Online Colleges for Nursing

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If you have a passion for health and serving your community, online nursing programs may be perfect for you! The demand for educated and qualified nurses is at an all-time high across the country.

online nursing programs

As our population grows, and individuals live longer and face new and diverse ailments, the need for specialized care increases.

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While you can enter the field with an associate degree, a more advanced degree can maximize your career and salary potential. The nursing field is designed to encourage ongoing growth and professional development.

Online Nursing Programs

The field of nursing is competitive, and most RNs look to further their education as they begin working in the job force. There are various types of online nursing degrees to consider, including:

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 Associates in Nursing Programs

Man taking Online Associates in Nursing

Earning an Associate in Nursing is often the first step in becoming a nurse. These 2-year RN programs online provide the foundation and can lead to a number of career opportunities.

There are four associate degree options available in this field, including:

  • Associate of Nursing (AN)
  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
  • Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (AASN)

For students that attend online associate nursing programs full-time, it will take about 2 years to complete these hours. Your program will include general education and nursing courses, like fundamentals of nursing.

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Once you have completed this program, you can take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN) to become either a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN). As an LPN or RN, you could work in a physician’s office, hospital, psychiatric facility, nursing home, or school.

Online Bachelors in Nursing Programs

students taking Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing will provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of the field, and will better equip you to oversee fellow nurses in the workplace.

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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 online BSN programs an ideal choice for those who are balancing the demands of work with continuing education.

There are several topics that you will cover throughout your Bachelor of Nursing online program including:

  • Medical law and ethics
  • Transcultural care
  • Health informatics
  • Specialized nursing skills

Although the online bachelor in nursing degree 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.

Online Masters in Nursing Programs

Nurse pursuing Online Masters in Nursing

The online master’s degree in the nursing program focuses on specific concentrations that provide you with the skills needed to move up in your career.

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Courses are typically comprised of general studies, leadership training, and comprehensive skill training in your chosen specialization. There is no hard-and-fast rule about what is required to enter a Master in Nursing program. However, it is common for schools to require the following:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Registered Nursing License (RN)
  • Minimum GPA and GRE scores
  • Clinical experience

If you are able to attend full-time, it will likely take you 1 to 2 years to earn this advanced degree. As a part-time student, the program could take as long as 4 years. You will cover advanced topics such as resource management, ethics, pharmacology, and acute and chronic illnesses.

With a master’s degree in nursing, you could become a nurse anesthetist helping surgeons, a family practitioner, a nurse-midwife, or a critical care nurse, for example. Or you could work in a leadership or administrative role, as a nurse administrator, research nurse, or nurse consultant.

Online Post Master’s Nursing Certificates

Nurse taking Post Master's Nursing Certificate online

Online post-master’s nursing certificates allow you to advance your skill set and career after receiving your master’s degree.

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Some programs include:

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP: Teachers the skills required to provide quality and comprehensive care for patients 13 years and older.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner: With this certificate, you can provide quality care to your own patients. You’ll learn how to manage disease prevention and practice health promotion.
  • Nursing Education: Dive into the world of education and help others by educating nurses and preparing them for success with their patients.
  • Nursing Informatics: This certificate program teaches you to use information technology to make quality decisions in healthcare and medical settings.
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: You will learn how to assess, diagnose, prescribe medications, and provide therapy to patients that suffer from mental, brain, or substance abuse disorders.

It’s important to choose a certificate program that fits your skills and suits your career goals and interests.

Online Doctoral Programs in Nursing

Student nurses during CPR training

If you are already a seasoned nurse and want to advance or alter your professional path, you may wish to pursue a doctorate. This is the highest level of education available in the field.

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When pursuing a doctorate nursing program, t is common for schools to require the following:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Registered Nursing License (RN)
  • Minimum GPA and GRE scores
  • Clinical experience

There are two distinct doctorate paths:

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): This is a professional degree for those who wish to advance their clinical skills in a specific area of nursing or a leadership role. Focuses on leadership, evidence-based practice decisions, and advanced specialty care.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): This is a research degree for someone who wishes to pursue a position in an academic or research setting. Focuses on illness trajectories and care systems. Classes will cover advanced theory, research methodology, data analysis, and more.

Doctorate programs typically take 3 to 6 years to complete.

Nursing Bridge Programs

Nurse in the ER assisting two doctors

Bridge programs leverage a student’s educational and professional experience. While traditional nursing degree programs require students to complete hours of clinical, a bridge program may count your previous professional experience in place of clinical hours.

