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How does a nurse choose between two similar ADN programs?

Dear Donna,

I have two options: Do a 16-month RN program (associate in science degree) or go to another college and enter its RN program, which is the same degree but is almost three years long. Which one do I choose? Keep in mind they both offer the same degree and both enable the student upon completion of the program to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. I am having a very difficult time making a choice.

Wondering About ADN Programs


Dear Wondering About ADN Programs,

For starters, you would be better off enrolling in a BSN program. This is because most hospitals are primarily hiring nurses with BSN degrees these days. Nurses with associate degrees are having more difficulty finding jobs. And if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another major, you can find accelerated BSN programs that are about 16-18 months in length on average. Even if you don’t already have another degree, you can complete most BSN programs in three to four years, so do consider that option.

If you still opt to go the associate degree route, I would first be certain that both schools are recognized by your state board of nursing as sufficiently accredited in that state. This information should be listed on the board’s website or found by contacting the BON by email or phone. Here is a list of BONs by state with complete contact information.

Also find out what the NCLEX-RN pass rate is for both schools. That will tell you a lot about each facility. You can contact the schools directly and ask them and/or do an online search to see if your state lists the pass rates for schools of nursing.

Most associate degree programs are not longer than 24 months, so be sure to find out if any prerequisite courses need to be taken before enrolling in either. For example, the 16-month program may require certain prerequisites before entering, thus extending the actual time it would take to complete the program. The three-year program might have the prerequisites built in and thus only appears to be longer.

All things being equal, choose the school that has the type of schedule (both classroom and clinicals, including commute time) and flexibility of coursework (e.g. what portion is online vs. classroom) that best suits your lifestyle and family commitments. For example, some schools have weekend and evening courses while others only offer daytime options. Some schools discourage holding a job while enrolled in the program and some do not. You can use social media and word of mouth to find graduates from both schools’ nursing programs and see what they have to say about the school and the program.

Best wishes,

By | 2015-08-31T15:21:54-04:00 September 1st, 2015|Categories: Nursing Careers and Jobs|0 Comments

About the Author:

Donna Cardillo
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, is president of Known as The Inspiration Nurse, she is a keynote speaker, retreat and seminar leader, and author of "Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional" and "The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career." She brings more than 25 years of clinical, management and business experience to her role as career guru.

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