Best Online Associate in Nursing (ADN) Programs 2021

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Registered nurses (RNs) act as frontline workers in the healthcare field. They deliver care, collaborate with doctors and other medical personnel, and communicate with patients’ family members concerning treatment and prognosis. Many professionals enter the nursing field by enrolling in an ADN program.

Online ADN programs require that applicants possess a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or licensed professional nurse (LPN) license and professional experience. Some colleges also use standardized test score and GPA cutoffs. Learners in an associate in nursing program study for 1-2 years. Coursework and clinical experience prepare them to pass the NCLEX-RN, an exam all states use to license RNs.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for RNs to grow 7% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than average for all U.S. careers. Nurses in the United States earn a $73,300 median salary, which allows RNs to live comfortably in most rural, suburban, and urban areas.

What Can I Do With an ADN Degree?

ADN programs qualify graduates to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for an RN license. Some programs allow nurses to specialize in a medical subfield, such as addiction, cardiovascular, or neonatal. After graduation, most RNs find employment at hospitals or ambulatory healthcare services facilities. On the job, RNs with experience oversee and mentor new RNs, LVNs, and LPNs. RNs also earn significantly more than LVNs or LPNs.

Although many nurses do not advance beyond the RN, others use the license as a stepping stone toward further professional advancement. Many experienced RNs enroll in a master of science in nursing (MSN) program, a two-year graduate degree that prepares students for a career as a nurse practitioner (NP). The profession features additional job responsibilities, such as prescribing medication and diagnosing medical conditions. NPs earn approximately 50% more than RNs. Like RNs, NPs specialize in a subfield that matches their interests and goals.

Accreditation for an ADN Degree



Most colleges and universities that offer an online ADN program hold two forms of accreditation. Regional accreditation ensures that all learners receive an adequate educational experience. The U.S. Department of Education charters six regional accreditation agencies to oversee academic programs. Avoid schools that lack accreditation.

Schools that award online degrees also need national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The DEAC compares a college or university’s on-campus programs with their online equivalents. DEAC accreditation ensures that on-campus and online students experience the same curriculum, academic rigor, and learning outcomes.

Private programmatic accreditation agencies award accreditation to top programs in their field. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) reviews undergraduate and graduate nursing programs throughout the nation. ACEN accreditation ensures that a nursing program provides an excellent education and prepares students for their future career better than those at other postsecondary schools.

FAQ


  • What kinds of jobs can you get with an ADN degree?

    Nurses with an ADN degree usually apply for an RN in their home state. This license allows them to pursue higher-paying jobs that feature greater responsibilities than nurses with an LPN or LVN.


  • What is the difference between ADN and RN?

    ADN stands for associate degree in nursing. RN refers to a registered nurse, a professional with a state-issued license. RNs need an ADN or bachelor’s to qualify for this license.


  • Can you be an RN with an associate degree?

    Prospective RNs enroll in either an associate or bachelor’s program in nursing. The latter includes additional general education courses and upper-division nursing courses.


  • How many years is an associate degree in nursing?

    Undergraduates without college experience need approximately two years to complete an ADN program. Students who already possess an LVN or LPN need one year or less to earn the degree.


What Are the Requirements for an ADN Degree?

Traditional on-campus programs accept recent high school graduates and practicing LVNs and LPNs. Online programs, however, restrict applicants to LVNs and LPNs, since online learning cannot provide all the hands-on experiences that aspiring RNs need to qualify for licensure. Other typical admission requirements include an entrance exam and a background check.

Typical academic and graduation requirements include a mix of coursework and clinical experiences. Students complete clinicals at their job site and other medical offices to apply classroom instruction in a real-world setting. Some schools also require brief on-campus visits that allow learners to demonstrate their proficiency with specific nursing techniques.

Courses in an ADN Program



Courses in an online ADN program focus specifically on nursing fundamentals, as learners take general education courses during their LVN or LPN program. Coursework involves nursing care and working with different age groups. Other typical subjects include mental health, leadership, and pharmacology. Students apply their new knowledge and skills during multiple clinical rotations.

The five courses below describe major coursework within an online associate in nursing degree. Note that courses and graduation requirements vary among schools. Contact a program representative to learn more about the degree’s courses and students’ academic experience.

