Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN, AAS, or ASN Degree)

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An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), also referred to as an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Nursing or an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree, is one of the quickest educational paths to entering the nursing field and becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). An associate degree program usually lasts two years, including classroom, clinical rotations and/or internships.

In the United States, associates in nursing degree programs are typically offered by community colleges, technical schools, or nursing schools. Several 4-year colleges, as well as a few hospitals, also offering nursing programs where students can earn an associate degree. After earning an associate degree in nursing, students are qualified to sit for the NCLEX-RN and apply for licensure as a Registered Nurse.

Unlike a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN), which includes a fair amount of theory, an associate degree in nursing program focuses almost exclusively on technical skills. An associate degree in nursing program allows a student to become a registered nurse (RN) and enter the workforce more quickly than a 4-year BSN degree, so it works better for many students.

Most nursing students who earn an associate degree will go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) or a master’s degree in nursing (MSN). Many nursing schools and colleges offer accelerated bachelor’s degree programs, or “fast-track” programs, that allow practicing nurses with an associate degree to earn their BSN in just two years. This type of program is sometimes referred to as a “bridge” program. If you intend on pursuing a BSN after you’ve completed your associate degree, it would be wise to earn your associate degree from accredited nursing school or program.

ADN, AAS, ASN Educational Prerequisites

Most nursing programs require that students meet certain educational prerequisites. For example, a high school diploma or GED is typically required as well as coursework in math, English, biology and chemistry. Many nursing schools will also require applicants to have a certain grade point average, take an aptitude test, undergo a background check, and even submit proof immunization.

Coursework and Curriculum

Coursework in an ADN program is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of patient’s health needs and requirements and help them develop the technical skills they’ll need to qualify for entry-level nursing jobs. The main topics that most ADN programs cover include:

  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Psychology introduction
  • Nursing pharmacology
  • Nursing fundamentals

In addition to classroom work, students will be required to participate in clinical practice, which provides them hands-on experience in performing patient-care and using medical equipment. Before you apply to a nursing program you should find out how much clinical practice or clinical rotation is included as part of the program. A good ADN program should include quite a bit of hands-on experience.

ADN vs BSN Degree

Trying to decide whether to pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can be a difficult decision. Both degrees will qualify you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and to apply for licensure as a registered nurse. However, there are significant differences between the two.

The most significant difference between an ADN and a BSN is the time and number of credits required to complete each program. An ADN typically takes 2 years to complete, while a BSN can take 3 to 4 years to complete. However, there are accelerated BSN degree programs for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field. These programs can be completed in 1 to 2 years – the same amount of time it takes to complete an associates degree in nursing.

Both degree programs have similar core curriculum: Pediatrics, Adult Health and Maternal and newborn nursing, Community health nursing, Psychiatric nursing, gerontological nursing, etc. However, a BSN program will typically include a lot more coursework in theory than an ADN, which focuses on basic skill development. A BSN program will also include courses in nursing research, nursing informatics, and nursing technology.

Surprising, the starting salaries for a registered nursing with an ADN or BSN is comparable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 the starting pay for a BSN holder was only $5,000 a year greater than that of a nurse with an ADN. However, many advanced nursing positions require a BSN. Registered nurses with a BSN will qualify for a variety of advanced nursing positions and career advancement opportunities not available to ADN holders.

So if you’re looking to take the quickest, easiest and most cost effective route to becoming an RN, then you’ll probably do just fine by earning an ADN. If you want to get the most from your education and want to position yourself for more career advancement opportunities then you might as well just take the BSN route. Whatever you decide, ADN or BSN, both degree paths will get you started in a career in nursing.

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