The Best Online Nursing Programs

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Online Nursing Degree Programs Covering LPN, RN, CNA and More

America’s nursing shortage continues to fuel the demand for qualified nurses in virtually every nursing practice area. To help meet the critical need for well-trained nurses, accredited colleges and universities offer online nursing degrees in addition to traditional on-campus nursing programs.

An online bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) typically follows a degree-completion format. Applicants need an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing arena. Some programs consider applicants with sufficient transferable credits in a relevant field of study from an accredited institution.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bachelor’s-trained registered nurses (RNs) earned a 2019 annual median salary of $73,300, which is higher than the median salary of all occupations at $39,810. Additionally, the BLS projects jobs for nurses to grow 7% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than other occupations.

Medical and surgical hospitals employ the highest percentage of nurses (30.69%, or 1.7 million). However, nurses work in a variety of healthcare settings, including private physicians’ offices and nursing care facilities.

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Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Discussion Questions Surrounding Nursing Programs

  • Q. What is the difference between a BSN and an RN?

    Colleges and universities grant BSN degrees, while states issue RN licenses.

  • Q. How many years is a BSN program?

    Most BSN programs require four years of full-time enrollment. However, various factors can impact completion time, including learners’ educational or professional background and whether the program runs online or on campus.

  • Q. Do professionals with a BSN earn more than RNs?

    Associate-trained RNs typically earn less than BSN degree-holders who are also RNs. However, years of professional experience and relevant certifications also impact income.

  • Q. Can I get a BSN without having an RN?

    Yes. BSN graduates can take the RN licensure exam (NCLEX) after completing their program.

What Are the Goals of a Nursing Degree?

Students can earn a nursing degree at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Doctoral students can pursue a research-driven doctor of philosophy in nursing or enroll in a practice-oriented doctor of nursing practice program.

A broad professional field, nursing supports diverse practice arenas. Nurses can work with distinct populations such as newborns or geriatric patients, or practice within a specific role as nurse educators or nurse midwives. Students pursuing an online nursing degree often enroll in the same courses as on-campus learners. Common subjects include anatomy and physiology, microbiology and parasitology, health assessment, and biochemistry.

Why Get a Nursing Degree?

BSN-trained nurses possess the knowledge and training to deliver timely and appropriate patient care. The degree also yields several career benefits, including the five shown below.

Professional Credibility
Medical professionals value BSN-trained nurses for their extensive knowledge and experience in delivering timely and efficient patient care.
Expand Career Options
Most employers prefer to hire RNs with a bachelor’s in nursing degree for leadership and managerial positions. In addition, certain nursing jobs require applicants to hold a BSN.
Better Compensation
Employers often pay BSN-trained RNs higher salaries because they can take on more complex nursing duties, both in direct care and at the administrative level.
Improve Skills
A well-designed BSN program helps enrollees develop vital job skills, including providing direct patient care, making accurate health assessments, and keeping accurate records.
Meet Postgraduate Requirement
RNs who plan to pursue a master’s degree or a doctorate in nursing need a BSN from an accredited university.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse – Nursing Timeline

A typical nursing degree can take 2-4 years to complete. Each level of nursing has its own timeline, and that timeline can vary depending upon factors like part-time vs. full-time enrollment, certification, and the type of program.

Below is an overview of the typical amount of time it takes to complete a nursing degree, keep in mind that the length provided is for the amount of time it takes to complete that segment of the degree, not the entire academic path overall:

Nursing Degree LevelTime of Completion
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) 2-3 years
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)1-2 years
Registered Nurse (RN)4 years
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)4-5 years
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)1.5-3 years
Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP)1-3 years

What Are the Requirements for a Nursing Degree?

Requirements for online nursing programs often depend on applicants’ academic backgrounds. Most schools accept applications from associate-trained RNs, graduates of a non-nursing bachelor’s program, and applicants with the minimum transferable credits established by the receiving college or university.

Most schools require applicants to meet a minimum GPA, which is usually 3.0 or higher. Applicants must also show satisfactory completion of prerequisite foundation courses prior to enrollment or within their first year in the program. Prior to graduating, BSN candidates complete a supervised internship that involves direct patient care.