Nursing Care of the Older Adult
RNs must know how to treat patients of all ages. Nursing care of the older adult introduces students to older patients’ unique needs, including typical illnesses and degenerative conditions. Students also learn how to avoid ageism when working with patients and their families. Other course highlights include promoting patients’ independence and allowing them to continue making medical decisions on their own behalf for as long as possible.
Mental and Behavioral Health Nursing
Physical illness and injury impacts the mental health of patients and families. Mental and behavioral health nursing covers these psychological effects and how nurses identify them on the job. The course also emphasizes typical mental disorders that lead to hospitalization, such as depression and schizophrenia. Coursework gives nurses the tools to provide the best treatment to these patients and work alongside psychiatrists and other physicians who specialize in mental health.
Leadership in Professional Nursing
Typical RN job duties include mentoring and supervising LPNs, LVNs, and other RNs. Nurses in a supervisory role need honed leadership and communication skills. Leadership in professional nursing introduces learners to different leadership theories and how each improves patient outcomes and fosters the next generation of nurses. Coursework requirements include passing exams and demonstrating new skills in a clinical setting. Experienced RNs provide feedback and recommendations that degree-seekers use in their career.
Intermediate Medical-Surgical Nursing
Nurses in surgical settings work alongside surgeons and anesthesiologists to ensure positive patient outcomes. Intermediate medical-surgical nursing builds upon foundational coursework by emphasizing classroom and clinical instruction. Clinical rotation sites include operating rooms, medical offices, and geriatric care facilities. Students learn the relationship between surgery and other medical care. Enrollees use the course to decide what kind of job site fits their interests and long-term career goals.
Ethics and Law
Medical professionals avoid causing any harm to patients. Students in an ADN program take ethics and law to understand the legal rights and restrictions that protect them and patients in the workplace. Learners also analyze typical ethical issues that RNs encounter on the job, such as nurses and patients who possess different value systems. Degree-seekers discuss these and other dilemmas through discussion boards, and professors require exams and essays to evaluate students’ competency with course topics.

Certifications and Licensure for ADN Majors



ADN program graduates need a license to practice. Professionals then improve their career and salary potential by earning one or more certifications. Private organizations award certifications to RNs who meet specific experience and education requirements. Other typical certification steps include passing an exam and keeping the certification updated by taking continuing education courses.

AIDS Certified Registered Nurse


The HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board (HANCB) awards this certification to RNs with at least two years of professional experience related to HIV/AIDS care. Other certification steps include a multiple-choice exam. The HANCB awards an advanced certification to RNs to earn a master’s degree and attain additional experience.

Certified Pediatric Nurse


RNs with at least 1,800 hours of experience working in pediatric nursing qualify for the CPN. Candidates apply for the certification by registering with the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) and taking an exam at an authorized testing center. The PNCB requires recertification each year.

Registered Nurse License


The journey toward an RN license begins by earning an ADN. However, each state’s Board of Registered Nursing sets specific requirements. All licensure candidates must pass the 4.5-hour NCLEX-RN exam. Candidates take the NCLEX-RN at an authorized testing center. Test-takers receive unofficial results immediately after finishing.

Professional Organizations for ADN Majors



Professional organizations provide online ADN program students with networking opportunities, job openings, and exclusive scholarships. Many of these organizations charge low membership dues to undergraduates and offer them a mentorship program. Additional membership benefits include industry publications, discounts on professional insurance and other services, and a job board.


  • The American Association for Men in Nursing Men working toward their first nursing license or transitioning from an LVN to an RN join the AAMN at a low introductory rate. The AAMN allows students to join a leadership committee and provides networking opportunities. The association also promotes career success by maintaining a job board with more than 7,000 open positions throughout the United States.

  • American Nurses Association ANA dates back to the late 19th century and advocates for the profession by developing continuing education resources for nurses of all experience levels. Student members receive access to networking tools, a nursing profession toolkit, and multiple publications detailing the latest industry trends. Graduates who remain ANA members receive discounts on professional certifications.

  • National Black Nurses Association Black nursing students join the NBNA to apply for the association's scholarship opportunities. Other membership benefits include the Career Center, continuing education courses, and free webinars. NBNA uses membership dues to advocate for Black nurses at the national level and create an international nursing community with contacts in Africa and the Caribbean.

  • National Student Nurses Association, Inc. Student nurses throughout the United States join NSNA to enjoy the association's numerous benefits, including liability insurance, NCLEX-RN exam-preparation materials, and discounts on medical and office supplies. Learners starting a job hunt use NSNA's Career Planning Guide, and NSNA offers a discounted two-year membership rate for degree-seekers.

Scholarships for ADN Students

Private scholarships help degree-seekers earn a degree while avoiding debt. Typical application requirements include undergraduate transcripts, one or more essays, and professional recommendations. Some scholarships renew as long as recipients remain in good academic standing. Please use the following embedded links, as details change often.

A Nurse I Am Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Cherokee Uniforms awards the A Nurse I Am Scholarship to full- and part-time nursing students enrolled in an ADN or BSN program. The scholarship window opens each year on Feb. 1. Prospective applicants need not purchase nursing scrubs or other products from Cherokee Uniforms to qualify.
Amount: $2,000

AfterCollege/AACN $10,000 Scholarship Fund

Who Can Apply: This scholarship accepts applications from undergraduate and graduate nursing students on March 31, June 30, Sept. 30, or Dec. 31. The applicant’s college or university must hold membership in the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Application materials include recommendation letters, transcripts, and proof of past honors.
Amount: $2,500

National Black Nurses Association Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: NBNA awards more than a dozen scholarships each year to Black students preparing for a nursing career. Students join the NBNA before applying. Applicants submit official transcripts, an essay, two recommendation letters, and a headshot. NBNA uses an April 15 application deadline and notifies recipients before the following fall semester.
Amount: $1,000-$5,000

Best Online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs 2021



  1. North Central Missouri College
    Location

    Trenton, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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

    $$$$$

    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

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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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