Associate of Nursing: Degree Overview

A 2-year associate's degree in nursing (ADN) program provides students with the basic skills and knowledge necessary to qualify to become registered nurses (RNs).

Essential Information

Along with lecture courses, lab work and clinical rotations are regularly featured as part of an associate's degree in nursing program. ADN programs should be approved by a state board of nursing or an organization such as the National League for Nursing.

Associate's Degree in Nursing

Students entering these programs must have completed a high school education or its equivalent. Additionally, some programs require entrants to have completed courses in biology and English. Competition for ADN programs can be intense, mainly due to increased interest in the career field. ADN students learn about medicine and its role in healing the human body, as well as a variety of other nursing- and treatment-related topics. Prospective nurses should expect to take the following courses:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical-surgical nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Methods of patient care and nursing ethics
  • Psychology
  • Medical decision-making

Salary Information and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2014, the mean annual salary for a registered nurse was $71,000 ( However, that number can vary due to geographic location and facility type, among other factors (the top 10% earned $101,630 or more annually).

Registered nurses should continue to be in high demand during the 2014-2024 decade. Employment of nurses was expected to rise 16% over that period. Hospitals, doctors' offices and home healthcare services could be some of the biggest employers in the industry. Additionally, registered nurses should be in particular demand in rural and inner-city areas.

Continuing Education and Licensing Information

After completing an associate's degree in nursing, graduates who want to become RNs need to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), in addition to meeting any other state-level requirements. The NCLEX-RN is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing ( Once a student has passed the exam, continuing education is required to maintain licensure. RNs who want to advance to nurse leadership or nurse practitioner roles might go on to enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program.

Associate of Nursing programs provide students with instruction and hands-on experience in topics such as anatomy and physiology, medical-surgical nursing, pharmacology, and more. Graduates must pass a licensure exam and meet state requirements before beginning their nursing careers. Employment of nurses is expected to rise healthily in the next ten years.

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