Best Online Associate in Nursing (ADN) Programs

Earning an associate in nursing degree can lead to many career opportunities. Here, we outline everything you need to know.

Updated September 14, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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Online Associate Degree in Nursing

Online associate degree in nursing (ADN) programs prepare learners for many healthcare careers. Students who graduate from online ADN programs may work as patient coordinators, clinical associates, or care coordinators.

Graduates need state licensure to provide direct nursing care. Most ADN graduates qualify to take the licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN) licensure exams. Licensed nurses may work as home care nurses, pediatric nurses, or emergency room nurses.

Online ADN programs include core courses in nursing foundations. Learners study behavioral health and nursing care for adults and children. Nurses with an ADN can transfer their associate degree credits toward a bachelor's degree in nursing and choose a specialization.

This page highlights the best online associate in nursing programs. Read on to learn about common courses and degree costs.

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Frequently Asked Questions About ADN Programs

What's the difference between an ADN and an RN?

The ADN is a college degree and qualifies graduates to earn an RN license. The RN is a license granted to eligible candidates who pass the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN).

Is an ADN the same as an LPN?

LPNs complete a one-year program to earn an LPN certificate. This certificate qualifies them to take the LPN licensure exam. The ADN is a two-year college degree. The degree qualifies graduates to take the NCLEX-RN and become RNs.

How much does an ADN make?

According to PayScale salary data from September 2021, ADN graduates average about $72,000 annually. However, salaries vary by nurses' credentials, employer, and location.

Why Get an ADN Degree?

Completing an online associate in nursing program can lead to a variety of careers. Many ADN graduates work as nurses. However, graduates can apply their skills in various healthcare careers. They may work as clinical nurse liaisons, infection preventionists, or patient coordinators.

Many schools offer online ADN programs that accommodate working students. These programs include the same coursework as on-campus programs. However, online learners can complete assignments around work and family responsibilities. Enrollees can complete clinical experiences at approved local sites.

How Much Does an ADN Degree Cost?

Tuition for online associate in nursing programs varies. Students pay the most affordable tuition at in-state, public schools. Private schools usually charge the highest tuition. Learners can apply for financial aid such as scholarships and grants to help pay for their degree.

Full-time students can complete an ADN program in two years. They can graduate sooner by taking accelerated programs. Some programs offer intensive, eight-week courses throughout the year.

Online learners may qualify for discounted tuition and reduced fees. Some public schools offer in-state tuition rates to online learners regardless of location.

Additional Online Student Fees

Online learners do not pay for campus parking or housing. However, they should budget for other expenses, such as books and graduation fees. Students may also need to upgrade their computer and internet.

Some online programs require on-campus residencies. Learners should factor in travel and lodging costs if they do not live nearby. ADN graduates must also pay $200 for the NCLEX-RN exam. Applying for professional licensure costs $50-$200.

How Much Do ADN Majors Make?

Salaries vary depending on nurses' credentials, position, and employer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs earn a median annual salary of $75,330. LPNs earn $48,820. Nurses earn more money as they gain experience. Nurses can also boost their salary by earning a bachelor's or graduate degree.

ADN graduates may qualify for direct-care or coordinator jobs in many nursing fields. They can work in specialized nursing areas such as oncology or pediatrics. Possible careers include care coordinator, clinical associate, and clinical nurse liaison.

Courses in ADN Programs

Online ADN programs prepare learners for the NCLEX-RN exam. Core coursework covers nursing foundations. Learners also study pharmacology and behavioral health nursing. Enrollees learn nursing practices particular to serving pediatric and geriatric patients.

Students practice key nursing skills through clinical components. Nurses learn how to examine medical records, track symptoms, and administer medication.

See below for three common courses in online ADN programs. Keep in mind that specific courses vary by program.

