Associate of Science (AS): Nursing Degree Overview
Learn about the prerequisites, courses and clinical experience for an Associate of Science (AS) degree program in nursing. Find out about employment outlook, salaries, licensing requirements and continuing education for nurses.
Associate of Science in Nursing
Earning an AS in Nursing degree can lead to becoming a registered nurse (RN) or taking a related position within the nursing field. Programs typically last two years, including both classroom and clinical experiences. Students learn human anatomy and physiology, as well as how to perform patient assessments and basic healthcare duties. They also learn about providing emergency care and gain an understanding of the legal requirements for medical personnel. Graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed as an RN.
To enter a nursing program, students may need to have completed high school coursework in math, English, biology, chemistry and math. The school may set a minimum high school grade point average for students to meet. Applicants also undergo a background check, and some programs require them to submit proof of immunizations.
Courses in a nursing program can give students a basic understanding of patients' health needs and requirements. Classroom work is typically combined with clinical practice, which provides students with hands-on experience in using medical equipment and performing patient-care tasks. The main topics touched upon in a program include:
- Psychology introduction
- Nursing pharmacology
- Nursing fundamentals
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
After graduating from an associate's degree program in nursing, students can sit for the NCLEX-RN to become a registered nurse. All states require RNs to pass this exam, but some may have additional requirements. Through their work settings and experience, RNs can specialize in a number of areas, such as surgery, pediatrics and mental health. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job opportunities for RNs were expected to increase by 26% between 2010 and 2020, and they earned an average salary of $67,930 in May 2012 (www.bls.gov).
No matter what area of health care a graduate works in, a registered nurse must typically complete continuing education to maintain licensure and stay current in advancements within the field. Associate degree holders may transfer their credits into bachelor's degree programs in nursing to gain a wider knowledge of the field. Master's degree programs are also available and could help nurses advance into positions of administration or gain specialties in areas like family or adult practice.
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