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Take a look at three of the most common bridge programs below:

  • RN/LPN to BSN (ADN-to-BSN): If you are a practicing LPN or RN but do not yet hold a bachelor’s degree, this bridge program can help you earn your next degree quickly and can open the door to many more job prospects. As a full-time student, the RN-to-BSN program typically takes about 1.5 to 2 years to complete.
  • RN to MSN (ADN-to-MSN or BSN-to-MSN): This program is available to registered nurses who hold either an associate degree (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree (BSN, or a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field). An ADN-to-MSN program will generally take about 3 years to complete. A BSN-to-MSN bridge program will take at least 4 years of full-time study.
  • BSN to DNP: Through this bridge program, students who hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing can earn both a master’s and a doctorate at the same time. This program will typically take 3 to 4 years on a full-time basis.

The goal of a bridge program is to advance quickly without repeating what you already know.  The schedule is flexible, so as to work around irregular nursing hours.

Nursing Careers & Salaries

Nursing Careers & Salaries

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 annual median pay according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Nurse Anesthetists $195,610
Nurse Practitioners $120,680
Nurse Midwives $112,830
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary $102,720
Healthcare Managers $101,340
Registered Nurses $77,600
Clinical Nursing Instructors $77,440
Healthcare Social Workers $60,840
Licensed Practical Nurses $48,070
Nursing Assistants $30,310

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 BLS  predicts a 13% occupational growth for the next decade. Additionally, the BLS projects occupational growth for registered nurses to increase by 6% within this time frame. With a much higher than the average growth rate, a nursing career is a solid choice for a stable, long-term occupation.

How to Choose an Online Nursing Program

Friends checking for Online Nursing Program

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.

  • Accreditation: 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.
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: One way to ensure that your college is focused on quality education is by looking at the 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.
  • Academic Advising and Student Services:  In addition to the courses required, it is important to have a solid understanding of the academic advising and student services your college of choice offers.
  • Nursing Internships: Programs that offer clinical rotations or nursing internships can set you on the right path toward your career. Not only can you gain hands-on experience but also make connections for future opportunities.
  • Cost: The cost of each program is also an important factor. Compare various programs to see which one fits your budget.

Through flexible online programs and clinical rotations, online nursing degrees allow working students to achieve their career goals in a time frame that fits into their busy lives.

How to Become a Registered Nurse

Registered Nurse taking pulse rate of patient

Nursing is among the most common jobs in the United States with over three million registered nurses in the country.  The process to become a nurse may include many steps, depending on the type of nurse you wish to become.

If you are interested in becoming a registered nurse, there are several steps to take:

  • First, consider what your overall goals and career aspirations in nursing may include.
  • Once you have decided upon a professional path, you should apply to an accredited nursing program, such as RN online program, an associate’s degree in nursing program (ADN), or a bachelor’s degree in nursing program (BSN).
  • After earning your degree, you may wish to study for the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses).
  • Next, set up a time to take the NCLEX-RN. In most cases, nurses are required to pass this test in order to become licensed.
  • Finally, you’ll apply for state licensure. Each state has its own requirements for this, so be sure to research the specific requirements of the state in which you wish to practice.

Bear in mind that each state also sets its own guidelines on the type of licensing and how often an RN needs to renew their license. Additionally, some nursing specialties ask students to complete certain certifications.  You may wish to investigate the requirements for these credentials, as well.

Nursing Online Programs Accreditation

University offering Nursing Online Programs

When researching online programs for nursing, you may wish to focus your search on schools that have received accreditation from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or CHEA.

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CHEA accreditation is awarded to programs that have been evaluated for their high academic standards.  As a result, some financial aid or scholarship opportunities may require students to attend an accredited program. Additionally, future employers and professional organizations may prefer candidates who have graduated from an accredited program.

CCNE Accreditation for Online RN Programs

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is the accreditation agency for nursing programs. To become accredited through the CCNE, schools pay fines and go through an aggressive application process. This ensures that the accredited nursing practitioner online programs are operating with the quality expected from the CCNE.

Programs will send Continuous Improvement Progress Reports periodically to remain accredited, with a maximum accreditation period of five years. Attending a program that has received CCNE accreditation may be beneficial for future licensing and certifications, as well as being preferred by employers.

Nursing Licensure and Certifications

Licensed nurse providing vaccination to a patient

The three types of nursing licenses are Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

If you wish to become licensed, here are some of the most common steps you should follow:

  • Pass a background check.
  • Earn a degree from an accredited nursing program.
  • Sit for the NCLEX.
  • Apply for licensure in the state in which you wish to practice.
  • Pay your licensing fee once you are accepted.
  • Renew your license as needed.

Licensing requirements vary from state to state, so you may wish to review the requirements for the state in which you plan to practice.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Online Nursing Financial Aid

Students who are interested in needs-based financial assistance may want to start by completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  This application is the first step in receiving Federal student loans.

You may also wish to investigate scholarship and grant opportunities.  Many schools offer a variety of financial awards that are offered to students based on academics, athletics, or financial status. Other options include work-study programs, tuition assistance programs offered by an employer, and loans and financing offered through your school.

Is an Online Degree in Nursing Right for Me?

