Top Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Programs

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Nursing is one of the country’s largest professions. The field is also extremely diverse, covering a variety of specialties as well as career paths. Because of this, there is no singular educational path to employment. Prospective students can select from multiple degree options–from associate to doctoral degrees–in order to pursue various careers. Recently, nurse training has experienced an evolution, embracing online learning as a reputable form of education. The following guide serves as an overview of online nursing programs, degree options, and curricula, as well as career opportunities.

Top 5 BSN Nursing Programs Online

  1. The University of Alabama at Birmingham ($$)
  2. University of Kentucky ($$)
  3. Ball State University ($$)
  4. Fort Hays State University ($)
  5. University of Rhode Island ($$)

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Best Online Nursing Degree Programs for 2016-2017

To find the best online nursing programs, our researchers and higher education experts collected and analyzed data from every accredited postsecondary institution in the United States. The goal? To see which colleges offered the most notable balances of academic rigor, student support and affordability for online learning. The specific criteria and scoring metrics for the ranking are as follows:

General criteria:
  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution
  • Specialized accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • At least one online nursing program at the bachelor’s level
  • Provides job placement and academic counseling services
Scoring metrics:
  • In-state tuition & fees for undergraduate students
  • Count and breadth of online nursing programs available
  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate for BSN Programs
  • Student-to-faculty ratio
  • 6-year graduation rate
  • Percentage of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college
  • Average amount of scholarship/grant aid students receive from the college
  • 3-year loan default rate
  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

*PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or “bang for your buck” – of an online degree.

Best Online Nursing Degrees

For students who hold an associate in nursing, are currently employed in the field and/or have family obligations, traditional campus courses may not be possible. Fortunately, many universities offer online nursing degree programs. With so many to choose from, how do you know which is the best fit? We’ve made the process easier by evaluating hundreds of distance learning programs around the country, then identifying the best options in terms of curriculum, accessibility, resources and other factors. Finding a good online nursing program is the first step toward advancing your career in the quickly growing health care field.

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, AL 99.94 $7,510 1 72% 18:1 53% yes yes yes

Established in 1966, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of the three public research institutions within the University of Alabama System. Initially only offering a bachelor's level nursing degree, the UAB School of Nursing has grown over the decades. It now offers nine programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, all with accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia.

To make learning as accessible as possible, the UAB School of Nursing uses Canvas, an online learning management system, to administer its e-learning curriculum. While not a completely online nursing school, students are able to take a variety of classes remotely throughout their tenure. These distance learning courses are more common in graduate degree programs. However, students at all levels can take advantage of Canvas to stay organized and create study plans for their on-campus courses.

Students will appreciate the diverse learning opportunities and degree pathways, such as dual degree options, more than 15 nurse practitioner specialty tracks and an accelerated master's program. Examples of available specialties include occupational health, neonatal, pediatrics, adult/gerontology and psychiatric-mental health. This array of learning options makes it easier for graduates to be well-trained for their respective certification exams. The school has a NCLEX first-time test taker pass rate that consistently exceeds 90 percent, which is well above the national average of around 85 percent.

Admission into the UAB School of Nursing requires a GPA of at least a 2.75 on a 4.00 scale. Acceptance also requires students to take the SAT or ACT. Once enrolled, students may be eligible to receive generous financial assistance, including financial aid packages that do not need to be fully paid back. UAB's School of Nursing offers robust scholarship, traineeship and fellowship programs, including a Nurse Faculty Loan Program that cancels up to 85% of a doctoral nursing student's school debt if they work as a full-time nurse faculty member at an accredited post-secondary nursing program after graduation.

2 University of Kentucky Lexington, KY 99.93 $9,403 1 67% 17:1 60% yes yes yes

The University of Kentucky's College of Nursing has a long tradition of preparing students for a career in nursing. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the institution began educating aspiring nurses in 1964. In the decades since, it's become a trailblazer in nursing education with the country's first Doctor of Nursing Practice program and Kentucky's first PhD nursing program.

Besides taking advantage of the school's extensive experience - which has resulted in first-time NCLEX pass rates in excess of 97 percent for 10 years running - aspiring nursing students have the option of enrolling in a variety of programs.

Admission and graduation requirements will depend on the applicant's prior education and professional background. At the undergraduate level, there is the traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program for high school graduates, transfers and current UK students. For those with prior experience, such as military veterans and registered nurses, there are the RN-BSN and MedVet-BSN programs. Depending on the student's prior professional and educational background, they can obtain their BSN in as little as five semesters. Remote learning options include professional development courses, a fully online RN-BSN program and a hybrid Doctorate in Nursing Practice program.

Those considering the nursing profession but who have a degree in a non-nursing field will be interested in the Second Degree Option. This program takes just two years to complete and consists of 64 credits. Students seeking graduate training can enroll in a PhD, Doctor of Nursing Practice or graduate certificate program. The graduate certificates provide opportunities to specialize in fields such as adult-gerontology, pediatric acute-care, mental health and executive nursing leadership.

UK's College of Nursing is partnered with UK HealthCare, a healthcare system based in Lexington, Kentucky. UK HealthCare has several nationally recognized neuroscience, heart, cancer and children's centers and institutes, and helps facilitate the nursing education at UK. In 2008, it added several simulation suites to the Clinical Simulation and Learning Center, located on the 4th floor of the College of Nursing. Much of the BSN's clinical experience can take place at a UK HealthCare facility.

3 Ball State University Muncie, IN 99.02 $8,682 1 48% 14:1 60% no yes yes

Ball State University awards bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in nursing both on campus and online. Ball State's campus-based BS in Nursing is a full-time, four-year program intended to prepare students for licensure. It boasts an average 94- to 100-percent NCLEX pass rate each year. Other undergraduate campus-based programs include a three-year degree, second baccalaureate degree, LPN to BS and RN to BS. These programs provide excellent opportunities for students to apply prior nursing knowledge and coursework to their studies and earn an accelerated bachelor's degree. The RN to BS program is available to online students as well and can be taken full- or part-time.

For those interested in pursuing a master's, the college has three programs - an on-campus MS in Nursing, online RN to MS and online MS. Ball State's part-time, online RN to MS is open to students who have an associate's degree in nursing and a bachelor's degree in another field. It usually takes 9 to 11 semesters to complete. In order to get a solid framework for master's studies, RN to MS students must take 16 upper-division nursing courses at the baccalaureate level on top of their required graduate-level nursing courses. As with the university's online and on-campus MS in Nursing programs, RN to MS students can choose from three concentrations to focus their studies - Nurse Administrator, Nurse Educator and Family Nurse Practitioner. Students who pursue the standard MS program can expect to earn their master's degree in seven to eight semesters, with two classes per term. Ball State's part-time Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) is open to both online and traditional students. The program requires 1,000 clinical hours and annual one-day meetings, which can be attended in-person or remotely.

Located in Muncie, Indiana, Ball State University began as a teacher training school and has since grown to offer over 300 degree programs across seven academic colleges. Its online nursing programs are fully online and asynchronous, so students can log in whenever it's convenient and required clinical hours can be completed in students' own communities. Online and on-campus nursing students have access to the school's Simulation and Information Technology Center (SITC), a clinical simulation center stocked with lab equipment and technologies that allow students to use learned skills in realistic situations. The school also offers more than 15 scholarships specifically for nursing students in addition to institutional and federal financial aid opportunities.

4 Fort Hays State University Hays, KS 98.44 $3,450 1 74% 16:1 44% no yes yes

Fort Hays State University has its roots in nursing - the school's first classes were held at the infirmary of the former Fort Hays army post in 1902. The university now serves over 15,000 students on campus and online and has several degree options for those pursuing a career in nursing. A range of nursing-focused scholarships help make obtaining a degree from Fort Hays a little more affordable, too.

Fort Hays' Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and approved by the Kansas State Board of Nursing. The competitive campus-based bachelor program had a 100 percent NCLEX pass rate in 2016 and is meant to be completed in four semesters. Students have access to the department's simulation center, which is equipped with exam rooms, computerized mannequins, a surgical scrub area, computerized charting, a nurses station and patient units. Applicants must complete prerequisites before applying to the BSN program, which is typically the end of their sophomore year.

Those looking to earn their nursing degree online can check out Fort Hays' RN to BSN program. This degree program is intended for students who have an active RN license and can be completed in as few as three semesters. The fully-online coursework emphasizes leadership and critical thinking skills through study in chemistry, psychology, biology and anatomy in addition to nursing-specific classes. Clinical hours are required but can be completed in a location convenient for students. At the graduate level, RNs can pursue a Masters in Nursing Education or a Masters in Nursing Administration. These flexible programs offer multiple tracks for working RNs who want to pursue advanced careers.

Fort Hays' Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs are the first doctorates offered by the university. The BSN to DNP is a hybrid program open to Kansas-based students who already have a BSN from an accredited college. This full-time degree is mostly online with a few campus visits required and prepares students to become Family Nurse Practitioners. Clinical hours must be completed in Kansas. The APRN to DNP is for those who have earned a Master of Science in Nursing, Advanced Practice and hold APRN licensure. Both of Fort Hays' DNP programs are pursuing initial accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

5 University of Rhode Island Kingston, RI 98.36 $10,878 1 84% 17:1 60% no yes yes

The College of Nursing at the University of Rhode Island is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. In 1945, hopeful nurses had the opportunity to take advantage of the school's quality education when it began its first nursing degree program. Today, students can earn a baccalaureate, master's or doctorate degree in nursing online.

Students in the University of Rhode Island's online bachelor's degree program focus on expanding their understanding of nursing practice to provide care in a compassionate, ethical, inclusive and respectful manner. Curriculum includes areas such as nursing research, health assessment, pharmacology, client management and public health nutrition. For example, students in the community and public health course learn how healthcare is provided in communities with vulnerable patient populations, while those who take health and wealth explore the influence economics has on public health, consumer behavior and public policy.

The University of Rhode Island also offers graduate nursing programs for professionals who want to further advance in their education and careers. The school's MS program allows students to gain a deeper understanding of their chosen specialty - students can choose adult-gerontological nurse practitioner/clinical nurse specialist, nursing education, family nurse practitioner or adult-gerontological acute care nurse practitioner specializations. At the doctorate level, students can enroll in a DNP or the PhD in Nursing program, which is the only one available in the state. Certificate programs are also available and allow those with a master's degree to gain further mastery in a specific area of nursing, such as acute care for nurse practitioners.

6 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ 98.30 $8,072 2 64% 18:1 49% no yes yes

Registered nurses who want to enhance their career and salary potential can enroll in an on-campus or online nursing degree at Northern Arizona University. The School of Nursing offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as a post-master certificate for MSN degree holders.

Those who want to earn an online degree in nursing at the graduate level can enroll in the school's general or family nurse practitioner master's degree program. In this program, students sharpen their clinical, critical reasoning, leadership and communication skills by taking coursework in areas such as advanced nursing assessment, healthcare policy, healthcare economics, pharmacology and applied pathophysiology. Students can also take a graduate seminar where they investigate a specific clinical nursing issue or question, collect evidence to support their position and present their findings to their professor.

In the family nurse practitioner program, students with broad nursing experience get to develop specialized knowledge in order to provide care for patients in rural areas. This program includes curriculum on chronic and complex health conditions, health promotion, crisis intervention and pharmacologic management. In order to demonstrate an understanding of the concepts they learned throughout the program, students participate in practica that focus on a different area of family healthcare nursing. This allows students to apply what they've learned in the classroom to the practice of nursing. Undergraduate students will be required to fulfill 9-12 hours/week of clinical practicum, while the requirements for graduate students vary depending on the selected MS track. Clinical coursework can be completed in various locations throughout Arizona, and the student is responsible for all transportation, meals and lodging.

