The Best Online Nursing Programs

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Online Nursing Degree Programs

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

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

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

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

Top 9 Online Nursing Schools

? This represents the average net price of attendance for full-time students as gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Individual costs may vary. Costs per credit hour may also vary by program or degree.
Rank School Avg Net Price ? This represents the average net price of attendance for full-time students as gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Individual costs may vary. Costs per credit hour may also vary by program or degree.
1 Rutgers University-New Brunswick $16295
2 Concordia University-Saint Paul $18591
3 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh $12819
4 University of Maine at Fort Kent $10731
5 Rivier University $24900
6 The University of Texas at Arlington $12277
7 Vermont Technical College $19861
8 Davenport University $17169
9 Brenau University $22011
See Our Rankings Methodology

Featured Online Programs

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

Guide to Nursing School

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

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

Why Get a Nursing Degree?

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

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

What Are the Requirements for a Nursing Degree?

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

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

Online Guide to Accredited Colleges and Universities

Professional Organizations for Nursing Students

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

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

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

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

Scholarships for Nursing Students

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

Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Nursing students enrolled in an accredited associate, bachelor’s, or master’s program can apply for this scholarship from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must demonstrate financial need. The program requires applicants to submit a 1,000-word personal statement along with other application documents.
Amount: $2,500

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

Who Can Apply: FNSNA welcomes applications from undergraduate students enrolled in a state-approved nursing program at the diploma, associate, or bachelor’s level. The scholarship focuses on a different nursing specialization each year and welcomes applications from students practicing or planning to pursue a career in the specific nursing arena.
Amount: $1,000-$7,500

HRSA Nurse Corps Scholarship Program

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

The Best Online Nursing School Programs to Earn Your BSN 2021

  1. Rutgers University-New Brunswick

    New Brunswick, NJ



    Rutgers' online RN-to-BSN. program offers customized curriculum planning for professional nurses who already possess an associate degree or nursing diploma. Candidates interested in graduate study can also earn up to 12 credits toward their master's in nursing as part of Rutgers' accelerated undergraduate curriculum. Program content occurs primarily online, though some general education courses may occur in a blended or on-campus format. Candidates can transfer up to 94 credits toward their nursing degree. However, students must complete at least 30 credits while enrolled at Rutgers. The program includes required clinical components learners must complete in New Jersey. Applicants need either an associate degree or diploma in nursing from a program accredited by the National League for Nursing Accreditation or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Applicants need a minimum 3.2 GPA, though requirements may vary.

  2. Concordia University-Saint Paul

    Saint Paul, MN



    Integrating theoretical knowledge and practical nursing skills, CSP's online RN-to-BSN program builds on previous experience, training registered nurses (RNs) to provide care for diverse patient populations. Applicants need an associate degree in nursing (ADN) from a regionally accredited college with a minimum 2.75 GPA. Candidates complete 36 credits of nursing courses, including ethics and decision-making, transcultural nursing and advanced health assessment, care coordination and case management, and population health nursing. The program runs fully asynchronously with no live class meetings, enabling students to complete coursework on their own schedule. At the end of the program, all students complete a nursing capstone course, which requires them to compile a professional portfolio and complete an action plan for a health promotion activity. CSP reports that 95% of students receive a job offer within one year of graduating.

  3. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

    Oshkosh, WI



    UW-Oshkosh's online BSN is a unique accelerated degree intended for students who already hold a bachelor's degree in another subject. One of the first online nursing programs of its type, this 12-month program enables candidates to earn a BSN with the fewest number of credits possible. UW-Oshkosh admits out-of-state nursing students, but applicants must ensure they receive approval from both their state board of nursing and the Higher Learning Commission. Nursing students must reside in the same state for the program's entire duration, including both online courses and local clinical placements. Coursework occurs primarily online. However, degree-seekers must visit the UW-Oshkosh campus for three in-person residency sessions: an orientation weekend, a two-week lab/clinical sesion, and a weeklong capstone session at the program's conclusion. These campus sessions allow students to learn in a collaborative classroom environment and lab and clinical facilities..

