7 Best Online Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs 2023

online associates degree in nursingFor many people who are researching an online associates degree in nursing, attending college as a full-time, on-campus student simply isn’t feasible.

In that light, you may already be working as a certified medical assistant or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). You may be looking into an online associates degree furthering your education and knowledge on how to become a nurse while you are working within a different vocation and you are not able to quite while looking into attending college classes. You may also be a single parent and scheduled class times which keep you away from your children and other home responsibilities will not work.

Whatever your circumstance might be, an associates degree in nursing online might be the answer for you. The online  ADN programs give you the flexibility to work around your schedule and to earn your degree remotely (or at least part of it).

Online ADN Programs Overview

Online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs have gained significant popularity in recent years, offering aspiring nurses a flexible and accessible path to their nursing careers. These programs are designed to provide the essential foundation of nursing knowledge and skills, making them an ideal choice for those seeking to become registered nurses (RNs). The key advantage of online ADN programs is the flexibility they offer. Students can often complete coursework at their own pace, making it more manageable for those who may be juggling work or other commitments while pursuing their nursing education.

While the core curriculum of ADN programs remains consistent with traditional in-person programs, there are essential differences, especially in how clinical training is conducted. Some online ADN programs require students to complete clinical instruction offline, usually at healthcare facilities near their location. This hands-on experience is crucial for developing the clinical skills and competence required in nursing. Additionally, students in online ADN programs have access to a wide range of digital resources and online learning platforms, which aids in the assimilation of nursing knowledge and enhances their overall learning experience.

The cost-effectiveness of online ADN programs is another factor that attracts prospective students. These programs often offer a more affordable route to becoming an RN compared to traditional on-campus options. Moreover, financial aid opportunities may be available to support students in covering their educational expenses. Online ADN programs also tend to attract individuals who are career changers, working professionals, or those who seek to advance their current healthcare roles. As the demand for well-trained nurses continues to grow, online ADN programs provide a flexible and accessible path to entering this rewarding profession.

Top 7 Online Associates Degree in Nursing

1. John A. Logan College

2. Allegany College of Maryland

3. Hutchinson Community College

4. Western Iowa Tech

5. Excelsior College

6. Pratt Community College

7. Northwestern Michigan College

Clinical Training in Online ADN Programs

Clinical instruction is a crucial component of any nursing program, including online ADN programs. While the theory and foundational knowledge can be taught online, the practical skills inherent to nursing must be practiced in a real-world setting. This hands-on approach ensures that students are adequately prepared to handle real-life situations they might encounter in their nursing careers. For online ADN students, this means:

  • Completing clinical instruction offline, usually at local healthcare facilities.
  • Engaging in supervised training, where they can apply theoretical knowledge.
  • Receiving feedback from experienced nurses and instructors.
  • Gaining exposure to different healthcare settings, from hospitals to community clinics.

It’s essential for students to understand that while online ADN programs offer flexibility for theoretical coursework, clinical training requires a more structured commitment. However, the benefits are significant. By engaging in offline clinical instruction, students:

  • Develop crucial patient care skills.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the day-to-day responsibilities of a nurse.
  • Build professional networks within the healthcare community.
  • Enhance their résumé with practical experience, making them more attractive to future employers.

Some Clinical Instruction Must Be Completed Offline

Unfortunately, you can’t earn your ADN degree entirely online. The fact of the matter is that nursing is a hands-on profession, and that means a certain portion of your education must take place in a classroom, laboratory, or clinical setting, with qualified instructors.

However, you can earn part of your associate degree in nursing online. Some schools offer an LPN to RN bridge program, meaning you must get your hands-on training at another institution and become a licensed LPN before enrolling in the online program to earn your associate nursing degree and become an RN. Other nursing schools offer a hybrid online ADN program, which means your clinical classes must be taken on campus, and the other courses can be completed online.

Why Get an Online Associate Degree in Nursing

Studies by the United States Department of Labor indicate that the demand for nurses will be increasing more so than any other occupation in the decades to come. RNs, who have earned at least an associates degree in nursing, will continue to be in high demand, and that means better pay, job security, and more career opportunities compared to only being a medical assistant or LPN.

Do Your Research

Before you enroll in an associate nursing degree online, make sure to check with your state board of nursing to see if the program is approved by your state. Some programs might only qualify you for an RN license in the state where the school conducts business. Some states, like California, don’t approve any online nursing programs at the ADN level at all. One other option you might want to look into are accelerated rn programs.

Due to these limitations, online ADN programs can be difficult to find, and that’s why we’ve done the groundwork for you and found the best online associates degree in nursing.

