Associates Degree in Nursing: The “Quick” Path to Becoming a RN

If you want to join the ranks of over 2.6 million registered nurses in the country, an associates degree in nursing is the fastest way to do so. You can typically complete the degree and obtain your license as a registered nurse within three to four years. It is the minimum entry-level for obtaining a license as a registered nurse.

Benefits of an ADN Degree

The demand for qualified nurses is so high these days that becoming a registered nurse is worth some serious consideration for anyone looking for a fulfilling career and stable employment. And think about it, wouldn’t you want to enter the health care industry now when the opportunities are just ripe for the picking?

In theory, you can be done with the required coursework and practicals in 20 to 24 months to obtain your ADN degree – about half the time it takes to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or BSN degree. The reality is, however, that it will take longer than that given the prerequisite courses that the associates degree in nursing has. It usually takes three to four years to complete the degree and to obtain a license as a registered nurse. It’s still faster than going the BSN to RN route (and cheaper), but it’s just not as fast as many would have you believe.

Earning an Associates Degree in Nursing

Programs for achieving an ADN degree are offered in most community and junior colleges. While basic math, science, English, and Liberal Arts courses are required as part of the classroom instruction, an associate’s degree focuses more on the technical skills needed by a nursing professional. These skills can be learned and honed through the ADN program’s supervised clinical experience in hospital departments including pediatrics, maternity, and surgery.

As soon as a student graduates from an accredited associate nursing degree program, he or she is then eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, to obtain license as a registered nurse. Once you become a RN, you can apply for entry-level staff nursing positions in hospitals or in-patient care facilities.

Now don’t forget that every state has its own list of accredited ADN programs so you may want to check out which of the programs accessible to you are included in that list before finalizing enrollment in one. Likewise, eligibility requirements to obtain a license as a registered nurse may vary by state so it’s best to contact your State Board of Nursing for the specific details.

Basic Duties as Staff Nurse

Newly-licensed RNs start as entry-level staff nurses and together with other health care practitioners, they give health care services to the sick and injured patients confined in hospitals and other facilities. Their basic responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Listing down a patient’s medical history and symptoms
  • Assessing the condition of a patient and monitoring his vital signs
  • Performing diagnostic tests and interpreting results
  • Operating medical equipment
  • Administering medications
  • Assisting in a patient’s rehabilitation
  • Educating the patient and his family members on the nature of the illness or injury and the proper management for it
  • Providing information, advice, support, and encouragement to a patient and his family members

Average Salaries of RNs

ADN degree holders who go on to become registered nurses most often find employment opportunities in hospitals and in-patient institutions. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2008, the median annual income of nurses in the general medical and surgical hospital settings was $63,880. The same data shows that the average wages for the middle 50 percent of registered nurses ranged from $51,640 and $76,570, while the top 10 percent of registered nurses earned at least $92,240 per year. With good performance, experience, and further studies (BSN degree and Master’s Degree in Nursing), a staff nurse can move on to supervisory and management positions, and subsequently, earn higher salaries.

Career Prospects for RNs

Registered nursing is ranked by the US Department of Labor as among the fastest growing occupations in the country. Until the year 2014, employment of nurses is expected to be at 27 percent or even higher – more brisk than the pace of hiring in any other industry.

If you are an ADN program graduate and then an RN, the outlook is just as promising even while you start off as a staff level nurse. This is because hospitals or health care facilities these days could offer to subsidize the continuing education of an employed nurse as part of the work contract.

There’s no way to lose with an associate’s degree in nursing. Not only is the ADN degree the most cost effective and fastest route to becoming a registered nurse, but it provides you with plenty of employment opportunities and long-term career growth.

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