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Degree Overview: Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree in Nursing

Majors Overview March 1, 2014

Receive information about an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree in nursing and its education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education and licensure choices.

A.A. Programs in Nursing

While schools don’t offer Associate of Registered Nursing degrees, students can enroll into an associate degree program in nursing to prepare themselves for entry-level occupations in healthcare as registered nurses (RNs). It takes about two years to complete an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and graduates can expect to become adept at basic nursing skills and use the coursework to prepare for the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Prior nursing skills or education — such as work experience as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) — may not be required for prospective RNs to enter these programs. LPNs may be allowed advanced standing in some programs. Typically, community colleges and technical schools offer ADN programs. Students can complete an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing or Associate of Arts in Nursing by enrolling into similar education programs.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. Students enrolled in some programs are also required to complete courses in some form of humanities or mathematics before they can begin major coursework related to an ADN program. In some other programs, they may have to complete prerequisite courses such as anatomy and physiology.


Registered nurse associate degree programs combine classroom lectures and clinical studies. Students may also be required to complete some general education courses such as English composition. Coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Pharmacology for nurses
•Health promotion
•Nursing fundamentals
•Trends and issues in the nursing field
•Acute, chronic and end of life care
•Clinical nursing
•Health assessment
•Basic nutrition

Job and Wage Outlook

A faster-than-average job growth rate of 19% has been projected for registered nurses during the decade from 2012 to 2022 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The growth is expected to be driven by an aging population, as well as technological advances in the field boosting demand for healthcare. In May 2012, registered nurses took home an average annual salary of $65,470 (BLS); those in the top ten percentile took home $94,720 at least, while RNs in California earned a median salary of $90,860.

Continuing Education and Licensure Choices

Apart from earning an associate degree in nursing, graduates may need to obtain state licensure by passing the NCLEX-RN that is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. RNs may be needed to satisfy specific licensing requirements, such as maintenance of licensure every few years through completion of continuing education. For instance, in California, RNs can maintain licensure only through completion of a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education every two years.

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