  • Nursing Foundations

    This introductory course provides an overview of general nursing principles and practices. Enrollees learn how to provide ethical nursing care. They also learn how to create safe environments for patients. Students build health education and promotion skills.
  • Maternal and Pediatric Nursing Care

    Some programs call this course family nursing care or reproductive nursing care. Coursework covers nursing theory and practice for serving small children and their parents. Students learn how to provide reproductive and pediatric nursing services. Enrollees practice their family nursing skills during a clinical component.
  • Pharmacology

    Students learn how to administer medications safely. Enrollees learn the indications and effects of common pharmaceuticals. Students explore how different drugs interact with each other. The course focuses on sensitivity to patients' physical, social, and psychological needs.

How to Become a Registered Nurse

RNs need a state license to practice. State nursing boards establish licensure requirements. Most state boards require licensure candidates to complete board-approved nursing education programs and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Aspiring RNs may also need to complete a background check. TheNational Council of State Boards of Nursing oversees state nursing boards and creates nursing licensure exams.

Most RNs spend their days caring for patients. RNs observe and assess patients and record medical information. They also provide treatments in collaboration with other medical professionals.

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Licensure for ADN Students

ADN graduates can qualify to take the NCLEX-RN exam and become licensed nurses. Nursing license requirements vary by state. Approved programs meet board-established curriculum and clinical experience requirements. Some state boards require candidates to submit official transcripts.

States such as Colorado only license graduates of nursing programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Nurses pay for their initial licensure. Costs vary by state. Nurses also pay to renew their licenses periodically. License renewal requires about 30 hours of continuing education every two years. Specific requirements vary by state.

Some nurses obtain licenses in other states through licensure reciprocity agreements. State boards that participate in agreements such as the Nurse Licensure Compact can help nurses transfer their license.

Best Online Associate in Nursing (ADN) Programs

  1. North Central Missouri College
    Location

    Trenton, MO

    Tuition

    $8131

    Licensed practical nurses enroll in NCMC's nine-month ADN program to advance their career and salary potential. Coursework includes adult nursing, pharmacology, and leadership in nursing. Online learners visit campus 2-3 times per semester to perform a simulation lab. They remain in good academic standing by maintaining a minimum 2.0 GPA.

    Students who need help balancing work and their education turn to Student Support Services. This resource features tutoring sessions, enrichment workshops, and outside scholarship exploration. NCMC also offers accessibility services to degree-seekers with one or more disabilities.

    Online ADN program admission requirements include possessing an active LPN license, taking an entrance exam, and earning a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA in previous college courses. Other admissions steps include passing a criminal background check and a drug screen. All online learners pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. Some students qualify for state and federal financial aid opportunities.

  2. Arkansas State University
    Location

    Jonesboro, AR

    Tuition

    $10835

    A-State's associate in nursing program uses accelerated seven-week courses, and students need not visit campus at any point during their education. The 66-credit curriculum features courses in role development, nursing mental health, and microbiology for nursing and allied health. Degree-seekers complete a six-part practicum experience at their job site and different local healthcare facilities.

    Nursing students turn their degree into career advancement by using Career Services' job guides. This resource offers other services such as one-on-one appointments with a career counselor, job fairs, and virtual mock interviews. Learners access these helpful resources through Handshake.

    Prospective associate in nursing degree students should possess a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA, an active LPN, and at least one year of work experience. A-State's program currently accepts only Arkansas residents. The university also sponsors six institutional scholarships, and each one requires a separate application.

  3. Excelsior College
    Location

    Albany, NY

    Although situated in Albany, New York, Excelsior educates ADN program learners throughout the nation with its 100% online curriculum. Students select between an AS or AAS in nursing. The AS features additional general education courses. Major coursework in both programs includes human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and health differences across the lifespan.

    Students earning the ADN degree visit the Excelsior Career Development (CD) website to explore different industries, compare employers, and optimize a resume and cover letter. CD also provides learners with numerous links to top private job boards, as well as advice on acing an interview and building professional skills.

    Excelsior admits learners from 17 states. Prospective students should possess either an LPN or LVN. The college also requires professional experience and asks that all applicants take the Test of Essential Academic Skills. Excelsior does not charge out-of-state tuition and offers various institutional scholarships.

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