The Best Online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs of 2023

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Updated February 2, 2023

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An ADN can help you become a registered nurse in just 1-2 years. Explore our picks for the best online ADN programs and get advice from real nurses.

AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | DigitalVision | Getty Images

If you wish to help others as a nurse, consider an associate degree in nursing (ADN). This degree prepares you for entry-level nursing positions. You can work in hospitals, nursing homes, doctor's offices, outpatient clinics, and ambulatory care.

Earning an ADN is one of the quickest paths to becoming a registered nurse (RN). You can earn your degree in 1-2 years. Here, we walk you through everything you need to know about an ADN and highlight some of the best online ADN programs.

Why Enroll in an Online 2-Year Nursing Program?

  • An associate degree in nursing can lead to various careers in healthcare, many of which are in high demand.
  • You can help people and make a positive difference in patients' lives every day.
  • Online ADN programs typically offer lots of flexibility for working students.
  • An online ADN program can qualify you to become an RN.
  • You can still complete clinical experiences on campus or at approved local sites.
  • An accelerated ADN program means you can earn your degree — and start your career — in even less time.
  • Online degree programs are often more affordable than on-campus programs.

Did You Know?



Explore Our Featured Healthcare Programs

Does Accreditation Matter for ADN Programs?

Accreditation is essential for nursing programs at any level.

Once you've finished your ADN program and passed all required exams, you're eligible to earn a nursing license. If your program is not accredited, however, you can't get a license.

When it comes to online ADN programs, accreditation helps ensure the quality of education you're receiving is the same as that offered in an on-campus program.

Here are some recognized accrediting bodies for nursing programs to look for as you research ADN programs:

Top 5 Online ADN Programs for Aspiring Nurses

Read About Our Methodology Here

#1 The Best Online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs of 2023

Columbia College

  • Columbia, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

Higher Learning Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit

In-State | $375

Out-of-State | $375

Credits to Graduate

77

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate

83%

Columbia College's online associate of science in nursing can be a great first step in your nursing career. With an impressive 95% job placement rate and 84% retention rate, this program is a great investment for aspiring RNs, as well as for current practical nurses hoping to grow their skill sets.

The program is divided into eight-week sessions, with night classes available for busy students. Once you've completed the program, you'll be qualified to take the NCLEX-RN and seek licensure to become an RN.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,762
Out-of-state
$11,762
Retention Rate
71%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
8,347
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
78% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 The Best Online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs of 2023

University of Arkansas Community College-Batesville

  • Batesville, AR
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

Higher Learning Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit

In-State | $120

Out-of-State | $120

Credits to Graduate

67

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate

66%

Designed for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) aiming to advance their nursing careers, UACCB's online LPN-to-RN program awards graduates with an associate of applied science degree.

The program boasts a 61% retention rate. Courses draw on students' practical nursing experience and provide a grounding in life sciences, tech skills, and communication through general education requirements.

Average Tuition
In-state
$2,100
Out-of-state
$2,688
Retention Rate
52%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,224
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
53% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 The Best Online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs of 2023

Minnesota West Community and Technical College

  • Granite Falls, MN
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

Higher Learning Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit

In-State | $228.64 (including fees)

Out-of-State | $228.64 (including fees)

Credits to Graduate

64

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate

46%

Minnesota West's associate of science in nursing is available both online and at three campuses in Granite Falls, Pipestone, and Worthington, Minnesota. Students studying online must attend in-person clinical courses in Southwest Minnesota, so you'll need to be local to the region or prepared to travel.

This ADN program is aimed at LPNs and covers a broad spectrum of nursing knowledge, including geriatric, psychiatric, and family nursing. Grads in 2021 reported 96% satisfaction with Minnesota West's nursing program.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,300
Out-of-state
$10,600
Retention Rate
55%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
3,253
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 The Best Online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs of 2023

Excelsior College

  • Albany, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online

Accreditation

Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Avg. Cost per Credit

In-State | $550

Out-of-State | $550

Credits to Graduate

66

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate

71%

A private, distance-learning-only institution, Excelsior University offers an online associate of science (AS) in nursing for students from a limited number of states. According to a one-year alumni survey, 85% of graduates are employed as RNs or in similar roles.

The program offers lots of flexibility, allowing you to enroll full or part time and take classes at your own pace. You must complete the program within seven years. Each course lasts eight weeks and grants you access to resources like tutorials, webinars, and an academic advisor.

Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
21,974
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 The Best Online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs of 2023

Northwest Technical College

  • Bemidji, MN
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

Higher Learning Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit

In-State | $208.95

Out-of-State | $208.95

Credits to Graduate

64

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate

100%

NTC's two-year AS in nursing generic track works in conjunction with the school's partner institution, Bemidji State University. Graduates of this program will not only be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN and get RN licensure, but can also apply to transfer to Bemidji State University to complete their BS in nursing degree.

Topics covered include foundations of nursing, pharmacology, and maternal health. Many AS in nursing grads go on to work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, or doctor's offices.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,415
Out-of-state
$5,415
Retention Rate
43%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
825
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
72% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

What Will You Learn in an Online ADN Program?

Online ADN programs prepare you to pass the NCLEX-RN and get licensed as a registered nurse.

Core coursework typically covers nursing principles and fundamental subjects like pharmacology and microbiology. You'll also get to practice your nursing skills through hands-on clinical training.

In addition, you'll learn how to examine medical records, track symptoms, and administer medications.

Common Courses in ADN Programs

  • Aging and Chronic Illness
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Foundations of Nursing
  • Maternal and Pediatric Nursing Care
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Microbiology
  • Nursing Management
  • Pharmacology

How Much Does an Associate Degree in Nursing Cost?