7 Clemson University Clemson, SC 97.95 $12,606 2 62% 18:1 83% no yes yes

Clemson University has been a driving force behind American innovation and leadership since its establishment in 1889. Well known for its School of Nursing, Clemson sees almost 100 percent of its nursing graduates achieve job placement within three months of finishing their degree. If any potential Clemson students have previously completed an associate degree in nursing and are already working in the field, they will have the opportunity to work through Clemson's RN/BS Completion Program, a fully online learning option designed to provide working nurses with a chance to further their training and education without interfering with their work schedule.

Clemson's nursing program also welcomes students without any nursing background with their accelerated second degree (ASD) nursing program. This option is designed for prospective nursing students who have previously completed a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field. As is the case with any high-quality nursing program, receiving admission into The Clemson Nursing School is a competitive process - a minimum 3.0 GPA is required for application, as is the completion of a wide range of science-based courses, including anatomy and physiology, microbiology and general chemistry.

Clemson also provides numerous avenues for graduate level students interested in expanding their professional expertise, including a Master of Science in Nursing. This program provides students with the opportunity to specialize in one of four fields - family nurse practitioning, adult/gerontological nurse practitioning, nursing administration or nursing education. The completion of the MSN also opens doors to further online learning opportunities through Clemson, including its fully-online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

8 Aurora University Aurora, IL 97.94 $21,120 1 100% 17:1 58% no yes yes

Aurora University consists of four campuses throughout the Aurora, Illinois territory, and provides opportunities for academic advancement to approximately 5,600 degree-seeking students. There are over 40 undergraduate majors from which students are able to select, including an on-campus Bachelor of Science in Nursing or an online RN to BSN degree completion program. Nursing students get individualized attention thanks to small class sizes and the university features state-of-the-art education facilities to ensure its students receive the best nursing education possible. With a competitive application process designed to assemble a group of highly competent and motivated students, the BSN boasts an impressive 97 percent first-attempt NCLEX pass rate for program graduates. Traditional applicants will work through 40 prerequisite credit hours in preparation for entry into the BSN program, but alternate routes are available to qualifying students.

Practicing nurses who have completed an associate degree in nursing may be eligible for AU's fully online RN to BSN program. Due to the popularity of the nursing program, AU offers bi-annual application periods, allowing any applicants to continue working towards their education goal without spending too much time waiting to apply. Much of AU's nursing coursework focuses on balancing theoretical knowledge with practical, in-person clinical experience. For instance, one of the primary goals of clinical practice at AU is to develop a student's professionalism and flexibility, helping to prepare graduates for employment in a surgical, critical care, psychiatric and other medical settings/situations.

While on-campus nursing students may become part of a closely knit community of medical peers, they will also play a role in the thriving campus culture that characterizes Aurora learning. More than 60 groups and organizations are hosted through Aurora, with interests ranging from literary analysis to community outreach.

9 University of Northern Colorado Greeley, CO 97.80 $6,024 1 69% 18:1 46% no yes yes

For nearly 130 years, the University of Northern Colorado has been supplying Greeley and Colorado residents with quality education. Since opening, UNC has grown into a global institution with students from around the world enrolling in its degree programs. One of the bright spots of UNC's academic history is their nursing program. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, all of its nursing degrees are structured with holistic nursing in mind. Most of the nursing students at UNC are in an undergraduate program. The most common option is the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a traditional program that prepares students to take the NCLEX upon graduation. Another undergraduate degree option is the 2nd degree for a BSN, which is designed for students that have already earned a bachelor's degree in another field but want to extend their education to nursing. This option is available both on-campus or online. But one important undergraduate program of note is their RN to BSN degree. Registered nurses are eligible for this part-time program, and can complete it entirely online. This allows current RNs to continue working while still pursuing a bachelor's degree.

Along with its undergraduate programs, the University of Northern Colorado also offers nursing graduate degrees, all of which can be completed entirely online. Degrees are offered at both the master's and doctoral levels. These degrees often take two or three years to complete, but this is largely dependent on how much time students are able to commit to their classes. Each program is meant to be flexible since many students continue to work while earning a graduate degree.

10 Clarkson College Omaha, NE 97.78 $11,016 5 68% 13:1 46% yes yes yes

Before Clarkson College became a college, it was the first nursing school in Nebraska. Since opening in 1888, the nursing school has garnered national attention for its quality education that prepares students for the nursing profession. The school offers a handful of degree options to train and educate aspiring and current nurses, even those with no prior nursing education or working experience.

At the undergraduate level, students have the option to pursue a traditional BSN, which is ideal for those without any nursing experience, an LPN to BSN for licensed practical nurses who want to boost their career and salary potential by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a 100 percent online RN to BSN degree for licensed registered nurses who hold a diploma or associate degree in nursing. For those seeking more advancement, graduate degrees are also available, such as the online RN to MSN, online MSN which can be completed part- or full-time or an MS with a specialization in Nurse Anesthesia (the only such program in the Omaha area). A Doctor of Nursing Practice is also available online and consists of 31 credit hours. All degrees are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the MS with a specialization in Nurse Anesthesia is also accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs.

Some of the unique characteristics that set Clarkson College apart from other nursing schools are its small class sizes with personalized attention, start dates in the fall, spring and summer, and its Gateway to Success Minority Nursing Scholarship, which is a scholarship program open to Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black/African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander students who plan to enroll in the BSN program full time.

11 East Carolina University Greenville, NC 97.60 $3,959 6 48% 18:1 56% no yes yes

Nursing students who are interested in working with elderly patients can find a strong program to develop their skills at East Carolina University. At this college, geriatric health care is a priority area of study at the undergraduate and graduate level, as seniors over 65 are a rapidly growing population in the state of North Carolina.

For students interested in more general nursing studies or other areas of the field, East Carolina offers graduate degrees in nursing and nursing certificates entirely online. The college also has an RIBN program which aims to enhance preparation for and increase diversity in the nursing workforce. Students in this program are allowed to attend their local community college while taking online classes at East Carolina. This track provides students with a less expensive, more flexible way to earn a BSN in the same amount of time as full-time East Carolina students earning their bachelor degree in nursing. Current licensed, registered nurses can enroll in East Carolina's RN to BSN academic program, which allows students to apply previous work experience towards an undergraduate degree.

Students enrolled in any of the nursing degree programs learn basic nursing tasks in the college's Concepts Integration Labs, which provide practical hands-on experience in a setting that is as close to real world as possible. Practicing nursing faculty in North Carolina can prepare to teach other nursing students through East Carolina's online Nursing Education Educator Development program. The college has won awards and acknowledgement of program excellence from the National League for Nursing and the National Student Nurses Association. East Carolina University has a pass rate of 95 percent or higher among first-time NCLEX test-takers.

East Carolina supports nursing students through various student organizations, such as the Multicultural Student Nurse Association and the Beta Nu Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. On-campus nursing students may choose to live in the Future Pirate Nurse Living and Learning Village, which connects 25-30 nursing majors through roommate assignments and freshmen classes.

12 Angelo State University San Angelo, TX 97.51 $3,760 2 59% 19:1 30% no yes yes

Angelo State University offers undergraduate, graduate and continuing education nursing programs that are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Most nursing degrees are campus-based. For example, students seeking a Bachelor of Science in Nursing must attend classes on-campus, but some required courses may be available online. In 2017, over 90 percent of the Angelo State graduates who took the NCLEX-RN exam for the first time passed.

Angelo State offers an online MSN for aspiring family nurse practitioners, as well as a nurse educator master's degree. Nurses who already have their master's, can pursue an online graduate certificate to specialize in a particular area. Options available at the school are family nurse practitioner and nurse educator. Although ASU's MSN is offered online, students are still required to complete clinical work in-person. The same goes for campus-based students - while the college has a cutting-edge simulation lab to teach practical nursing tasks, students are also required to engage with real patients in clinical settings to develop necessary interpersonal skills. ASU has a long list of facilities where students can complete their clinical studies, but students can request to work in a specific health agency before they begin working with a preceptor to finish their clinical requirements.

After completing a nursing program, graduates have access to the college's career development office and can work in settings that range from hospitals and clinics to military nursing. The college has a nursing honor society for undergraduate and graduate students, and for professionals committed to nurse leadership. Members of this society can network with fellow nurses and gain access to research and career opportunities.

13 Western Carolina University Cullowhee, NC 97.50 $3,669 2 69% 16:1 51% yes yes yes

Founded in 1889 as a teaching college, Western Carolina University educates more than 10,000 students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The school offers dozens of programs across a variety of subjects, but is a particularly attractive choice for nursing students.

Ninety six percent of WCU's undergraduate nursing students pass the NCLEX-RN exam, and that number jumps to a full 100 percent when it comes to the FNP Board exam and the CNRA Board exam. Undergrads can choose a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing or pursue an RN to BSN degree, an accelerated BSN or the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) program, which splits students' time between WCU and a regional community college so the student can seamlessly earn an associate to baccalaureate degree. The school also provides instruction at the graduate and doctoral levels. Options include MSN tracks in family nurse practitioner, which requires 51-52 semester hours and 640 hours of clinical work; nurse educator, a three-year program that requires 38-39 semester hours; and nursing leadership, which consists of 40-41 semester hours. Post-MSN students can pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

There are also three options for distance learners, which is completed 100 percent online - RN to BSN, MSN Nurse Educator and MSN Nurse Leadership. The MSN nurse educator and MSN nurse leadership programs are delivered online, but require some in-person practicum work in the student's local area. All online programs are fully accredited and most coursework is delivered through the Blackboard learning system. Online students receive the same student support services as their on-campus counterparts, including library services, career services, tutoring, advising, counseling and tech support.

Special scholarships are available for nursing students, including the Christopher Thomas Cash Scholarship, the Sharon Jacques Nursing Scholarship, the Judy Moore Memorial Scholarship and the Nurse Corps Scholarship Program. There as are also a wide range of clubs and groups for nurses, including Sigma Theta Tau International, which is the international honor society of nursing, the Association of Nursing Students and Nurses Christian Fellowship. There are also several nursing-specific alumni groups and professional and external organizations.

14 Emporia State University Emporia, KS 97.22 $4,500 1 74% 18:1 41% no yes yes

With history dating back to 1861, Emporia State University was the very first public education institution in the state of Kansas. Nursing students can take can take advantage of its four-year baccalaureate program, which requires 128 credit hours to complete. Generally, students earn their bachelor of science degree three years after they enter the major in their sophomore year. To be admitted to the BSN program, applicants must complete 30 credit hours of prerequisite courses with at least a 2.5 GPA, take the pre-admission Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) test and successfully complete the TOEFL iBT (non-native English speaking students only). There are several tracks, including RN, LPN and RN to BSN. Regardless of the chosen track, clinical experience is emphasized and students will have access to patient simulation labs, a dedicated nursing library, computer labs and clinical sites. Upon graduation, students will be qualified to take the NCLEX-RN to enter the workforce or move on to graduate studies.

Emporia State provides nursing students with a range of support resources and specialized clubs, including the Emporia State University Kansas Association of Nursing Students, the National Student Nurses Association and the Emporia State University Men in Nursing club.

Students also have access to a variety of services, including health, insurance, pharmacy and outreach. Internships, career counseling and job placement services are also available, as are diversity programs, recreational services, registration and financial aid services. All students will have access to academic counseling, help with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as psychological counseling. Finally, the TRiO program provides tutoring, help with financial aid, personal counseling and the Chi Alpha Epsilon Honor Society.

15 King University Bristol, TN 97.07 $24,316 1 86% 16:1 52% yes yes yes

King University is a private, Presbyterian-affiliated Christian university in Bristol, Tennessee that's home to nearly 3,000 campus-based and online students. In addition to bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in nursing that are offered at the school's brick-and-mortar campus, King University also has online degrees for nurses.

The RN to BSN degree, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, requires 48 semester hours and is designed for RNs currently working in the field who have either a nursing diploma or an associate's degree. Applicants need to have a state of Tennessee or multi-state license to be considered for enrollment. Because the program was designed with working nurses in mind, all classes are available asynchronously, meaning students can view coursework at their own convenience. They will, however, need to take part in some clinical practicums and community service assignments, which must be completed at an approved medical facility. Program administrators will work with online students to find an appropriate site near their home.

