Online Associate Degrees in Nursing (ADN) Programs

By Nikita Nath

Updated March 15, 2024

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online

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Nursing is generally one of the coveted professions in the healthcare sector focused on the care of patients, families, and the community so that individuals can maintain, attain, and gain optimal well-being and good quality of life. Associate Degrees in Nursing or ADN online programs take 15 months and two years to complete and are offered at various community colleges across the United States. Students can seek an advanced degree in healthcare and transfer to four-year colleges after finishing online ADN programs. Jobs are promising too, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting a 6% job growth from 2021 to 2031, which is as fast as the average for other professions[1]. With an ADN, one could work in a hospital, home, organizational health care service, physician’s office, and other nursing facilities.

Online Associate Degrees in Nursing (ADN) Programs

Find the Best Online
ADN Programs

An associate degree is an excellent point for someone to start their career in nursing. Since many colleges across the United States offer ADN programs, it is essential to evaluate various factors to choose the best school, including accreditation, program structure, learning modes, the quality of the faculty, clinical experiences provided, and more. Our teams at FBD have assessed a range of such criteria by using a unique ranking methodology and prepared a list of the best ADN programs online: *

North Central Missouri College (formerly Trenton Junior College) is a public community college founded in 1925 in Trenton, Missouri. The colleges caters to more than 1,400 students, offering about 45 degree programs that can be taken online or on-campus.
Univ Address
North Central Missouri College 1301 Main St, Trenton, Missouri 64683

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to Expect from an Online
ADN Program

An Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, is an undergraduate program that will help nursing aspirants gain fundamental knowledge and clinical skills and apply it in the domain of nursing. An online ADN program can usually take about 2-3 years to complete the course full-time. Credit requirements of the program could range between 60-90 credits. It can be taken up in part-time or accelerated mode, depending on the number of courses one takes in a semester. Most schools offer a degree in online, offline, and hybrid modes that integrate online and offline learning components. Those who graduate with an ADN are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which will help them take up the examination to apply for licensure to become a registered nurse [2]. One can transfer to a four-year college after finishing their ADN requirements.

Curriculum and

No two associate degrees in nursing are executed similarly by schools; there is often a crossover of topics in their curricula. Prospective students should expect a combination of nursing classes and prerequisite courses, including fundamentals of nursing, chemistry, behavioral health, English, communications, and microbiology. Programs generally focus on core classes and clinical nursing and include hands-on learning experiences. Some common courses in ADN programs are:

Foundations in Nursing

This course helps students understand how to restore health, prevent illness, promote health and wellness, and take care of chronic ailments. It teaches the principles of evidence-based care and a framework for organizing patient care.

Nursing Care of Adults

This course focuses on nurses establishing a therapeutic relationship with the older adults they care for. Students learn the skills and knowledge necessary to care for adult patients with chronic and acute physical illnesses within hospital and community settings. They are taught the fundamental principles that help them work closely with healthcare teams, including physical and occupational therapists, physicians, pharmacists, nutritionists and dieticians, and other professionals.

Nursing Skills

This course focuses on developing evidence-based physical assessments and clinical skills across the lifespan of patients. It includes teaching students about mathematic conversions and calculations related to different clinical skills. In addition, students also learn basic physical assessment skills and techniques associated with the history of health using an approach to the body system.

Nursing Pharmacology

This course introduces drug classification principles, pharmacology, and their impact on the body. Particular emphasis is placed on the components of different nursing processes while administering medications to patients.

Nursing Health Alterations

This course expands on fundamental concepts of illness and health. It applies nursing theories to care for patients using problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. It provides an opportunity to understand the conditions that affect our body systems and apply evidence-based nursing interventions.

Some of the other courses one can find in the ADN degrees include:

  • Nursing: Introduction to Clinical Practice
  • Nursing Health Promotion
  • Family Health and Illness Concepts
  • Mental Health and Community Concepts
  • Management and Professional Concepts
  • Principles of Nursing Practice and Simple Concepts
  • Clinical Care Across the Lifespan
  • Introduction to Clinical Care Management

Most programs generally require clinical work hours. Depending on the board of nursing of the state where one is pursuing the degree, completing clinical hours as part of one’s degree will be required to apply for registration or licensure as a nurse.

To learn more about associate programs, read the Guide to Associate’s Programs.

