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The educational pathway to becoming a nurse is sometimes described as a stepladder. The nursing profession requires you to have a foundational knowledge of the medical field and an in-depth understanding of the best nursing practices, but it is also a skills-based profession that requires hands-on experience. 


Those wanting to become a registered nurse may find that an Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN degree, is the best option for them. 

What Is an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)? 

An Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, is an undergraduate degree program designed for aspiring nurses looking to secure an entry-level position in the profession. The ADN degree program covers basic, universal topics in nursing, giving professionals a well-rounded background in human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and basic nursing principles. Students who enroll in an ADN nursing program must complete coursework as well as clinical hours in order to graduate with their degree. 

The Concept of ADN 

The ADN was developed to help nurses fast-track their education and begin working in the field as a registered nurse as quickly as possible. Many nurses earn their ADN degree and pass the NCLEX-RN exam, then go on to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN degree) when they are ready to consider higher-level or specialized positions in nursing. 

Length and Tuition for ADN Programs 

According to Indeed, the ADN is a two-year nursing program that includes traditional coursework as well as clinical hour requirements. The tuition for the ADN program will vary based on the university, but at University of the Cumberlands, the ADN program is a 43-credit program that costs about $9,875. 

Essential Skills Acquired Through ADN Programs 

The ADN program is designed to be a foundational nursing program that emphasizes the core competencies required of registered nurses. The skills you will acquire throughout your degree program include: 

  • Basic nursing skills 
  • Documentation 
  • Case management 
  • Medication administration 
  • Data collection 

In addition, the ADN program allows nurses to become critical thinkers and problem-solvers who are able to swiftly diagnose and treat patients as part of their care management team. 

Core Competencies and Foundational Knowledge 

The ADN program serves as a bridge between the work of a licensed practical nurse and the more intensive commitment of a BSN degree program. As you progress in your ADN program, you can develop a universal understanding of the fundamentals of nursing and acquire the transferable skills needed to secure an entry-level position in the field. Throughout your career, you will be able to build upon the foundational knowledge of this program and personalize your career path. 

The Importance of Clinical Experience 

While choosing an ADN program with a well-rounded curriculum is critical to your success after graduation, it's the clinical experience that will allow you to set yourself apart as a nursing candidate. Clinical experience allows you to work directly with patients under supervision from a registered nurse or another medical professional along with an opportunity to experience different clinical environments. According to, you may be able to complete clinical hours in a range of medical settings, such as acute care clinics, mental health facilities, pediatric units, surgical facilities and labor and delivery units. 

Steps to Earning an ADN Degree 

Knowing how to get an associate in nursing allows you to expedite your education and enter the nursing profession as quickly as possible. These are the steps you should take to earn your ADN degree: 

Meeting Admission Requirements 

Prior to enrolling in an ADN program, you must verify that you meet the admission requirements. At University of the Cumberlands, our admission requirements for the ADN degree include: 

  • Completing the application for admission. 
  • Submitting high school transcripts that include your GPA. Applicants must have a minimum of a 2.0 GPA. 
  • Submitting transcripts from any colleges or universities you previously attended. 

Applying to Accredited ADN Programs 

Once you have verified you meet the admission requirements for the ADN degree program, you then want to begin researching the accredited ADN programs near you. According to the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation, accreditation is essentially a form of quality assurance, and it gives you the confidence to know you are investing in a valuable degree program that aligns with industry standards and best practices. 

At University of the Cumberlands, we are proud to offer an ADN degree program that has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. 

Financial Planning for ADN Program 

Enrolling in an ADN program is an investment in yourself and your career, but it also may require some financial planning on your part. As a two-year degree program, it is typically more affordable than a four-year bachelor's degree. However, you may still want to consider financial aid and scholarships to help offset the cost of your education. 

Different Types of ADN Programs 

As you consider different colleges and universities for your ADN, you want to be aware of the different types of ADN programs available. Generally speaking, there are two types of ADN programs to consider: 

Traditional On-Campus Programs 

Traditional on-campus programs require students to complete their coursework in person. Nursing students attend lectures and lab courses in a physical classroom setting, which may be ideal for those who feel they require in-person instruction and guidance to succeed. 

Online ADN Programs 

Online ADN programs have increased in popularity in recent years, thanks to extensive advancements in remote learning opportunities. Students enrolled in an online ADN degree program complete both asynchronous and synchronous coursework for their degree online, giving them more flexibility to balance personal and professional obligations along with their schoolwork. While the coursework is completed online, students who enroll in an online ADN program will still complete their clinical hours in person at a medical facility under the supervision of an RN clinical instructor. 

