Best Online Nursing Associate Degree Programs 2021

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Online Nursing Associate Degree

Nursing degrees give learners the skills and experience they need for a career as a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). Nursing programs confer associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. Most states require RNs to complete an accredited associate or bachelor’s degree to apply for a license.

Associate degree programs may require a current LPN license for admission. Applicants also take entrance exams and submit previous transcripts. Some programs expect students to possess work experience in nursing or a related healthcare occupation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 7% growth rate in nursing jobs between 2019-2029. Registered nurses earn a median annual salary of around $73,000, depending on location and sector. For instance, nurses who work in hospitals generally earn more than school

Top 5 Online Nursing Associate Degree Programs

Rank School Location
1 North Central Missouri College Trenton, MO
2 Northwest Technical College Bemidji, MN
3 Minnesota West Community and Technical College Granite Falls, MN
4 Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland, MD
5 Excelsior College Albany, NY
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FAQ


  • How many years does it take to get a nursing degree?

    Nursing programs typically take 2-4 years to complete, depending on the degree level.


  • Can you be a RN with an associate's degree?

    An associate degree in nursing fulfills the educational requirement for licensure in many states.


  • Are nursing majors in demand?

    Jobs in nursing continue to grow faster than average according to the BLS.


  • What is the difference between RN and ADN?

    The RN diploma prepares students for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). An ADN program prepares enrollees for the exam and confers an associate degree in nursing.


Best Online Nursing Associate Degree Programs 2021

  1. North Central Missouri College
    Location

    Trenton, MO

    Tuition

    $8131

    Based in Trenton, NCMC offers an online associate degree in nursing. Students complete most coursework online with some on-site clinical requirements.

    In total, learners complete 45 credits, including courses such as leadership in nursing, microbiology, physiology, and adult nursing. The program includes general education requirements for the associate degree as well as an introduction to mental health nursing. Students complete on-site clinicals at Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph.

    Applicants to the online program must score a 67.1% or higher on the entrance exam and possess an unencumbered registered nurse license (LPN). The LPN must come from an accredited institution. Out-of-state students must check reciprocity with their state before applying.

    NCMC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation.

  2. Northwest Technical College
    Location

    Bemidji, MN

    Tuition

    $11348

    Located in Bemidji, Minnesota, NTC offers an associate of science in nursing. Students complete most coursework online, with some on-site requirements announced at the beginning of each term. The program does not require licensure beforehand.

    Students complete 64 credits of nursing foundation courses and courses such as bioethical issues in contemporary society, anatomy and physiology, maternal newborn nursing, and pharmacology. The curriculum includes training in chemistry and leadership as well. The program includes all general education requirements for the associate degree. Students complete on-site clinicals on rotating intervals.

    Applicants must take the ACCUPLACER general education placement exam, as well as the TEAS nursing placement exam, with a minimum score of 64 for eligibility. The program requires a 2.76 GPA in related education courses and the completion of a nursing assistant course before enrollment. Students must also pass all clinical requirements.

    NTC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

  3. Minnesota West Community and Technical College
    Location

    Granite Falls, MN

    Tuition

    $10068

    Located in Worthington, MWCTC offers an online associate of science in nursing designed for current licensed practical nurses. Students complete 64 credits mostly online, with some required on-site clinicals focused on direct patient care.

    The curriculum includes nursing courses such as patient-centered care, principles of professional nursing, anatomy, and pharmacology. Students also receive ethics and leadership training with courses such as ethics theory and practices. The program also includes general education core coursework and electives. All on-site clinicals occur at approved locations in the southwest Minnesota area.

    Applicants must possess LPN designation before applying to the program. Students also need a minimum GPA of 3.0 in anatomy, physiology, composition, and developmental psychology. Students must also meet additional placement exam score requirements.

    MWCTC is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

  4. Allegany College of Maryland
    Location

    Cumberland, MD

    Tuition

    $9509

    Located in Cumberland, ACM offers an online associate of science in nursing designed as a ladder program. Students do not need licensure to apply for the program.

    Students take courses during the first year that culminate in eligibility for nursing assistant certification after the first semester and licensed practical nurse certification after the first year (plus a five-week summer course). Students complete clinicals at an approved location during the second year, finishing up with all the requirements necessary to sit for the registered professional nurse exam. Students from Maryland may participate in the program, along with students in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Texas.

