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How to Prepare an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Nursing careers have grown in popularity as more people search for a profession that weathers economic ups and downs, offers good pay and opportunities for advancement and consistently delivers on job satisfaction. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 2.6 million nurses hold jobs in the United States, while others take positions abroad where trained medical professionals are in high demand. Not that the demand at home has diminished; the BLS projects the American health care industry to hire 581,500 new nurses between 2008 and 2018.

Steps toward earning your Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Among the two major paths toward becoming a registered nurse, many students prefer the ADN, since training takes two years and puts them into the profession efficiently and in the least amount of time. Once students complete an ADN and pass the licensing exam, they should be ready to take their place in hospitals, physicians' offices, clinics, long-term care facilities, schools, or in the government or military. To qualify for admission to an ADN program, complete your training, and graduate to the workplace, follow these steps.

1. Complete school or college entry pre-requisites

First, prospective nurses need to graduate high school, of course. Each ADN program has its own set of entry requirements. Generally, students need several years of high school courses in chemistry, biology and algebra. Some ADN schools require passage of the NET (Nursing Entrance Test) or the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills).

2. Apply to ADN programs

Round up your transcripts, letters of recommendation from high school science teachers, and test scores where applicable. There are nursing programs online or on campus. Decide which is best for your current commitments at home and at work. It's a good time to decide if you're going to be flexible enough to move anywhere to work following graduation. Last, your school may require an entrance essay on your goals in nursing. Don't wait until the last minute to start one; it can help you focus your objectives for yourself.

Next, decide if you'll need financial aid. If so, there are many grants, scholarships and loans available. Remember, jobs are going to grow by 22 percent between 2008-2018. Apply for aid as early as possible.

3. Develop your core skills as you earn an associate's degree in nursing

Learn about patient assessment, diagnosis, outcomes planning, plan implementation, and patient evaluation. Pursue and complete nursing clinicals, the practice of working beside Registered Nurses in a medical environment to put your skills to work.

4. Determine your nursing specialty

Your ADN program will expose you to the range of specialties that nurses focus on as they move into their careers and set goals for advancement in the profession. These can include critical care, maternity, adult health, pediatrics, community health, hospice care, psychiatric, oncology, and geriatric. You may not take your first job in these areas, but your specialty gives you a head start on advancement into the specialty that calls you. Nurses can advance into administrators, specialists, advanced practice nurses, or as directors--some positions require advanced degrees.

5. Take the NCLEX

NCLEX stands for National Council Licensure Examination. Upon graduation from your ADN program, take the multiple-choice NCLEX required by all states for the licensing and employment of nurses. Your ADN program should have a preparatory segment for taking the exam. Because of the demand for nurses, employers and recruiters will be easy to spot on campus or at job fairs. Many offer excellent hire-on bonuses. In 2009, the median annual wage for nurses was $63,750, with top salaries around $93,700.

Still want to become an ADN? Now you know how.

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