  4. University of Maine at Fort Kent

    Fort Kent, ME



    Home to one of Maine's most affordable online BSN degrees, UMFK emphasizes essential nursing outcomes including professionalism, leadership, systems-based practice, and quality improvement. The school's online RN-to-BSN program offers several start dates per year, with new academic terms beginning every eight weeks. Learners complete the program entirely online. The program includes 30 credits of core BSN courses, covering key topics such as health-related research, promoting healthy communities, transcultural care in nursing, and holistic health assessment. All courses use an accelerated seven-week format and a fully asynchronous delivery mode that enables students to complete assignments at their convenience. Program applicants must possess either a valid RN license or have their NCLEX exam already scheduled. UMFK also requires applicants to hold an ADN from an accredited college, with a minimum 2.5 GPA on previous undergraduate coursework.

  5. Rivier University

    Nashua, NH



    A private Catholic college based in Nashua, New Hampshire, Rivier ranks among the most affordable nursing schools in New England. Rivier's RN-to-BSN degree offers flexibility for working nurses, with condensed seven-week courses and a fully online format that requires no campus visits. Most students complete the program in 2-4 years. Rivier's program admits practicing nurses who hold an unencumbered RN, which fulfills 60 undergraduate credits. Admitted students typically complete 60 additional credits, including 27 nursing major credits. Typical courses include health policy and politics, families and health in a multicultural society, holistic nursing, and leadership and management in healthcare. Rivier offers year-round enrollment and six annual start dates, enabling learners to begin the program when it suits their schedule. Applicants need a minimum undergraduate 2.6 GPA, though the school may offer conditional admission for qualified applicants who fall below this threshold.

  6. The University of Texas at Arlington

    Arlington, TX



    A major public college located between Dallas and Fort Worth, UTA operates one of the most affordable programs in Texas. The school's online BSN uses an accelerated format not tied to the traditional semester schedule, enabling candidates to complete the program in as few as 15 months. Candidates complete 51 nursing major credits, including courses in psychiatric and mental health nursing, professional nursing trends, and nursing of the childbearing family. Courses range from 5-14 weeks in length and occur primarily online. Degree-seekers must complete required clinical experiences at partner hospitals throughout Texas. While applicants must complete 70 credits prior to enrolling (either at UTA or another institution), UTA's nursing degree is not an RN-to-BSN program. Students complete all major nursing courses as part of the program curriculum. Learners may complete some nursing prerequisites during the first semester after enrolling.

  7. Vermont Technical College

    Randolph, VT



    Focused on technical and vocational education, VTC operates several campuses around the state, along with a distance education program. Intended for licensed nurses, VTC's RN-to-BSN program emphasizes key topics in health promotion, risk reduction, global health, and disease prevention. The program occurs entirely online, with no campus visits required. The degree includes courses in bioethics, evidence-based research and practice, nursing leadership and management, and east and west holistic healing. Candidates must also complete a minimum of 225 hours of nursing practicum experience, typically at their current place of employment or another healthcare organization within their community. Learners who lack nursing experience can enroll in VTC's ADN program, which offers seamless transfer into the BSN program. Applicants must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA and obtain their RN license prior to beginning the bachelor's degree in nursing.

  8. Davenport University

    Grand Rapids, MI



    A private college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, DU offers an online RN-to-BSN degree that combines critical-thinking, health assessment, leadership, and management skills. The program offers a 20% tuition discount for employees of the Michigan Hospital Association, making DU one of the state's most affordable nursing schools. DU's degree is a completion program that only admits licensed nurses. The school awards 60 credits for the completion of an associate degree and 30 credits for a passing score on the NCLEX exam, requiring most nurses to complete just 31 credits to earn their BSN. All courses occur online, though students must also complete in-person clinical experiences (typically in their place of employment). Common courses include introduction to biostatistics, health promotion and education, and a senior nursing seminar. The program also offers an optional specialization in medical case management.

  9. Brenau University

    Gainesville, GA



    One of the country's first regional colleges to offer online education, Brenau now hosts a significant distance learning program that includes one of Georgia's most affordable online BSN degrees. Located in Gainesville (about 55 miles northeast of Atlanta), this private college emphasizes flexibility and accessibility, with an RN-to-BSN degree that serves working nurses. Brenau's program prepares nurses to lead and advocate in healthcare settings, highlighting the value of evidence-based research and information technology. Typical courses include professional nursing for diverse populations, community health nursing, comprehensive health assessment, and leadership policy and practice. Along with theoretical courses, students complete clinical experiences at labs and other healthcare facilities. Brenau offers many benefits for distance learners, including a fully online curriculum with no required campus visits and a maximum class size of 20 students. Online learners can also take advantage of services that include academic coaching, tutoring, and Brenau's writing center.

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