Best Online Associate in Pre-Nursing Programs of 2024

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated April 15, 2024
Edited by
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Discover the best online associate in pre-nursing programs of 2024 that provide a strong foundation for your career.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

If you are confused by what an associate in pre-nursing is, then you are in good company because colleges can define it differently.

Some schools offer a pre-nursing direct transfer agreement pathway. Other pre-nursing programs teach the prerequisites for a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program or conclude with an associate degree in nursing (ADN).

Find out what an associate in a pre-nursing program is, how it contributes to an ADN or BSN program, and what to expect.

Popular Online Nursing Programs

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Best Online Associate in Pre-Nursing Programs

#1 Best Online Associate in Pre-Nursing Programs of 2024

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College

  • Location-markerPerkinston, MS
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,300
  • Out-of-state$6,600
  • Retention Rate66%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled8,208
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment59%
  • AccreditationYes

What Is an Online Associate in Pre-Nursing Degree?

An online associate in pre-nursing programs confers a two-year associate degree in nursing. This degree allows you to get your nursing license, complete prerequisites for a BSN, and get the foundational knowledge and skills for a nursing career.

Pre-nursing programs are typically offered at community colleges or larger colleges and universities to prepare you for a nursing career or a BSN program. You may also choose an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or an associate of science in nursing (ASN). These two-year degrees make you eligible to take the NCLEX-RN, get your RN license, and practice as an RN.

The coursework requirements for an online associate in pre-nursing programs are the same as a traditional in-person program when attending an accredited one. Accreditation also enables you to apply your credits to continue your education.

Should You Get an ADN or BSN as your First Nursing Degree?

The path you choose to begin your nursing career depends on your circumstances. However, the AACN reports that many employers prefer hiring BSN-prepared nurses. The current nursing workforce is younger and more diverse, and more of them hold a BSN degree than before the pandemic, according to the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Study.

Benefits of Starting with an ADN

  • Lower cost and less time to complete than a BSN
  • Typically have more flexible schedules and locations
  • Can start working quickly
  • Easier admission to school
  • Credits can be transferred to complete a BSN

Benefits of Starting with a BSN

  • Higher employment rate
  • Better salary potential and career opportunities
  • Professional recognition and credibility
  • Preparation for an advanced practice degree
  • Stronger clinical and leadership skills

What to Expect From a Pre-Nursing Program

An online associate in pre-nursing typically teaches the essential skills for nursing practice. The curriculum may vary depending on your college, but most programs cover these subjects.

Pre-Nursing Curriculum

  • Principles of Nutrition: Coursework includes the basics of nutrition, including macronutrients, micronutrients, dietary guidelines, digestion, metabolism, and the role of nutrition in promoting overall health and preventing disease.
  • Pharmacology: You will study the principles of drug actions, including drug classification, mechanisms of action, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, adverse effects, and therapeutic uses, preparing students for safe medication administration.
  • Anatomy and Physiology: Coursework includes the structure and function of the human body, exploring topics such as organ systems, tissues, cells, homeostasis, and how they relate to health and disease.
  • Microbiology: Nursing students learn about microscopic organisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Topics cover microbial structure, function, growth, genetics, pathogenesis, and their roles in health and disease.
  • Chemistry: Coursework includes the fundamental principles of matter and its interactions. Topics include atomic structure, chemical bonding, reactions, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, kinetics, and their applications in healthcare and other fields.
  • Nursing Pathophysiology: Content includes the body’s physiological processes of underlying disease states. Topics include alterations in cellular function, inflammation, immune response, and the impact on organ systems, guiding nursing interventions.

What Online Nursing Prerequisites Do I Need to Take?

Applicants for an ADN program must meet specific prerequisites to qualify for admission, including coursework and other requirements. Prerequisites generally include:

  • check High school diploma or equivalent (GED)
  • check Minimum GPA requirement, typically ranging from 2.5 to 3.0
  • check Biology
  • check Chemistry
  • check Anatomy and Physiology
  • check Microbiology
  • check Mathematics
  • check Program-specific requirements like CPR certification or Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • check Letters of recommendation and personal statement or essay

Nursing Licensure

ADN graduates must complete several steps before they can practice as an RN. You can obtain an RN license after graduating with an ADN or BSN degree and meeting the following requirements:

  • Graduate from an accredited program.
  • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
  • Apply for licensure with the state board of nursing where you intend to practice.
  • Submit required documentation, including transcripts, background checks, and application fees.
  • Maintain licensure by meeting continuing education requirements and renewing your license according to state regulations.