KU recognizes that nurses are busy, so the program is accelerated to make it easier for them to get in and out of school quickly. Most students finish the degree in 16 months. To be considered for admission, applicants need to have a minimum 3.0 GPA in previous coursework and a transcript showing that they've completed classes in anatomy and physiology I & II, microbiology, and statistics with a "C” grade or better. The school's most recent graduating class had an NCLEX pass rate of 85 percent.

For graduate students, KU offers an online MSN program with two concentration areas - nurse educator and administrator. Required courses will depend on the selected concentration, but both can typically be completed in five semesters. This online program is taught in a cohort format so all students will move through coursework together. This helps ensure students reach all learning outcomes and have peer-to-peer interaction and support throughout their studies.

16 Tennessee Technological University Cookeville, TN 96.56 $6,168 1 43% 19:1 51% no yes yes

As a public college that caters to undergraduate and graduate students, Tennessee Tech - as it's known locally - appeals to degree seekers living within the state as well as those around the country. The school has more than 10,000 students currently enrolled and continues to expand its online offerings.

The Whitson-Hester School of Nursing is home to a number of well-regarded programs, including an accelerated bachelor of nursing (BSN), regular BSN, RN to BSN, RN to MSN and a standard MSN degree. The online RN to MSN bridge program is specifically designed for students who completed a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field and now want to enter the nursing profession. In addition to core classes, learners can also elect to complete a family nurse practitioner, nursing education or nursing administration concentration. Required hours range from 36 to 46 credits, depending on the concentration chosen.

All of the classes are made available online, and the only requirements that can't be completed via the school's distance learning platform are the clinical experiences. Administrators at Tennessee Tech work with students individually to find an approved healthcare facility near their home to minimize travel.

Tennessee Tech is unique in its offerings because it works with other schools to offer an extended range of class options. The school maintains partnerships with Austin Peay State University, Tennessee State University and The University of Memphis to ensure learners have many courses to choose from.

Degree seekers are admitted each year during the spring, summer and fall semesters. The program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. One of the ways Tennessee Tech maintains its accreditation is by having an average NCLEX pass rate of 97 percent for the previous three graduating classes of RNs.

Students concerned about funding will be pleased to know that both financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify. In addition to having access to program administrators, online students also benefit from a virtual bookstore, library, tutoring services and a technology helpdesk.

17 Lander University Greenwood, SC 96.53 $9,538 2 49% 14:1 52% yes yes yes

Founded in 1872, Lander University is one of the smallest public universities in South Carolina with just under 3,000 students. This makes it a great choice for anyone looking for an affordable education in a close-knit environment. With Lander University's student-to-faculty ratio of around 17 to 1, students are able to receive personalized attention from their professors. But despite its small size, Lander University has over 60 areas of study, including nursing.

Lander University's William Preston Turner School of Nursing offers both undergraduate and graduate nursing degree options. These programs are fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and provide excellent preparation for the requisite nursing certification exam. For example, in the last five years, 95 percent of the college's nursing graduates have passed the NCLEX-RN.

At the undergraduate level, registered nurses who already have a diploma or associate degree can enroll in the RN to BSN degree option. This program is largely online and is approved by the State Board of Nursing for South Carolina. Classes can be accessed anytime online and clinical experiences can be completed close to home. An on-campus orientation is also mandatory for all online students the week before classes start. To graduate from this nursing program, at least 30 of the 126 required semester hours must be obtained through Lander University coursework. A minimum of 12 semester hours in nursing courses at the university is also required.

For those seeking a graduate degree, the university offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Clinical Nurse Leadership program. This degree is also available online, but like the RN to BSN program, there are in-person clinical requirements, which can be completed close to the student's home location. This program is ideal for nurse generalists who want to advance their career and take on more of a leadership/management role.

Regardless of which program prospective students choose, they will have the option to complete a variety of nursing electives online. These classes will allow nursing students to specialize in a particular area, such as health care management or in an unrelated, but still useful academic discipline, such as a foreign language.

18 University of Memphis Memphis, TN 96.51 $7,056 2 40% 14:1 44% yes yes yes

The University of Memphis was founded in 1909 and first opened its doors to students in 1912. Of the approximately 20,000 individuals that comprise its undergraduate and graduate student body, over 1,000 are enrolled in the university's Loewenberg College of Nursing (LCON).

LCON offers nursing instruction at its primary campus in Memphis, as well as its Lambuth Campus in Jackson and online. Nursing students can choose from a range of programs, including the traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and BSN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs. However, LCON also offers other options, both online and on-campus. For students who want a BSN as quickly as possible, there's the Accelerated BSN program, which allows students who already have a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field to earn their BSN in just 18 months. If that's not fast enough, there's the RN-BSN program for registered nurses who already have a nursing diploma or associate degree. It consists of 31 credits and is available 100 percent online through the university's web-based instructional program, eCourseware. Full-time RN-BSN students can obtain their bachelor's in as little as 12 months.

When it comes to MSN programs, students with a BSN can choose from three specialty concentrations: nursing administration, nursing education and family nurse practitioner. Students who are already registered nurses can enroll in LCON's RN to MSN program, which is available online through Regents Online Campus Collaborative.

As a general rule, LCON applicants must already be admitted into the University of Memphis. However, one exception is the Freshman Pre-Admission to the BSN Program, where high school seniors can be pre-admitted. These students will officially enter LCON during the second semester of their sophomore year, although earlier entry is possible based on Advanced Placement or dual enrollment credits.

19 Texas Woman's University Denton, TX 96.40 $5,650 4 43% 18:1 41% no yes yes

In 1901, when the 27th Texas Legislature first created Texas Woman's University (TWU), it was known as Girls Industrial College and only admitted female students. Today, TWU admits men, but it's still one of the largest institutions in the United States that's primarily for female students.

TWU's College of Nursing offers undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as certification programs. Prospective students seeking a bachelor's degree can choose from a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or an RN-BS degree path. The latter is ideal for those who already have a nursing diploma or associate degree. Coursework in the RN-BS program is completely online, with clinical requirements met through class and capstone projects overseen by a preceptor.

For nursing professionals who already have a bachelor's degree but want specialized education and training in informatics, TWU offers an online Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Interprofessional Informatics where students learn about technology-based health promotion, telehealth and data application.

At the graduate level, students have an even larger selection to choose from, including nursing education, nursing health systems management, Doctor of Nursing Practice and PhD in Nursing Science. Many of these graduate-level programs can be finished mostly or completely online.

Nursing students who want to attend school on-campus can do so in Dallas, Denton and Houston. These traditional students enjoy personalized attention from their professors since almost half of all classes have fewer than 20 students. And after graduation, students should be prepared to pass the NCLEX licensing exam. Historically, over 90 percent of TWU graduates pass the exam on the first try, notably higher than the average national first-time passage rate of around 85 percent.

TWU's nursing program prides itself on faculty and student research. Students can participate in research projects in areas such as women's health, health systems management and nurse education.

20 Towson University Towson, MD 96.40 $6,004 4 35% 17:1 65% yes yes yes

First founded to train teachers in 1866, Towson University is now the largest university in the Baltimore area with over 20,000 students. Those students can choose from over 100 graduate and undergraduate degree programs. Towson University's Department of Nursing, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, trains students to deliver excellent health care to individuals, families and communities.

Undergraduate students can choose from an Associate-to-Bachelor's (ATB) Nursing Dual Enrollment program, the traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and the RN to BS in nursing bridge program. The RN to BS is best suited for those who already have real world experience as a registered nurse and want to increase their career and salary potential with a bachelor's degree. In the ATB dual enrollment program students enroll in a partnering Maryland Community College and work toward an associate degree in nursing while also enrolling in Towson University to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. These students attend classes year round, but can earn both degrees in about 2.5 years.

Admission into Towson University does not guarantee admission into the nursing program. Students are eligible to apply to the nursing school if they have completed at least 42 units, including three laboratory science prerequisites. Prospective nursing students will also need a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00.

Towson University's Nursing Department offers two graduate-level programs. First is the Nursing Education Post-Baccalaureate Certificate. This program is designed for nurses who already have a bachelor's degree but desire further training to become a nursing instructor. Next, there's the Master of Science in nursing, which is administered in a hybrid on-campus/online format. Students can expect one week of on-campus classwork followed by one week of online assignments. Another unique characteristic about the MS nursing program is that it's the only full-time graduate nursing cohort program in Maryland. Residents of Wisconsin who aren't already enrolled in an in-person course at Towson University should note that the college is not authorized to offer online courses/programs in Wisconsin.

21 University of South Alabama Mobile, AL 96.24 $6,888 1 58% 20:1 33% no yes yes

The University of South Alabama (USA) started with humble beginnings in 1963. When USA was founded, it didn't have a campus on which to hold classes. Today, USA offers approximately 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across nine schools and colleges, including the USA College of Nursing.

USA's College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and offers several traditional and online nursing programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. It also offers post-graduate certificates which are designed for RNs with a graduate degree who want to practice a new specialty or subspecialty. A few examples of available program pathways include the traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), RN to BSN, accelerated BSN, online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and MSN to DNP. Examples of available post-graduate certificates are palliative care, executive nurse administrator, nursing informatics and women's health nurse practitioner. These represent just a handful of program options for prospective nursing students at USA.

While the school's doctoral nursing programs are all offered online, some of its BSN programs consist of in-person clinical requirements. These requirements, however, can be completed close to the student's home. For certain programs, such as the RN to BSN, students never have to travel to the USA campus in Mobile, Alabama. For graduate level online programs, traveling to Mobile may be necessary. For instance, in the BSN to DNP degree pathway, once online coursework is complete, students must come to campus to for the classroom evaluation portion of the curriculum.

Admission requirements for each program vary greatly, given the different points in which students may enter. For example, the College of Nursing has an early acceptance program for high school seniors, where applicants must have at least a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale. Contrast this with the RN to BSN/MSN pathway, where incoming students must have at least a cumulative GPA of 3.0 for all college courses ever taken.

22 East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN 96.22 $6,312 3 15% 17:1 41% yes yes yes

East Tennessee State University (ETSU) began in 1911 as a small school for training teachers. Today it has grown into one of the largest post-secondary institutions in Tennessee, with approximately 14,000 students. ETSU's College of Nursing is a leader in nursing education at all degree levels, and students can choose from over 10 programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

In addition to the traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, ETSU's College of Nursing offers the following undergraduate options: the Accelerated 2nd Degree BSN, Dual Degree, RN-BSN, LPN-BSN and ETSU/HVMC Accelerated Program. The RN-BSN program is intended for individuals who are already registered nurses and is delivered completely online in a full-time or part-time course load.

At the graduate level, students can choose from various masters, doctoral and certificate programs, most of which are available at least partially online. For example, the Doctor of Nursing Practice is offered in a blended online and classroom format while the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is 100 percent online. After completing their degree, students can expect to be ready for their desired graduate-level certifications. For example, graduates of ETSU's MSN program pass the PMHNP and FNP Certifications at a rate of 100 percent and 90.1 percent, respectively.

Over half of ETSU's nursing faculty members possess doctoral degrees and rely on their many years of experience to guide their lessons. As a result, graduates pass the NCLEX-RN at a rate just under 95 percent, well above the national average. One of the reasons for the success of its graduates is the emphasis the College of Nursing places on hands-on learning. The College runs nine nurse-led clinics throughout rural Tennessee, which not only provide real world experience for its nursing students, but also provide much-needed medical services to local communities. For more controlled hands-on training, the College of Nursing has a Sim Lab and Skills Lab, which provide instruction in safe, simulated environments.