Learning Outcomes and
Skills Gained

The associate degree in nursing provides students with a host of skills that will help impact communities and the patient population they work with while having job satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment. Nursing students can apply their skills to home health, schools, long-term care facilities, and clinics. Some of the skills one learns from their nursing degree include the ability to:

  • demonstrate professional characteristics valued in healthcare settings, including communication skills, patience, organizational skills, and time management;
  • show basic knowledge of nursing science, evidence-based practice in nursing and community health and research;
  • participate in case-based scenarios, group projects, and independent practice in intensive situations that need collaboration with other stakeholders;
  • speak to patients and family and explain the condition of the patient, treatment outcomes, possible side effects, and more;
  • understand the symptoms, signs, and conditions that the patient shows when suffering from a particular disease;
  • adapt to change in the modifying landscapes of health care and evolve with emerging trends at a fast pace, when required; and
  • demonstrate practical communication skills, including those of active listening, having good rapport, and meaningful engagements with patients and others.

Types of ADNs Students
Can Obtain

The associate nursing degree online can be pursued in three different ways – the Associate Degree in Nursing or ADN, the Associate of Science Degree in Nursing or ASN, and the Associate of Applied Science in Nursing. These three degree types differ in coursework and transferability to other programs after completion. Hospital-based programs and vocational schools offer ASN and AAS programs; ADN programs are offered by community or other private colleges.

Associate Degree in Nursing or ADN

The Associate Degree in Nursing or ADN program is based on core classes and a clinical approach to nursing. Classes will focus on several scientific and clinical aspects of nursing; elements like research, management, and leadership, are generally not the focus of this nursing program. One can complete the program in about two years and learn practical aspects through hands-on training. ADN degrees also teach students the technical skills needed to become entry-level nurses.

Associate of Science Degree in Nursing or ASN

The Associate of Science Degree in Nursing, or ASN, prepares individuals to take the NCLEX exam by integrating didactic coursework and hands-on training approaches. The program’s focus is more clinical than academic, and students must often spend more time in clinics and skills labs rather than in a traditional classroom.

Associate of Applied Science in Nursing or AAS

The Associate of Applied Science in Nursing, or AAS, is a two-year program that trains students in healthcare-related subjects, pharmacology, and more. Students learn the fundamentals of nursing and prepare themselves for employment. The AAS is generally offered by hospital-based programs or vocational schools rather than traditional colleges.

Areas of Specialization for
ADN Students

Opting to specialize is always recommended because becoming an expert in a specialized area of nursing can help students learn the specific components of that area in detail and understand how to apply their knowledge and skills effectively. Students will generally not find specializations for the online ADN program, as it is an entry-level degree. Most concentrations start from advanced degrees like a bachelor’s and above, such as:

Area of Specialization Description Career Options
Clinical Trials ResearchClinical research is a scientific way of determining, treating, and preventing various conditions. Specializing in this area helps nurses understand the methods of evaluating research, writing SOPs, outlining the trial criteria, and more.Clinical Research Nurse
Adult-GerontologyIn this concentration, students learn to focus on the treatment and care of adults from late adulthood to the end stages of their life. They will learn different theories of adult gerontology and understand the patient’s ability to respond to stressors.Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
Primary CareThis specialization deals with the first level of medicine, where one will need assistance in screening, physicals, immunizations, and other medical procedures.Primary Care Nurse
Psychiatric Mental HealthIn this concentration, students learn about current psychotherapy knowledge and psychopharmacology techniques used to administer care to patients with mental health issues throughout their lifespan.Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Oncology NursingIn this specialization, students understand the nurses’ unique role in caring for cancer patients. They learn about developing collaborative relationships between nurses and physicians to provide comprehensive care to the patient.Oncology Nurse
Neonatal NursingThe neonatal specialty differs from the pediatric specialty in the demographic of care provided and the range of services offered. In this specialization, students learn the fundamentals behind working with newborn babies who are very ill.Neonatal Care Nurse Practitioner

Full-Time and Part-Time

ADN online programs offer many flexible options that benefit people from all walks of life. They can generally be completed in two years of full-time study. One can graduate in about a year if one chooses an accelerated program. Part-time school is also available, extending the graduation timeline beyond three years or more. Internships, research projects, industry-relevant coursework, specializations, electives, and minors may influence the duration of an ADN program.