Detailed Explanation Of The Top 7 Online Associates Degree in Nursing

1. John A. Logan College

John A. Logan College is a community college in Carterville, Illinois that was founded in 1967. It offers affordable tuition, online learning, and has easily transferable credits in case you ever decide to transfer to a 4-year college and earn your bachelor degree. In fact, the college has partnerships with several universities that make transferring easy. Also, John A. Logan College provides job placement assistance to graduates, which means your transition into becoming a working RN will go smoothly.

A Hybrid Online ADN Program

John A. Logan College offers an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in nursing through a hybrid online program, meaning clinical courses are taken on campus, and other courses are taken online. It is designed to be a two-year program once you’ve completed your prerequisite courses and offers career mobility. Most importantly, John A. Logan College has a proven track record of preparing graduates to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and become an RN.

  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93.0%
  • Program Length/Credit Hours: 73.5
  • Admission Requirements: prerequisites with minimum of C grade in all courses, entrance exam
  • Tuition: $97 per credit hour (in-district), $315 per credit hour (out-of-state students)
  • Accreditation: Yes (IDFPR and ICCB)

2. Allegany College of Maryland

Allegany College of Maryland is a high quality, low-cost community college offering associate degrees, with a goal of serving a diverse range of students, including veterans, homemakers, and working individuals looking to further their careers. The college regularly receives exemplary ratings from students and is ranked in the Top-20 “Value-Added” Colleges by the Brookings Institution.

Fully Online LPN to RN Bridge Program

The associates degree in nursing at Allegany College of Maryland is specifically for students who are already LPNs. Because LPNs have already completed their hands-on training, there are no on-campus classes to attend. What makes this program especially lucrative for those who don’t live in the immediate region, is that it has been designated as a Health Manpower Shortage Program, meaning that Maryland residents from outside Allegany County who enter the program may be eligible for in-county tuition rates. Out-of-state students still must pay out-of-state tuition, however.

  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 90.3%
  • Program Length/Credit Hours: 70
  • Admission Requirements: LPN license, 2 years work experience as LPN, minimum 2.5 GPA, entrance exam
  • Tuition: $114 per credit hour (in-district), $257 per credit hour (out-of-state)
  • Accreditation: Yes (ACEN)

3. Hutchinson Community College

Hutchinson Community College, similar to the other colleges at the top of this list, is a community college that offers flexible learning schedules, including online learning, at a very affordable rate. Hutchinson Community College has graduated over 90,000 students and is widely considered to offer some of the best academic programs in the state of Kansas.

An Online Program with a Personal Touch

Hutchinson Community College offers an LPN to RN Online Bridge. Like other bridge programs, this one allows you to take all your courses online because you must first have received your hands-on training and be a licensed LPN. Graduates from the online bridge program have a 100% job placement rate.

What makes Hutchinson Community College’s program unique, is that while the classes are online, you also get one-on-one access to a counselor. When it comes time to do your clinicals at the end of your studies, your counselor will help you arrange your clinicals at a healthcare facility near you.

  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 83.1%
  • Program Length/Credit Hours: 70
  • Admission Requirements: LPN license, minimum C average, entrance exam
  • Tuition: $99 per credit hour (in-state), $130 per credit hour (out-of-state)
  • Accreditation: Yes (ACEN)

4. Western Iowa Tech

Western Iowa Tech is a publically supported comprehensive community college that offers a range of vocational and educational programs, including online/distance learning. The school was founded in 1966 and has a history of providing accessible higher learning to a diverse student body. Online classes have been offered at Western Iowa Tech since 2002, so online learning is not a new concept for this institution.

A Flexible Hybrid Online Education with an LPN Bridge Option

At Western Iowa Tech, you can earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in nursing through a hybrid program on either a full-time or part-time schedule. It is a 1+1 program, meaning the first part of the program is designed for you to attend classes on-campus in Sioux City, Iowa and become an LPN. The second part of the program is then completed primarily online, and you can earn your AAS degree and be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam and become a licensed RN.

If you are already an LPN, you also have the option of transferring into the online program to earn your AAS degree as a distance learner.

  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 81.6%
  • Program Length/Credit Hours: 73
  • Admission Requirements: high school diploma, prerequisites
  • In-state Tuition: $139 per credit hour (in-state, on-campus), $140 per credit hour (out-of-state, on-campus), $162 per hour (online courses)
  • Accreditation: Yes (IBN, NCSBN)

5. Excelsior College

Excelsior College is a private, non-profit, educational institution that offers a wide range of degrees for adult learners. The college is aimed toward meeting students’ needs both academically and geographically, and all their programs are career orientated.