23 Midwestern State University Wichita Falls, TX 96.15 $5,012 4 68% 18:1 44% yes yes yes

Founded in 1922 and located in Wichita Falls, Midwestern State University (MSU) supports a student body of just over 6,000 students. Despite this relatively small student population, MSU has over 75 undergraduate and graduate programs, including several nursing degrees through its Wilson School of Nursing, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The Wilson School of Nursing offers three undergraduate programs: the traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), RN-BSN and ACCEL-RN. The RN-BSN program is 100 percent online and consists of 27 credits, with courses offered year round. Given the flexibility in the course work, students can expect to complete their degree program in just three semesters. The ACCEL-RN is ideal for those who want a career in nursing and already hold a bachelor's degree or higher in a non-nursing field. Because incoming ACCEL-RN students already have at least a bachelor's degree, they're able to earn a BSN in 15 months. For graduate-level education, Wilson School of Nursing has a post-graduate certificate and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. The MSN program allows students to pursue one of three specialties - family nurse practitioner, nurse educator and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. These specialties are also available as post-graduate certificates for those who already have an MSN degree.

BSN applicants must have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA and must have obtained at least a "C” grade in all core and prerequisite courses. Getting into the MSN or post-graduate certificate program requires at least a 3.0 GPA in the most recent 60 credit hours of undergraduate work. Graduate applicants must also have a BSN and be a registered nurse in good standing.

24 Wichita State University Wichita, KS 96.00 $5,869 1 74% 18:1 46% yes yes yes

Wichita State University (WSU) began academic instruction in 1895. Back then, Wichita was still a relatively new city, recognized for less than 30 years. Today, Wichita is the largest city in Kansas with a population of over 600,000. In keeping with that large population size, WSU educates over 14,000 students at any one time. WSU is comprised of six academic departments or colleges, including the WSU College of Health Professions, of which the School of Nursing is a part. The School of Nursing started in 1970 and has been continuously accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (and its predecessor, the National League of Nursing) since 1973. The School of Nursing offers both graduate and undergraduate programs.

Undergraduates can choose from six Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs, including the traditional BSN, Accelerated BSN, LPN to BSN and Mobile Intensive Care Technician to BSN. The accelerated program allows students to obtain their BSN in just 13 months. At the graduate level, students have two programs to choose from - Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The MSN program has two areas of specialization available - Nursing Education and Nursing Leadership and Administration. The DNP program offers two potential educational paths - one for students with an MSN degree who are certified Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) and another for those with a BSN who are registered nurses.

Prospective students interested in distance learning and who already have a nursing background can enroll in the RN to BSN or MSN to DNP online programs. Both these programs are self-paced, allowing Registered Nurses to obtain their BSN in as little as three semesters. Certified APRNs (who already have their MSN degree) can receive their DNP credentials in as few as two years while specializing in one of these four areas: Adult/Gero Clinical Nurse Specialist, Adult/Gero Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (NP), Family NP or Psychiatric/Mental Health NP.

25 Washington State University Pullman, WA 95.95 $10,874 2 59% 15:1 65% no yes yes

Washington State University (WSU) has been around since 1890. Over the following century and beyond, the school grew to a total enrollment that now exceeds 30,000 students. Despite such a large size, students still receive personalized attention - the student-to-faculty ratio is roughly 15 to 1. Since it serves so many students, it's no surprise that WSU offers almost 100 undergraduate majors and over 140 graduate degree programs, including options in nursing.

WSU's College of Nursing started in 1969 and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. It serves approximately 1,000 nursing students across five program sites, including Spokane, Walla Walla and Vancouver. WSU's College of Nursing is a state leader in educating nurses; in fact, about 60 percent of all BSN graduates in the state of Washington received their nursing education from one of the WSU College of Nursing locations.

At the undergraduate level, the College of Nursing offers two Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs. There is the Pre-Licensure BSN program for students who are already in college (WSU or transfer) and have completed the WSU general education and College or Nursing prerequisite requirements. For those who already have their registered nurse credentials, there is the RN-BSN degree-completion program. This is mostly online and can be completed in as little as one year. At the graduate level, students can choose from four master's degree program tracks, six doctoral degree paths (DNP or PhD) and six post-graduate certificate programs.

Currently, WSU does not offer any fully online nursing programs. However, many graduate level programs, as well as the RN-BSN program, are offered in a hybrid format. For those programs, the Academic Media Services system allows students to remotely engage and participate in live class lectures or watch a pre-recorded lecture at a time that's more convenient for the student. On-campus meetings are required and vary depending on the specific program. As an example, the RN-BSN requires one on-campus meeting per semester, which can take place on any of the five WSU College of Nursing sites. The school also arranges clinical experiences for its students at a variety of sites.

26 University of Southern Indiana Evansville, IN 95.84 $6,637 2 41% 18:1 37% yes yes yes

The University of Southern Indiana (USI) is a relatively new school, founded in 1965. But it's relatively young age doesn't mean it lacks in academic instruction or opportunity. USI has four colleges and over 100 areas of study, including nursing at the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

Those seeking a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree have two options to choose from. The first is the traditional BSN program, which consists of 120 credit hours and takes about four years to complete. The second is the RN to BSN Online program, which consists of 30 credit hours and can be completed in 14 months. At the graduate level, students can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), both of which are available online in a hybrid format. The MSN program gives students the option of focusing on one of seven specialty areas, such as Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (NP), Nursing Education (NED) and Family NP. These specializations are also available as standalone post-master's certificates. At the doctoral level, students can choose to obtain a DNP in one of two areas of concentration - Advanced Nursing Practice or Organizational and Systems Leadership.

In addition to providing diverse and flexible program options, the nursing program at USI produces graduates who are ready for certification. For example, since 2012, the lowest NCLEX pass rate for BSN graduates has been 96 percent, with three graduating classes obtaining a perfect 100 percent pass rate. One of the reasons for this high level of success is due to Dedicated Education Units (DEU). DEUs are the result of partnerships with two local area hospitals, in which an entire hospital unit and its staff are reserved for training nursing students. Nursing students get assigned one staff nurse for the entire clinical rotation. This provides continuity of instruction, which allows for more consistent teaching and more accurate identification of areas where students can improve.

27 University of North Alabama Florence, AL 95.59 $5,856 1 60% 21:1 35% no yes yes

Founded in 1830, the University of North Alabama (UNA) is Alabama's oldest public four-year university. One of four colleges at UNA, the Anderson College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and offers both Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree programs. The Anderson College of Nursing does a particularly good job of training registered nurses - in the third quarter of 2017, the school had a first-time NCLEX pass rate of 97.5 percent , much higher than the national average of 88.4 percent and the state average of 90.8 percent.

At the bachelor's level, students can choose the traditional BSN program, which consists of 125 credit hours and typically takes four years to complete. For students who want to earn their BSN faster, the accelerated BSN option takes 16 months to complete and begins each January. Entrants must already have a non-nursing bachelor's degree with a cumulative 3.0 GPA in the prior program or in prerequisite courses. For students without a bachelor's degree, but who are already registered nurses, there's the RN to BSN Online option. Coursework is completely online and can be completed in one year. In-person clinical requirements are necessary but can be completed close to the student's home. Regardless of which BSN path a student chooses, they may be eligible for financial assistance from Project OPEN, a grant program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services/Health Resources and Services Administration that's open to economically disadvantaged nursing students.

At the master's level, students have two degree paths, both completely online. First there's the traditional MSN degree for students with a BSN and registered nurse credentials in good standing. There are two specialties offered through the traditional MSN program - Nursing in Teaching-Learning Environments and Nursing Leadership in Organizational Environments. Second, there's the RN to MSN Online option for students without a BSN. This program requires students to first apply and enroll in the RN to BSN program. After completing at least 12 hours of nursing courses, students meet with an advisor about transitioning to the RN to MSN option.

28 Indiana Wesleyan University Marion, IN 95.59 $24,102 8 43% 15:1 71% yes yes yes

Founded in 1920, Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) is a private university affiliated with the Wesleyan Church. IWU has approximately 13,000 total students, with about 2,000 of them attending IWU's School of Nursing. The School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. It offers numerous undergraduate, master's, doctoral and certificate programs and is divided into three divisions - pre-licensure, post-licensure and graduate nursing.

Students looking to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) have three degree paths to choose from. First, there's the traditional path for first-time college students without a nursing background. Second, there's the RN to BSN program for registered nurses without a BSN. For maximum flexibility, the RN to BSN program is available either on campus or 100 percent online. Third, there's the accelerated Transition to Nursing degree program, where entering students already have a bachelor's degree, but in a field other than nursing. This accelerated program allows students to receive their BSN in 14 months. Regardless of which program path a student takes, they will be ready to work as nurses upon graduation and licensure. For the past few years, IWU graduates pass the NCLEX exam at rates that surpass the national average.

There's even more variety available at the graduate level. Those looking for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) have multiple degree paths to choose from, including a dual MSN and MBA program, an associate degree to MSN program and a traditional MSN with specialization options in nursing administration, nursing education, primary care or psychiatric mental health nursing. Most of these MSN programs are offered in an blended format, meaning most classroom instruction is provided online, with on campus or on-site clinical requirements. At the doctoral level, there's the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with instruction also provided in a blended online and in-person teaching format. Finally, there are four post-master's certificate programs available in the same areas of specialization that are available to traditional MSN students.

29 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 95.37 $6,423 4 43% 14:1 90% no yes yes

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) was chartered in 1789, making it one of the oldest public universities in the United States. UNC's extensive history and tradition of academic excellence translates to a number of its schools and colleges, including the College of Nursing. Started in 1950, the College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The school trains about 600 graduate and undergraduate students at any one time and has a first-time NCLEX pass rate of 97 percent, far ahead of the national average for first-time test-takers.

A common degree path for aspiring nurses is the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and UNC offers two specific tracks in its program. One is the traditional track, which takes six semesters and the student enters during their sophomore year. The other is the accelerated track, which can be completed in four semesters and is designed for students who already have a non-nursing bachelor's degree. At the graduate level, students can obtain their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or a post-master's certificate. For students seeking online learning, the options are limited to professional development coursework, such as the Primary Care RN Certificate program.

Truly exceptional nursing students may apply for the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation. This program is limited to just six students who show vast potential in nursing research and leadership. The program puts them on an expedited nursing education track that allows them to get their BSN and PhD in seven years or less.

30 Fitchburg State University Fitchburg, MA 95.17 $970 1 42% 14:1 50% yes yes yes

Founded way back in 1894, Fitchburg State University (FSU) was originally a teacher-training institution for women and eventually became the first public university in Massachusetts to have a nursing program. FSU is now a co-educational institution, providing academic instruction to its student body of approximately 7,000 across 50 plus programs. Despite being a public university, FSU is able to provide personalized attention to its students, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 16 to 1. This extra attention is particularly helpful in hands-on areas of study, such as nursing.

FSU's Department of Nursing offers baccalaureate and master's degrees, all of which hold programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. For undergraduates without a nursing background, there's the traditional BSN degree path. But for those with an associate degree in nursing, there's the RN to BS in Nursing and the LPN to BS in Nursing programs, the former of which can be completed in one year and is available almost completely online, with the exception of two clinical practicum courses. The latter is for Licensed Practical Nurses and is not available online. However, an accelerated curriculum is available and students may attend classes in the evening.

Many BSN graduates have had great success after graduation - the school has maintained a first-time NCLEX pass rate of 95 percent for the last several years. Students seeking a Master of Science in Nursing can do so completely online and specialize in the area of forensic nursing. Those who want to learn more about forensic nursing but already have an MSN degree can enroll in the forensic nursing graduate certificate program, which is also available 100 percent online and consists of 21 credits.

