You are correct. You can become a registered nurse after completing an accredited program in nursing and passing the NCLEX exam. The Associates Degree in Nursing is a 2 year program. That being said, the nursing profession is attempting to phase-out this program and have the bachelors degree (4-year degree) the entry-level nursing program. In other words, one would need to have 4 years of nursing school to take the NCLEX exam. The nursing profession has been trying to do this for many years. It is a challenge to do for many reasons. The Institute of Medicine (2011) published an initiative on the future of nursing. I've attached the reference at the end of this comment and the website directly below.
In this document, scroll down to Part II, 4) Transforming Education, and choose Undergraduate Education. (Actually that whole Transforming Education section is quite valuable.) This will give you an idea on what the goal is for nursing.
I was an ADN graduate many years ago. It worked for me on my life path at that time. I advanced in my education in a step-wise fashion and now have a doctorate degree. I chose this terminal degree to teach and to practice as a nurse practitioner. Depending on what you want to do within your nursing career is directly related to the level of degree you will need to attain.
I hope that helps!
Institute of Medicine (US). Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing. (2011). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Tracie recommends the following next steps:
At this time you can become a registered professional nurse with an associate degree. Please be aware that some employers may have a preference for a bacherlors degree. However, there is still a nursing shortage and the need for nurses remains in a critical state. If you are planning to enroll in an associate degree program try to get some of your support courses completed so that you can concentrate on your nursing courses. I would advise you to contact potential schools of interest to see what are the required courses. If you are able, take as many support courses as possible and boost your grade point average to get into the actual nursing program. Best wishes to you in your program endeavors.
Many folks above have provided great answers to your question. Basically, the answer is yes. You can become an RN with an associate's degree. This is a great place to start your nursing career. But don't stop there! You will have many more job opportunities if you continue to advance your education. Many healthcare employers provide tuition assistance, so be sure to keep this in mind when looking for a job. Starting out as an RN with an ADN will allow you to get into the workforce sooner and take advantage of your work experience as you continue your education.
A suggestion I have is to look into the course requirements you would need to complete a bachelor's degree and take these courses while you are completing your associate's degree. This will save you time and money and get you on to your next step a little bit easier.
The best is a Masters. Also, the highest paid. Bachelors are great too. Associates? In hiring, you’ll struggle a bit. My sister is a Bachelors nurse. She works in an O.R.
Riley recommends the following next steps: