top of page
Brown and Orange Grid Fashion New Arrival Instagram Post (1366 × 768 px) (8).jpg

ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing)

Career Overview

How Long Does Becoming a ADN Take

18 months

Average salary: ADN



An Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN for short) is the most affordable Registered Nurse education path. For aspiring nurses who want to begin work as soon as possible, this may be the best option for you. Here, we will go over everything you need to know about pursuing your ADN, its unique advantages, how to cover for the tuition and more. 




ADN nurses largely have the same roles and tasks as any other RN. Expect to work with diverse  populations, young and healthy patients, the old and terminally ill and everyone in between. Some of your responsibilities include monitoring and recording vital signs, administering medication and discussing symptoms with patients. On top of direct treatment, they also provide critical education and guidance to patients on post-surgery care, healthy living, illness management and more. 


Other tasks include, but are not limited to 


  • Collaborating with a team of HCPs to provide high-quality care 

  • Conducting diagnostic tests and examining lab results 

  • Discussing patient symptoms and health histories

  • Updating and recording patient information along the way

  • Educating patients on healthy living habits

  • Providing counsel to patients and patient families

  • Utilizing and maintaining medical equipment 




ADNs can find healthcare work in a variety of settings. According to the BLS, around 61% of all RNs work in local or private hospital facilities. 18% find employment in home healthcare, doctors’ offices or outpatient care settings, 7% work in long term care facilities while the rest are employed by government, educational institutions and corporations.


Facilities that employ ADN RNs includes, but is not limited to: 


  • Hospitals

  • Physicians’ offices

  • Nursing care facilities

  • Patients’ homes

  • Educational services

  • Support services

  • Schools

  • Community centers

  • Urgent care centers

  • Home healthcare services

  • Government agencies

  • Offices

  • Pharmacies


RNs can also focus on a number of different nursing areas: 


  • Rehabilitation

  • Radiology

  • Geriatric care

  • Emergency

  • Hospice

  • Surgery

  • Pediatrics

  • Oncology

  • Labor and Delivery

  • Anesthesia

  • Family medicine

  • Home Health

  • Substance abuse

  • Psychiatry

  • Public health


Specialities and Certifications


The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers additional specialty certifications. Acquiring these makes nurses more attractive to potential employers while allowing them to work into a specific area of nursing that interests them. Some of these certifications include: 


  • Ambulatory Care Nursing

  • Cardiac Vascular Nursing

  • Gerontological Nursing

  • Medical-Surgical Nursing

  • Nursing Case Management

  • Pain Management Nursing

  • Pediatric Nursing

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing




Not only can you finish your ADN program in 18 months to 2 years, but your tuition is also affordable relative to other degree programs. This allows students to find entry-level work and earn solid money immediately, in a rapidly growing professional field. They even have the option to save up and pursue higher education later down the line, since your clinical experience and educational credits will carry over to more advanced degrees like the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).


Income and Outlook


Per Glassdoor, RNs with ADNs make $89,217 on average. Realistic ranges sit at around $77,000 and $163,000. Although this is low compared to some other RNs, ADN nurses Salary is highly variable based on a number of factors, including work experience. With your associate’s degree, you can start gaining the necessary experience while earning after just two years of study. 


In general, the outlook for registered nurses is bright. With half a million job openings expected in 2026, hospitals are scrambling to hire replacements for resigning or retired nurses. Partially thanks to this national nursing shortage, facilities also offer generous benefits packages to retain their workers. Some of these benefits include tuition reimbursement, vacation pay, sick pay, onsite childcare, and more. The increase in demand can also be attributed to aging populations. Older patients with chronic conditions will be in need of long term, sustained care. The industry’s push towards preventative health measures will also spike interest in ADN RNs. Though its 9% growth rate is about average, among all occupations, this still translates to 276,800 annual jobs from 2020 to 2030. 


Program Types


There are a number of ADN tracks available to students. What works best for you depends on your prior educational background and work experience. A traditional accredited ADN program is the most straightforward. It will take 18 months to 2 years to complete full-time, although there are part-time options for those who want to study and work at the same time. Once you graduate, you must take and pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to earn your RN certification. 


If you are already a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN for short), you can opt for an accredited LPN to ADN program that lets you earn your associate’s degree in 1 to 2 years. This lets you carry over your educational credits and work experience into your ADN classes. Like with the traditional path, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN after you graduate.