    Applicants must complete a general education placement exam and prerequisite courses with a 2.5 GPA. The school does not require work experience or pre-licensure for this program.

    ACM is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

  5. Excelsior College
    Location

    Albany, NY

    Tuition

    Unconfirmed

    Located in Albany, New York, Excelsior offers an online associate in applied science in nursing. Students complete coursework in a convenient eight-week format and can transfer up to 31 credits into the program.

    Students complete 66 credits, including general education core coursework. Nursing courses include transition to the professional nursing role, essentials of nursing care in health safety and health differences, reproductive care, and competencies for contemporary nursing practice. The program requires on-site clinicals at an approved location, which allows nursing students to provide direct care to patients.

    Applicants need current LPN status, paramedic status, comparable military classification, or 200 work hours to apply for the program. The program accepts students from a limited number of states, so applicants must check their eligibility and pass the TEAS exam before applying.

    Excelsior is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

What Are the Goals of a Nursing Degree?

Many schools offer online nursing degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level. An associate degree in nursing prepares students to work as RNs. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees train learners to serve in more advanced roles. Nursing programs feature specializations, such as palliative care, gerontology, and pediatric care.

An associate degree in nursing covers topics including human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and nutrition. Students administer care to patients in hospitals and clinics, conduct routine laboratory tasks, and monitor vitals. Most programs require a set number of clinical hours completed under licensed medical provider supervision.

Why Get a Nursing Degree?

Nurses provide essential services to people in a variety of circumstances. As a result, the field offers many professional and personal benefits.

Increased Earning Potential
Graduates with a degree in nursing typically earn more than those who work in the field without a degree.
Career Advancement
A nursing degree enables professionals to apply for more senior roles.
Advance Healthcare
Nurses participate directly in efforts to improve healthcare and advance the medical profession.
Community Support
RNs, LPNs, and other nursing professionals provide valuable services to their local and regional communities.
Personal Growth
A career in nursing offers many opportunities for personal growth through caring for others.

What Are the Requirements for a Nursing Degree?

Nursing program admission requirements vary by institution. Most associate degree programs request high school or college transcripts and relevant test scores. Nursing programs may ask applicants to take the Health Education Systems Inc. Admission Assessment exam. 

Some programs require a minimum GPA and previous work experience in a health-related field. Nursing degrees generally request that applicants undergo a background check and drug test. Additional admission requirements include recommendation letters, a personal statement, and a current resume. 

Once enrolled, online nursing degree students complete coursework in subjects such as biochemistry and nursing theory. Learners participate in hands-on clinical experiences. Courses combine theoretical study and laboratory work. Nursing programs prepare learners to take the NCLEX-RN, the exam that qualifies nurses for state licensure. The associate degree in nursing generally takes two years to compete.

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

Professional Organizations for Nursing Students

Professional organizations provide nurses and nursing students with opportunities to network, gain credentials, and stay current in the field. Membership in organizations like the ones below offer career mentoring and professional development opportunities, both of which help nursing students transition to full-time jobs as nurses.

National Student Nurses' Association


Open to nursing students from around the U.S., NSNA provides learners with career planning, scholarships, and leadership development opportunities. Members receive discounts on memberships to other major organizations and on preparation materials for the NCLEX-RN. The organization hosts an annual conference.

 

American Nurses Association


ANA serves as the premier professional organization for nurses in the U.S. Its four million RN members work in a variety of specialties. Membership includes professional development opportunities, discounts on continuing education, and networking support. Nursing students can join the organization as subscribers and transition to full members after receiving their licenses.

Scholarships for Nursing Students


Nursing students qualify for many scholarships. These opportunities offset nursing degree costs. For some scholarships, applicants must work in specializations like emergency services or pediatric care. The scholarships below represent a small sample of the opportunities available for nursing students.


  • The Foundation of the National Student Nurses' Association Undergraduate Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The FNSNA sponsors two scholarship programs for students enrolled in an accredited nursing program at the associate, bachelor's, or master's level. The general scholarship supports students intending to pursue careers in specializations such as oncology. Only applicants in certain states qualify for The Promise of Nursing scholarship.

    Amount: Up to $7,500



  • Heart of Healthcare Nursing Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Currently enrolled nursing students at accredited institutions may apply for the scholarship. Applicants must maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA. Additional requirements include an entry form with short answer questions.

    Amount: $1,000



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