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What Is an Associate Degree in Nursing?

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There are many levels of nursing degrees, and each provides different job opportunities. One path to becoming a registered nurse or RN is to first earn an Associate Degree in Nursing, or an ADN. An ADN can be earned at a community college or technical college in two years' time. An ADN focuses on the technical aspects of nursing, rather than the theoretical and academic aspects of nursing generally covered in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.

ADN Curriculum

ADN students will have to fulfill some basic prerequisites before taking nursing course, such as courses in writing, social science, history, etc. Nursing-specific courses will likely cover such topics as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, biology, family health, pediatric and geriatric medicine, pharmacology, psychology and mental health. The course requirements will vary by institution.

Other Factors

State Boards of Nursing in each state determine which programs are acceptable for that state. Upon completion of a state certified curriculum of study, the nursing candidate will need to pass the NCLEX, or the National Council Licensure Examination. Fortunately, most of the two-year courses for an ADN are geared toward helping graduates to pass the NCLEX.

Career Options

Depending on the student's career goals, she or he may choose to continue studying to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN). With the current high demand for both classes of nurses, employment for someone with an associate degree in nursing and a valid nursing license is virtually guaranteed. The nurse may also choose to work in a specialized medical field, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, mental health, emergency care, and cardiac care.

Advancement Opportunities

After having passed the NCLEX, a nurse often can easily move from state to state , because it is a national licensing exam, although not all states recognize the licenses of other states (meaning a nurse may need to fulfill additional requirements to obtain a license in a particular state). A nurse with an ADN may also decide to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which in many hospitals will qualify the individual for management positions. Many hospitals offer courses or financial support for RN-to-BSN coursework.


Monetarily, if the ADN graduate chooses to be an LPN, she can expect a median salary of about $31,500. An RN can anticipate a median salary of about $48,000 per year. Because of the broad range of jobs that a nurse can take, salary ranges vary greatly by job description.


Rodney Crutchfield is a twenty plus year veteran of the teaching profession. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in history from Georgia Southwestern College and an Master of Education degree from Mercer University with a concentration in social studies. He writes online for Helium, and Ecopywriters.