Online ADN programs


Online classes are good for nursing students with professional or personal obligations. Compared to traditional classes, they are significantly cheaper and can be completed at a faster pace. You still need to do your clinical rotations in person, but every other class can be fulfilled at home, without any lengthy walks or commutes.  Thanks to full-time and part-time offerings, students have the flexibility to study while working at the same time. 


Although classes are taken remotely, you want to account for location. Some schools require you to take a percentage of classes in-person or your clinical rotations in a chosen facility. If you live far away, it does not make sense to enroll in such classes. Like with any school, you also want to consider their reputation and tuition fees. Luckily, online classes qualify for financial aid just like any other school.


Lastly, you want to attend an accredited program. Accreditation ensures employers that your education and training meet a standard of excellence set by a respected institution. Right now, there are two main accreditation bodies for RN programs: 


  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE): Oversees bachelor’s programs and higher education.

  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN): Oversees every nursing degree program.




Accredited ADN classes combine classroom instruction with hours of clinical rotations. Traditional classes take two years to complete, but online classes are both faster and more flexible with regard to scheduling. Regardless of what you pick, all your classes will prepare you for the NCLEX examination. Once you pass that test, you can finally become a certified Registered Nurse. 


Although specific details depend on the priorities and philosophies of your chosen school, you can expect in-depth lessons and practical experience meant to prepare you for work in real hospital settings, while deepening your understanding of nursing and the healthcare world at large. Practical skills include, but are not limited to: 


  • Knowledgeable of the body’s systems and can distinguish between regular and irregular functions

  • Bedside skills

  • Basic laboratory skills

  • Can separate normal breathing sounds from abnormal ones

  • Memorizes nursing terminology and abbreviations inpatient medical charts

  • Using catheters and tube feeding systems proficiently 

  • Mathematics for medication dispensation 


You can also expect the following classes: 


  • Human anatomy and physiology

  • Basic pharmacology

  • Nutrition

  • Nursing theory

  • Microbiology

  • Psychology

  • Anthropology


In addition to classwork, you have to fulfill a certain number of clinical hours. This hands-on experience prepares you for work in a real hospital setting. Students get the opportunity to work for a number of facilities, like long-term care facilities, hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and more. 




Specific requirements depend on the school, but you can expect to submit the following:


  • Math competency is determined by SAT or ACT math scores or math placement tests

  • Criminal background check

  • Proof of a high school diploma or GED. 

  • Minimum GPA

  • High school biology and chemistry (w/ minimum grade)

  • HESI exam (minimum grade)

ADN enrollment processes have become more competitive in recent years. With numerous aspiring students competing for a limited number of spots, you want to go above and beyond with your application. Volunteer work at local healthcare facilities or relevant classwork in biology and chemistry will help your application stand out, amidst the crowd. 


Considerations Before ADN Enrollment


Even as one of the cheaper education paths, acquiring your ADN is a significant investment. Before you commit to this route consider the following:


  • Time commitment: By committing four years to your education, you are investing in your future as a registered nurse. You are honing your skills and knowledge to provide the best possible patient care.

  • Competitiveness: When you apply to a nursing program, you are competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants for a small number of slots. Making it in will require a huge level of dedication and hard work, but all your effort will be worth it once you pass. 

  • Expensive tuition: The cost of nursing education is high, at the bachelor’s level. More likely than not, you might have to make use of financial aid programs such as grants, scholarships, and loans. There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. Thanks to the advanced degree, graduates can often find attractive positions and salary offers that let them earn back the difference in tuition. 


Paying for your ADN


ADN tuition largely depends on where you study. Location matters, as well as the kind of school you choose. Vocational schools, community colleges, private colleges, and state schools all charge differently. Some schools even have additional charges for out-of-state students.


Different schools charge in different ways. While some institutions charge you per credit, others let you pay at a per-semester rate and let you pursue as many credits as you want, within your period of study. Generally, online classes are cheaper than in-person ones as well. If you cannot pay upfront, consider looking into the following financial aid programs


Grant: A grant is a form of financial assistance that does not require repayment. Most commonly, they are given out by the federal government, state governing bodies, and colleges. Alternatively, you can also find grants being offered by charity organizations, private companies, individuals, and more. To find a grant you can qualify for, you have to submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application. After some time, they will notify you on the programs you qualified for, sometimes through an acceptance letter. Though the exact amount of money provided depends on the grant itself and your financial situation, it typically sits at the $5,000 range for most students. Students in the most urgent financial need may also qualify for the Pell Grant. 


