Average Course Duration of an ADN Program

Provides an overview of ADN programs, including information on how prerequisites, online training, and other factors affect how long it takes to earn an ADN.
Average Course Duration of an ADN Program

There are many different ways to break into the field of nursing. For those who are concerned about kick-starting their careers, earning an associate degree in nursing, or ADN, is typically the best way to go. Once you have earned an ADN, you will be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN. As soon as you pass that, you will receive your RN license. Learn more about how long it takes to earn an ADN, including factors that affect how quickly it can be completed, by reading on below.

Factors that Affect ADN Program Duration

These are the factors affecting the duration of an ADN program:


One factor that often affects how quickly you can complete an ADN program involves the type and number of prerequisites that must be completed before enrolling. Most programs are designed to be completed in two years, but it can take as long as three if you have prerequisites to catch up on first. Depending on your educational background, you may already fulfill these requirements. Some of the prerequisite courses that ADN programs typically require include physiology, anatomy, math, biology, and chemistry. Please note that in most cases, prerequisite courses need to have been completed within the last five years or so to count. Always ask about prerequisites when considering ADN programs to get a clearer idea for how long it will take you to finish your degree.

Online Education

Campus- and classroom-based ADN programs are readily available. However, many people who work toward their ADNs have full-time jobs and other responsibilities, and finding the time to get to campus can be tricky. If this issue might slow you down, consider enrolling in an ADN program that includes an online component. Ideally, seek an ADN program that offers asynchronous training, which means that you can complete the work at your own pace. If you are eager to get done more quickly, you may have more leeway to do so with an online program. However, please note that you will more than likely still have to complete some of your training in person.

Clinical Training

Another issue that affects how long it can take to complete an ADN program is clinical training. All programs require students to complete a certain number of credit hours of on-site clinical training at hospitals and other health care facilities. Some programs are more flexible about this requirement than others. For example, some programs assign you with a clinical training experience, while others require you to find your own opportunities. Either way, clinical training is completed at local facilities, so you shouldn't have to venture far to get this requirement out of the way. Just make sure that the ADN program that you enroll in accommodates your schedule and other requirements for the clinical training portion, or it may take you a lot longer to finish than it otherwise would.

Bridge Programs

If you already have your LVN / LPN license, a great way to reduce the length of time that it takes to earn your ADN is by completing a bridge program. LVN to ADN and LPN to ADN bridge programs are readily available. The great thing about this option is that it takes your existing work experience and educational background into account, which both allow you to skip over things that you already know. As a result, this type of bridge program can shave significant amounts of time off the total length that is needed to earn an ADN. In fact, depending on your credentials and the program itself, it may be possible to earn your ADN in as little as one year by pursuing this option.

Accelerated BSN

As the name suggests, an accelerated ADN program can be completed in a much shorter duration compared with a traditional ADN program. If you think you can handle the rigorous training of an accelerated ADN program, you can opt for it to complete your training in less than two years, usually around 18 months. Note, though, you must be prepared for longer classes that meet more often during the week. You should also expect short in-between semester breaks.


Regardless of your short- or long-term career goals, earning an ADN is often a great way to get the ball rolling on an exciting career in nursing. It is natural to be eager to complete your training, but it's also important to remember that there is a lot of ground to cover and that you need to focus to ensure that you pass your licensing exam when the time comes.

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