Top Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs

7 Min Read Published November 9, 2023
Top ADN Programs in 2024 |

If your career goals include becoming a registered nurse (RN), there are two pathways: an associate's degree in nursing  (ADN degree) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

Both options help to enable students to earn RN credentials. However, an ADN is the shorter and cheaper route to becoming an RN. This article will cover the top ADN programs across the country and share essential information you need to know about each program.

Fast Facts About ADN Nursing Programs 


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of 2022, registered nurses earned a median income of $81,220 annually or $39.05/hr.

Program length

2-3 years


  • High school diploma or GED equivalent
  • Minimum GPA
  • Entrance exams

What is an ADN Nursing Program?

An ADN is a two-year nursing degree from a community or junior college. Upon graduation, ADN students become eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to obtain licensure to practice as an RN in their state.

Most ADN programs take about two years to complete full-time. However, students often take up to three years to complete the program and take licensing examinations.

Both ADN and BSN students learn critical thinking and clinical nursing skills. Also, ADN and BSN-trained nurses are employed in various hospitals and healthcare facilities and care for patients in many different bedside care positions.

However, the main difference is that a BSN is a four-year degree, and an ADN is a two-year degree. BSN-trained nurses receive expanded education and clinical experience. For this reason, some employers prefer BSN-trained nurses over ADN-trained nurses. 

Your career aspirations, how much you want to spend on your education, and how quickly you want to start working are all important factors when considering earning an ADN.

Top 10 ADN Nursing Programs 

Choosing an ADN program is a huge decision that requires careful consideration. The good news is that put a list together of the best ADN programs in the country.

Our ranking system considers accreditation, NCLEX pass rates, graduation rates, post-graduation employment rates, and student-faculty ratio.

1. Santa Monica City College, Santa Monica, CA

Located in southern California, Santa Monica City College has a 100% job placement rate for 2021-2022 ADN graduates. This university also has transfer articulation agreements with several University of California and Cal State University campuses for students who wish to continue their education and obtain a BSN.

  • Tuition:
    • In-state: $46 per unit
    • Out-of-state: $316 per unit
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Application Deadline: July 11th
  • Contact Phone Number: (310) 434-4000
  • Email Information:
  • Online Options Available? No

2. Cayuga Community College, Auburn, NY

The university has two campuses: one in Auburn, NY, and another in Fulton, NY. Applicants are encouraged to first enroll in the Liberal Arts and Sciences/Humanities and Social Science program. This allows students an opportunity to complete prerequisites and select required nursing degree courses. The university allows students to take up to three years to complete their nursing program.

  • Tuition:
    • In-state: $2,496 per semester (full-time)
    • Out-of-state: $4,992 per semester (full-time)
  • Program Length: Two years (full-time)
  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Application Deadline: January 15th
  • Contact Phone Number: (866) 598-8883
  • Email Information:
  • Online Options Available? No

3.  Howard College, Big Spring, TX

Howard College’s ADN program takes two years to complete. The program's second year includes online lectures that allow students autonomy to observe remotely. Many ADN students at this university take advantage of the many articulation agreements with various Texas universities to continue their education and earn a BSN.

  • Tuition:
    • In-state: $2,460
    • Out-of-state: $5,470
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Application Deadline: June 1st
  • Contact Phone Number: (432) 264-5074
  • Email Information:
  • Online Options Available? No

4. Chabot College, Hayward, CA

The Chabot College ADN program boasts a 100% NCLEX pass rate every year from 2015 to 2022. The university’s nursing program accepts applications only once a year. Each Fall, 40 applicants are selected. The ADN program is a two-year, full-time program offered in four consecutive semesters, excluding summers.

  • Tuition: Approximately $7,000 
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Application Deadline: January 31st
  • Contact Phone Number: (510) 723-6600
  • Email Information:
  • Online Options Available?: No

5. Big Bend Community College, Moses Lake, WA

Big Bend Community College’s ADN program accepts applications for qualified applicants once a year in the spring. The programs start in the fall and consist of about 24-28 students, depending on clinical spaces and available faculty. The college prefers students with some experience in patient care; however, it is not mandatory.

