Online Nursing Degrees
Nursing is one of the most popular professions in the United States, and this expansive field covers a broad range of disciplines. Whether you are interested in providing direct patient care or working your way up through the ranks to manage the nursing department of a medical facility, there are many paths to choose from once you begin your journey in a nursing career.
Nursing is a hands-on field by nature, so the online programs available for this profession are aimed at students who have already achieved their registered nursing (RN) license. There are several online degree and certificate programs that RNs can pursue in order to further their skills and specialize in a specific concentration within the nursing field.
If you do not have an RN license and your work or family situation limits you to enrollment in an online program, there are a number of alternative online healthcare programs such as medical assisting, pharmacy technician, and related fields that can be completed entirely online.
Careers in Nursing
Nurses are essential to the functioning of any medical facility, and because of this, there are countless ways to create a nursing career that suits your specific interests and skills. Below we have highlighted a few of the popular nursing career paths and their average mid-career salaries:
|Job Title||Job Summary||
|Nurse Practitioner||Registered nurses with extensive training that perform similar functions as a licensed physician.||
|Director, Nursing||High-level manager who is responsible for overseeing the performance of a nursing unit.||
|Charge Nurse||Works as the department manager and oversees activities of the nursing and support staff.||
|Labor and Delivery Nurse||Works specifically with expectant mothers and newborns to ensure their care and safety during birth.||
|Pediatric Nurse||Registered nurses that are responsible for the medical care and treatment of children through adolescence.||
*Job and salary data provided by Payscale.com
Occupations in the medical field are typically well-paying professions – and nursing is no exception! While the numbers above show the average pay for those who have worked 10 years in the field, you may make more or less dependent upon your unique job responsibilities and experience level.
Types of Online Nursing Degrees
The field of nursing is competitive, and most RNs look to further their education as they begin working in the job force. After you have your nursing license, additional studies will help you to hone your skills and develop specialized knowledge within a particular subfield of nursing.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
The initial RN program is typically equivalent to a two year associate’s degree program. Once you have your RN license, you can work towards a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) by completing the coursework online. This flexibility allows you to continue working as a nurse throughout your studies, making it an ideal choice for those who are balancing the demands of work with continuing education.
Online Bachelor’s in Nursing (RN license required):
- Bachelor’s in Nursing (RN to BSN program)
There are several topics that you will cover throughout your RN to BSN program, including:
- Medical law and ethics
- Transcultural care
- Health informatics
- Specialized nursing skills
Although the coursework can be completed online, depending on the program, you will still be required to attend on-site training as part of your degree program. Typically, 400-900 hours of clinical rotation hours are required over the course of two years. When you are participating in an online program, you may have the option for flexible rotations and summer internships to help you successfully complete the requirements and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
Online Master’s Degree in Nursing
The online master’s degree in nursing program focuses on specific concentrations that provide you with the skills needed to move up in your career. There are several options available for online master of nursing degrees, and these courses are typically comprised of general studies, leadership training, and comprehensive skill training in your chosen specialization.
Online Master’s in Nursing (MSN):
- Master of Nursing (MSN)
- Master of Nursing (MSN) and MBA (dual degree)
- Master of Nursing (MSN) – Doctor of Nursing (DNP) Path
- Master of Nursing (MSN) – Adult Gerontology Practitioner
- Master of Nursing (MSN) – Executive Leader
- Master of Nursing (MSN) – Family Nurse Practitioner
- Master of Nursing (MSN) – Health Care Informatics
- Master of Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Educator
- Master of Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Informatics
- Master of Nursing (MSN) – Nursing Administration
- Master of Nursing (MSN) – Public Health
If you desire a shorter time frame to advance your nursing skills with a graduate-level education, there are also options available for online graduate certificates in the concentrations of Family Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Educator.
Online Graduate Certificates in Nursing:
- Graduate Certificate – Family Nurse Practitioner
- Graduate Certificate – Nurse Educator
Some top colleges offer online master’s degree programs that allow you to pursue higher levels of education in the future. These include the MSN and MBA dual degree program if your interests lie in the business end of the medical field, or a MSN to DNP path that paves the way to pursing a doctorate level degree.
Online Doctorate Degree in Nursing
A doctorate degree is the pinnacle of an educational journey. If you want to work in a top-level medical career, there are options available to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree online!
