Advantages & Disadvantages of an Associate Degree in Nursing Education

The associate degree in nursing is a two-year pathway to becoming an RN.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for registered nurses is increasing faster than the average career. In response to the demand for nurses, associate degree programs provide an educational option to become an RN in as few as two years. While the associate degree may be the fastest route to becoming an RN, this option may not be the best fit for everyone.

1 The Experience Advantage

The associate degree route to becoming an RN is a great option for nurses looking to gain access to competitive employers such as hospitals. Nurses who enter the field after two years of training gain invaluable, much sought-after experience. For many potential employers, nurses who have already had on-the-job training are more attractive than those only equipped with the basic education received in nursing school. According to a CNN Money report, many hospitals only seek to hire nurses with experience because they come prepared to handle the multiple challenges of a fast-paced hospital setting.

2 Limited Upward Mobility

While the associate degree puts you on the path toward gaining valuable experience, there is a limit to your employment opportunities. If you have professional goals beyond the actual practice of nursing, then the associate degree in nursing may not be your best option. To be considered for advanced healthcare pathways such as management or public health education, nurses must hold a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

3 The Price is Right

Statistically speaking,the cost of attending a two-year community college is much lower than the overall costs of a four-year program. For the cost-conscious student, an associate degree in nursing offers the opportunity to complete an entry-level degree without the overhead brought on by two more additional years of study. This allows students to graduate into the workforce at a more affordable cost and with less financial aid debt than they would accumulate over the course of four years.

4 Rushed Specialty Decision

Nursing has multiple dimension that students can explore. Registered nurses can make the decision to work in fields such as dermatology, pediatrics, mental health and a host of other arenas. While the associate degree option provides students with the same opportunities to take exploratory courses of study in nursing as students in four-year degree programs, students pursing the associate degree track must make the important career decision about their specialty field after just two years as opposed to the four-year time frame given in a BSN program.

Based in Houston, C.P. Brown is a writer with experience in children's fiction, poetry, the arts and education. Her work has appeared in the "Houston Chronicle" and various poetry publications. Brown is the founder of a nonprofit organization that promotes fine arts and a former charter school administrator. She holds a Master of Education from Harvard University.