Scholarships: Like grants, a scholarship is a form of financial assistance that does not require repayment. ADNs can pick from a number of public and private scholarships, but these are some of the more prominent examples. 


  • The Jane Delano Student Nurse Scholarship provides $3,000 to a certain amount of students who volunteered with the Red Cross. If you want to apply, you need to write an essay on the lessons you learned from your Red Cross experience and what you want to contribute to the nursing world in the future. 

  • Overseen by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship awards $2,5000 to three students annually. Students need to be enrolled in accredited nursing schools, have demonstrable financial need and should submit both letters of recommendation and a statement of their goals. This is available to students from Massachusetts, District of Columbia and Lowell. Alternatively, you can qualify if you are an NDSAR member, descendant of a member or eligible for membership. 

  • The Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship supports students in programs aimed towards addressing substance abuse and behavioral health concerns. Every year, American Addiction Centers offers three scholarships that can range between $2,500 and $5000. Scholars are chosen based on their academic standing and a personal essay that they submit to their application.

  • The National CPR foundation provides scholarships to students interested in general healthcare. After submitting a 500-700 word essay on why you want to pursue this career path, you may be eligible for a $500 scholarship.


Student Loan


Unlike scholarships or grants, you eventually have to repay your loan costs. Since these loans also incur interests, you usually end up paying more than the initial loan. Exact terms will depend on tender and a number of other factors. Federal loans are the most common and reliable, by far. Since they are funded by the US Department of Education, interest rates are lower and there are less to no hidden fees. Similar to grants, you can find offers you qualify for by submitting your FAFSA. If you are in significant financial need, you may qualify for a loan that does not gain interest until you graduate college. 


Meanwhile, private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions, educational institutions and other independent entities. Thanks to higher interest rates, confusing language and obfuscated fees, many of these offers are more expensive than they initially seem. If you have to resort to these loans, you need to 


Payment Plans: If you want to pay for your ADN in cash, you can inquire about your school’s payment plans. Contact your school for more information. 


Enrollment Steps


  • Do your research: Like with most things in life, you want to find the right program for your situation. Reputation, cost, location and program competitiveness are just a few points worth consideration. 

  • Prepare documents: Collect all relevant documentation, such as your transcripts and proof of graduation. A higher GPA and proof of participation in volunteer programs (both in-school and with hospitals or organizations like the Red Cross) are optional, but will make your application far more attractive. 

  • Apply to your accredited ADN programs of choice.

  • Apply for financial aid, if necessary.


Go out there!

ADN nurses are valued and respected members of any healthcare facility. They provide quality care, invaluable knowledge and unrivaled compassion to patients in need. Nurses who opt for their ADN do not have the same salary opportunities as their higher degreed counterparts, but they can gain work experience and income early in their careers while working towards higher education in the future. For aspiring nurses who want to get a head start, this is the perfect path for you.


How to get your ADN online


Online nursing classes have gained prominence in recent years. Nurses can join affordable programs that provide unparalleled schedule flexibility. Even if you need to complete clinical trials in-person, working and studying at the same time has never been easier. If all this interests you, read on to learn more about ADN class offerings online! 


In-Person Requirements


There are no 100% online ADN classes, currently. Most state nursing boards require a certain number of clinical hours before you can get certified as a Registered Nurse. As a result, all ADN programs are online hybrid classes with a mixture of online and in-person classes. Most of these on-site sessions will be clinical work in either approved clinics near you or around the school area. Be sure to see if you can fulfill these requirements, before you enroll into a program. School may also invite you to campus orientations or meetings throughout the year.


Online lessons


Your general education requirements will be completed entirely online, in most instances. Some of your nursing classes can also be fulfilled remotely, including (but not limited to) your “Intro to Nursing” classes, non-clinical classes like biology or pharmacology and nurse theory. 


In general, your online curriculum will look something like this: 


  • Psychology

  • Nursing Essentials

  • Fundamentals of Nursing

  • Technical Writing

  • English

  • Pathophysiology 

  • Pharmacology

  • Informatics 

  • Nutrition

  • Algebra




To find the best ADN online classes, you want to find programs accredited by a prestigious school or program. This ensures that the school meets a certain standard of excellence and quality. Listed below are some recognized and respected accrediting bodies: 


Accreditation for Commission and Education in Nursing (ACEN) 

Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation

Higher Learning Commission 


Best Online ADN Programs 


Compared to higher degrees like BSNs, finding online ADN programs can be more difficult as your options are limited. To broaden your options, you can find community colleges and schools in your area, to inquire about any online-hybrid courses. Make sure you screen their requirements first as well, since many ADN programs ask for your LPN license or a certain amount of work experience. 