Nursing Careers for ADN Graduates

Average Hourly Wage for ADN Graduates
Source: Payscale

Projected Job Growth for All RNs
Source: BLS

After passing the NCLEX-RN and getting licensed, graduates of an associate in pre-nursing program are eligible to work as RNs in a variety of healthcare settings. They may work as staff nurses in specialty areas, such as critical care, emergency nursing, pediatrics, or psychiatric mental health nursing. They may also work in community settings, home care, physician’s offices, schools, correctional facilities, or outpatient clinics.

The responsibilities of an ADN-prepared RN include assessing a patient’s health status, helping to develop and implement nursing care plans, monitoring patients’ conditions, educating families and patients, and administering medications and treatments.

According to Payscale data from Mar. 2024, an ADN graduate’s average base hourly rate is around $32 an hour, and the average annual salary is $77,000. Your salary can vary depending on geographical location, years of experience, and additional specialty certifications.

Your hourly wage can also depend on the specialty in which you work. Some nursing practice areas have a higher salary potential than others.

Median Hourly Wages of Nursing Careers for ADN Graduates
Career Median Hourly Wage
Emergency Room Nurse $35.20
Critical Care Nurse $35.83
Psychiatric Nurse $35.39
Labor and Delivery Nurse $34.11
Pediatric Nurse $31.62
Source: Payscale
Note: Hourly wages were used because the hours nurses work per week vary by work setting.

Nursing Certification and Continuing Education

ADN-prepared nurses have options to advance their practice through many avenues. Most states have mandatory continuing education requirements to renew your RN license. Attending workshops, seminars, and conferences helps you meet those requirements while staying up-to-date on evidence-based practice and learning new skills.

Earning a specialty certification demonstrates expertise in a specific area of nursing, such as critical care, pediatrics, or gerontology. Consider completing an RN-to-BSN bridge program, which is designed for RNs with an associate degree to gain the added skills needed to practice as a BSN-prepared nurse.

You might also consider advancing your education by utilizing an ADN-to-MSN degree program to get your master’s in nursing. These specialized tracks allow you to practice as an educator, nurse practitioner, administrator, or informaticist.

Choosing an Online Nursing Program

Students should consider program cost, nursing degree options, admission requirements, and accreditation when finding the right online nursing program. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Pre-Nursing Programs

The main difference is in the length of your education and the scope of your career opportunities. An ADN is a two-year program, while a BSN is a four-year program. You spend two extra years of schooling expanding your clinical knowledge and learning critical thinking and leadership skills. BSN-prepared nurses can pursue various leadership roles and have a higher earning potential.

Whether you get an associate or a bachelor’s degree in nursing depends on your circumstances. If you obtain an ASN first, your initial education will be less expensive and shorter. You’ll be able to start working far quicker than if you complete a BSN. You can also work while advancing your education by enrolling in an RN-to-BSN program. Yet, with an ADN, your salary potential and career opportunities are more limited than a BSN.

Most hospitals prefer hiring a BSN-prepared nurse because they achieve better patient outcomes and contribute toward the healthcare institution achieving Magnet status. In an American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) survey, 25% of hospitals required BSN-prepared nurses, and 70% preferred hiring BSN nurses.

ADN and BSN nurses share many core competencies. Still, a BSN degree prepares nurses for more opportunities and responsibilities, including leadership roles as managers, charge nurses, or directors to oversee patient units, coordinate staff, and manage budgets.

BSN-prepared nurses can critically evaluate research literature and can work as nurse researchers. They are qualified to work as educators in clinical settings or community health organizations.

Typically, BSN-prepared nurses make more money than ADN-prepared nurses. According to Payscale, the average hourly salary is $32.56 for an ADN nurse and $36.05 for a BSN-prepared nurse. These are averages and geographical location, additional certifications, and years of experience influence individual salaries. However, a BSN-prepared nurse generally makes more money than an ADN-prepared nurse.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by TheBestSchools. Page last reviewed February 22, 2024.