Associate's Degree Overview: Why Should You Get an ADN?
Learn the ins- and-outs of earning an ADN or LPN-LVN certification.
About an associate's degree in nursing
Earning an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) will give you a solid career foundation in the health care field. An ADN can be earned over the course of two- to-three years, and throughout that time you'll have plenty of opportunities to gain hands-on experience. After you earn your ADN, you'll need to pass a national licensing examination NCLEX-RN in order to begin working as a registered nurse.
Another great way to jump-start a career in health care is to earn a certificate as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), which is the title used only in California and Texas, but it represents the same career and certification as the LPN title. Earning your LPN/LVN certificate typically involves one-to-two years of training at a trade school, community college or technical school.
Why should I earn an ADN or LPN?
Earning either an ADN or LPN/LVN certification both have great potential to start you off on a life-long health care career. Earning an ADN or LPN/LVN is generally a solid career choice in terms of salary and job availability. But on top of that, they can also be stepping stones in furthering your education as a nurse. Many registered nurses with an ADN will choose to take entry-level positions, and then utilize tuition reimbursement programs to earn higher degrees—all the while gaining valuable nursing experience. Similarly, if you're an LPN/LVN, you might opt into an LPN-to-RN program, where you can use credits earned during your LPN/LVN training to work toward becoming a registered nurse (RN).
How long does my program take to complete?
One of the biggest benefits to earning your ADN is that it can be completed in as little as two years. And as for an LPN/LVN certificate, many are able to complete training in just a year. Both of these programs are often the right choice for people who know they want a career in health care, but also want to start working as soon as possible.
Am I a good fit for this program?
Beginning a career in health care often means committing to a job that will challenge you in new ways: patients might be difficult, hours may be long, and dealing with illness and injury can be more stressful than sometimes expected. If you want to pursue an associate's degree or certificate in nursing, there’s a particular skill set needed for success.
- A sense of compassion: One of the most important skills of a registered nurse or LPN can also be one of the most challenging: maintaining a caring, sympathetic nature with patients. A mark of a great RN or LPN is the ability to be patient and professional, even when patients are confused, agitated or uncooperative.
- Attention to detail: In order to keep track of all the details of patient care, you'll need to be observant and detail-oriented. When you administer medications or check vital signs, you're responsible for patients' well-being, and accuracy is essential.
- Strong teamwork skills: If you pursue an ADN or LPN/LVN certification, you'll be working as part of a health care team, under close supervision. This means that you'll need to be able to follow orders and work collaboratively with others in order to best treat your patients.
- Ability to handle stress: Part of working in health care means that you'll witness pain and aging, and sometimes death. Being in the field will be incredibly difficult unless you develop good self-care practices to withstand the stress and maintain emotional stability.
Physical fitness: Nursing jobs can be surprisingly tough on the body. You'll be on your feet for long periods of time, and oftentimes you'll be helping patients move, stand and walk. You may be at risk for back injuries when moving patients, but you can reduce risk by staying strong and fit.
What will I learn in my degree program?
Associate's degrees in nursing are offered by many community colleges and some four-year institutions. An ADN program should take two-to-three years to complete, and it will include both instructional and hands-on courses. You'll be expected to complete courses in anatomy, physiology, biology, and nutrition, among others. You'll also spend time in labs and nursing skills clinics; these sessions will be a huge part of preparing you for the real life nursing experience.
LPN/LVN programs typically take one-to-two years to complete, and they are generally offered by technical schools or community colleges. Like an ADN program, an LPN/LVN program will include a mixture of instructional and hands-on courses. A typical LPN/LVN course list may look like this:
- Basic Nursing Skills
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Emergency Care
- Pediatric Nursing
- Obstetric Nursing
- Medical-Surgical Nursing
Courses like these often blend instruction with clinical or lab learning so you'll be exposed to real life nursing situations before completing the program.
See if online programs are available for associate's degree-level programs.