Earning Your Associate's Degree in Nursing Can Jumpstart Your Career

Learn why earning an ADN or LPN-LVN certification will be the entry to other great nursing careers.

About an associate's degree in nursing

smiling nurse with associates degree in nursing

An associate's degree in nursing (ADN) will give you a solid career foundation in the health care field. Popular among registered nurses (RNs), the ADN provides opportunities to work in entry-level nursing positions. 

An ADN can be earned over the course of two- to-three years and the curriculum will include not only nursing, but also liberal arts. 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.

If you're not quite ready to jump into college coursework but want to enter the nursing field quickly, you can earn a certificate as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). In California and Texas, a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is the job title used. To earn your LPN/LVN certificate, you'll need to complete between one and two years of training at a trade school, community college or technical school.

Why should I earn an ADN or LPN?

The job growth for nurses is expected to grow quite a bit over the next few years. Earning an ADN or LPN can get your foot in the door of this in-demand profession and potentially lead to greater opportunities in the future.

You should also consider getting an ADN or LPN if you're planning to work in nursing for the long run. Many registered nurses with an ADN take an entry-level position and then use tuition reimbursement programs to earn higher degrees—all while gaining valuable nursing experience. If you're an LPN/LVN, you can enroll in an LPN-to-RN program, where credits earned during your LPN/LVN training are put toward your registered nurse (RN) coursework . 

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. LPN/LVN certificate can often be completed in a year. Both of these programs are great options 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?

An ADN or LPN program gives you a solid understanding of how the nursing field works and what duties you'll have on the job. The course work will cover a variety of topics, including nursing license preparation and anatomy.

Determining if you're a good fit for an ADN or LPN program means evaluating your career goals and personal traits. For example, if you're planning to earn a higher degree in the future, but can't do it right away, an ADN program may be the better choice. It will cover your general education requirements so you won't have to take them in a bachelor's degree program later. On the other hand, if you want to get to work quickly, an LPN program might be a better fit. 

For many students, they'll be going to school and working at the same time. This means being able to manage stress and stay organized so your assignments are completed on time.

If an on-campus program doesn't sound like a good match for you, don't walk away just yet. ADN and LPN online programs have become popular and are highly regarded by professionals in the field. You'll have the opportunity to complete class work on your time making this a great option for people with busy schedules.

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 will blend hands-on training with class work.

You'll be expected to complete courses in:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Biology
  • Nutrition

You'll also spend time in labs and clinical nursing skills clinics which will give you a glimpse into what you'll do on the job.

LPN/LVN programs typically take one-to-two years to complete and are generally offered by technical schools or community colleges. Like an ADN program, an LPN/LVN program will include a mix of instructional and hands-on courses. A typical LPN/LVN course list may look like this:

  • Basic Nursing Skills
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Emergency Care
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Obstetric Nursing
  • Medical-Surgical Nursing

See if online programs are available for associate's degree-level programs.

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