ASN - Associate of Science in Nursing

  • Cost varies
  • Degree program
  • typically 2 years

COURSE FORMAT

In Person
Blended

About

The Associate of Science in Nursing or ASN is a two-year degree program and emphasizes entry-level nursing skills. It’s also the minimum education required to become a registered nurse, along with passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Earning an ASN is a quicker way to become an RN and begin a nursing career compared to earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which generally takes four years of full-time study to complete. ASN degree programs must be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or likely won’t be accepted by employers.

Course Format

An ASN program prepares nursing students to take the NCLEX licensing exam. The knowledge and core nursing skills acquired from Associate of Science in Nursing degree programs also prepare students to become nursing assistants or licensed practical nurses (LPNs)/licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) should they decide to go this route.

Some schools will use ASN and ADN interchangeably, and while an ASN degree program is similar to an ADN program, there are some differences in the course formats. Both degrees cover academic and clinical skills required for a career in nursing, but ADNs tend to put more emphasis on academics. The ASN curriculum usually focuses more on science-oriented topics and places more emphasis on clinical skills. Nursing students earning an ASN can expect to spend more time completing clinicals and skills labs than attending classroom lectures.

  • Completion Time: ASN degrees typically take 2 years but can take 3 years to complete based on how much time students dedicate to their studies. 

  • Cost: Because this is a two-year degree instead of a four-year degree, students can find these programs at community and technical colleges, which may offer lower costs than four-year colleges and universities. Since ASN programs are offered at such a wide array of learning institutions, tuition costs vary significantly. However, the average cost of tuition at public schools runs between $6,000 and $20,000, while it costs between $30,000 and $100,000 at private schools.

Textbooks aren't included with tuition and generally start at $500 and go up from there. Other cost considerations include uniforms, stethoscopes, masks and other medical supplies, vaccinations, etc. Even two-year nursing programs can get pricey, but nursing students can qualify for various types of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, student loans and employer tuition reimbursement.

Certification

Many colleges, universities, and even vocational schools have prerequisites for nursing students entering an ASN program. While these can vary, common prerequisites include classes in chemistry, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, statistics, psychology, English, humanities, human development, and communication. However, many ASN degree programs incorporate these courses into the program. This allows students to take prerequisites and program courses simultaneously instead of completing prerequisite courses before they can enter their nursing program.

While technical or trade schools that offer ASN programs may have fewer admission requirements, they’re generally similar to those of a college or university. Typical requirements for admission include:

  • High school transcripts/GED score

  • GPA of 2.0 or better or 3.0 or better, depending on the school

  • Postsecondary school transcripts if applicable

  • Standardized scores for the SAT or ACT

  • Proof of legal authorization to work in the U.S.

  • In-person interview

  • Proof of required immunizations and negative TB test

Most ASN programs also require applicants to pass a pre-admission exam, but some don’t. Those that do often require the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) proctored by the Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI). The TEAS consists of 170 questions with a 209-minute time limit and covers reading, math, science and English/language use. Alternately, some schools may require the Health Education Systems, Inc. Admission Assessment (HESI A2) administered by Elsevier. The HESI has questions covering biology, chemistry, grammar, reading comprehension, vocabulary/general knowledge and math with a 4.5-hour time limit. There are also other admission exams schools might use or they may give students multiple exam options.

Once admitted, students must complete all the program requirements to graduate. The required number of credits to finish an ASN degree can vary but is generally between 60 and 72 credit hours. Some of these are general education-driven, while others are nursing-specific. Nursing schools typically require students to complete an NCLEX-RN review course to prepare them for their licensing exam. 

ASN programs also require clinical hours, often called a clinical practicum. The number of hours varies by state, but the average is 200. However, clinical hours requirements may match what the state board of nursing requires to apply for licensure as a registered nurse. Clinical hours allow students to apply their knowledge from class to real-life scenarios. Once all course requirements are complete, students receive their ASN degrees.

Other Resources

Earning an Associate of Science in Nursing degree doesn’t make graduates registered nurses. They must apply for licensure with their state board of nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The NCLEX is used in all 50 states as part of the licensure process and currently costs $200 to take. Alternately, new nurse graduates can take the NCLEX-PN to become LPNs/LVNs.

Next Steps

Because BSN-prepared RNs typically earn more over time compared to ASN-prepared nurses, many nurse graduates pursue an RN-to-BSN Program after they begin working as a nurse. These programs are a logical next step for nurses looking to boost their knowledge and careers. However, those who know from the outset that they will be pursuing a BSN fare better by earning an ADN over an ASN. While you can use an ASN to transition to a BSN, an ADN program aligns better because they focus more on academics. Also, not all coursework in an ASN program is transferable to other programs. RN-to-BSN programs take about 18 to 24 months to complete.

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Frequently asked questions

Do ASN-trained RNs earn less than BSN-trained RNs?

Registered nurses earned an average annual wage of $75,330 in May 2020 (BLS). However, wage data doesn’t distinguish between salaries among BSN-trained RNs and ASN-trained RNs. Hospitals often prefer BSN-trained nurses but the initial salary between BSN-trained and ASN-trained nurses may be relatively close. However, BSN-trained nurses typically have many more career options and earn more over time.

What vaccinations are required to enter nursing school?

Vaccination requirements can vary, but most nursing schools require medical students to have their tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis, measles/mumps/rubella, varicella, Hepatitis B, and influenza vaccinations. Some schools may now require the COVID-19 vaccine. Students must also have a tuberculosis skin test with a negative result.

What classes should I expect to take in an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree program?

Programs vary, but some courses commonly found in Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) programs include patient health assessment, health science, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, nutrition, nursing leadership and medical-surgical nursing, obstetrics/pediatric nursing, and mental health nursing with clinicals.

Do Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) students take a different NCLEX?

No, the NCLEX-RN exam doesn’t differ for those who completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program versus an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree program. Both programs prepare students to take the exam and become registered nurses.

What’s the difference between the Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree?

The Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) is a two-year degree program and emphasizes entry-level nursing skills. It’s also the minimum education required to become a registered nurse, along with passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four-year nursing degree earned at a college or university accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Prospective nurses can enter the nursing field with an associate degree in nursing, but many healthcare facilities have begun requiring BSN degrees even for entry-level positions. Therefore, earning a BSN can put RNs in a better position from a career standpoint, among other things.