With all that in mind, these are currently the best online ADN programs available. 


Rasmussen College


John A. Logan College


Nightingale College


Sampson Community College


Northwestern Michigan College


ADN vs BSN: An Honest Comparison 


If you want to become a Registered Nurse, there are two legitimate paths available to you: Acquiring your Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Considering that each route has its advantages and disadvantages, there is no right or wrong answer. Ultimately, a nurse has to pick the path that best fits their priorities and circumstances. 


For those of you who are undecided, this guide is here to help you. Below, we will compare and contrast the two degree programs in order to highlight each of their unique offerings, strengths and weaknesses to help you find the right degree for you. 




An Associate’s Degree in Nursing is an undergraduate nursing degree. ADN programs provide you with the training and the education to become a Registered Nurse. These classes are usually offered by community colleges and vocational schools, which makes them relatively cheap compared to other nursing programs. Completing these classes full time will take you around 18 months to 2 years. After you graduate, you must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination - Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) in order to become a licensed RN. 


For students who want to start working as soon as possible, the ADN is your best option. Compared to other HCP programs, they are very affordable and can be completed more quickly. Depending on the program you take, you will have more flexibility to study while you are working. If you still want to pursue your BSN, you can save up money and pursue that later. If your ADN program lets you be employed somewhere and you choose to go back to school, you may be eligible for an employer tuition assistance program. 


While this all sounds nice, there are some drawbacks. The American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN) has considered moving away from ADN programs for years now. While that has not happened yet, some hospitals prefer to employ BSN-educated nurses. As a result, there are less job opportunities or chances for career advancement. ADN nurses also have lower salaries compared to their peers. This combined with a full time nursing schedule can make it tricky to further your education later on, although it is still possible.



Similar to the ADN, the BSN is also an undergraduate program that prepares students for the NCLEX-RN. Although they provide roughly the same kind of clinical training, the BSN curriculum as a whole is far more advanced. Students are taught valuable lessons on critical thinking, advanced research and leadership. Because of the expanded material, it takes up to 4 years to complete your lessons and programs are offered in more expensive institutions like universities and colleges. BSN programs also have extremely competitive enrollment processes, compared to ADN schools. You will be competing with a large number of students for a limited number of slots. 


All that extra effort is still worth it, as more and more employers prefer BSN-educated nurses. Your degree also offers you higher salaries and more career opportunities outside clinical practice—research, administrative and leadership roles, just to name a few.  Your BSN is also an important prerequisite for graduate programs and APRN roles (CRNA, NP, etc), should you wish to pursue those. Finally, going for your BSN immediately after high school will save you more money and time, compared to getting your ADN then your BSN. 


What is right for me?

Like we mentioned before, there is no one true answer. Your preferences, priorities and current situation will determine the right degree path. Busy students who need to earn and work as soon as possible will benefit from the ADN program. If you plan to advance in the role of an APRN or you have the resources to spend more time and money on education, the advantages of a BSN are hard to pass up;. 


As long as you take your short term and long term career goals into consideration, you will definitely choose what is best for you!


How to Pay For Your ADN Education


Relatively speaking, ADN classes are among the more affordable classes.  Tuitions can range between $10,000 to as much as $45,000. Whether or not you go full-time or part-time, pre-enlistment requirements, the school itself and more will determine how much you will exactly pay. Although these are not as expensive as higher degrees, it can still cost a pretty penny to the unprepared. In case you need additional monetary assistance, this article will go over the most prominent forms of financial aid for ADN students. 




A good place to start is filling out your Free Application for Financial Assistance (FAFSA) form. To find loans, grants or other financial aid programs you qualify for, FAFSA evaluates your income, level of support and financial need. The form can be submitted online, through the official mobile app or you can fill out a paper form from your school. Make sure to prepare the following documents, before you send your application: 


Driver’s License Number

Your social security number and your parents’ (if you are dependent)

Alien registration number (if you are not a US citizen) 

Taxed and untaxed income records

Federal tax returns for you and your spouse or parents




Grants are a form of financial aid usually provided by the government, in order to assist those in financial need.  Because of this, qualifying students do not need to pay back the costs at all. If FAFSA deems you as eligible for a grant, do not be afraid to take these opportunities. Currently, one of the more well-known grants is the Federal Pell Grant .This program serves students in exceptional financial need. At the time of writing, the maximum Federal Pell Grant sits at around $6,495 for the award year of July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023. Students can even receive 150% of their grant within an eligible award year, under special circumstances. Private entities such as companies or individuals also offer their own grants. Review and research these offers to verify their legitimacy. 