31 Georgia Southwestern State University Americus, GA 95.03 $3,792 1 37% 17:1 36% yes yes yes

Georgia Southwestern State University (GSSU) began in 1906 as an agricultural and mechanical school. In 1953, GSSU started its first nursing program, originally offering associate degrees in nursing. Today, approximately 3,000 students are enrolled online or at GSSU's Americus, Georgia campus where they can study in one of the five schools and colleges, including the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

The nursing programs at GSSU are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and offer multiple degree tracks for students seeking a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Those looking for a BSN can choose among four possible pathways - the traditional BSN, 2nd Degree BSN, LPN-BSN and RN-BSN. Each program option results in a BSN, but accommodates the different educational and professional backgrounds of incoming students, including those who are already practicing nurses and those who already have a non-nursing bachelor's degree. The RN-BSN program is particularly flexible because all the coursework is completely online and students can arrange their own in-person clinicals close to home. This allows registered nurses to obtain a BSN in as little as one year. But students can take longer if needed, as long as they are enrolled in at least one course per academic year. RN-BSN students may also speed things up through Prior Learning Assessments, which allow students to use prior experiences to replace certain required nursing classes.

For those looking to earn an MSN, the school offers four degree tracks - Nursing Educator, Nursing Leadership/Management, Nursing Informatics and Family Nurse Practitioner. There are also two graduate certificate options available. All graduate-level nursing programs are available 100 percent online. Finally, eligible GSSU nursing students who become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) might face less of a financial burden. Through the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce's APRN Loan Repayment Program, APRNs are eligible for up to a $10,000 repayment for each year (maximum of four years) they work in an underserved rural Georgia community.

32 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN 94.85 $8,216 2 64% 20:1 42% yes yes yes

Started in 1865, Indiana State University (ISU) is a public university located in Terre Haute, Indiana. The student body consists of about 13,500 students who can choose from more than 100 majors and at least 60 online programs, including those offered by the university's School of Nursing.

Started in 1963, the School of Nursing is accredited by Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and educates about 1,200 undergraduate and graduate nursing students. These degree programs are spread out among the Department of Advanced Practice Nursing, Department of Baccalaureate Nursing and Department of Baccalaureate Nursing Completion.

The Department of Advanced Practice Nursing is home to the School of Nursing's graduate degree programs, including Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and the following graduate certificates: MSN Outcomes/Competencies, Family Nurse Practitioner - Post MS and Nursing Education - Post MS. The Department of Baccalaureate Nursing is intended for those with no prior nursing credentials. Two tracks are available, including the traditional four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) track and the accelerated track for students who already have a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. Finally, for individuals with their Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) credentials who want to earn their BSN degree, the Department of Baccalaureate Nursing Completion offers LPN-BSN and RN-BSN tracks.

For students interested in distance learning, there are four online programs available. At the undergraduate level are the LPN/LVN to BSN and RN to BSN programs. At the graduate level there are the Nursing Education and Family Nurse Practitioner MSN programs. Only the LPN/LVN-BSN and RN-BSN programs are fully online, with both MSN programs having in-person clinical requirements, in addition to online coursework. However, no on-campus visits are required and clinicals can be completed in the students' home states, where they are licensed.

33 University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, IL 94.63 $11,564 2 67% 18:1 57% no yes yes

The beginning of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) can be traced back to the 1800s when private health colleges started in Chicago. Eventually these schools merged to form what would eventually become UIC. These health care roots can still be seen today in UIC's various health related colleges, such as the College of Applied Health Sciences, College of Dentistry, College of Medicine and the College of Nursing.

Located across six campuses - Chicago, Peoria, Quad Cities, Rockford, Springfield and Urbana - the College of Nursing is made up of about 1,300 students and its bachelor's, master's and Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Prospective nursing students have the following degree options: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Science degree in nursing (MS), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and various certificate programs. The college provides a degree comparison table to help students determine which program is the best fit.

Two programs of particular note at the College of Nursing are the RN-BSN Completion and Graduate Entry Master of Science programs. Students who are licensed registered nurses can apply to the RN-BSN Completion program, which is 100 percent online and has a 94 percent graduation rate. The Graduate Entry Master of Science Program is designed for students who already have a non-nursing bachelor's degree, but want to become registered nurses and practice as advanced generalists.

The RN-BSN Completion program is one of the few completely online nursing programs offered by the College of Nursing. Most graduate programs, including the Graduate Entry Master of Science Program, are offered in a hybrid online and in-person format. The School Nurse Certificate Program is also available online, with the only on-campus requirement being an initial orientation. However, students more than a three-hour drive from campus may attend the orientation virtually. Examples of other certificate programs include the Advanced Practice Palliative Care Nursing, Post-DNP Certificate and Women's Health Concentration, some of which also have online course components.

34 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Mount Vernon, OH 94.37 $15,845 1 100% 13:1 60% no yes yes

Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) is a small liberal arts university with a total enrollment of just over 2,000 students. MVNU is affiliated with the East Central Educational Region of the Church of the Nazarene and was founded in 1968. Despite its small size, MVNU offers over 100 academic programs, including programs that lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

MVNU's nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and consists of two BSN degree paths. The first is the traditional BSN program, which takes four years to complete. Curriculum consists of 94 credit hours plus 640 hours of hands-on experience through clinicals. The second option is the RN to BSN program, which consists of 43 credit hours and is intended for students who are already registered nurses and wish to advance their career by obtaining a BSN. To better accommodate the busy schedules of students who are already working in the nursing field, RN to BSN requirements may be completed one course at a time, with the course meeting only one night a week. To become admitted into the RN to BSN program, applicants must be registered nurses in good standing with the Ohio Board of Nursing and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale for all prior college coursework. To help pay for their nursing education, students may apply for one of five Ariel Foundation awards that go to two juniors and three seniors each year. There are also many endowment funded scholarships available.

While MVNU's nursing program does not have online nursing programs available, many of the general education courses can be completed fully online. The courses are available to students who are still in high school but eligible to take college courses through the state of Ohio's Dual Enrollment program.

35 Columbus State University Columbus, GA 94.33 $4,078 1 11% 17:1 31% yes yes yes

Established in 1958, Columbus State University (CSU) is a public university with an enrollment of approximately 8,200 students. Despite its size, CSU maintains student-focused instruction with a student-to-faculty ratio of 17 to 1. CSU offers more than 80 academic programs through seven colleges and schools, including the School of Nursing.

The School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and offers the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree options. Students opting for a BSN can choose from the traditional degree path, which takes four years to complete, or the RN-BSN option, which takes only 12 months to finish. The RN-BSN is designed for those who already have their registered nurse credentials and an associate degree in nursing. Courses are available 100 percent online and only last seven weeks to better accommodate the busy schedules of working nurses. However, there are clinical requirements, which may be completed at a qualified health care facility close to the student's home or place of employment.

For those looking for an MSN degree, there are four tracks to choose from - Nurse Educator, Nurse Leader, Nurse Informatics and Family Nurse Practitioner. All MSN programs are online, although most of them contain in-person clinical or on-campus requirements. The MSN program is offered through a collaborative effort between Columbus State University and Georgia Southwestern University, which are both accredited. To be admitted, applicants must have a BSN from a regionally accredited university and nationally accredited nursing program, a minimum GPA of 3.0, a current RN license in good standing and three letters of recommendation. Programs consist of 36-38 credit hours.

The school also has a study abroad program for those who are able to travel during spring break. Students spend the week in Ireland, exploring and gaining global insight on international health care organizations.

36 Georgia College and State University Milledgeville, GA 93.90 $6,970 3 9% 17:1 61% yes yes yes

Georgia College and State University (now commonly referred as Georgia College) is a public liberal arts university located in Milledgeville, Georgia that can trace its roots back to 1889. Georgia College and State University (GCSU) consists of four colleges, including the College of Health and Science, which contains GCSU's School of Nursing.

The School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and offers the following degrees and programs: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and graduate certificates. Students interested in the BSN program have two paths to choose from. Those without nursing credentials can enroll in the traditional BSN degree program, which has a first-time NCLEX pass rate of 95 percent. The second is the RN-BSN option for those who are already registered nurses with associate nursing degrees. This degree path is fully online, except for one elective class, which is in the process of being converted into a fully online course.

Those seeking graduate instruction can work toward their MSN, DNP or post-master graduate certificates. Certificates are available in the following specializations: Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. All graduate programs are offered in a hybrid format. However, even though they are not fully online, the majority of curriculum is available via distance learning.

Nursing students don't have to spend all their time in a classroom or participating in a local clinical. GCSU offers a number of study abroad programs for nursing students who are able to travel. Examples of study abroad locations are Tanzania, Honduras and Australia. While abroad, students focus on honing their health care skills by providing care to local populations. BSN students who prefer to stay closer to home or are unable to travel can team up with with faculty members to conduct undergraduate research on topics that can improve evidence-based nursing practices.

37 Winona State University Winona, MN 93.77 $6,860 5 45% 20:1 56% yes yes yes

Winona State University in Minnesota has been educating nurses for 50 years. The school's bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees provide a range of opportunities for students to earn their nursing credentials and increase their knowledge. Winona's nursing scholarships help ensure students can focus more on becoming qualified RNs and less on financial stressors.

Winona's Bachelor of Science in Nursing pre-licensure program is a four-year, on-campus degree path for students with no prior nursing education or licensure. The first four semesters are spent completing general education and prerequisite courses. During their fourth semester, students apply to the nursing program. However, Winona gives students the opportunity to submit a Preferred Admission Contract (PAC) during the first two weeks of their first semester. Those who submit the PAC and meet certain academic criteria get priority consideration for admission. Once admitted, students' last four semesters are dedicated to nursing studies. Courses may have to be completed between Winona's main campus and the campus in Rochester. Clinical hours are also subject to take place at one campus or the other.

Winona State has a somewhat different approach to clinical hours, called the Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) model. Through partnerships between the nursing department and various clinical agencies in the area, Winona students can complete clinical hours multiple days a week and take on various types of shifts, such as night shifts and doubles. The DEU provides specialized training and constructive feedback to nursing students so they are better prepared for the working world. The DEU model aligns with the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education's accreditation standards.

For licensed nurses who want to earn a bachelor's degree, Winona offers an RN to BS Completion program. Hybrid and online classes are available for this 30-credit degree, which can be taken either full- or part-time. RNs also have the option to earn a graduate degree through Winona's RN to Graduate Nursing Pathway. Students are required to take 120 bachelor-level credits and either 43 to 54 master's credits or 72 doctoral credits, depending on the graduate degree sought.

Graduate certificates and standard Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees are also available. Courses are online, hybrid or on-campus, and students can choose from a range of specialty programs, such as Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner or Nursing Leadership.

Winona's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and approved by the Minnesota Board of Nursing.

38 University of West Georgia Carrollton, GA 93.57 $4,080 1 8% 20:1 43% no yes yes

The University of West Georgia (UWG) lists ‘caring' among its university-wide values. This trait is evident in the structure of its nursing program, which awards degrees at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels. Not only does the university's Tanner Health System School of Nursing integrate hands-on practice in developing caring attitudes into its nursing degree programs, it also acknowledges that self-care is an important part of being an effective nurse. Whether nursing students work on their bedside manner in the Experiential Learning Center or take a moment for personal reflection in the Santa Rosa Labyrinth, they have the opportunity to experience UWG's Quality Caring Framework firsthand.

West Georgia offers two tracks for those pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), both of which are accredited by the Georgia Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The pre-licensure BSN is an on-campus program designed to prepare students who don't have nursing licenses to sit for the NCLEX-RN. The program is available at UWG's Carrollton and Newnan campuses, but students should note that Carrollton's pre-licensure degree is a six-semester program, whereas Newnan's takes eight. While the Newnan program can be taken part-time, classes are mostly midweek and during the day. The RN to BSN program is for those who are already licensed RNs and want to gain a liberal arts education and a deeper understanding of the art and science of nursing. Many, but not necessarily all, BSN core classes are available online. All nursing-specific classes are fully online and asynchronous, giving the degree some flexibility.

