One of the perks of becoming a nurse is that there are several entry points. One can obtain an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or an RN diploma to get started in the field of registered nursing.

The main difference between the two is that the ADN is a college degree while the RN diploma is, well, a diploma. Both programs take about two years to complete, and both are considered "entry-level." They also both prepare students to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam for licensure. However, RN diploma programs are typically hospital-based and might be offered in technical or vocational schools. Students gain valuable hands-on skills throughout the program and take courses specific to healthcare and nursing.

RELATED: Choosing an RN Program

ADN students also gain clinical experience but are also required to complete general education courses to fulfill associate degree requirements, some of which may or may not include healthcare-related courses. For example, courses in humanities, history, art, communication, math, and English are typically required for an associate's degree.

For both, the cost is extremely variable. The state and city in which the program is located, resident status, and whether the school is a private or public college all determine tuition cost. A ballpark estimate for an ADN program can start at a few thousand dollars to over $40,000 depending on the factors listed above.

While both prepare students for licensure as a registered nurse, there are a few considerations one should keep in mind. Students should always check their state board of nursing's website to determine educational requirements, and they should also find out what minimum education requirements are needed in places of employment. For example, some organizations or facilities prefer a minimum of an ADN, and some even a BSN.

No matter which path students choose towards their RN, there are many options available; from a fast-track RN diploma to a BSN degree. Get more information about RN to BSN programs.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN
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