Like grants, scholarships are a form of financial assistance that does not need to be repaid. Unlike grants, they are merit-based programs that are given based on academic performance, extracurricular activities like sports or music and more. While schools and universities are the most common providers, a number of entities host their own scholarship programs. This includes businesses, individuals, non-profits, and even churches. Just like with grants, you have to do exhaustive research before applying for a scholarship, to ensure that the entity is legitimate and acting in good faith. 


Your school’s office of financial aid is a great place to start, since they usually have a list of available scholarships. There are also a host of scholarship databases with recommendations and details, if you want to do further reading. When you start applying, be sure to have all your documents ready when you submit your application. Requirements may vary, but most scholarships will require you to submit personal information. This could be an essay about yourself, or a statement describing how this scholarship would benefit you. Finally, always submit your application on time as scholarship programs tend to have strict deadlines. 




55% of medical students use loans to pay off their education fees. When you loan, you borrow a sum of money with the intention of repaying them in full, plus interest. Students can choose from two different types of loans: Federal and Private. Federal student loans are funded by the government. Since the ADN is a graduate program, you will not qualify for Direct Subsidized loans that do not gain interest while you are in school. Direct Unsubsidized loans still gain interest while you study, but they are available to graduates, undergraduates and professional degree seekers alike.


Meanwhile, private student loans are given out by independent entities. This includes  banks, credit unions, educational institutions and more. Interest rates are significantly higher and there are usually a number of hidden costs. If you must resort to these, you have to shop around with high scrutiny. Investigate the terms of agreement, look for hidden costs, and find out what happens if you cannot keep up financially with later payments and how repayments are structured. You can also check if there is a chance of loan forgiveness, down the line and whether the interest rates are variable (subject to change) or fixed (set in stone). Finally, look closely into the organizations offering these loans. Many institutions operate with malicious intent, and you want to make sure you do not fall into this trap. 


Loan Forgiveness


Federal loan programs (and some private loans) offer loan forgiveness, for those who meet certain qualifying criteria. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is among the more prominent. If you reach the minimum 120 qualifying monthly payments, there is a chance that your remaining balance will be forgiven. If you want to avail of this, you cannot default your payments and you must be under a qualifying repayment plan while working under the following qualifying employers:


Full Time Volunteer on AmeriCorps or Peace Corps 

Federal, state, local or tribal government organization

Non-profit organizations that are or are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code


After a certain amount of service time, some hospitals also provide loan forgiveness. These are usually smaller community hospitals in rural areas. 


Go out there! 


Acquiring your ADN is one of the more affordable ways to enter the nursing workforce. For nurses who want to start early and are lacking in resources, this provides them the opportunity to work early. None of this means you will be stuck as an ADN nurse forever, as you have the option to save up for higher education in the future. As soon as you find the right program for you, there are no limits to what you can accomplish in healthcare! 


ADN vs ASN vs AAS: What is the best degree for you?

As you study to become a nurse, you have the option to pick between three different Associate’s Degrees: Associate of Science Degree in Nursing (ASN), Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (AAS) and Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). All three paths are viable options, but what works best for you will depend on your preferences and circumstances. To help you choose, we will break down what each program has to offer. 


Key Differences


Regardless of what you pick, you will be eligible for the NCLEX-RN either way. Where each program differs is in content and points of emphasis. For one, they differ greatly in coursework. If you want to pursue further education, ADN credits are more directly transferable to BSN programs. If AAS and ASN students ever apply for Bachelor’s studies and other healthcare classes, they have to finish extra classwork to make up for those credits. 


There are also institutional differences. AAS and ASN programs are hosted in community colleges and vocational schools, although they can be found in other schools as well. With these programs especially, you need to check for Board of Nursing approval. Without it, you will not qualify for the NCLEX-RN when you graduate. 




An Associate’s Degree in Nursing squarely focuses on clinical rotations and core nursing classes. Lessons on leadership or advanced research are more the focus of other programs. ADN students will complete both classwork and hands-on practical training in order to prepare themselves for the rigors and demands of entry-level nursing. All in all it will take you 18 months to 2 years to complete. 