At the graduate level, UWG offers a Master of Science in Nursing and a 60-credit hour Doctorate in Nursing Education (EdD). Both programs are 100 percent online with asynchronous classes. Master's students can choose between two tracks when earning their degrees - nursing education or health systems leadership. The nursing education track prepares students for a variety of educational settings, like college instruction, professional development and patient education. Curriculum development and innovation, use of educational technology and educational assessment are addressed in this track. The health systems leadership track is geared toward those who want to become nurse managers and leaders or clinical nurse leaders (CNLs). It focuses on management of care and care facilities. Students gain skills and knowledge ranging from pharmacology and client-care coordination to business and economics.

Students pursuing bachelor's and master's degrees should keep in mind that they must first apply to UWG before applying to its nursing school. While working through the application process, prospective students can check out the nursing scholarships UWG has to offer.

39 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Belton, TX 93.27 $21,840 1 95% 19:1 47% no yes yes

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) in Belton, Texas is home to the Scott and White College of Nursing, which aims to prepare students to become excellent nurses and community servants who conduct themselves according to Christian principles.

UMHB offers a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree as well as an RN to BSN for students who already have their RN credential. About a quarter of the nursing school's bachelor students are adult learners with educational backgrounds outside of nursing, which creates a diverse academic environment and an opportunity to share broad knowledge and experience. The BSN is a campus-based program that consists of 124 credit hours. Curriculum is a mix of general education courses, liberal arts studies and nursing education. Students also receive hands-on experience and an NCLEX prep course. In the 2016-2017 academic year, 90 percent of UMHB nursing students passed the NCLEX on the first take.

The RN to BSN degree is offered through UMHB's MyWay, an online competency-based program. Since the program is based on competencies, students don't enroll in traditional courses like Human Anatomy and Physiology II; instead, they demonstrate proficiency in areas such as care planning and intervention evaluation. Students pay a flat rate, and for six months, they can complete as many competencies as they want and are able. All required clinical hours can be completed at students' own workplaces. A bachelor's degree is awarded upon completion of all competencies and clinical hours.

A hybrid program is available at the master's degree level. Students can tailor their MS in Nursing by pursuing one of three tracks of study: Nurse Educator, Clinical Nurse Leader or Family Nurse Practitioner. At the doctoral level, students can choose between a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and a Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in Leadership in Nursing Education. The DNP is a offered online but requires one on-campus class per month, while the Ed.D is a campus-based program comprised of five weekend meetings per semester.

While there are no departmental-specific scholarships for nursing students, over 90 percent of UMHB students receive some form of financial aid, and scholarships are available to nursing students through hospitals, nursing associations and other healthcare facilities and organizations.

40 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 93.16 $9,826 3 55% 24:1 67% yes yes yes

For the last 175 years, The University of Alabama has built a reputation around the world for providing quality education to students on its Tuscaloosa campus. And student who enroll in the school's distance programs also enjoy this same level of quality, as the coursework found in online programs mirrors the class content that students in traditional degree programs have come to expect. In addition, The University of Alabama caters its online programs to busy students-such as those who enroll in the RN to BSN program, which is designed for students who have earned an associate's degree in nursing and want to continue their education to advance in their careers and command higher salaries. In order to increase their knowledge and skills, registered nurses are required to take classes about nursing informatics, community health, evidence-based nursing practice, and healthcare leadership. In addition, core classes in mathematics, psychology, sociology, anatomy and physiology, history, and English composition are required.

The University of Alabama also offers graduate nursing degrees that allow professionals to become experts in a specific area of the field. For example, the school's MS in Nursing has psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner concentrations. In the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program, students are required to complete 42 credit hours and 525 hours of clinical work, which can generally be finished within five to eight semesters. Required curriculum covers advanced health assessment, mental health for rural families, advanced pharmacology, psychiatric treatment modalities, and advanced pathophysiology, which prepares students to take the national psychiatric-mental health certification exam. Also, students in this program have the option to complete a thesis. In the family nurse practitioner program, students take coursework in primary family care, advanced health assessment, pathophysiology, and pharmacology, which prepares them for the family nurse practitioner certification test. Students are required to complete 525 clinical hours and 40 credit hours.

Professionals who want to take supervisory positions can earn a doctoral degree from the school. The Doctor of Nursing Practice program prepares students for healthcare management with courses in health policy and politics, clinical data management, advanced nursing practice, and advanced informatics. The program, which takes two to three years to complete, also requires clinical work and a scholarly project.

41 Albany State University Albany, GA 93.09 $3,792 1 13% 18:1 42% yes yes yes

Albany State University, a historically black university based in Georgia, was founded on the principles of diversity, excellence, economic development, and expansive access to higher education. These principles have benefitted students across the spectrum of academic disciplines, from education to humanities to business to health sciences. And within the health field, prospective nurses can take advantage of the quality education the school provides through both graduate and undergraduate programs. For students beginning their education, there is an associate's degree program that lays the foundation for an entry-level nursing career. Students are required to complete general education courses in composition, government, psychology, and anatomy and physiology, as well as nursing classes about adult health, psychiatric nursing, nursing care for women and children, and pharmacology. This program is available in hybrid and on-campus formats. Also, practicing nurses can further their education through Albany State University's on campus RN to BSN program, which is available in regular and accelerated formats. Students in this program complete coursework in nursing research, healthcare leadership, health assessments, nursing informatics, and pathophysiology.

In addition, Albany State University offers online master's degree programs. Nurses who want to go on to train the next generation of professionals can enroll in the two-year nurse educator program. Students are required to complete 36 credits of coursework that cover areas such as instruction strategies and evaluation, nursing theory development, advanced research methods, curriculum development, and advanced pathophysiology and practice nursing. Also, students are required to complete a scholarly project where they explore a problem in the nursing field. Those who are interested in delivering advanced care can enroll in the family nurse practitioner program, which can be completed in two years. Coursework covers primary care for children and adults, advanced pharmacology, health communication, nursing theory, and issues in primary care.

42 University of Vermont Burlington, VT 92.76 $14,184 1 90% 15:1 76% no yes yes

With its clinical simulation laboratory and health network that includes a trauma center, children's hospital, and cancer center, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Vermont provides unique, hands-on experiences to students training to enter health-related careers. For those who enroll in the school's nursing programs, it means access to a quality education inside and outside of the classroom. On the undergraduate level, there is a bachelor's degree program that has a strong emphasis on disease prevention. Students in this program take nursing coursework in chronic and palliative care, microbiology, pathogenesis, public health nursing, and gerontology, as well as core classes in psychology, religious studies, English, and statistics. In addition, when students are in their junior year, they begin intensive clinical experiences that are conducted in an acute care setting. Also, the school offers an RN to BS program online, which allows those with a nursing associate's degree to take most of the program's courses online and come to campus for an intensive five-day simulation lab.

University of Vermont graduate students can enroll in the school's clinical nurse leader master's degree, which is a part-time program designed for working nurses to complete in about three-and-a-half years. Students complete 38.5 credit hours in areas such as advanced pharmacology, healthcare ethics and politics, financing of healthcare, and nursing science theory, as well as 420 clinical hours. In addition, during the last semester of the program, students are required to participate in a practicum. Those who are interested in earning a doctoral degree can enroll in the school's Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which can generally be completed by a full-time student within three-and-a-half years. Students can choose to pursue the program's gerontology track-which includes coursework in chronic and complex conditions, nursing practice for older adults, advanced neuropharmacology, clinical genetics, and healthcare financing-or the family nursing track that focuses on healthcare for women, pediatric nursing, advanced health assessment, and primary care for children and adolescents. Students in both programs are required to complete a comprehensive examination and a research project.

43 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA 92.35 $6,678 1 65% 15:1 70% no yes yes

Since its founding in 1898, the College of Nursing at the University of Iowa has trained prospective nurses to provide excellent clinical care to their patients. As a result of this dedication to quality care, the school has built a reputation that has culminated in being named one of the top schools for its pediatric nurse practitioner, nurse anesthesia, clinical nurse leader, and nursing service administration programs by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, the quality training the school provides has resulted in a 97.8 percent NCLEX pass rate among graduates.

With this track record, students can enroll in the University of Iowa's BSN program with confidence that they will receive the training they need to have a successful career. Curriculum includes coursework in community nursing, senior healthcare, pharmacological intervention, pathology, and gerontological nursing, as well as general education classes in social problems, rhetoric, chemistry, and biology. In addition, students participate in labs to learn how to deliver care in clinical and specialty contexts. Also, students who previously earned a nursing associate's degree or diploma can enroll in the school's RN-BSN program. Requirements include coursework that covers healthcare finance, public health nursing, pathology, human genetics, and patient safety practices. In addition, student must complete clinical experiences to graduate.

Nursing professionals can advance their education through the University of Iowa's online graduate programs, including the clinical nurse leader master's program. When students complete this degree, they will be able to participate in a systems review to improve patient care delivery, apply research-based techniques to patients' needs, act as an advocate for the nursing profession, and use data to improve patient outcomes. In addition, the school offers an online health systems doctoral program that produces student outcomes such as the ability to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to improve patient care, influence health policies, provide organizational leadership in the workplace, and examine healthcare research studies to evaluate their methodologies.

44 University of Saint Mary Leavenworth, KS 91.95 $23,750 1 96% 8:1 53% yes yes yes

The University of Saint Mary was founded in 1923 with the mission of providing a quality, values-centered education that helps students realize their God-given potential in the field of their choice. In 2004, the school began offering a four-year BSN degree program, so students who wanted to pursue a nursing career could gain the skills they needed to work in the field while practicing the University of Saint Mary's core values of excellence, respect, community, and justice. Today, students who enroll in the BSN program, which is available on campus, learn about surgical nursing, gerontology, pathophysiology, pediatric nursing, and anatomy and physiology. Also, students get to put their theoretical knowledge into practice through required clinical rotations. Those who want to earn their degrees sooner can enroll in the accelerated BSN, which takes about one year to complete. Although the coursework and clinical requirements are the same as the regular BSN program, students who choose the accelerated degree complete the curriculum in seven- or eight-week terms.

In addition to these traditional nursing programs, the University of Saint Mary also provides online degrees. The RN-BSN program-which is for those who are already working as a nurse or just recently completed an associate's degree-does not have a clinical requirement and can be completed entirely online. Students complete coursework in population health, palliative care nursing, pharmacology, pathophysiology, and gerontological nursing. In addition, the school offers an MSN degree, which has nurse education and nurse administrator specializations. Students in the nurse education program take coursework in advanced health assessment and learning foundations, health promotion, curriculum design and evaluation, and teaching with technology, while those in the nurse administrator concentration focus on healthcare management, leadership, fiscal resource management, organizational management, and communication and relationship building. Both programs require students to complete core courses in advanced nursing practice, healthcare policy, research analysis, and healthcare ethics, and a practicum at a doctor's office, public health agency, hospital, nursing school, or clinic.

45 Mississippi University for Women Columbus, MS 91.77 $5,540 1 78% 14:1 39% no yes yes

Mississippi University for Women, which was founded 1884, was the first state-supported college in the country to cater to the needs of female students. Graduates and students from its nursing programs have gone on to get accolades for their work, including the National Pfizer Advanced Nurse Practitioner Award, the National Spirit of Nursing Award and the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing Educator Award.

Students who are interested in studying nursing at Mississippi University for Women can find programs on the undergraduate and graduate level. For students who are initially training for a career, the school offers an associate's degree that prepares them to treat patients with acute and long-term health problems. The curriculum includes subjects such as nutrition, the role of nurses, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and pharmacology. Students are required to complete clinical work to get hands-on experience, and also have the option to participate in preceptorship and externship programs.

Practicing nurses can enroll in the school's RN-to-BSN program, which has online and hybrid options, to strengthen their skills and position themselves for career advancement. During their time in this program, students are required to take coursework in health promotion, pathophysiology, evidence-based nursing, nursing theory, health assessment, and nursing leadership. In addition, nurses who want to get a graduate degree can find master's and doctoral programs at Mississippi University for Women. In the MSN program, which takes one year to complete, students prepare to become family nurse practitioners by taking advanced courses in health assessment, nursing theory, diagnostic reasoning, pharmacology, primary care management, and nursing research methods. Students in this program also complete a clinical research project. In the DNP program, which is designed for nurse practitioners who want to advance their knowledge and skills, students take courses in chronic disease, population health, health systems leadership, healthcare economics and policy, and advanced diagnostic reasoning, as well as complete a residency and graduate project.