ADN programs generally cost $8,000-$36,000. This is the total amount you can expect to pay in tuition and fees for a two-year program.

If you opt for an accelerated ADN program, you may be able to graduate in less than two years, saving you time and money.

How much you pay for your ADN will ultimately depend on your program, state of residence, and financial aid package.

As an online student, you may qualify for cheaper tuition and reduced fees. For instance, some public schools offer in-state tuition rates to all domestic online students, regardless of what state they're based in.

Don't forget to budget for common online learning expenses, like textbooks and a high-quality laptop.

Most online nursing programs require some in-person learning in the form of hands-on clinical training and practicums, so be sure to factor in travel costs as well.

Finally, ADN graduates must pay $200 to take the NCLEX-RN, in addition to state licensure application fees.

How Much Money Can You Make With an ADN?

According to the BLS, RNs earn a median annual salary of $77,600 as of May 2021.

You can earn more or less depending on the industry you work in. For example, RNs who work for the government and state, local, and private hospitals tend to rake in more money than RNs who work in education.

You can boost your earning potential by getting a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or a graduate degree in nursing. Online RN-to-BSN programs allow you to earn your BSN in around two years.

With an ADN, you can specialize in many types of nursing and qualify for other healthcare jobs in areas like direct care and patient coordination.

Popular ADN Jobs
Job Average Hourly Pay (Sept./Oct. 2022)
Travel Nurse $36.03
Oncology Nurse $34.55
Psychiatric Nurse $32.93
Emergency Room Nurse $32.82
Hospice Nurse $31.40
Long-Term Care Nurse $30.05
Pediatric Nurse $29.11
Patient Care Coordinator $17.48

Source: Payscale

How to Become a Registered Nurse

The path to becoming an RN can be summed up in three steps:

  1. Earn an ADN or BSN.
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN.
  3. Get a state nursing license.

There are several types of nursing credentials and programs that can prepare you for passing the NCLEX-RN and qualify you for state licensure. You can pursue an ADN, a BSN, or in some states a nursing diploma.

If there's a particular field you'd like to specialize in as an RN, you can complete certifications. These will provide you with more expertise and help you land an RN job in your preferred field.

Some common nursing certifications include:

Requirements for becoming a registered nurse depend on which state you live in. Check out the map below to see what your state requires to become an RN.

State

Q&A With Real Registered Nurses



Q: Why did you decide to pursue a career in nursing?


"I always had an affinity for science, but more specifically for anatomy and physiology. I also loved working with my hands and craved to be active while working, instead of being stagnant."
 — Rachel Adams, Registered Nurse, University of Washington Medical Center
"I've always had a passion for helping others, but the older population are some of my favorite people to spend time with. … Few people realize that their bodies operate much differently as seniors — and I don't mean just on a physical level. Nursing allowed me to explore those intricacies and allowed me to feel like I was giving back to my community through elderly care."
 — Nancy Mitchell, Registered Nurse and Contributing Writer at Assisted Living Center

Q: What is something that surprised you about the field of nursing?

"Most professionals don't mention how close nurses are with our patients. We spend the most time at their bedsides, nurturing a trusting rapport with those in need. Spending all this time with patients often makes nurses more empathetic to patient care than other healthcare professionals because it affords us deeper insight into the patient as a whole being."
 — Nancy M.
"I was surprised by the emotional toll that my field took on my body. … You become fully engrossed in your patients' lives, both their trials and tribulations, while you are taking care of them. You feel internally rewarded with improvements and grief when your patient declines."
 — Rachel A.

Q: What is your biggest piece of advice to students considering becoming RNs?

"Like all careers, some people are suited for [nursing] and others are not. That said, embrace the mental trials and emotional lessons that nursing forces you into, because I wholeheartedly believe that you are a more well-rounded person due to you taking care of someone in some of the worst days of their life."
 — Rachel A.
"Be sure that you have a passion for nursing. … Back-to-back night shifts and difficult patient care in the early days can make it challenging to see the reward in your profession. As with any career, your journey will be more enjoyable if your heart is all in."
 — Nancy M.

Frequently Asked Questions About ADN Programs

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

An associate degree in nursing, or ADN, is a college degree that prepares you to become a registered nurse (RN). An ADN is an educational credential, whereas RN is a license and job title.

Completing an ADN doesn't automatically make you an RN — you'll need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for state licensure to officially work as an RN in your state.

Is an ADN the same as an LPN?

Licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, typically complete a one-year program to earn an LPN certificate or diploma. This program prepares them to take the NCLEX-PN and apply for a state LPN license.

In contrast, the associate degree in nursing, or ADN, is a two-year college degree. The degree qualifies you to take the NCLEX-RN and become a registered nurse.

Is it better to earn your ADN online or on campus?

Both online and on-campus ADN programs are valued by employers. So long as the program is accredited, both program types will have the same basic curricula and educational quality.

An online program may be more affordable and can offer a more flexible schedule for working professionals. An on-campus program provides benefits like direct peer-to-peer interaction and hands-on learning.

Ultimately, you must decide whether an on-campus or online ADN program works better for your goals.

Are accelerated ADN programs worth it?

Accelerated online associate nursing programs can help you earn your ADN much faster. They can also be a bit more intense, as you'll be expected to master the same content in a shorter amount of time.

If your schedule allows it, an accelerated ADN program can get you into the nursing field faster. If you're a student who may not excel in a fast-paced learning environment, a traditional ADN program that lasts around two years may be a better fit.

How long is an ADN program?

An ADN program typically takes two years to complete for full-time students. If you choose an accelerated program, you can graduate in about a year.

You may also opt to attend school part time, which would extend your graduation timeline.


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