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Professional Organizations for Nursing Students

Nurses not only face challenges in their daily work, but they also contend with rapid developments and regulatory changes in the field itself. Professional organizations give members access to various resources that help them cope with the profession’s demands and requirements.

  • American Nurses Association ANA maintains a career center and offers several professional development resources for members. The organization's publications feature the field's latest research findings and developments. ANA welcomes applications from experienced practitioners to student nurses and recent graduates.

  • Emergency Nurses Association ENA gives members access to various practice resources, including an extensive resource library, updated clinical practice guidelines, and free continuing education courses. Members can take advantage of scholarships and grants for research and education. ENA also provides mentorship and volunteer opportunities.

  • National League for Nursing Founded in 1893, NLN offers multiple resources, including certification and professional development programs, scholarships for nursing students, and a members-only online career center. Counting 40,000 individuals and 1,200 institutions as members, NLN gives nurses unparalleled professional support at every stage of their career.

Scholarships for Nursing Students

Colleges and universities often support their nursing enrollees by administering several scholarship and grant programs to help them pay for their education. However, nursing students can apply for financial assistance from several other sources, such as private organizations and government agencies. See below for three scholarships available to nursing students.

  • Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Nursing students enrolled in an accredited associate, bachelor’s, or master’s program can apply for this scholarship from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must demonstrate financial need. The program requires applicants to submit a 1,000-word personal statement along with other application documents.

    Amount: $2,500

    Explore Here

  • The Foundation of the National Student Nurses' Association, Inc. General Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: FNSNA welcomes applications from undergraduate students enrolled in a state-approved nursing program at the diploma, associate, or bachelor’s level. The scholarship focuses on a different nursing specialization each year and welcomes applications from students practicing or planning to pursue a career in the specific nursing arena.

    Amount: $1,000-$7,500

    Explore Here

  • HRSA Nurse Corps Scholarship Program

    Who Can Apply: The Health Resources and Services Administration welcomes applications from nursing students pursuing an accredited program at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level. Applicants must demonstrate financial need. Recipients must work in a critical shortage facility after graduation.

    Amount: Varies

    Explore Here

The Best Online Nursing School Programs to Earn Your BSN 2021

See Our Rankings Methodology
  1. New Mexico State University-Main Campus

    Las Cruces, NM



    From its 900-acre campus in Las Cruces, NMSU enrolls over 14,000 students annually. The public university offers several top-ranked online nursing programs, including an MSN in nursing administration.

    The online nursing program teaches students how to create quality improvement programs. Students learn how to apply nursing research in practice and manage teams of healthcare professionals. Students build the leadership skills needed for healthcare administration roles.

    Nurses can also pursue an online doctor of nursing practice degree at NMSU. The program offers specialty tracks for prospective family nurse practitioners and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners. Prospective master's-level nursing students must hold an RN license and a BSN degree. NMSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  2. Southeast Missouri State University

    Cape Girardeau, MO



    A public university, SEMO offers an online RN-to-BSN program. The program helps prospective nurses pursue specialized training and advance their career.

    The online program includes training in holistic assessment. Courses also train enrollees in nursing research and community health. Learners study healthcare leadership and management. Students gain hands-on experience through required field experiences. Online students can complete this requirement locally.

    The program enrolls students in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Arkansas. Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA. They also need a current RN license and professional CPR licensure. The program also requires professional liability insurance and a background check. SEMO is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  3. Texas A & M International University

    Laredo, TX



    TAMIU enrolls over 7,800 students annually. Learners can earn their nursing degree online with TAMIU's RN-to-BSN program. The accelerated online nursing program trains nurses in comprehensive health assessment. They also gain knowledge of nursing research, global health, and community nursing.

    The 32-credit program covers topics like evidence-based practice and effective nursing care. Students learn how to apply health promotion strategies and implement nursing care plans. Learners also complete a practicum to strengthen their nursing skills.

    Applicants need a Texas RN license and a minimum 2.5 GPA. TAMIU also offers a 31-credit online MSN in nursing administration. Nurses with a BSN can complete the master's program in under one year. TAMIU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  4. University of Central Florida

    Orlando, FL



    A public university in Orlando, UCF enrolls nearly 72,000 students annually, making it one of the largest universities in the country. The school offers several undergraduate and graduate online nursing programs.