46 Mississippi College Clinton, MS 91.53 $14,670 2 98% 15:1 53% no yes yes

Founded in 1826, Mississippi College, which is the oldest university in the state, was built on providing a rich academic environment that not only prepares students for their chosen careers, but infuses the teachings of Christ into every course. In 1969 the school extended this philosophy to hopeful nurses by opening its School of Nursing, which is dedicated to training skilled practitioners who provide patient services based on models of Christian caring. Accredited by the Mississippi Board of Institutions of Higher Learning and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the school offers a four-year bachelor's degree program that includes nursing courses about pediatric care, health assessment, clinical reasoning, health finance and policy, and pharmacology, as well as general education classes in sociology, literature, English composition, college algebra, and psychology. In addition, students complete courses that help them prepare for professional nursing examinations and clinical experiences to familiarize them with the realities of the field, along with classes in Biblical studies to deepen their faith. Mississippi College also offers an accelerated bachelor's degree program, which takes two years to complete. This program is designed for those who have earned a bachelor's degree in another area, so many of their general education courses are waived. Students take the same nursing courses as those in the four-year program.

Also, the school offers an online RN to BSN for registered nurses who want to continue their education in a faith-based environment. The program generally takes one year to complete because students are able to take the required 30 credit hours in sessions that last only seven weeks. In addition, the school makes enrolling in the program as convenient as possible by offering multiple start dates throughout the year. Curriculum covers healthcare informatics, nursing leadership and management, Christian ethics, community health nursing, health assessment, and healthcare finance and policy.

47 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS 91.43 $6,980 3 76% 17:1 45% no yes yes

The College of Nursing at the University of Southern Mississippi opened in 1967 in response to the American Nurses Association's 1965 statement that urged degree granting institutions to make nursing education available. Since its founding, the nursing school has been dedicated to providing excellent degree programs where students and faculty have strong engagement with each other.

At the undergraduate level, students can enroll in a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, where they learn the professional, legal and ethical standards that entry-level nurses are expected to adhere to. In 2015, the program had a 100 percent NCLEX pass rate. During the first two years of the program, students take required general education courses in anatomy, physiology, mathematics, nutrition, history and English. Then they move on to nursing courses that cover nursing research, healthcare assessment, holistic nursing practice, death and bereavement, and pharmacotherapeutics, as well as simulated and clinical experiences to reinforce what they learned in the classroom. Students who want to earn a bachelor's degree through distance education can enroll in the school's RN-BSN program, which is delivered entirely online. Registered nurses who enroll in this program can earn their BSN within three years.

Those who want to earn a graduate degree online can enroll in one of the available master's or PhD programs. The school's MSN programs are for nurses who aspire to become family nurse practitioners or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. While the majority of these programs are delivered online, students are expected to come to campus twice during the first semester. The nursing leadership PhD program, which is completely online, is designed for professionals who want to take supervisory roles in health organizations or universities, conduct research or teach nursing undergraduate students.

48 University of Wyoming Laramie, WY 91.18 $2,712 1 66% 14:1 54% yes yes yes

The University of Wyoming's Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, admitted its first group of prospective nurses in 1951. Since the first class of nursing students graduated in 1954, the school has kept up a tradition of training professionals to be safe, competent, communicative, and caring when they provide services to patients. On the bachelor's level, the University of Wyoming provides basic and accelerated degrees to train students based on the school's educational principles. In the basic BSN program, which is available to on-campus students, future nurses learn about evidence-based nursing techniques, pharmacology, care of different patient populations, professional leadership, chronic illness and clinical judgment. In addition, students must complete a clinical component, which is available every Tuesday and Thursday. In the accelerated program, students complete the same curriculum online in fifteen months. Although much of the program can be completed online, students are expected to come to campus every semester for some of their classes and clinical experiences.

In addition, the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing offers an online master's degree, which is designed to help students take leadership jobs in healthcare or academic organizations. Students in this program take coursework in evidence-based decision making, quality improvement and safety, population health, advanced leadership qualities, and healthcare policy, as well as a leadership practicum. There is also an online Doctor of Nursing Practice program that trains nurses to become family or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners who serve patients in rural areas. In both concentrations, students take coursework in pathophysiology, advanced practice nursing principles, health behavior change, pharmacotherapy, and health communication and informatics. Then family nurse practitioner students learn about primary care for children, adolescents, and families and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner students study mental health diagnosis and management. In addition, both programs require a doctoral project and practicum.

49 Boise State University Boise, ID 91.06 $4,621 1 39% 17:1 38% yes yes yes

Boise State University was an early pioneer of online nursing education when it launched its RN-BS completion program in 2008. In 2017 alone, the school minted over 1,000 new registered nurses around the country. Leveraging over 50 years of nursing education experience, Boise State University's RN-BS program allows students to sharpen their skills by completing coursework on health statistics, healthcare resource management, palliative care, nursing management and leadership and nursing for the aging community.

The Boise State eCampus offers an online Doctor in Nursing Practice program to help clinicians, healthcare administrators, policy advocates, nursing educators, and public health officials take leadership positions in the field. Curriculum covers areas such as healthcare advocacy, outcomes management analysis, health policy, advanced population health principles, and healthcare technology and systems. While students can complete the majority of their coursework online, they are required to come on campus once a year for executive sessions that last up to three days. In addition, students are required to complete a scholarly project in order to demonstrate their understanding of the program curriculum, and research, analytical, and leadership skills.

Boise State University also has several programs for students who want to earn their degree on campus. Undergraduate students can enroll in the school's bachelor's degree program to get their initial nursing training. Also, those with nursing experience can get a master's or doctoral degree to further their education. A graduate nursing certificate program is also available for students who want to specialize in gerontology.

50 Alcorn State University Alcorn State, MS 90.83 $4,923 1 39% 17:1 34% no yes yes

Since its inception in 1977, the School of Nursing at Alcorn State University has provided state-of-the-art education that prepares students to deliver safe, client-centered care. In order to do this, the school offers programs that train students to begin their careers, as well as programs for those who want to earn a degree for advancement purposes. To provide initial training, the school offers an associate's degree, which teaches students how to evaluate patients from different backgrounds in order to provide the best care, collaborate with other healthcare professionals, communicate effectively with clients and colleagues, and demonstrate an understanding of the best clinical practices. Similarly, the school offers a bachelor's degree program to train new nurses. This program has a generic option, which takes five semesters to complete, and a RN to BSN that can be completed in three semesters. Students in both programs gain skills such as the ability to understand the ethical, moral, and legal principles that guide nursing care; coordinate practices that enhance patient care; promote patient safety; and evaluate nursing practice outcomes and take responsibility for those decisions.

Nurses who want to sharpen their skills in order to obtain an advanced position and increase their earning potential can enroll in the graduate programs at Alcorn State University. The school offers online master's programs to train those who want to become nurse educators and family nurse practitioners. Students in the nurse educator program, which can be completed in two years, take coursework in research methods, advanced health assessment, nursing education foundations, and pathophysiology, and compose a thesis based on original research, in order to finish their degree. The family nurse practitioner curriculum includes coursework in advanced pharmacology, human genetics, and clinical management theory. Students in this program also are required to complete a thesis.

Meet the Expert: Keith Carlson

Keith Carlson has been a nurse since 1996. He writes the award-winning nursing blog, “Digital Doorway”, and is the co-host and co-founder of RNFM Radio, the leading nursing podcast on the Internet. As a Board Certified Nurse Coach working under the auspices of Nurse Keith Coaching, Keith’s passion is helping nurses to create the most satisfying, healthy, and enriching careers possible.

Online Associate Degree (ADN)

Designed to be completed in approximately two years of full-time study, the associate degree in nursing introduces students to the theoretical foundations of nursing, and provides opportunities to develop hands-on, clinical skills through experiential training. The number of credit hours required to complete the associate degree in nursing varies by department and college; however, it typically falls between 60 and 72 credit hours of study.

The associate-level curriculum is divided between general education and core nursing coursework. The first year of study usually focuses on teaching students about nursing fundamentals, as well as completion of general education courses such as English, mathematics, and humanities. The second year of study moves to a greater focus on nursing skills, such as providing nursing care to myriad populations (e.g. children, aging adults, etc.).

Associate degrees in nursing can be completed entirely through online coursework, coupled with in-person clinical rotations completed within the student’s local region. Graduates of these programs are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).

Explore Associate’s Degree programs for Nursing search programs >>
Troy University
  • Enrollment: 25,182
  • Tuition: $6,844
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Alabama
  • Associate of Science in Nursing
Adelphi University
  • Enrollment: 5,677
  • Tuition: $29,320
  • College Type: Private
  • State: New York
  • Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts - Pre-Nursing
Baker College
  • Enrollment: 5,459
  • Tuition: $7,740
  • College Type: Private
  • State: Mississippi
  • Associate of Nursing - ADN
  • Associate of Nursing - LPN To ADN Ladder

Online Bachelor’s Degree (BSN)

The bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) provides students with a broader scope of education in the core principles, knowledge, and decision-making of nursing, preparing them for a more advanced, comprehensive role.

In these programs, registered nurses receive a greater emphasis on management skills, supervision of direct reports, community health, and evidence-based nursing practice. The number of required credit hours varies by program, but most bachelor’s programs fall between 120 and 128 credit hours of study.

The BSN offers a wide-ranging curriculum of both general education and core nursing coursework. Nursing curriculum traditionally focuses on generalist nursing, but some programs allow students to specialize in areas such as nursing leadership or a specific area of care (e.g., neonatal, oncology).

The core coursework in these programs can be completed entirely online, with a hands-on practicum or capstone completed during the final two years of study. The number of clinical rotation hours required can vary by department, ranging from 400 to more than 900 hours of practice. Students may also find that their online program allows for additional clinical rotations through summer internships. Students work with a preceptor or site placement coordinator to arrange clinical rotations at a local healthcare facility.

The ultimate goal for the bachelor’s in nursing is to ready graduates for greater nursing responsibilities across the spectrum of healthcare settings. Graduates of the BSN are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Explore Bachelor’s Degree programs for Nursing search programs >>
Arizona State University
  • Enrollment: 65,501
  • Tuition: $9,724
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Arizona
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)
Broward College
  • Enrollment: 62,796
  • Tuition: $2,494
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)
Ohio State University
  • Enrollment: 48,411
  • Tuition: $10,037
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Ohio
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)
University of Maryland
  • Enrollment: 44,009
  • Tuition: $6,384
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Maryland
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Pennsylvania State University
  • Enrollment: 41,614
  • Tuition: $16,444
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Pennsylvania
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
University of Akron
  • Enrollment: 36,369
  • Tuition: $6,402
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing RN/BSN

Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

The master’s in nursing (MSN) is a graduate degree designed for practicing nursing professionals seeking to advance their career, improve their patient care skills, prepare for nursing leadership positions, and make an impact on the next generation of nurses through educational positions. A highly specialized program of study, the MSN may take between two to three years to complete. The average curriculum is divided between generalist nursing courses and the student’s chosen concentration. Read our guide to the online master's in nursing to learn more about specialization, admissions and today's best programs.

Online Doctoral Degrees

The doctorate degree in nursing prepares nursing professionals seeking careers in clinical applications, academic environments, or scientific research. At the doctoral level, students can select from two diverse programs of study: Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The DNP is considered a professional degree, one designed to advance the clinical skills of nursing practitioners in areas such as healthcare leadership or specific areas of nursing (e.g. pediatrics). The PhD, on the other hand, is a research-based degree, one that prepares nurses to pursue careers in academic scholarship as researchers and educators. Find detailed information about online doctorates in nursing on our new guide to advanced nursing education.

