Associate of Science (AS): Nursing Degree Overview

Associate of Science (AS) degree programs in nursing typically last two years, including both classroom and clinical experiences. Students learn human anatomy and physiology, as well as how to perform patient assessments and basic healthcare duties.

Essential Information

Earning an AS in Nursing degree can lead to becoming a registered nurse (RN) or taking a related position within the nursing field. Students also learn about providing emergency care and gain an understanding of the legal requirements for medical personnel. Graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed as an RN.

  • Prerequisites: High school or GED degree
  • Other Requirements: Background check; acceptable grade point average and proof of immunizations (for some programs)
  • Program Length: Two years

Associate of Science Degree in Nursing

To enter a nursing program, students may need to have completed high school coursework in math, English, biology, chemistry and math. The program may require a minimum high school grade point average. Applicants also undergo a background check, and some programs require them to submit proof of immunizations.

Courses in a nursing program can give students a basic understanding of patients' health needs and requirements. Classroom work is typically combined with clinical practice, which provides students with hands-on experience in using medical equipment and performing patient-care tasks. In addition to nursing fundamentals, other main topics touched upon in a program include:

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

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

After graduating from an associate's degree program in nursing, students can sit for the NCLEX-RN to become a registered nurse. All states require RNs to pass this exam, but some may have additional requirements. Through their work settings and experience, RNs can specialize in a number of areas, such as surgery, pediatrics and mental health. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job opportunities for RNs were expected to increase by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, and they earned a mean annual average salary of $69,790 in May 2014 (

Continuing Education

No matter what area of health care a graduate works in, a registered nurse must typically complete continuing education to maintain licensure and stay current in advancements within the field. Associate's degree holders may transfer their credits into bachelor's degree programs in nursing to gain a wider knowledge of the field. Master's degree programs are also available and could help nurses advance into positions of administration or gain specialties in areas like family or adult practice.

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