    The 30-credit online RN-to-BSN program covers topics like pathophysiology. Other course topics include health assessment and nursing research. The program incorporates lab and practicum experiences to build career-ready skills. Students can receive up to 29 credits for prior learning.

    Prospective RN-to-BSN students need an RN license. The College of Nursing also offers MSN programs in nurse education, leadership and management, and healthcare simulation. UCF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. University of Louisiana at Monroe

    Monroe, LA



    A public institution, ULM offers 35 online degrees, including an RN-to-BSN nursing program. Full-time students can earn the degree in 14 months.

    The accelerated program strengthens students' health assessment skills and trains nurses to provide evidence-based healthcare. Learners also explore patient care decisions based on data. The program culminates in a capstone course. The capstone integrates clinical training through experiential learning opportunities. Nurses also complete public health and nursing management practica.

    Applicants need an RN license. They also need a minimum 2.0 GPA from an accredited nursing program. The nursing school also offers an online MSN with focus areas for prospective nurse practitioners and clinical nurse leaders. ULM is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  6. University of Louisville

    Louisville, KY



    Located in Kentucky's largest city, UofL offers more than 50 online programs designed for adult learners. The school's online RN-to-BSN program provides a flexible format for working nurses to advance their careers.

    The 31-credit program incorporates a community health leadership project that provides hands-on training. Degree-seekers complete one course at a time on an eight-week term schedule.

    Incoming students must submit a nursing portfolio to demonstrate prior training. UofL grants 30 credits for the portfolio tuition-free. Prospective students need an associate degree in nursing and an unrestricted RN license. UofL is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  7. East Tennessee State University

    Johnson City, TN



    A public university, ETSU hosts 14,500 students annually. The school offers an online RN-to-BSN program for current RNs seeking a bachelor's degree. The curriculum focuses on professionalism, lifelong learning, and leadership abilities.

    The 32-credit program includes coursework in health assessment, professional nursing practice, and public health nursing. Learners also study nursing leadership, informatics, and health promotion. A practicum course acts as a clinical capstone and prepares graduates for careers as nurses.

    ETSU also offers fully online MSN programs for nurses seeking advanced practice and leadership roles. ETSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  8. Florida International University

    Miami, FL



    Located in Miami, FIU enrolls more than 58,000 students annually. FIU offers an online RN-to-BSN degree that focuses on wellness and care across cultures, nursing leadership, and community health.

    RNs can complete the BSN program in as little as three semesters. Learners complete 33 credits of coursework. They receive 27 credits through the program's clinical proficiency evaluation process. During a 120-hour senior clinical practicum, learners gain leadership experience in a healthcare setting.

    Prospective BSN nursing students must hold a Florida RN license. They also need a minimum 2.75 GPA. FIU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  9. Appalachian State University

    Boone, NC



    Based in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian enrolls 20,000 students annually. Appalachian offers an online RN-to-BSN degree designed for working nurses. The part-time program provides a flexible and affordable pathway to a BSN.

    The 30-credit, online program covers key topics like nursing informatics. Other course topics involve health assessment and nursing leadership. The program also strengthens nursing research and professional nursing skills. Learners complete nontraditional clinicals that include class projects and research.

    Prospective students need a current RN license in North Carolina or a compact state. They also need an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Appalachian is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  10. Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus

    Portales, NM



    ENMU is a public university that offers an online RN-to-BSN degree. The program blends theoretical nursing principles with clinical training. The degree prepares nurses for career advancement.

    Learners study evidence-based practice and strengthen their clinical skills. Degree-seekers also study topics like integrative care and health assessment. Another course explores community health nursing. The curriculum trains nurses to apply nursing theory and research to patient care.

    Prospective students must hold an RN license and submit a resume and letter of intent. ENMU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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Online Nursing Degree Programs Covering LPN, RN, CNA and More America’s nursing shortage continues to fuel the demand for qualified nurses in virtually every nursing practice area. To help meet the critical need for well-trained nurses, accredited colleges and universities offer online nursing degrees in addition to traditional on-campus nursing programs. An online bachelor of […]

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