Bridging the Gap

Nursing bridge programs offer environments that bring together aspiring and active nursing professionals with a variety of backgrounds, clinical experience, degrees, and research interests. At their core, nursing bridge programs are training paths that leverage a student’s previous work and educational experience in order to allow for transition to a more advanced role within the field. Below is a review of the different types of bridge programs, how they differ from traditional nursing programs, how online bridge programs operate, and a look at the ideal target student for each type of program.

What are bridge programs?

First, it is important to note that bridge programs are not degrees themselves; instead, they are transitional educational paths that result in a degree. Online bridge programs are typically available in three formats:

LPN to RN or LPN to BSN

The LPN to RN or BSN bridge options help individuals transition into Registered Nurse professions. These programs are usually treated as a degree completion program for LPNs, and may also be open to candidates with no nursing or allied health experience (e.g., paramedic).


The RN to BSN bridge program is designed for nurses who already hold a Registered Nursing license, but wish to complete a bachelor’s degree program for professional development and career advancement.


The RN to MSN is traditionally designed for two types of students: 1) Registered Nurses who wish to complete a graduate degree, but hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field of practice and 2) Registered Nurses who have an associate degree, but want to complete a master’s degree in nursing.

How do they work?

Online nursing bridge programs are exactly that, a bridge to completing either an undergraduate or graduate degree in nursing. They are educational avenues open to active nurses as well as aspiring nurses. However, these programs do operate in similar fashion to the standard ADN, BSN, and MSN programs in nursing in that students receive the same evidence-based coursework, critical thinking and skill-building curricula, and clinical instruction.

The bridge portion of these programs is either a set of prerequisite courses or a series of transitional courses preparing students for more advanced study. Generally speaking, there are three major differences: 1) admission requirements, 2) program length, and 3) target students. First, online bridge programs are designed for working professionals, helping them complete advanced educational training through flexible class scheduling. Second, most bridge programs are accelerated—meaning they can typically be completed in a shorter time frame than individual degree programs. Third, they have slightly varied admissions requirements. For example, the RN-to-MSN generally does not require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree; instead, students with an associate degree and a nursing license are able to complete a master’s degree.

Online Bridge Programs at a Glance

Prospective nurses considering an online bridge program should take the time to review each of their options, as these programs offer distinct admissions requirements, curriculum options, and specific career outcomes. The table below provides a comparison of the LPN to RN, RN to BSN, and RN to MSN programs.

Category LPN to RN RN to BSN RN to MSN
Required education for admission High school diploma or GED equivalent Associate degree or Diploma in nursing Associate degree or non-nursing bachelor's degree in any field
Licensure requirements for admission Current LPN License (must remain current throughout program) Active Registered Nursing License (must remain current throughout program) Active Registered Nursing License (must remain current throughout program)
Required credits/Time to graduation
  • 64 to 72 Credits
  • 2 to 3 Years of Study
  • 120 – 128 Credits
  • 2 Years (Associate Degree Holders)
  • 4 Years (Non-Associate Degree Holders)
  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 2 to 3 Years of Study
Curriculum focus
  • General Education (Mathematics, Social Sciences, English)
  • Nursing Curriculum (Evidence-Based Nursing, Principles of Nursing, Nursing Care, Adult Health)
  • General Education (E.g. Mathematics, Social Sciences, English)
  • Major Coursework (Nursing Research, Foundations of Nursing, Pharmacology, Informatics)
  • Advanced Major Coursework (Clinical Leadership, Theoretical Foundations of Nursing, Health Policy, Nursing Informatics, Health Assessment)
Potential career titles
  • Registered Nurse
  • Staff Nurse
  • Operating Room
  • Registered Nurse
  • Registered Nurse, BSN
  • Acute Care Nurse
  • Critical Care Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

Is a nursing license required to enroll in an online bridge program?

Yes. For example, LPNs considering an LPN to RN program must have an active LPN license to qualify for admission, and nurses pursuing the RN to BSN must be a practicing registered nurse.

How are clinical requirements fulfilled in online bridge nursing programs?

Traditionally, students work with faculty members or site placement coordinator to facilitate a clinical practicum with a local healthcare organization, agency, or hospital in their area. Again, it’s important to note that some LPN to RN and RN to BSN programs may allow students to apply real-world nursing hours towards clinical rotation requirements.

Are standardized test scores required for admission to an LPN to RN program?

It depends. Some universities ask students to take and pass the Test of Essential Academic Skills, while others only require students to meet prerequisite coursework standards, work experience, GPA, and SAT/ACT score requirements.

Can previously completed credits be transferred into an online bridge program?

In most cases, yes. Credit reviews are conducted on an individual case-by-case basis by examining course descriptions of the credits desired to be transferred into the program.

How long does it take to complete an online RN to MSN bridge program?

The length of time depends on the student’s educational starting point as well as time commitment (e.g. full-time vs. part-time). For individuals with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, most RN to MSN programs require approximately 36 credit hours to complete and those students can skip the bridge program requirements. For those with an associate degree in nursing, they must also complete the undergraduate requirements, which—again—typically include between 32 and 36 credit hours to complete. After finishing the undergraduate program, students transition into the bridge coursework, which includes 10 to 12 credit hours of study to prepare the student for graduate classes in nursing.

Is accreditation important for online nursing bridge programs?

Yes. Any prospective bridge program should be accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, as well as regional accrediting bodies such as the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities or Middle States Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Nursing Specialties and Careers


Gerontology is an interdisciplinary field of study and practice, blending psychology, social and behavioral sciences, and nursing. Practitioners in this area focus on addressing patient care needs in older adults, ranging from chronic disease management to dealing with specific physiological changes.

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse
  • Adult-Gerontological Clinical Nurse

Oncology is a branch of medicine dealing with tumors–specifically cancer. Oncology nurses are trained professionals, equipped with an advanced understanding of administering both chemotherapy and biotherapy medication to patients with cancer. In this space, nurses may also develop familiarity with other areas such as surgical oncology or radiation therapy.

  • Oncology Certified Nurse
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse

Pediatric nursing provides direct patient care to infants, children, and adolescents. This includes both preventative, direct, and critical care nursing, ranging from providing immunizations to treating the common cold, assisting with surgery to conducting developmental screenings in children.

  • Pediatric Nurse
  • Nursery Nurse
  • Patient Care Manager – Pediatrics
Registered Nurse

Coordinate and provide direct patient care, from physical exams to patient assessments, health counseling to surgical assistance. May also require supervision of care provided by Certified Nursing Assistants or Licensed Practical Nurses.

  • Operating Room Registered Nurse
  • Staff Registered Nurse
  • Charge Nurse
Nurse Practitioner

Provide specific patient care through assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Able to prescribe and manage medications, conduct physical examinations and health screenings.

  • Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Clinical Nurse Specialist

Provides independent direct patient care, as well as ability to develop care planning strategies, offer consultation, assist in healthcare policy creation, and independent research in specific areas.

  • Cardiothoracic Surgery Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist

Researching Quality Online Nursing Programs

With such a diverse array of educational choices, it can be challenging at best to get a real sense of the potential quality of an online nursing program. During the research process, prospective students should begin by creating a list of questions to assess the institution, curriculum, faculty, and program. Indeed, tuition and cost of attendance is usually first on the list, but it isn’t the only factor that goes into making a pragmatic, research-based decision about an online program. Below is a list of five questions to ask of each potential degree program.

  • Is the program accredited? Accreditation is a sign the university and department hold their instructors and curriculum to industry standards. National accrediting bodies include the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Some universities also pursue regional accreditation, as well as accreditation for their online programs—students should be sure to review each level of accreditation for their prospective online nursing programs.
  • What type and how much hands-on, clinical practice does the program offer and require? Clinical experience allows students to translate their theory-based coursework into hands-on, application-based training. An organized site placement and clinical training component is a main indicator of overall quality of an online nursing program. Students should be sure to inquire about the type of clinical experience required and—for working professionals—if their real-world nursing work can be applied towards clinical requirements.
  • Are students prepared for licensure after graduation? The ultimate goal of an online nursing program should be to qualify for licensure, which means being ready to sit for and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). It is important to remember that nursing is regulated and licensed at the state level. Students should be aware of the nurse licensing requirements in their state prior to selecting a program. Additionally, in 2000, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing began working on a compact agreement with individual state boards of nursing. As of March 2015, 25 states participate in the compact, allowing students to hold one multistate license that allows them to practice both in their state and the other states in the compact agreement.
  • What types of specializations or research opportunities are available to students? Nursing is not a one-size-fits-all educational track or profession. To that end, prospective nursing students should review the concentration or specialization subjects available through online training. Example paths include cardiac nursing, ambulatory care nursing, neonatal nursing, pediatric nursing, and more.
  • What is the educational and clinical experience of instructors and faculty? The success and quality of any nursing program is determined by the faculty. During a review of online programs, students should investigate the educational and clinical background of both instructors and faculty. Secondly, students should also ask if faculty members only teach in the online program or if they teach classes both online and on-campus. That point is important as many online faculty members teach online courses in an overload contract—meaning they are committed to their traditional workload and take on online teaching as a form of extra compensation.
  • What are the job placement and graduation rates for the online program? Prospective students should ask about the department’s graduation rate for the overall program and for their specific program of study. Are students graduating within a normative timeframe? Next, students should ask about job placement success. Are graduates landing jobs? Where are they landing those jobs? And, does the program enjoy support of local healthcare institutions, systems, and practitioners? Even through the program is online, local support is another quality indicator.

Beyond the Hospital

As an extremely diverse occupational field, the practice of nursing is not solely confined to hospitals, outpatient centers, or physicians’ offices. The career paths are much broader in scope, covering an array of other industries and business sectors. Graduates of nursing programs are well versed in the fundamentals of not only nursing, but also the broader aspects of healthcare and wellness, knowledge that may position them for success in other roles. Below is a list of potential career opportunities that stray from the more common, traditional customary routes chosen by most nursing professionals.

  • Insurance

    The insurance industry is a massive, complex system of providers and networks, an industry that produces more than $700 billion in revenue each year, according to market research from IBIS World. Employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows approximately 25,000 nurses were employed in the insurance and financial services industries in 2013, taking home an annual average wage of $68,370. Roles and opportunities vary within insurance, with potential careers including the following:

    • Case Manager
    • Utilization Nurse Manager
    • Health Coach
    • Quality Management Nurse
    • Nurse Educator
  • Education

    The education system, both K-12 and higher education, afford students an assortment of career choices. Nurses can pursue opportunities in school systems, as well as transition to educator-based positions as faculty members at post-secondary institutions or in areas such as community health. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 77,000 nurses were employed nationally in educational services, with nearly 50,000 employed in elementary and secondary schools. The overall average salary for nurses working in educational services in 2013 was just above $60,000.

  • Corrections

    The corrections system in the United States is another employment route for graduates of online nursing degree programs. Corrections nurses provide a host of direct patient care to inmates in correctional facilities, from administering medication to collaborating on care treatment plans with physicians. Although employment figures are difficult to pin down specifically within corrections, more than 73,000 nurses were employed at the Federal Government level in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Entrepreneurship

    Many nurses have realized that the trust placed in them by a respectful public can be leveraged in terms of successful entrepreneurial ventures. Nurses with varying levels of clinical experience and education are pursuing businesses in areas such as the providing of “concierge” private-duty in-home healthcare, private-duty homemaking/personal care agencies, or nurse consultants specializing in pediatrics, geriatrics, corporate wellness, etc. Nurse entrepreneurs also combine training in complementary therapies like Reiki, massage, and yoga therapy to create special hybrid healing practices. Still other nurses find their calling as health coaches, professional speakers, writers, bloggers, or podcasters. Meanwhile, coaching has exploded around the world, and nurse coaches may find employment with insurance companies, corporate settings, and in private practice.