Job Prospects After Completing an ADN Program 

By focusing on clinical care and giving you the instruction required to help you prepare for the NCLEX-RN exam, the ADN degree program could open up a world of opportunities for you within the nursing profession. After graduating with your degree and passing the NCLEX-RN exam, you can practice as a registered nurse. 

Hospital Nursing Opportunities 

Registered nurses can pursue a variety of positions within the hospital setting. Nurses who work in hospitals often enjoy working directly with patients and delivering the care they need. Hospital nurses work in tandem with physicians, surgeons and other members of the medical team, but they are often the medical professionals who work closest with the patient. 

Hospital nursing opportunities for graduates with an ADN degree include: 

  • Emergency room nurse – ER nurses work in the emergency room, often providing life-saving care to patients who are experiencing medical trauma. 
  • Triage nurse – A triage nurse may work as part of the emergency room department and is responsible for assessing and prioritizing patients. 
  • Oncology nurse – Oncology nurses work in a hospital setting providing care to patients undergoing cancer treatments. 
  • Recovery room nurse – A recovery room nurse works as part of the surgical team to provide patients with basic care after a surgical procedure. 
  • ICU nurse – ICU nurses work with patients who are fighting serious or life-threatening conditions. 

Other Career Paths 

While many registered nurses with an ADN pursue work in the hospital setting, there are other career paths you may consider. Some additional career opportunities for ADN nurses include: 

  • Travel nurse – Travel nurses have the opportunity to go into the field and provide medical care to a region of the world in need. 
  • Home health nurse – Home health nurses work directly with patients in their homes delivering the care they need while managing their independence. 
  • School nurse – School nurses work in clinics in educational facilities, providing students with basic care and determining if they need further treatment. 

The Value of an ADN Degree in the Nursing Field 

The ADN is the gateway to the registered nursing profession, and many students find it a valuable first investment in their careers. Aspiring nurses who are looking to expedite their entrance into the workforce may benefit from pursuing an ADN degree. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the nursing shortage is expected to persist, and there will be continued demand for registered nurses with an ADN degree in the near-term. 

The Role of ADN in Healthcare 

Within the healthcare field, the ADN plays a critical role. In a time when most clinics are understaffed and hospitals are reeling from the nursing shortage, encouraging nurses to develop the skills needed to enter the workforce as quickly as possible is of the utmost importance. 

Comparing ADN With BSN Degrees 

The ADN degree is a two-year degree program focused heavily on clinical care and the fundamentals of nursing, whereas the BSN degree is a four-year degree program that studies more specialized areas of nursing and advanced care practices in depth. Within the BSN degree program, students may have an opportunity to focus on a specialization, which can allow them to pursue advanced positions. 

ADN vs. RN: Identifying the Differences 

The ADN degree program prepares you to take the NCLEX-RN exam, the certification exam required to practice as a registered nurse. However, there are some notable differences between an ADN RN versus a BSN RN. RNs with a BSN degree may earn a higher salary than RNs with an ADN, largely because the BSN degree program allows nurses to develop a more specialized skill set. 

Further Education Opportunities After ADN 

Once you have earned your ADN, passed the NCLEX-RN exam and secured a position as a registered nurse, there are still opportunities to grow your career and specialize. Many nurses may develop a passion for a particular area of nursing once they begin working, and they choose to further their education to help advance their career and explore their interests. 

Advancing Your Career: From ADN to BSN 

Fortunately, it is easy to pursue your BSN degree after you have earned an ADN degree. In fact, many colleges and universities offer an RN-to-BSN degree program designed specifically for registered nurses who previously earned an ADN and want to further their careers. These programs bridge the gap between the ADN and BSN programs, allowing you to build upon previous knowledge gained from your ADN program as well as the skills you have developed while working as a nurse. The benefits of advancing your career with an RN-to-BSN degree program include: 

  • Increasing your earning potential over the course of your career. 
  • Pursuing specialized positions within the field of nursing. 
  • Developing an advanced understanding of the best practices in nursing and trends shaping the industry. 
  • Focusing on leadership skills that allow you to grow professionally and mentor new nurses who are just entering the field. 

Begin Your Nursing Career at University of the Cumberlands 

At University of the Cumberlands, we offer an Associate Degree in Nursing that is the ideal gateway into the nursing profession. With a comprehensive curriculum rooted in fundamental nursing concepts, our ADN degree program uniquely prepares aspiring nurses to successfully pass the NCLEX-RN exam and become a registered nurse. 

Request more information about our nursing degree programs today.