An associate degree in nursing can help an individual to become a registered nurse after just two years of classes and clinical hours. By enrolling in such a program, students can practice the knowledge and skills they need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and become a registered nurse. While some registered nurses choose to work in a hospital or doctor’s office, others decide to take their talents to a school or directly into patients’ homes.

Let’s take a closer look at what an associate degree program in nursing entails, and whether it might be the right fit for you.

Getting Started With Associate Programs in Nursing

In most cases, students cannot just plunge directly into an associate nursing degree program without completing certain prerequisite classes first. What exactly those prerequisites are can vary from school to school, but they may include subjects such as microbiology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, psychology, statistics and/or English.

These prerequisite classes can usually be taken in a high school or college setting, but it’s important to know what the program you are applying for accepts and what they don’t. Confirm your program’s prerequisites (and whether you have fulfilled them) with your school, especially if you are a transfer student or a newly-graduated high school student.

Best Schools Offering Associate Programs in Nursing

Aspiring nurses may be able to benefit from reviewing school rankings before deciding on a school. Here on NursingDegrees, our rankings take into consideration important factors such as acceptance rate, tuition cost and retention rate. Our goal is to help students find accredited schools that can offer them a quality nursing education.

Our ranking of the best schools for an associate degree in nursing was developed using data compiled by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). For more information on our methodology, see the bottom of this page.

01
New Mexico State University-Dona Ana
Number of Associate nursing programs offered
3
Undergraduate tuition
$1,776
Undergrad retention rate
58%
Percent of Associate students awarded financial aid
86%
02
Paris Junior College
Number of Associate nursing programs offered
3
Undergraduate tuition
$2,400
Undergrad retention rate
56%
Percent of Associate students awarded financial aid
87%
03
Forsyth Technical Community College
Number of Associate nursing programs offered
3
Undergraduate tuition
$1,906
Undergrad retention rate
58%
Percent of Associate students awarded financial aid
67%
04
San Joaquin Delta College
Number of Associate nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,104
Undergrad retention rate
78%
Percent of Associate students awarded financial aid
78%
05
Imperial Valley College
Number of Associate nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,104
Undergrad retention rate
73%
Percent of Associate students awarded financial aid
91%
06
Heritage University
Number of Associate nursing programs offered
3
Undergraduate tuition
$19,032
Undergrad retention rate
71%
Percent of Associate students awarded financial aid
100%
07
Arizona Western College
Number of Associate nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,920
Undergrad retention rate
68%
Percent of Associate students awarded financial aid
86%
08
Western Wyoming Community College
Number of Associate nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$2,136
Undergrad retention rate
66%
Percent of Associate students awarded financial aid
98%
09
Pennsylvania College of Technology
Number of Associate nursing programs offered
3
Undergraduate tuition
$13,590
Undergrad retention rate
78%
Percent of Associate students awarded financial aid
87%
10
Southwestern Community College
Number of Associate nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$2,128
Undergrad retention rate
62%
Percent of Associate students awarded financial aid
85%

Overview of Nursing Associate Degree Programs

Generally speaking, you may see up to three different kinds of associate degree programs for nursing: the Associate of Applied Science (AAS), the Associate of Science in nursing (ASN) or the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Traditionally, ADN programs were offered by colleges and universities, while ASN and AAS nursing programs were offered by trade schools or vocational schools. However, that distinction has fallen by the wayside, and the three programs have become mostly interchangeable aside from their names.

The purpose of an associate degree program in nursing, regardless of its name, is to prepare students for pursuing a nursing career in hospitals, long-term care, home health or outpatient environments. Because of this, associate degree programs in nursing tend to focus on important nursing skills such as patient care, clinical decision making, and the general state of healthcare. Lectures, labs and clinical experience are also important aspects of these programs.

Here are a few examples of courses that you might see offered in associate degree programs for nursing:

  • Essentials of Health Assessment and Promotion
  • Introduction to Nursing Practice
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Nursing Ethics

Bridge Programs

A nursing bridge program is a special kind of degree program that takes advantage of the clinical knowledge that working healthcare professionals already have. By building on what students already know, these programs can cut courses that students have already taken, accelerating the program curriculum. This gives nurses the opportunity to continue their education while saving time and money.

A bridge program can be very helpful for someone who is an LPN/ LVN and wants to move up in the nursing world, or healthcare professionals such as paramedics who want to transition into nursing. For more information, we invite you to visit our Bridge Program page.

Bridge Programs Leading to an Associate Degree

  • LPN/LVN-to-RN
  • Paramedic-to-RN

Bridge Programs that Start with an Associate Degree

  • ADN-to-BSN
  • RN-to-BSN
  • RN-to-MD
Sources & Methodology

Methodology

Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we ranked 6,758 United States institutions on 11 criteria. Final data for the 2016-17 school year was used for these rankings. (Schools that did not provide data for all 11 criteria were disqualified from the ranking.)

Our 11 criteria were as follows:

  1. Number of associate-level degree programs offered to nursing-related majors
  2. Number of associate-level nursing-related degree programs offered via distance education
  3. Variety of associate-level nursing-related degree programs offered
  4. Tuition
  5. Retention rate
  6. Graduation rate
  7. Average amount of federal grant aid awarded to full-time first-time undergraduates
  8. Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid
  9. Credit offerings (Military, Dual, Life Experience, AP)
  10. Services (Career Counseling, Placement Services)
  11. Availability of tuition plans (Guaranteed, Prepaid, Payment, Other)

All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.

NOTE: Schools’ tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.

Sources

  1. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed June 2018, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed June 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
  3. Nurse Journal, Accessed June 2018, https://nursejournal.org/practical-nursing/lpn-certificates-vs-nursing-associate-degrees-how-do-they-differ/
  4. O*Net Online, Accessed June 2018, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1141.00
  5. Northwestern Michigan College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.nmc.edu/programs/academic-programs/nursing-associate-degree/catalog.html
  6. Chamberlain University, Accessed June 2018, https://www.chamberlain.edu/academics/nursing-school/associate-degree-in-nursing
  7. Denver College of Nursing, Accessed June 2018, https://www.denvercollegeofnursing.edu/programs/nursing/associate-degree-in-nursing.aspx
  8. College of DuPage, Accessed June 2018, http://www.cod.edu/programs/nursing/adn.aspx
  9. Iowa Lakes Community College, Accessed June 2018, https://www.iowalakes.edu/academic-programs/programs-of-study/health/associate-degree-nursing