Best Online Nursing Degrees 2021

The national nursing shortage continues to fuel the demand for qualified nurses in nearly every area of practice. Online nursing programs are here to help.

February 11, 2022 , Updated on July 7, 2022

Reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Best Online Nursing Degrees 2021

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Online Nursing Degrees

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

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

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bachelor's-trained registered nurses (RNs) earn a median annual salary of $75,330. This salary exceeds the national median of $41,950 for all jobs. In addition, the BLS projects jobs for nurses to grow 9% between 2020-2030, which is faster than average.

Read on to learn more about the best online nursing programs. This page also covers popular nursing questions and degree requirements.

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Featured Nursing Online Programs

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Additional Nursing Articles

Discussion Questions About Nursing Programs

What is the difference between a BSN and an RN?

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

How many years is a BSN program?

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

Do professionals with a BSN earn more than RNs?

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

Can I get a BSN without having an RN?

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

What Are the Goals of a Nursing Degree?

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

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

Why Get a Nursing Degree?

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

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

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse?

A typical nursing degree can take 2-4 years to complete. Each level of nursing has its own timeline. Those timelines can vary depending on enrollment status, certifications needed, and the type of program.

The chart below provides typical timelines for completing a nursing degree. Keep in mind that the length provided is for the amount of time it takes to complete that segment of the degree, not the entire academic path.

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

AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online MSN Programs

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

What Are the Requirements for a Nursing Degree?

Requirements for online nursing programs often depend on applicants' academic backgrounds. Most schools accept applications from associate-trained RNs and graduates of a non-nursing bachelor's program. Applicants with the minimum transferable credits their prospective school requires may also receive acceptance.

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

The Best Online Nursing School Programs to Earn Your BSN

  1. New Mexico State University-Main Campus
    Location

    Las Cruces, NM

    Tuition

    $9462

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

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

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

  2. Southeast Missouri State University
    Location

    Cape Girardeau, MO

    Tuition

    $12468

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

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

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

  3. Texas A & M International University
    Location

    Laredo, TX

    Tuition

    $4744

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

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

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

  4. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $13016

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

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

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

  5. University of Louisiana at Monroe
    Location

    Monroe, LA

    Tuition

    $9455

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

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

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

  6. University of Louisville
    Location

    Louisville, KY

    Tuition

    $17098

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

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

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

  7. East Tennessee State University
    Location

    Johnson City, TN

    Tuition

    $11062

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

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

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

  8. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $9180

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

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

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

  9. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $10491

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

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

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

  10. Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus
    Location

    Portales, NM

    Tuition

    $10918

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

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

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

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