  • Maternal and Child Nursing

  • Behavioral Health

  • Nursing Care of Adults

  • Foundations in Nursing


Prerequisite Courses: 


  • English

  • Anatomy

  • Microbiology

  • Psychology

  • Chemistry

  • Physiology

  • Statistics


Notable ADN Schools 


Southwestern College 

Midway University 

St. Cloud Technical & Community College 

Richland Community College

Leeward Community College




Associate of Science in Nursing programs are also 2 year programs that prepare you for the NCLEX-RN with clinical training and traditional classwork. In these classes, the former is given more focus than the latter. You will be doing more laboratory tests and clinical rotations than written assignments. This is why coursework is just 72 credits, with 41 minimum semester credit hours for nursing courses. Traditionally, these classes are offered by vocational schools and hospital-based programs. 




Obstetrics/Pediatric Nursing + Clinical

Health Assessment

Mental Health + Clinical

Medical-Surgical Nursing + Clinical


Advanced Medical-Surgical Nursing + Clinical

NCLEX Review

Capstone Clinical



Notable ASN Schools


Ozarks Technical Community College 

Utah Valley University 

Mississippi University for Women 

Georgia Highlands College

Broward College




A two-year Associate of Applied Science in Nursing program covers multiple nursing specializations and trains you for related healthcare subjects such as pharmacology. They mainly focus on teaching students about the basics of professional nursing. Just like with ASN programs, they are mainly offered by vocational schools and hospital-based programs. 




Therapeutic Use of Self + Lab

Health and Illness Throughout the LifeSpan

Maternal/Newborn Self Care + Clinical

Health Deviations in Childhood + Clinical

Fundamentals in Nursing + Clinical

Adult Nursing + Clinical

Psychosocial Self-Care + Clinical

Health Deviations in Older Adulthood + Clinical


Nursing Process and Documentation

Nursing Management


Notable AAS programs


John Tyler Community College 

Houston Community College

Rock Valley College 

Arapahoe Community College 

St. Louis Community College 

Monroe Community College 

Community College of Philadelphia 


Go out there! 


You cannot go wrong with either program. No matter what you pick, you qualify for the NCLEX-RN. Provided that you choose an accredited and respected program, you will be well prepared to ace the certification test and start your nursing journey no matter what. Your choice is ultimately a matter of preference with regards to the content of the lesson material. 


ADN Career Growth Opportunities 


ADN RNs are a respected part of any healthcare organization. They provide essential care services such as assessing patients, educating them and their families, recording and updating medical histories and more. With that said, your associate’s degree puts a cap on how much you earn and how far you can advance your career. Luckily, these nurses have a number of career growth opportunities available to them. To help you on your journey, this article will go over one of the routes you can take to advance your career. 



Further education for nurses leads to more job opportunities in the nursing space. Higher positions in clinical care, nurse management, education and care management are just a handful of the paths available to BSN nurses. Greater responsibilities means higher pay, which is reflected in the salary gap. Per payscale, BSN nurses make $89k annually, which surpasses the $73k yearly salary for ADN nurses. 


 While the ADN focuses more on clinical practice, Your Bachelor’s Degree of Nursing trains you for a deeper variety of nursing skills, critical theory and theory. With additional courses in public health, pharmacology, ethics and more, BSNs are better suited for the challenges and changing demands of a dynamic healthcare landscape. Organizations like the American Association of Colleges of Nursing recognize this, as they have pushed to make the BSN the minimum requirement for Registered Nursing. 




Graduating from your bachelor’s degree could be the end of your nurse education journey, if you want it to be. If you have the desire and the motivation, however, you can take things even further with your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Like with BSNs, there are a host of different career paths you can choose from. Students can choose to pursue one of the various Advanced Practice Registered Nursing specializations such as Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist or Certified Nurse Midwife. There are even non-practice courses that will prepare you for leadership/administrative roles, Clinical Nurse Specialist positions, nurse education, nurse informatics and more. 

Regardless of what you choose, you will be seeing a dramatic pay rise. Payscale projects a $98k average annual salary for nurses with their Master’s degrees, which eclipses even the BSN mean pay. Compared to BSN programs, MSN classes are more focused on material directly related to the specialization. The classes are demanding and expensive, but those who  can shoulder those costs will be handsomely rewarded. 