Earn Your Associate Degree at Your Own Pace

The School of Nursing at Excelsior College has been designated as a 2011-2016 NLN Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing. The school offers various nursing degrees, including online Associate of Science and an Associate of Applied Science degrees. The associates degree in nursing is an LPN to ADN bridge program, meaning you must be an LPN and have your hands-on training before enrolling.

What makes the ADN program at Excelsior College appealing is that it can be completed at your pace. You can take classes whenever you want and work at your own pace. Also, Excelsior College offers a large library of online learning resources, study guides, and exam-preparation materials.

  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 77.2%
  • Program Length/Credit Hours: 67
  • Admission Requirements: LPN license
  • Tuition: $490 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: Yes (ACEN)

6. Pratt Community College

Pratt Community College is a two-year community college in Pratt, Kansas with an emphasis on “maximum student learning, individual and workforce development, and high-quality instruction and service.” The College is a Top 150 recipient of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence for 2015.

A Full-time Hybrid Online Program

The ADN program at Pratt Community College is an intensive hybrid online program that requires you already hold your LPN license. 100% of the theory courses are taught online, and the clinical courses are taught on campus. The ADN program is a full-time program, and the school recommends that students treat it as a full-time job.

  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 60.7%
  • Program Length/Credit Hours: 71
  • Admission Requirements: LPN license, prerequisites with minimum of a C in all courses
  • Tuition: $147 per credit hour plus $60 per class nursing fee
  • Accreditation: Yes (ACEN)

7. Northwestern Michigan College

Northwestern Michigan College is a public community college with a student population of over 50,000 students in the Grand Traverse region of Michigan and beyond, thanks to its online learning programs. Unlike most community colleges, Northwestern Michigan College offers both Associate and Bachelor degrees.

No Nursing Experience Needed

Northwestern Michigan College offers a Nursing Online Option, which functions as a hybrid program. You must attend lab and clinical classes in person at Northwestern Michigan College, but all the other classes are online, and you need not have your LPN license before beginning. The program is intended for full-time students, is accredited by ACEN, and has articulation agreements with several four-year universities in case you decide to go on to earn your bachelor degree in nursing.

  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: Not Available
  • Program Length/Credit Hours: 70
  • Admission Requirements: Prerequisites with minimum 2.5 GPA
  • Tuition: $96 per unit (in-district), $249 per unit (out-of-state)
  • Accreditation: Yes (ACEN)

Admission Requirements for Online ADN Programs

Admission requirements for online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs are essential to ensure that candidates have the foundational knowledge and skills necessary for success in the program. Here are some key points regarding these requirements:

  • High School Diploma or Equivalent: Most online ADN programs require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent as a basic educational qualification.
  • Prerequisite Courses: Some programs may mandate the completion of prerequisite courses in subjects like biology, chemistry, and anatomy and physiology to ensure students have a strong science foundation.
  • Minimum GPA: Applicants may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement, typically around 2.5 to 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • TEAS or HESI Exam Scores: Nursing programs often require candidates to take standardized tests like the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) or the Health Education Systems, Inc. (HESI) exam.
  • Criminal Background Check: Many nursing programs, including online ADN programs, may require applicants to undergo a criminal background check and drug screening.
  • Immunization Records: Proof of up-to-date immunizations and vaccinations is often mandatory for clinical placements.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Some programs may request letters of recommendation from teachers or employers to assess an applicant’s character and readiness for nursing education.

Meeting these admission requirements is a crucial first step in the journey toward becoming a registered nurse through an online ADN program.

Program Duration in Online ADN Programs

The duration of an online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program plays a pivotal role in the planning and commitment required by prospective students. Understanding the program’s timeline is essential for effective time management. Here are key points about program duration in online ADN programs:

  • Standard Program Length: Typically, a full-time online ADN program spans two academic years or four semesters, equivalent to 60-72 credit hours.
  • Part-Time Options: Some programs offer part-time study, which allows students to complete the program over a more extended period, often accommodating working professionals or those with other commitments.
  • Accelerated Tracks: A few online ADN programs may offer accelerated tracks designed for individuals who wish to complete their studies more quickly. These programs might be completed in as little as 18 to 24 months.
  • Variable Program Lengths: Program durations can vary based on factors like the institution’s scheduling and the pace at which students complete coursework.
  • Clinical Hours: Part of the program duration is dedicated to fulfilling clinical hours, where students gain hands-on experience in healthcare settings. The clinical hours may vary among programs but are typically a requirement for graduation.
  • Bridge Programs: For individuals who hold prior nursing credentials, such as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) or Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs), there are often ADN bridge programs with a shorter duration, as credit is given for previous education and experience.