Requirements for Getting into an
Online ADN Program

Every nursing school has varying admission requirements students must meet. Depending on the school’s focus, some of them could require a personal interview, a GPA of at least 3.0, proof of immunization, a personal statement, etc. Even though the online ADN program is an entry-level degree, most schools have higher scrutiny of admission requirements since the number of applicants is much more than the seats available. Some of the standard requirements for an online ADN program are:

  • An application form and prescribed fee
  • High school Biology and Chemistry (generally required)
  • High school diploma or equivalent or GED
  • Standardized test scores of exams like the ACT or SAT
  • Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) exam
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Completion of specific high school courses, like advanced English or Algebra (mostly require a minimum GPA of 2.0 or higher)
  • Personal Statement

How to Ensure an Online ADN Program
Is Accredited

Accreditation will drive institutions to meet high standards, ensuring that the programs they offer meet the guidelines set by accrediting agencies. By studying at an accredited institution, students can be assured of the quality of education and the institution’s recognition in the job market. Online ADN programs usually acquire accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing[3] and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing[4]. Students must check for programmatic accreditation these organizations provide, as recruiters commonly prefer to employ those with an accredited degree. In addition to or the absence of programmatic accreditation, institutions are usually nationally or regionally accredited, the latter being more common. The six regional accrediting agencies in the U.S. are:

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)[5] and the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs[6] provide information on the accreditation status of a college. More information on accreditation is available in the Guide to College Accreditation.

  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Where to Find Free Online Courses
for ADN Students

Free nursing courses can teach many things outside the textbook and improve one’s ability to meet the patient’s medical, cultural, linguistic, and social needs. Many free courses are offered by reputed professionals, universities, or organizations, examples of which include:

Course Description Provided by
How Do Viruses Cause Infection[7]This course helps examine the possibility of a virus entering one’s body and causing infection. The course builds a basic understanding of viruses and infections and how to apply that knowledge to take preventive measures.The American Nurses Association
Introduction to Integrative Nursing[8]This course is intended for those in the nursing profession who want to practice differently and learn the principles of integrative nursing. The course teaches how nurses can be a healing presence to everyone around them, thereby improving patient outcomes.Coursera
Cultural and Linguistic Competence[9]This course focuses on the harmonious attitudes, policies, and behaviors that will help professionals work in cross-cultural situations effectively.Scientiacme
NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours[10]In this training, one will receive scientifically based information about the risks of working long shifts and apply strategies to help reduce such risks.NIOSH

Ways to Pay for an Online
ADN Program

ADN online programs differ from institution to institution. Factors like course materials, electives, program delivery mode (online, on-campus, or hybrid), and tuition fees determine a program’s total cost. The tuition fee for ADN online programs would be between $35,000-$70,000 (unconfirmed), depending on the different demands of the institution. Some students fund their programs by working full-time, while others may prefer to opt for funding aid such as:


Scholarships are monetary awards that need not be repaid unless the student fails to keep up with the terms and agreements of the scholarship. Scholarships are usually merit-based but can also be need-based.


Grants are monetary awards usually given out based on an applicant’s financial needs rather than merit. Grant money can be used to pay for tuition or other educational expenses.

Private Student loans

Those not eligible for grants or scholarships can consider taking private student loans. The interest rates on these loans are generally high and require timely payment; defaulting can lead to debt. Students can look for donors and grants to repay their loans to mitigate repayment.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA form[11] helps prospective students check whether they are eligible to receive financial aid for their higher education.

To understand more about college funding and financial assistance, read the Financial Aid Guide.

Career Opportunities and Salaries
After Graduating

Students of the ADN program online can apply for many occupations post-completion. These occupations are directly or indirectly associated with the healthcare field and include assisting patients and taking care of them in different ways. Some of the common roles and titles include:

