Is an Associate’s in Nursing an Economical Way to Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree?


A number of routes will take you into the nursing profession. As you look into beginning or furthering your career in this field, you may be wondering what training path will be the most effective and economical. Among other things, you may be wondering about whether to get an associate’s degree before obtaining a bachelor’s.

The choice you make will likely depend on your life and financial situation, the ways you feel you learn the best and even how quickly you want to begin work. If you’re interested we have a ranking featuring some of the cheapest online colleges offering associate’s degrees. In nursing, what job you can do usually comes down to what license you hold. We have an article explaining the differences between the basic nursing licenses.

Image of healthcare workers for our FAQ about associate's in nursing degreesShort Term Benefits of an Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree for nurses is usually referred to as either an ADN or an ASN. It’s typically a two-year degree. Obtaining an associate’s is one of the pathways you can take (along with a diploma program or a bachelor’s degree) to prepare for the national licensing exam (NCLEX) you’ll need to pass in order to become a registered nurse (RN).

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What is an Associates Degree in Science?

The short term benefits of an associate’s degree are probably fairly obvious. You can finish it in a shorter amount of time than a bachelor’s degree and it will cost less. Many people who pursue an associate’s degree do so at a community college, which can be more economical than a university. Getting an associate’s degree and becoming an RN also has the benefit of getting you started in the profession pretty quickly. Within a couple of years from beginning your studies, you could be working in a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office as an RN. If your life or financial situation makes beginning your working life sooner necessary or desirable, this could be a smart move.

Associate’s Degree as a Stepping Stone to Bachelor’s Degree

But an associate’s degree can also be a stepping stone toward a bachelor’s degree. And yes, it has the potential to be an economical way to do so. Some of those reasons make sense given the short-term benefits just enumerated. You can do an associate’s degree at a community college and then transfer to a larger (and perhaps more prestigious) school for the final two years of your education, which means you will only be paying a higher tuition for the final two years. Another possible advantage comes through the fact that some employers, who want to encourage their nurses to obtain bachelor’s degrees, will offer some level of tuition reimbursement so you can complete that degree. You would be able to continue to work while pursuing your bachelor’s, which would also mean less unpaid time. There are programs called RN-to-BSN which allow for some scheduling flexibility since working nurses are typically the students enrolled in these programs.

One absolutely right path for those entering the field of nursing just doesn’t exist. It can be important to evaluate your particular situation and goals before making a decision about what degree to pursue. While bearing in mind that the BSN is becoming the standard for many nurses, and that many nursing jobs require it, you don’t have to discount an associate’s degree. It can be a practical and economical way to begin your nursing career and to move toward completing a bachelor’s degree that will ultimately open more doors to you as a nurse.