Woman completing her Degree in Nursing online

Nursing is a highly respected and rewarding career path as many students find it to be the perfect way to combine their compassion for others with a challenging, fast-paced work environment.

An online degree in nursing may be right for you if you:

  • Have good time management skills
  • Are passionate about helping others
  • Have the desire to work in the healthcare field
  • Have patience and empathy toward others
  • Thrive in a fast-paced environment

If these qualities sound like you, an online nursing degree may be an ideal choice.

Are Online Nursing Degrees Respected?

Nurse with Online Nursing Degree, working in hospital

A nursing degree received from an accredited program will earn respect from employers and professional organizations alike.

You may also be asked to complete licensing and certification, for which you will be eligible with an accredited degree. Online students still spend clinical hours in person, while enjoying the freedom an online classroom allows. Online nursing programs are evaluated for accreditation in the same exact manner as in-person nursing programs, as well.

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Future employers are frequently interested in candidates who graduated from a school with an accredited nursing program, not whether they earned the degree online or in person.

What Can You Do With a Degree in Nursing?

Registered Nurse working in outpatient care clinic

According to the BLS, registered nurses work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, physician’s offices, home health care, nursing care facilities, schools, and outpatient clinics.

Some of the different types of nurses include addiction nurses, cardiovascular nurses, critical care nurses, genetics nurses, neonatal nurses, public health nurses, and rehabilitation nurses. There are various other types of nurses in addition to those listed, including Clinical Nurse Specialists, which is a type of advanced practice registered nurse.

Is Online Nursing School Hard?

Woman pursuing a degree in Nursing online

Attending nursing schools online can be challenging and rewarding for many students. You may wish to consider some different types of classes that a nursing student will need to take when determining if this degree program is right for you.

Nursing programs rely heavily on scientific subjects such as biology and chemistry. Mathematics, sociology, and psychology are also covered while working to obtain a nursing degree. You will also be expected to take courses on basic nursing care, pharmacology, and communication.  Should you select a specialized nursing field as a long-term goal, you may be asked to take additional courses.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse?

Nurses discussing about a patient's record

The time it takes to become a professional nurse can vary, depending on the type of nursing you choose for your career and which nurse colleges online you choose to attend.

The steps to becoming a nurse may include:

  • Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN): Once you have obtained a high school diploma or its equivalent, you may pursue an LVN educational program, which usually takes about a year to complete.
  • Registered Nurse (RN): The quickest degree program toward becoming an RN is an associates Degree in Nursing (ADN), which can typically be completed within two years.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): An RN to BSN can be completed in two years.

Once you have completed the educational program required by the type of nurse you wish to become, you may be eligible to sit for the proper NCLEX exam.

Is a Nursing Degree Worth it?

Nurse Practitioner discussing with the doctors

Yes, a nursing degree is worth it for many students. RNs will continue to be in high demand due to the occurring nursing shortage.

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Nursing will likely always be an important profession, and the demand for nurses continues to grow. The BLS states that over the next decade, the job market for registered nurses will grow at an above-average rate. Given the range of specialties for nurses and the variety of nursing fields, professional licensed nurses will continue to be an important part of the medical community.

Universities Offering Online Bachelors in Nursing Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

AdventHealth University

AdventHealth University

AdventHealth University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University

Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Franklin University

Franklin University

Franklin University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Herzing University

Herzing University

Herzing University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Indiana University

Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Maryville University

Maryville University

Maryville University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

McKendree University

McKendree University

McKendree University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University

The Ohio State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Ohio University

Ohio University

Ohio University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Purdue University

Purdue University

Purdue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Rivier University

Rivier University

Rivier is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University

SNHU is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, Inc.

Touro University – Nevada

Touro University Nevada

Touro University Nevada is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

University of Alabama

University of Alabama

The University of Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Arkansas – Little Rock

University of Arkansas Little Rock

UA Little Rock is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Colorado – Colorado Springs

University of Colorado - Colorado Springs

UCCS is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Florida

University of Florida

The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of North Florida

University of North Florida

The University of North Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Texas – Arlington

University of Texas Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Walden University

Walden University

Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University

Western Governors University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Getting Your Nursing Degree Online

student completing his Nursing Degree Online

There are many options to consider as you prepare for a future in nursing. Consider the time and money you have to invest now, and know that this is a field that is ever-evolving. However, if you have a passion for helping others and working in the healthcare industry, nursing may be a great choice for you.

Whatever path you choose, earning your nursing degree online can offer the flexibility you need to continue working while earning your degree.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your journey, start researching accredited online schools for nursing today!

Ready to start your journey?
Jason Collins
WRITTEN BY Jason Collins

Jason has a bachelor in English Literature from Loyola Marymount University with a minor in history. A life-long learner with a love of science, philosophy, and history, he works in career enrichment, professional development, and improved business practices.