  • Tuition:
    • Resident: $58.94 per credit (full-time)
    • Non-resident: $59.79 per credit (full-time)
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Application Deadline: April 15th
  • Contact Phone Number: (509) 793-2222
  • Email Information: 
  • Online Options Available?: No

6. Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Asheville, NC

The university’s website reports that the school is committed to providing a student-centered and high-quality ADN educational program. The school offers two start dates yearly, with one in the spring and one in the fall. The school also reports that ADN graduates from the university find employment within six months of graduation. 

  • Tuition:
    • NC residents: $1,216 (per year/full-time)
    • Non-NC residents:$4,288 (per year/full-time)
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Accreditation: CNEA
  • Application Deadline: Rolling (fall and spring)
  • Contact Phone Number: (828) 398-7900
  • Email
  • Online Options Available?: No

7. Mesa Community College, Mesa, AZ

Students at Mesa Community College’s ADN program receive a variety of course schedules and may choose between morning, afternoon, and evening cohorts. Clinical experiences take place in various laboratory, simulation, in-patient, and outpatient settings.

  • Tuition:
    • In-county: $85 per credit
    • Out-of-county: $441 per credit
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • Contact Phone Number: (480) 461-7106
  • Email Information:
  • Online Options Available?: No

8. Saddleback College, Mission Viejo, CA

Saddleback College’s ADN program began in 1971 and has an outstanding reputation in its healthcare community. NCLEX pass rates are consistently higher than state and national pass rates. ADN graduates from the university work in various nursing positions, and many continue their education to earn a BSN.

  • Tuition:
    • Residents: $46 per unit
    • Non-residents: $295 per unit
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Accreditation: ACNE
  • Application Deadline: July 17th
  • Contact Phone Number: (949) 582-4500
  • Email Information:
  • Online Options Available?: No

9. Southeastern Illinois College, Harrisburg, IL

100% of Southern Illinois College’s ADN program students passed their licensure exams the first time upon graduation in 2020. Many students from the university also go on to continue their education and earn a BSN.

  • Tuition:
    • In-district: $106 per credit
    • Out-of-district: $172 per credit
    • Out-of-state: $180 per credit
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Accreditation: ACNE
  • Application Deadline: March 31st
  • Contact Phone Number: (618) 252-5400
  • Email Information:
  • Online Options Available?: No

10. Seminole State College of Florida, Altamonte Springs, FL

Seminole State has one of the nation's best NCLEX-RN licensure pass rates. In fact, 97% of graduates passed on their first attempt in 2020, compared with a 68.8% statewide average during the same year.  Students also gain employment quickly upon graduation, and the university has a 94.9% job placement rate. 

The university also offers a part-time option for students working toward their ADN. Both full-time and part-time ADN programs seamlessly transfer into the university’s RN-to-BSN program.

  • Tuition: $3,131
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Application Deadline: May 12th
  • Contact Phone Number: (407) 404-6196
  • Email Information:
  • Online Options Available?: No

Types of ADN Nursing Programs 


Some ADN programs offer online lectures and coursework that students may complete remotely. However, all ADN nursing programs have clinical requirements that students must complete in person. 


Most ADN programs are on a university campus where students attend in-person classes. However, many in-person programs are “hybrid” and offer some online coursework.


Bridge ADN programs allow LPNs to earn an ADN without starting their education from scratch. Many universities take prior nursing education and professional experience into account so students can complete their programs more quickly. 

FAQs About ADN Nursing Programs 

  • Is an ADN the same as an RN?

    • Students who graduate from an ADN program are eligible to sit for state licensure to earn RN credentials. ADN refers to the level of education that the RN has: a two-year associate's degree. 
  • Is an ADN as good as a BSN?

    • An ADN is an associate’s degree-trained nurse, and a BSN is a bachelor's degree-trained nurse. Although a nurse with an ADN can find employment, many hiring managers prefer to hire BSN-trained nurses with an additional two years of nursing education.
  • Is a 2-year nursing degree worth it?

    • A two-year nursing degree may be worth it for students who wish to complete their nursing education quickly and for as little money as possible. Earning a BSN typically takes at least two years to complete and costs many thousands more. 


Sarah Jividen
Sarah Jividen Contributor

Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a trained neuro/trauma and emergency room nurse turned freelance healthcare writer/editor. As a journalism major, she combined her love for writing with her passion for high-level patient care. Sarah is the creator of Health Writing Solutions, LLC, specializing in writing about healthcare topics, including health journalism, education, and evidence-based health and wellness trends. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two children. 

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