An associate’s degree in nursing is the first step towards pursuing a satisfying career as a registered nurse (RN). Nursing associate’s degrees can be obtained in only two years and are the most common method of becoming a registered nurse in the United States, accounting for over 45% of nurses practicing in the US (US Department of Health and Human Services). Learn more about the nursing associate’s degree and the steps you can take to becoming a valued member of a healthcare team.
Getting Started with Your Associate’s Degree in Nursing
There are over a thousand nursing programs in the United States. As many aspiring nurses are working adults, there are programs that offer both day and night classes. There are also online degree programs, which allow students to complete their practical experience locally. Before enrolling in a program, you should make sure that the school is accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC).
Requirements and Prerequisites
Applicants for an associate’s degree in nursing must have competitive GPAs (generally above C), be in good academic standing, possess a high school diploma, and pass various background checks. Prerequisite course requirements often include biology classes in human anatomy, physiology, and microbiology, as well as English.
Curriculum for the Associate’s Degree in Nursing
It typically takes two years and approximately 72 credits to complete an associate’s degree in nursing. Two-year programs provide a foundation in nursing principles and patient care so that graduates may be trained to work as a registered nurse.
Courses may cover topics such as:
- Anatomy & physiology
- Nursing care
- Gerontological nursing
- Psychiatric nursing
- Pediatric nursing
Practicums and Licensure
Programs typically require students to participate in supervised clinical practicums so that they may receive hands-on experience in a healthcare setting prior to graduation. After completing their studies, graduates must pass the NCLEX exam in order to obtain state licensure as a registered nurse.
Launching Your Career in Nursing
Responsibilities and Work Environment
Nurses work in hospitals, nursing homes and private medical practices, as well as in private homes where they provide home healthcare services. The work can be very demanding and rewarding. Registered nurses are responsible for a variety of important duties, such as administrating treatment to patients, recording patients’ symptoms, consulting with doctors to help diagnosis illness, operating medical equipment, raising awareness of prevalent health conditions to the community, and counseling their patients and patients’ families during difficult times.
Specialties and Opportunities for Advancement
Once the RN status is earned, further education and career advancement are available through RN to Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) and RN to Master of Science in nursing (MSN) degree programs. Nurses have the flexibility to pursue a wide variety of medical specialties such as pediatrics, obstetrics or gerontology. In addition, some nurses pursue alternative paths such as nursing administration, public health or nursing education.
Salary and Job Prospects for Nurses
Both the salary and the job prospects for nurses are strong. According to the United States Department of Labor, the 2013 median annual salary for nurses was $66,220, which amounted to $31.84 per hour. Demand for nurses is growing more rapidly than other professions, with a projected increase of 19% from 2012 to 2022. The growth is a result of various factors including an active baby boomer population, increased numbers of chronic illnesses, and a growth in preventative health care.
Enrolling in an Associate’s Degree Program
While pursuing a career as a nurse may seem daunting, learning more about the associate’s degree in nursing will go a long way towards helping you apply with confidence and embark upon a satisfying career. Find out more about nursing associate’s degree programs today by exploring the programs featured throughout this site.