Associate’s Degree in Nursing

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LPNs earn your ADN or BSN degree online in up to 1/2 the time and cost of traditional programs. All applicants must be either an LPN or LVN to apply.

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Salaries for Nurses with an Associate Degree in Nursing

nurse looking at electronic notepad
nurse looking at electronic notepad

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for registered nurses is $75,330. This number includes nurses with an Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN) and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). But salaries can vary widely based on education and other factors.

Pursuing an ADN is one of the fastest ways to launch your career as a registered nurse (RN) and reap the financial rewards that go with it.

As a new graduate, you’ll qualify for many of the same positions as nurses with a BSN, though you may notice a difference in pay rates. For example, for staff nurses, who work in hospitals, RNs with a BSN can sometimes earn about 8% more, says Joseph A. Dunmire, a board member of the National Association for Health Care Recruitment (NAHCR).

How Does ADN Pay Compare to Other Entry-level Nursing Jobs?

An RN’s salary is a big step up from pay for lower-level nursing jobs such as certified nursing assistant (CNA) and licensed practical nurse (LPN). That’s because registered nurses are more skilled, have greater responsibilities, and sometimes supervise nursing assistants and LPNs.

Entry-Level Nursing Salary Comparison

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

“An ADN is a great entry-level into healthcare and into nursing,” says Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC, and a board-certified nurse coach, nursing career expert, and host of the nursing career podcast “The Nurse Keith Show.” “It’s a great option for someone who wants to go beyond practical nursing or a diploma-based study program.

“For someone who’s not sure, for someone who doesn’t want to go into greater debt, and they’d like to get out of school as quickly as possible and earn a living, then the ADN is the faster path.”

How Does ADN Pay Compared to Other Healthcare Jobs that Require an Associate Degree?

Many other healthcare occupations also have entry-level opportunities at the associate degree level. Here’s how some of them stack up against RNs in terms of salary, according to the BLS.

OccupationMedian Salary
Registered Nurse$75,330
Radiologic Technologist/Technician$63,710
Respiratory Therapist$62,810
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologist$74,690
Diagnostics Medical Sonographer$75,920
Dental Hygienist$77,090
Nuclear Medicine Technologist$79,590
Radiation Therapist$86,850

Your Salary Can Depend on Many Factors

There’s much more in play than just education: The salary you earn with an ADN may also depend on factors such as where you live, your position, your employer, and your experience.

Registered nurses have the highest employment of all healthcare occupations, the BLS says, so you’ll find a wide range of opportunities to explore. This demand is largely due to a nursing shortage that’s expected to grow in the coming years.

The salary you earn with an ADN may depend on factors such as where you live, your position, your employer, and your experience.

Here are four factors that could influence your salary.

The Care You Provide

Many hospitals look for nurses with a BSN, but many other healthcare settings offer opportunities for nurses with an ADN.

“Long-term care, medical-surgical nursing, rehabilitation, mental health nursing, and home care nursing are areas that readily hire ADN-prepared nurses,” says Damion Jenkins, RN, MSN, an NCLEX prep expert, nurse educator, and CEO of The Nurse Speak. “Some of the more specialized areas, such as pediatrics, maternal newborn, ICU and OR, typically require that their nurses have more experience and therefore would most likely hire BSN-prepared new grads, if a new grad position were available.”


Earning a certification in a nursing specialty could increase your job opportunities and earning potential. “The whole issue in the marketplace when you’re looking for work is, ‘How do I differentiate myself from my competition? What makes me different?'” Carlson says.

Requirements for certification vary by specialty. Many require one to five years of practice or a minimum number of hours in the specialty.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers credentials in nine nursing specialties, including pediatrics and pain management. Many specialty nursing organizations offer certifications as well.

Requirements for certification vary by specialty. Many require one to five years of practice or a minimum number of hours in the specialty.

Where You Work

Your healthcare setting can make a substantial difference in your pay, as this chart shows. 

Outpatient Care Centers

Provide outpatient care services directly or indirectly to ambulatory patients

Annual Median RN Salary: $84,720

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals

Provide medical, diagnostic, treatment, and special accommodation services to inpatients and may provide outpatient services as a secondary service

Annual Median RN Salary: $76,830

Home Healthcare Services

Provide skilled nursing services, including high-tech care such as IV therapy, in the home

Annual Median RN Salary: $70,720

Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)

Provide a mix of health and social services in a residential care setting

Annual Median RN Salary: $68,920

Physicians’ Offices

Provide medical and surgical treatment with physicians in private practice

Annual Median RN Salary: $68,730

Where You Live

Your physical location can also influence your pay. This can be due to the demand for nurses or the cost of living in an area.

For example, the BLS reports that the annual median salary for nurses in Joplin, Missouri, is $46,210, while across the country in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, California, it’s $155,980.

The top 10 highest-paying areas in the nation are in California, according to the BLS. 

Metropolitan AreaAnnual Median Wage
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California$155,980
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California$155,170
Vallejo-Fairfield, California$150,850
Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, California$137,040
Salinas, California$132,650
Santa Rosa, California$119,700
Napa, California$116,260
Redding, California$115,880
Stockton-Lodi, California$115,100
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California$113,370

How to Increase Your Earnings

As a nurse with an ADN, you have many options to increase your earnings. It all depends on your goals.

  • Overtime: From a practical standpoint, you may have the opportunity to work overtime or earn a premium on overnight shifts, weekends, or holidays.
  • Union membership: If you end up joining a union, you could have support in the form of collective bargaining for higher wages.
  • Certifications and fellowships: These can raise your earnings by adding to your expertise and experience.
  • Pursue a higher degree: If you decide to return to school, an ADN is an excellent foundation for earning a BSN, a degree that can help you move into positions with more responsibility and higher pay.

    Employers that encourage nurses to pursue a BSN often have tuition reimbursement programs, which can ease financial concerns. And many schools have online programs, which can give students the flexibility to work while they’re in school.

anna giorgi

Written and reported by:

Anna Giorgi

Contributing Writer

With professional insight from:

Joseph Dunmire

Board Member, National Association for Health Care Recruitment (NAHCR); and Vice President—Workforce Solutions, Qualivis

damion jenkins

Damion Jenkins, RN, MSN

Nursing Consultant