Even after you obtain your master’s, that does not necessarily mean the end. Later on, you can choose to pursue a different career path if you feel that you have achieved all your goals on your current track. You could aim for your doctorate degree, which is the highest level of education a nurse can obtain. Nursing is an exciting and dynamic career that can see you taking career paths that you did not necessarily see yourself on when you started your nursing career. Getting your ADN does not necessarily have to be the end of your journey: it could be the beginning of a longer, far more rewarding career. 

ADN to BSN Guide

In 2018, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing proposed to make the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) the minimum entry requirement for Registered Nurses, moving forward. While this received blowback and has not been fully enforced, the industry has gradually shifted towards BSN nurses as the standard. With the way the industry is trending, ADN nurses would benefit from looking into furthering their education. To help with that transition, this guide will go over everything you need to know about moving from ADN to BSN. 


RN to BSN Program 


If you are an ADN looking to advance your education, you want to look for an RN to BSN program. Since these classes are designed for active nurses with prior ADN education, the curriculum builds on your previous lessons and work experience. As a result, these clases are faster to complete than the standard 4-year BSN. You can finish them in just 12 months, though some students may take up to 5 years. Exact length will depend on your program type and individual situation. 




Compared to ADN nurses, BSN RNs are preferred by employers looking for RN hirees. This is especially true of “magnet” hotels who need to maintain a level of education among personnel.As a result, they tend to give preferential treatment to nurses with advanced degrees, which includes BSN and MSN. 


BSN classes also provide a higher level of training, compared to ADN ones. Per the AACN, nurses with their bachelor’s degrees have lower mortality rates and failure-to-rescue rates. They are measurably more proficient in diagnosis, research/evaluation and evaluating nurse interventions. This, combined with their prior nursing experience and training in ethics, research and informatics makes them more prepared for the rigors of the hospital setting. BSN nurses also have a far easier time advancing their education. You need your BSN in order to pursue your Master of Science in Nursing. 


From there, you can take on Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN) roles such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist and nurse midwife. A number of other opportunities are available to you as well. BSN nurses can take on leadership and management roles, which ADN nurses cannot. They can also take on non-practicing roles like education, informatics, policy review, case management and more. Once you find employment, BSN nurses can join clinical ladders that reward participation in base committees. You need your BSN to qualify and advancement through the ladder leads to increases in pay. 


Program Types


Aspiring students can choose between traditional, bridge or online  programs. Which program suits  you best will depend on your needs, situation and  qualifications. RN-to-BSN bridge programs are especially relevant, since they are made for RNs with ADNs or diplomas. Since the curriculum builds on your past experiences and education, this takes a far quicker time to complete than the traditional 4-year course for high school graduates. To qualify,  you will need an RN license in good standing (i.e. no disciplinary action), at least an ADN and passing a criminal background check


If you are taking care of your family or your job does not allow you to take time off for classes, then online BSN classes are the best option for you. These classes provide the schedule and location flexibility to study at your own pace while you work. Additionally, they are faster to complete and more affordable than traditional learning. The lack of in-person interaction and the need for self-motivation is something to consider, however. You also need to check with the in-person requirements before you enroll. Some classes require you to take a certain amount of on-campus classes or fulfill your clinical rotations at school approved sites. Enrolling in these schools would not make sense if you lived far away. Like with bridge programs, you will also need an ADN and a background check. 


Regardless of the track you choose, you can expect a couple things to remain consistent. Generally, these classes will take you around two to three years to complete. Taking two courses per semester is usually the perfect pace, but with special considerations you may qualify for three. 




Before you choose a class, you need to make sure it is accredited by a respected nursing body. Accreditation is a sign that your program meets certain standards of quality and content, in order to ensure that you are learning the best and most up-to-date nursing practices. If you graduate from a non-accredited nursing program, you will not be able to sit for the NCLEX-RN. In other words, you cannot become a certified RN. 


Currently, there are two main accrediting bodies for nursing schools: The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).


RN–to-BSN requirements


Though it will differ from school to school, there are a handful of requirements that you can expect from most bridge program offerings. 


  • RN License in good standing. In other words, there should be no disciplinary action with no explanation or follow up. For any concerns, contact the program admissions counselor to ask whether or not it will affect your standing.

  • Your associate’s degree in nursing. 

  • Minimum 2.0 GPA

  • Current criminal background checks. Prior ones for previous schools or employers will not be considered. 

  • A minimum of 30 work hours for registered nurses who are working while studying. For students who have stepped aside from nursing work while the study, they can take and pass an equivalency test or contact the advisor to see how else they can complete their requirements. 

