nursing schools, and an anticipated wave of retirements among RNs in the next 15-20 years. Despite challenges post-COVID-19, the demand for skilled nursing professionals remains high, particularly due to the aging population with increased healthcare needs.

As a future nurse, you can play a vital role in shaping healthcare due to the high demand for skilled nursing professionals.

Salary Expectations of RNs in 2024

Registered Nurses (RNs) are experiencing high demand in a variety of healthcare settings, a trend that is expected to continue. The the nursing shortage, driven by the retirement of older nurses, declining enrollment in nursing schools, and a growing elderly population, has resulted in numerous job openings for RNs that need to be filled. This surge in job vacancies has created a competitive market, potentially increasing salaries.

Amid this shifting landscape of nursing salaries, there is a noticeable income gap between ADN-prepared and BSN-prepared RNs. While BSN RNs typically command higher salaries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not distinguish between these educational levels in its salary reports.

National RN Salary Average:

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

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. 

Average ADN RN Salary:

  • Hourly Wage: $39.00
  • Annual Wage: $80,321.00

Average BSN RN Salary:

  • Hourly Wage: $46.00
  • Annual Wage: $96,546.00

U.S Cities with the highest ADN RN salary are: 

  • Santa Clara, CA: $100,597.00
  • Washington D.C.: $99,301.00
  • San Francisco, CA: $96,438.00
  • Marysville, WA: $94,872.00
  • Green River, WY: $94,857.00

Nursing salaries are influenced by several factors, including specialty, experience, and employer.  While some employers offer higher pay for BSN degrees, many provide excellent tuition reimbursement to support advanced education. Additionally, salaries can vary widely based on geographic location, type of workplace, and years of experience. Aspiring nurses should consider these aspects when planning their educational and career paths. 

Cost of ADN RN Programs

The expenses tied to associate's degree in nursing (ADN) programs exhibit notable diversity, influenced by various factors. Let's explore the details:

Tuition: Differs based on the institution's nature (public or private) and residency status, with private institutions and out-of-state residents often incurring a higher cost.

Supplies: Encompasses expenditures for textbooks, medical supplies, and other educational materials, with costs varying from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Technology Fees: Hybrid programs might entail additional fees for technology, software, or online resources.

Lab Fees: Some courses may impose fees for materials or equipment use.

Miscellaneous Fees: Encompasses application fees, graduation fees, and other administrative costs.

Living Expenses: Relates to day-to-day living costs like food, utilities, and personal expenses, especially impactful for those not working or needing to relocate for their ADN RN program.

Make sure to look at the overall cost of your ADN program. This way, you can make a plan that lets you focus on your studies while you're in school. To reduce the overall cost of your associate in nursing, check out the Cheapest ADN Programs of 2024.

Are ADN Programs Worth It?

ADN RNs are vital contributors to the healthcare workforce, making choosing an ADN a practical decision aligned with the increasing demand for nursing professionals. In response to the nationwide need for nurses, a 2-year or less ADN program serves as an excellent entry point, addressing the urgent demand for skilled nursing professionals.

However, aligning this choice with individual career goals is crucial. Starting with an ADN opens doors to a fulfilling nursing career, but there may be advantages to pursuing a BSN degree upfront, especially for specialized roles. 

If you have a specific hospital or nurse role in mind, thorough research on their requirements is essential. According to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), 28% of employers require a bachelor's degree, while 72% strongly prefer baccalaureate-prepared nurses. Researching the educational preferences of hospitals or nursing positions in your desired location may guide your decision on whether to pursue an ADN or BSN. 

If you know you want to become a nurse but are unsure about the specifics, starting with an ADN degree program allows for flexible growth, tailoring your educational path based on evolving career aspirations.

To help with your decision, here are some pros and cons of ADN programs:

Pros of ADN Programs:

  1. Affordability: ADN programs are generally less expensive than BSN programs, making them accessible to a wider range of students.
  2. Shorter Duration: These programs typically take about two years to complete, allowing students to enter the workforce more quickly.
  3. High Demand: Graduates are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN and become registered nurses, a profession with high demand across various healthcare settings.
  4. Flexibility: Many ADN programs offer flexible scheduling options, including evening and weekend classes, to accommodate students' busy lives.
  5. Foundation for Further Education: ADN graduates can later pursue BSN or MSN degrees through bridge programs, enabling career advancement.
  6. Diverse Employment Opportunities: ADN-prepared nurses can work in numerous healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and home health care.

Cons of ADN Programs:

  1. Limited Career Advancement: Some employers prefer or require a BSN for advanced positions, potentially limiting career growth for ADN graduates.
  2. Lower Salary Potential: BSN-prepared nurses often earn higher salaries compared to their ADN counterparts.
  3. Less Comprehensive Curriculum: ADN programs may offer a less in-depth curriculum compared to BSN programs, particularly in areas such as leadership, research, and public health.
  4. Competitive Job Market: In competitive job markets, BSN-prepared nurses may have an edge over ADN-prepared nurses in securing positions.
  5. Continuing Education Requirements: To advance in their careers, ADN-prepared nurses may need to pursue further education, which can involve additional time and financial investment.
  6. Perception Issues: Some healthcare employers and professionals may view ADN programs as less rigorous compared to BSN programs, potentially affecting job opportunities and professional reputation.

How to Choose a Nursing Program

The reasons for selecting a nursing program vary among students based on their specific needs and priorities. Some students prioritize the cost of education, while others may focus more on NCLEX pass rates, academic reputation, or other factors.

While individual preferences differ, a survey by allnurses identified 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 evaluate their personal needs and select schools that best align with their priorities.

Importance of Choosing an Accredited ADN RN Program

The importance of accreditation in ADN RN programs cannot be overstated. When choosing an associate nursing program, it is crucial to include accreditation as a key consideration. Let's explore why it is so important:

  • Educational Standards: Accredited RN programs consistently uphold curriculum, faculty qualifications, resources, and clinical training standards, which are validated through regular evaluations.
  • NCLEX Preparation: Attending a nursing program that is accredited can significantly improve your preparation for the NCLEX-RN exam.
  • Prerequisite for Licensing: In many states, obtaining a license to practice as a registered nurse requires graduation from an accredited program. 
  • Career Opportunities: ADN RN graduates are preferred by employers as their education aligns with national standards, providing more career options and flexibility for relocation to states that mandate nursing school accreditation.
  • Credit Transfer: Credits earned in an accredited ADN RN program are more likely to be recognized by other nursing institutions, which makes it easier for transfer students or those aiming for advanced degrees like a BSN, MSN, or even DNP.
  • Professional Credibility: Completing an accredited associate nursing program enhances professional credibility, demonstrating education and training in alignment with national standards while also contributing to the advancement of nursing practice.
  • Financial Aid: Accreditation is a requirement for federal financial aid eligibility, making accreditation pivotal for students who want financial aid while pursuing an RN education.

Aspiring nurses must ensure their selected programs are accredited by recognized bodies such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA). While CCNE is reputable, it doesn't accredit undergraduate nursing schools; ACEN stands out as the primary accrediting body for ADN programs.


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.

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.

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Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa Mills has 26 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Workforce Development, Education, Advancement.

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