Occupation Job DescriptionSkills RequiredMedian Annual SalaryJob Growth (up to 2030)
Registered Nurses[12]Registered nurses coordinate and provide patient care, help educate their patients and the public about health conditions and provide emotional support and advice to the patient and their families. They assess the patient’s condition and record their history and symptoms.Critical-thinking skills, communication skills, compassion, detail-oriented, emotional stability, physical stamina, organizational skills$77,6006% (as fast as average)
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses[13]Licensed practical and vocational nurses provide primary care under the direction of registered doctors or nurses. They monitor the patient’s health and administer primary care, including inserting catheters and changing bandages.Compassion, detail-oriented, patience, physical stamina, interpersonal skills, speaking skills$48,0706% (as fast as average)
Medical Assistants[14]Medical assistants typically complete clinical and administrative tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and facilities of healthcare. They are entrusted with recording the personal information and history of patients.Analytical skills, detail-oriented, interpersonal skills, technical skills$37,19016% (much faster than average)
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies[15]Nursing assistants are also called nursing aides. They provide primary care and help with the daily activities of patients. They will listen to and record patients’ concerns, and depending on their level of training and the state where they work, they also dispense medication.Communication skills, patience, physical stamina, compassion$30,2905% (as fast as average)
Home Health and Personal Care Aides[16]Home health and personal care aides monitor the conditions of patients with chronic illness and disabilities and assist them in their daily activities. They often facilitate the care of older adults and keep them engaged in their social communities and networks.Detail-oriented, emotional skills, integrity, interpersonal skills, physical stamina$29,43025% (much faster than average)
Psychiatric Technicians and Aides[17]Psychiatric technicians and aides observe the behavior of patients and listen to their concerns while recording their conditions parallelly. They also lead the therapeutic and recreational engagement of patients. Their duties require helping patients with daily activities like bathing, eating, changing linen, etc.Compassion, observational skills, patience, physical stamina, interpersonal skills$36,2309% (faster than average)

Certifications and Licensing for Online
ADN Students

Professional certifications and licensure are essential in the healthcare field, as it shows an individual’s competence and expertise. These credentials can help those who have completed an online ADN program obtain higher pay and grow personally and professionally. Nurses can also become certified through different professional associations in specific domains. These certifications are usually voluntary; however, it demonstrates their expert handling of patients. Some certifications one could pursue are:

Family Nurse Practitioner[19]

This certification is one of the entry-level examinations based on one’s competence. It tests the clinical knowledge one will have about a family or individual across their developmental life span. It focuses on one’s knowledge of pediatric, adolescent, older adult, prenatal, and elderly primary caregiving.

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner[20]

Professionals with this certification will be expected to obtain subjective information that includes the relevant medical history like functional ability, preventive, chief complaint, history of present illness, health goals, etc., of the patient to understand their health needs.

Emergency Nurse Practitioner[21]

This is a competency-based certification for those who want to specialize in education and practice in emergency care. One learns to perform an appropriate focused physical exam and take a patient’s history based on their chief complaints. They will be able to establish the patient’s acuity level and help stabilize someone who is critically ill.

Registered nurses must have a nursing license issued by the state where they wish to practice. To qualify for licensure, one must graduate with an accredited nursing degree and take the National Council Licensure Examination[18].

Additional Resources for Online
ADN Students

Students pursuing ADN nursing programs online can access many resources by joining professional organizations that work toward the progress of nursing as a profession. These organizations give deeper insights into the nursing field and what skills are required of a professional. Examples include:

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners[22]The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners aims to support the research and clinical efforts contributing towards the enhancement of children and their immediate families. They strive to provide opportunities and raise money for the academic progress and study of the nursing community.
American Academy of Nursing[23]The American Academy of Nursing advances new topics in healthcare and nursing that will help people understand the issues in health and the nursing profession. The association holds many conferences and meetings, provides a bi-monthly journal, and more.
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments[24]The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments promotes public interest in environmental health and well-being by empowering nurses to respond with evidence-based information regarding health and its relationship with the environment. They want nurses to equip themselves with knowledge about environmental health concerns.
American Association for the History of Nursing[25]The American Association for the History of Nursing is a network of members who want to advance historical scholarship in healthcare and nursing and promote the development of historians.
American Nursing Association[26]The American Nursing Association assures that a person’s commitment to nursing as a profession is rewarded through many networking opportunities and benefits to their career and personal life. They ensure advocating for nurses at the federal and state levels.

FAQs About Online
ADN Programs

Are there any online ADN programs?

There are many online ADN programs. Most of these programs will follow a curriculum and rigorous assessments similar to traditional on-campus degrees. The training may differ concerning the on-ground practical learning; however, in terms of curriculum, it ensures that they prepare students for nursing practice, licensure, and credentialing exams.

Are there accelerated online ADN programs?

Are online ADN programs easy?

Are online ADN programs credible?

Is getting an ADN degree worth it?

Are ADN programs competitive?

What can you do with an online ADN?

Author Bio:

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.