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With an associate degree in pre-nursing, you can pursue a service-filled career assisting people medically and helping better their lives.
While an associate degree in nursing (ADN) prepares graduates for registered nursing (RN) licensure, pre-nursing associate degrees prepare learners for bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) programs. Pre-nursing training may reduce the time and the cost of a BSN, contribute to nursing licensure, and help qualify graduates for the nursing field by providing necessary prerequisites.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects more than 220,000 new RN jobs between 2019 and 2029. To help prospective students make the most of this opportunity, we ranked the best online associate degrees in pre-nursing.
The Best Online Pre-Nursing Courses
Online Pre-Nursing Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.
Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.
While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.
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Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
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Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.
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Academics - 75%
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Online Enrollment - 10%
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Featured Online Pre-Nursing Bachelors
What Is an Online Associate in Pre-Nursing Degree?
While earning a pre-nursing associate degree online, learners complete prerequisites for entering a nursing bachelor's degree program.
Many schools offer these programs as direct-entry 2+2 pathways. Students who complete requirements for the two-year associate degree may transfer into a two-year bachelor's program. This helps learners who cannot qualify for a BSN directly. Students can also get a feel for the field before committing to a four-year program.
Associate nursing degrees can offer cost savings, with many costing less per-credit than bachelor's degrees. General education credits earned for pre-nursing degrees may be relevant to other bachelor's programs, particularly those in healthcare disciplines. Pre-nursing programs cover skills in communication and human understanding, foundational healthcare, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
What's the Difference Between an Associate Degree in Pre-Nursing and a Nursing Diploma?
Typically, an ADN or nursing diploma leads to nursing licensure, whereas a pre-nursing associate degree leads to a BSN degree first and then licensure. Pre-nursing degrees often have more accessible admission requirements than ADN degrees. Some schools offer both pre-nursing and ADN programs to accommodate different students.
In addition to preparing for BSN degrees, pre-nursing degrees can qualify graduates for entry-level nursing field careers, such as medical assistant or health information specialist.
What to Expect From a Pre-Nursing Program
Pre-nursing programs prepare BSN students with general education and healthcare foundations courses. Course offerings vary between programs, but the following list highlights common options. Titles and descriptions may vary.
- Principles of Nutrition: This course looks at the connection between nutrition and health, exploring what nutrients are required for healthy living. Training may cover federal dietary guidelines and program planning.
- Pharmacology: Students learn about the development of medications, including their intended usage and effects. These courses focus heavily on terminology.
- Anatomy and Physiology: These courses cover the human body, including its systems and how they interact with each other. Learners also study terminology.
- Microbiology: Microbiology courses explore microorganisms and their interactions with the human body. It covers pathogens and helpers, along with cell types and functions. Students may learn how to identify and conduct experiments using microorganisms.
- Chemistry: Chemistry courses teach about the properties of matter — such as acids, bases, and atomic and molecular structure — and chemical reactions. Courses offered to pre-nursing students may focus on nursing-related applications of chemistry.
- Nursing Pathophysiology: Nursing pathophysiology courses teach students about common disorders and diseases in humans, including effects, testing methods, and treatments.
What Online Nursing Prerequisites Do I Need to Take?
Online prerequisites for nursing degrees vary by school and program. Pre-nursing curricula work in concert with BSN programs, providing general education prerequisites, such as English and social sciences. Other prerequisites may include psychology and biology.
For admission to a pre-nursing degree, students typically need a high school diploma or its equivalent, along with English, math, and science courses.
Choosing an Online Nursing Program
When finding the right online nursing program, students should consider program cost, program options, admission requirements, and accreditation. Other factors worth considering include in-state tuition options, residency requirements, and synchronous and asynchronous delivery types. The links below can help learners pick the right online program.
Degrees to Consider After Your Pre-Nursing Degree
A pre-nursing degree provides the prerequisites for many nursing degrees, including an online bachelor's in nursing. While a BSN and RN licensure are common, graduates can also pursue a master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice degree.
With each level of training, graduates gain access to new professional opportunities, such as advanced practice nursing careers and management positions. According to the BLS, master's and doctoral degrees lead to the highest salaries among all nursing-related occupations.
Nursing Certifications and License
After completing online prerequisites for nursing bachelor's degrees, aspiring RNs need to get licensed. That means passing the National Council Licensure Examination from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Students must answer 75-145 questions in four major areas: safe and effective care, health promotion, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.
For test eligibility, applicants need to meet their state's requirements, which may include completing up to 500 clinical hours in addition to the standard accredited nursing education. Candidates may also need to pass a criminal background check. RN hopefuls should check state requirements before choosing a program.
Once licensed, RNs maintain their credentials through regular employment hours and continuing education credits. Licenses typically need renewal every two years, though state requirements range from 1-4 years. Through the Nurse Licensure Compact, RN licensure earned in some states can transfer to more than 30 others.
After earning licensure, healthcare professionals can pursue specialty certifications. For example, RNs can certify in areas like gastroenterology nursing, emergency nursing, and surgical nursing. Specialty nursing certification can improve employment opportunities and earning potential.
While most pre-nursing students pursue a career in nursing, they have other professional options, especially those in the medical field. Below, you will find some common career paths available to graduates, along with each position'’s median annual wage.
|Career||Median Annual Wage (2020)|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||$27,430|
|Clinical associate, medical assistant||$35,850|
|Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT)||$38,640|
|Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists||$57,850|
- National Student Nurses' Association: NSNA promotes healthcare education and assists nursing students. The association also provides mentorship and licensure support.
- The American Association of Colleges of Nursing: AACN works to improve the healthcare system by setting professional standards and supporting practitioners. The association hosts a professional network and offers leadership and professional development opportunities for members.
- American Nursing Association: Since 1896, ANA has advocated for nursing professionals and their well-being. The association strives for improved standards and health and safety measures.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing
Do Nursing Schools Accept Online Prerequisites
Yes. Most schools accept online prerequisites for nursing programs. In fact, many programs run their own pre-nursing programs that provide online prerequisites for nursing.
Is Nursing a Competitive Major?
No. While nursing is one of the most popular majors, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, high program availability keeps it accessible.
What Is the Hardest Nursing Prerequisite?
Terminology, systems, and lab components in anatomy and physiology courses are often the most difficult. However, each student will have a different opinion about what is most challenging.
Doug Wintemute is a Toronto-based freelance writer with professional writing interests in higher learning and entertainment. He completed his BA and MA in English at York University, graduating summa cum laude and earning academic merit, research, and writing awards at both levels. Since 2014, he has contributed content and editorial work for award-winning digital trade publications, global SEO copywriting projects, and hugely popular online brands. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.
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