  • Letters of recommendation


You also need to complete the following classes: 


  • Microbiology

  • Anatomy 

  • Physiology

  • Intro to Sociology

  • Statistics

  • Chemistry

  • Abnormal Psychology

  • Nutrition


Other potential requirements include child abuse clearance, drug tests, vaccinations or physical exams. 




  • Capstone Course

  • Nursing Management and Leadership

  • Informatics in Nursing

  • Nursing Ethics

  • Community Health

  • Innovations in Healthcare

You will not have any basic core nursing lessons. Instead, all your classes will be higher level and they will add up to around 30 credit hours (or 10 courses). Specifics will depend on the courses you picked for your ADN program.  Lessons include the following:




RN–to–BSN tuition fees will depend on the school that you choose. In-person classes will cost more than online learning, and studying in-state typically costs less than out-of-state. How many of your ADN courses are transferable will also affect the final bill. Regardless of what you pick, covering all the costs out-of–pocket is unlikely. Listed below are some tuition rates for prominent schools. 



Note that program costs are calculated on a flat rate per credit hour .


Paying for your ADN

Your tuition will depend on multiple factors, from location, to the school chosen, to whether or not you are studying in state. No matter where you study, more likely than not you will not be able to cover the costs out-of-pocket. Do not let that stop your nursing goals, since there are a number of financial aid programs available to you.


Grant: A grant is a form of financial assistance that does not require repayment, provided that you graduate. They cover your tuition, educational supplies, housing fees and more.  Most commonly, they are given out by the federal government, state governing bodies and colleges. Alternatively, you can also find grants being offered by charity organizations, private companies and individuals. 


Scholarships: Like grants, a scholarship is a form of financial assistance that does not require repayment. ADNs can pick from a number of public and private scholarships. Most of these will be based on merit and educational standing, though there are a few exceptions. 


Student Loan


Unlike scholarships or grants, students must repay loans they avail of. Since these loans also incur interests, you usually end up paying more than the initial loan. Exact terms will depend on tender and a number of other factors. 


Federal loans are the most common and reliable. Since they are funded by the US Department of Education, interest rates are lower and there are less to no hidden fees. There are direct subsidized loans, which requires applicants to meet certain income requirements. While you are at school, the government will cover the interest rates. Direct unsubsidized loans do not have this benefit, but anyone can apply. Both have once guaranteed payback. Students who meet very low income requirements can apply for the Federal Perkins loans. These are lended by the schools themselves and can only be availed if said school has funds available. Note that these tend to be provided in limited amounts. 


Meanwhile, private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions, educational institutions and other independent entities. Thanks to higher interest rates, confusing language and obfuscated fees, many of these offers are more expensive than they initially seem. If you have to resort to these loans, you need to 


Loan Repayment


Repayment structures vary, based on the loan you choose. Federal loans do not need to be repaid until after graduation and can be deferred if you choose to pursue your masters. Private loans, meanwhile, can be repaid while you study. No matter the loan you choose, you typically have to repay the entire amount within 10 years after graduation. You can choose between two repayment plans:


  1. A Standard Repayment Plan where you repay a set monthly amount

  2. A Graduated Repayment Plan that starts low and increases every two years. Luckily, it cannot grow three times higher than other monthly payments. 

If you cannot repay your loans in time, speak to your lender. In times of financial hardship, your repayment plan may be deferred. 


Loan Forgiveness


If you meet certain requirements, you may qualify for loan forgiveness. This applies mostly to federal loans, although some private loans offer similar benefits. 


The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is the most common loan forgiveness program. Once you have made a minimum of 120 qualifying monthly payments, the remaining balance for all your federal loans may be forgiven. Just be sure that you do not default your payments and you must be under a qualifying repayment plan while working for a qualifying employer such as:


  • Full Time Volunteer on AmeriCorps or Peace Corps 

  • Federal, state, local or tribal government organization

  • Non-profit organizations that are or are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code


Additionally, some individual hospitals also provide loan forgiveness after a certain amount of years of service. Typically, these are smaller community hospitals in rural areas. 


Go out there!

The nursing world is changing, day by day. The industry at large is moving towards the BSN as the entry-level degree and many opportunities have become exclusive to Bachelor’s-educated nurses and above. ADN nurses cannot participate in the clinical ladder, take on managerial roles or gradually work into non-clinical nursing jobs. It may seem like a hassle, but making the leap and pursuing your BSN will only lead to added career opportunities and personal satisfaction down the line .

A Complete Guide to the Associate’s Degree in Nursing 

bottom of page