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP):
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Throughout the course of the DNP program, you will learn how to utilize evidence-based research within your nursing practice to improve patient safety and quality of care. Topics that you can expect to be covered throughout your online DNP program include:
- Research methods
- Statistics and data analysis
- Evidence-based practice
- History and philosophy of nursing science
- Advanced leadership skills
With the continual advancement of the medical profession, nurses with high-level graduate degrees are in high demand. The advanced coursework associated with the DNP degree program will prepare you to have a positive impact on a larger scale within the community and medical field.
Nursing Career Outlook and Salary Information
Healthcare professionals are always in high demand, and the aging population and advancements in the medical field are only increasing the job stability for these professions.
Across all fields of healthcare, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 19% occupational growth between 2014 and 2024, resulting in nearly 2.3 million new jobs! Additionally, the BLS projects occupational growth for registered nurses to increase by 16% within this time frame.
With a much higher than average growth rate, a nursing career is a solid choice for a stable, long-term occupation. As an added bonus, the average annual wage for professional nurses comes in at $62,610 – well above the national average of $36,200 across all occupations!
View a list of the top 40 Nursing careers to compare jobs and salaries in this field.
Is an Online Degree in Nursing Right for me?
Nursing is a highly respected and rewarding career path. With its solid long-term outlook and expansive choices for specialization, many students find it to be the perfect way to combine their compassion for others with a challenging, fast-paced work environment. Although there is required on-site training to earn your nursing degree, online degree programs make it possible for adult students to continue their education without sacrificing their current career or family obligations.
Some of the many advantages to enrolling in an online nursing degree program include:
- Ability to continue advancing in your current career while furthering your education
- Flexible options for required on-site training and clinical rotations
- Overall reduction in tuition for online courses
- Opportunity to advance self-motivation and work ethic skill sets
Most students enrolled in advanced nursing degrees are doing so in order to further their career opportunities at their current nursing position. By providing flexible options to earn graduate degrees, top colleges are offering their students the chance to enhance their skills and stay competitive in a demanding workforce.
Comparing Top Nursing Degree Programs
As a nurse, you have the lives of your patients in your hands. To be able to give the best care for a wide variety of patients and provide quality treatment in challenging scenarios, it is vital that your nursing education is completed at a reputable university. To help you make the decision about whether an online degree program is right for you, consider the following factors during the course of your research.
With all degree programs, accreditation is important. However, when it comes to healthcare careers, it is even more imperative that you are working towards a degree with a college that has a stellar reputation for quality academics. Avoid the “degree mill” schools by looking for colleges that have had their educational offerings formally reviewed by one of the many recognized accrediting agencies in the United States.
Below are a few of the names that you can look for when choosing the online nursing degree program that is right for you:
- Regional accrediting agencies
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
The U.S. Department of Education’s website offers a comprehensive list of recognized accrediting agencies to get you started in your research. In addition to the names above, you can also look for programs that are accredited by agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the Association of Specialized & Professional Accreditors (ASPA).
Student to Faculty Ratio
Even with online learning, it is still important that nursing students are able to have extensive interaction with their professors throughout the duration of their degree program. One way to ensure that your college is focused on quality education is by looking at their typical student to faculty ratios for their nursing courses. The lower the ratio, the higher the chance you have of getting the individualized education experience that you need to succeed!
Many colleges only accept a limited number of nursing students every year due to the demanding nature of the coursework, clinical rotation requirements, and commitment required by the professors. To help you gain a better understanding of the degree program you are interested in, take a look at the “Faculty” section of the college’s website. Here you will be able to gain more in-depth knowledge of the credentials and achievements of the medical professionals that will be teaching your nursing courses.
Academic Advising and Student Services
There is more to earning an online nursing degree than simply studying textbooks. In addition to the rigorous courses required, it is important to have a solid understanding of the clinical and on-site training that your college provides. The skills of nursing can only be perfected through hands-on training, and top universities work hard to ensure that their nursing students are supported with exceptional advising and student services, including:
- Organized clinical site training and placement
- Preparation courses for the NCLEX
- Flexible scheduling for clinical rotations
- Job shadowing and internship opportunities in a variety of nursing fields
- Academic support through online tutoring and mentorship programs
The medical field is changing, and now more than ever it is important for registered nurses to continue their education by earning higher-level degrees that teach them advanced skills within their field. Through flexible online programs and clinical rotations, online nursing degrees allow working students to achieve their career goals on a time frame that fits into their busy lives.