Understanding the program duration helps prospective students plan their educational journey effectively, considering factors like work, family, and personal commitments. The flexibility of some online ADN programs in terms of part-time or accelerated tracks allows students to choose a schedule that aligns with their unique circumstances.

Cost and Financial Aid for ADN Online Programs

The tuition and fees for ADN programs typically range from $8,000 to $36,000. This estimated cost covers the entire duration of the two-year program. The financial aspect of pursuing an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) online is a crucial consideration for most prospective students. While online programs can offer unique advantages, understanding the cost structure and available financial aid options can aid in making informed decisions. Here are the essential points concerning the cost and financial assistance for online ADN programs:

  • Tuition Fees: The tuition for online ADN programs can vary significantly based on the institution, location, and the program’s prestige. Costs can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars per semester to higher amounts, depending on these factors.
  • Additional Expenses: Besides tuition, students should account for other costs, such as:
    • Books and materials
    • Clinical equipment (e.g., stethoscope, uniforms)
    • Licensing and examination fees
    • Technology or online access fees
  • Financial Aid Availability: Many institutions offer financial aid packages to eligible students, which can significantly reduce out-of-pocket expenses. Sources of aid include:
    • Federal grants and loans
    • State-specific grants and scholarships
    • Private scholarships
    • Institutional grants or scholarships
  • Work-Study Programs: Some schools may offer work-study opportunities, allowing students to earn money while gaining relevant experience in their field of study.
  • Payment Plans: To ease the financial burden, many institutions provide installment payment plans, enabling students to spread out their tuition fees over several months.
  • Veteran and Military Benefits: Individuals with military service might be eligible for educational benefits, which can be applied to their ADN program costs.

For many, the decision to pursue an ADN program online is not just about convenience and flexibility, but also affordability. By researching tuition, associated costs, and potential financial aid opportunities, prospective students can find a program that fits both their academic and financial needs. It’s essential to explore all available options and consult the financial aid office of the chosen institution for personalized guidance.

How Much Can You Earn With an ADN?

An Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) can open the door to a career as a registered nurse (RN). The salary one can earn with an ADN varies based on several factors including geographical location, years of experience, area of specialization, type of facility (hospital, clinic, nursing home, etc.), and more.

As of my last update in 2023, the average salary for RNs in the United States was around $70,000 to $90,000 per year. However, those just starting out with an ADN might earn on the lower end of that spectrum, while those with more experience or in specialized roles might earn higher salaries. Additionally, nurses working in metropolitan areas or in states with higher costs of living might earn more than those in rural areas or states with lower living costs. It’s also worth noting that further education, such as pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a master’s degree, can lead to higher earning potential and more advanced roles in the nursing field.

Licensure and Certification in Online ADN Programs

Licensure and certification are critical outcomes for graduates of online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs, as they allow individuals to practice as registered nurses (RNs) legally. Here are the essential points related to licensure and certification in online ADN programs:

  • NCLEX-RN Examination: Graduates of ADN programs, whether online or traditional, must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This standardized exam assesses the knowledge and skills required for safe and effective nursing practice.
  • State Requirements: Licensure as an RN is granted by individual state nursing boards. As such, the specific requirements for licensure may vary from state to state. Students in online ADN programs should be aware of their state’s requirements for licensure.
  • Clinical Hours: Clinical training is a mandatory component of ADN programs, and the number of clinical hours required can vary by state. It’s crucial for students to complete these hours to meet state licensing requirements.
  • Certifications and Specializations: While the ADN program prepares students to become RNs, some individuals may choose to pursue additional certifications or specializations, such as becoming a Certified Pediatric Nurse or Certified Critical Care Nurse. These certifications typically require additional education and exams beyond the ADN program.
  • Continuing Education: Maintaining licensure often involves completing continuing education requirements, which help nurses stay current with the latest advances in healthcare and nursing practice.
  • Reciprocity and Endorsement: If an individual with an ADN license wishes to practice in another state, they can apply for reciprocity or endorsement, which allows them to transfer their license. Requirements for this process may vary by state.

Obtaining licensure and certification is a critical step for graduates of online ADN programs to begin their nursing careers. Graduates must ensure they meet all state requirements and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed registered nurses. Continuing education and pursuing specialized certifications can enhance career prospects and professional growth in the field of nursing.

