Not everyone who wishes to become a nurse has the time or financial resources to attend a full four-year program; however, it is possible to become a RN through a two-year Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) program. Some schools even offer the convenient option of taking classes online—although some clinical rotations will involve real-world, hands-on experience in a clinical or hospital setting.
Depending on the school in question, you may need certain prerequisite courses under your belt before you will be accepted into a two-year ADN program. Upon completion of such a program—usually within 24 months—students should be ready to take the appropriate RN licensure examination. RNs with two-year degrees can expect to work beside more experienced nurses, some with four-year degrees, in areas such as rehab, long-term acute care, medical surgical units, etc.
Spend Less, Earn Sooner
The advantages of pursuing this route to RN are fairly obvious: you will graduate in less time with less money spent, and you will be ready to begin working and earning money that much faster. Eventually, however, some nurses discover that only those with four-year BSN degrees are eligible for certain nursing positions. To the extent that you desire one of these positions, an ADN may eventually seem somewhat limiting.
While a lifelong commitment to continuing education is essentially a given in the nursing profession, it is possible that you will find it more difficult than anticipated to further your education and earn that BSN once you have been working “in the trenches” of healthcare for a few years. Family obligations and other responsibilities may make it more difficult than you may have anticipated to drop everything, go back to school, and obtain a BSN degree that will become your ticket to enhanced career opportunities. Nurses with BSN degrees generally command higher salaries than their ADN peers, although nothing is ever guaranteed.
Study Longer, Earn More
A notable proportion of the difference between two-year ADN programs and four-year BSN programs involves time devoted to the study of liberal arts subjects. While it may seem that these courses have little to do with becoming a better nurse, it is thought that such an education is more likely to produce a well-rounded individual who is better equipped to deal with life’s complexities, whether in daily life or on the ward.
The BSN track also includes more theory-based education in subjects such as research, disease management, and even leadership. All of these can serve as stepping stones towards a still more rewarding and challenging career in nursing.
Weighing your options, then, becomes an exercise in recognizing your potential for patience, your financial situation, and your ultimate career goals. Obviously, two-year ADN programs can be completed in half the time, at considerably less expense than a four-year BSN program, and the ADN nurse will be eligible to begin working and earning that much sooner than the BSN-track student.
You will still be able to obtain your RN license, but your eventual career advancement potential will be somewhat curtailed compared to a nurse who has completed the full four-year program to obtain his or her BSN. Only you can know for sure which approach is best for you, given your personal circumstances and career aspirations, but keep in mind that it may be more challenging than anticipated to go back to school one day and earn that more advanced degree.