Online Learning Platforms for ADN Programs

Online learning platforms are instrumental in facilitating education in today’s digital age, especially for remote or flexible learning environments. These platforms are vital for the smooth delivery of online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs. Key aspects of these platforms include:

  • Interactive User Interface: Most online learning platforms have intuitive dashboards that allow students to easily navigate courses, access materials, and communicate with instructors and peers.
  • Multimedia Content: These platforms support various content formats, including videos, audio lectures, slides, and interactive simulations, catering to different learning styles.
  • Discussion Forums: A hallmark feature of online learning platforms is the availability of discussion boards where students can post queries, share resources, and engage in group discussions.
  • Assessment Tools: Quizzes, assignments, and exams can be administered and tracked via these platforms, allowing both students and instructors to monitor progress.
  • Mobile Accessibility: Many platforms come with mobile applications, enabling students to access course content and participate in discussions on-the-go.
  • Integration with Digital Libraries: Some platforms integrate with digital libraries, providing students with extensive resources for research and reading.
  • Real-time Collaboration Tools: Features such as video conferencing, shared whiteboards, and document co-editing enable real-time collaboration among students and instructors.

Harnessing the power of online learning platforms, ADN programs can offer a comprehensive and interactive educational experience, ensuring students are well-prepared for their nursing careers.

Follow-Up and Get Started

Because becoming a licensed RN requires hands-on training, there’s no way around spending some time in the classroom or lab to get your clinical training. Be wary of online programs that claim otherwise. You don’t want to waste your time and money on an online associates degree nursing program that won’t allow you to become a licensed nurse in your state.

But don’t get discouraged. There are online options out there that can help lighten your classroom time and provide you flexibility with your education. The 7 schools listed here that offer the top online associates degrees in nursing are a great start. Before you enroll anywhere, just make sure to check with your state board of nursing to find out whether the school is approved in your state or not.

If you have a hard time finding an online associates degree nursing program that’s eligible for your state, your other option for online study is to become an LPN and then transfer into an online LPN to BSN program. Ironically, there are more LPN to BSN online programs than there are LPN to ADN programs, including programs from top-notch universities like Indiana State University.

With options like these, there’s no reason you can’t overcome whatever obstacles you have and get started becoming an RN, and for additional assistance you can take a moment to review a registered nurse job description. If you think money might be an issue, then there are scholarships for nursing students that you might be interested in.

Frequently Asked Questions About ADN Programs

What’s the difference between an RN and ADN?

An RN, or Registered Nurse, is a licensed professional who has passed the NCLEX-RN exam and is authorized to practice nursing. On the other hand, an ADN, or Associate’s Degree in Nursing, is a two-year educational program that provides foundational nursing knowledge. While all ADN graduates can become RNs after passing their licensure exam, not all RNs necessarily have an ADN, as there are other educational pathways to nursing.

Is it possible to pursue an ADN program online?

While many schools offer online courses as part of their ADN programs, the clinical components usually require in-person attendance. Some programs may offer hybrid formats with both online theory courses and on-site clinical training.

Is an ADN the same as an LPN?

No, an ADN and LPN are not the same. An ADN, or Associate’s Degree in Nursing, is a two-year educational program that prepares students to become Registered Nurses (RNs) upon passing the NCLEX-RN exam. In contrast, an LPN, or Licensed Practical Nurse, undergoes a shorter training program and, upon passing the NCLEX-PN exam, works under the supervision of RNs or physicians. While both roles are essential in patient care, RNs typically have a broader scope of practice compared to LPNs.

How long does it take to complete an ADN program?

Most ADN programs take two years to complete when pursued full-time. However, part-time programs may take longer, and some accelerated programs might allow students to finish in a shorter time frame.

Is it possible to pursue an ADN program online?

While many schools offer online courses as part of their ADN programs, the clinical components usually require in-person attendance. Some programs may offer hybrid formats with both online theory courses and on-site clinical training.

Can I work as an RN with just an ADN?

Yes, both ADN and BSN graduates can take the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed registered nurses. However, some employers may prefer or require nurses to have a BSN.

After completing my ADN, what are the next steps to becoming an RN?

After graduation, students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure as a registered nurse. Then, they can seek employment as an RN.

How We Ranked Schools

The top online associates degree in nursing programs were ranked based upon their student passing rates on for the NCLEX test for Registered Nurses. A weighted score was given to each school, based on their last three to four years of student scores, with the most recent years weighted more heavily.

NCLEX-RN scores were obtained from public records from each state, with the exception of Michigan, where records were not readily available. In cases where NCLEX-RN scores were equal, rankings were based upon tuition rates for the nursing programs, with lower tuition rates warranting a higher ranking.

Information on job projections in the nursing field was based upon data from the United States Department of Labor.