Top Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing Programs

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Nursing continues to rank among the nation's most in-demand professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for registered nurses (RNs) to grow 12% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than average. With nurses earning a median annual salary of $71,730 in 2018, the most affordable online bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees can deliver an outstanding return on your educational investment.

If you find yourself wondering how to afford nursing school, read on. This guide features the most affordable nursing schools and details everything you need to know about earning your nursing credentials. Aspiring nurses can review detailed rankings of bachelor's in nursing programs, important information about bridge programs, answers to frequently asked questions, and an exclusive expert interview.

Top 10 Online BSN Degree Programs

  1. Rutgers University - New Brunswick, NJ
  2. Concordia University - Saint Paul, MN
  3. Bellevue University - Bellevue, ME
  4. University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh, WI
  5. University of Maine at Fort Kent - Fort Kent, ME
  6. Rivier University - Nashua, NH
  7. The University of Texas at Arlington - Arlington, TX
  8. Vermont Technical College - Randolph Center, VT
  9. Davenport University - Grand Rapids. MI
  10. Brenau University - Gainesville, GA


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Best Online Nursing Degree Programs for 2020

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.

Top 5 Online BSN Degree Programs

  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

2020 Top Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Programs

The rankings below track the best and most affordable nursing schools offering online programs. While researching nursing schools, look for key markers of program quality, including recognized accreditation, experienced faculty, and high post-graduation employment rates. Because many learners in online nursing programs continue to work, it also helps to seek flexible educational opportunities.

Studying online provides many benefits beyond flexibility, including ease of access and considerable cost savings. Distance learners gain access to the most affordable online BSN programs available. Online students often qualify for reduced or in-state tuition rates, even if they live outside a state or its reciprocity area.

Rank Logo School Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit For Experience Placement Service Counseling Services Description & Additional Information Toggle
1 Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick, NJ
$16,295 Tuition
80% Graduation Rate

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
$18,591 Tuition
59% Graduation Rate

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 Bellevue University Bellevue, ME
$9,635 Tuition
52% Graduation Rate

Ranked among Nebraska's top nursing programs, BU's online RN-to-BSN program aligns with competencies outlined by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership. Using a fully online delivery model, the program prepares graduates to obtain certifications, such as nurse executive or nurse leader. Candidates complete 40 nursing major credits, which cover topics of nursing research and evidence-based practice, population-based health promotion, healthcare regulation, and professional collaborative strategies for nurses. All students must also complete BU's Kirkpatrick Signature Series, a nine-credit course sequence focusing on evolving American values, traditions, and responsibilities. All degree-seekers complete a hands-on practicum experience during the program's final semester. Taking place at a professional healthcare organization (often the student's current place of employment), the practicum builds experience under the close supervision of a designated preceptor. All practicum participants identify an issue in professional nursing and develop an evidence-based action plan.

4 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
$12,819 Tuition
53% Graduation Rate

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.

5 University of Maine at Fort Kent Fort Kent, ME
$10,731 Tuition
46% Graduation Rate

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.

6 Rivier University Nashua, NH
$24,900 Tuition
51% Graduation Rate

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.

7 The University of Texas at Arlington Arlington, TX
$12,277 Tuition
49% Graduation Rate

A major public college located between Dallas and Fort Worth, UTA operates one of the most affordable online BSN 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.

8 Vermont Technical College Randolph Center, VT
$19,861 Tuition
51% Graduation Rate

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.

9 Davenport University Grand Rapids. MI
$17,169 Tuition
49% Graduation Rate

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.

10 Brenau University Gainesville, GA
$22,011 Tuition
43% Graduation Rate

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.

Meet the Expert: Emma Geiser

Emma Geiser is a California nurse who earned her accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN) in 2010 from the University of Oklahoma. She started as a new grad in the medical ICU and has since worked as an ER nurse, critical care transport nurse, and most recently in clinical documentation integrity. In her spare time, she loves to cook, mountain bike, and hang out with her dog and husband. She enjoys sharing her knowledge as a personal finance freelance writer and educating fellow nurses on essential money management skills to help combat and reduce burnout.

Why did you decide to pursue a degree and career in nursing? Did it always interest you?

It took me a little while to warm up to the idea of being a nurse. My mom, sister, and several extended family members are nurses. My biggest fear entering college was that I would pick nursing for lack of creativity in finding my own position in the world.

While working towards a bachelor's in psychology I worked as a unit clerk in the local ER. The exposure to a fast-paced and amazing medical environment was all I needed to change my mind. I began to pursue nursing after I was able to truly appreciate the profession and the opportunities it would allow me.

Why did you choose an online program rather than an on-campus program?

I didn't have many options. Location and academics limited some of my choices. I'm a good student, but I couldn't compete for a spot in a high-demand low-tuition state school. It was kismet when I found the opportunity for the accelerated online program.

I had the option to enter an associate degree in nursing (ADN) program at the same time I started my ABSN. It was a hard choice. I already had a bachelor's degree, and the ADN program came with a nominal price tag. Ultimately, I chose to get my bachelor's from the get-go, and I'm glad I did.

What makes an online nursing program different from other online programs?

Nursing school is demanding of time. The obligations start with time in the classroom, clinicals, homework, and then add in all your regular life duties. Online classroom sessions allowed me to learn from home without the stress of commuting to lecture.

There was still plenty of time together with my classmates which allowed us to build a community. We were together for skills labs, testing, and clinicals. Unlike my experiences in other online programs, I was able to get to know my classmates.

Do you think online programs are more challenging than on campus? Why or why not?

Online and classroom programs each have their place, and it really depends on your learning style and motivation. I don't like sitting through lectures and losing time commuting to and from class. Online class allowed me to log in from home with no commute, and I didn't have to deal with outside disturbances.

I'm highly self-motivated, and knew I would be disciplined to complete the coursework on my own. If you need other people to keep you accountable, you may prefer an in-classroom program.

What were some of the essential skills you learned in your degree program?

My program focused highly on developing critical thinking and creating nurse leaders. We focused less on the practical day-to-day activities that could be learned in the hospital and more on developing ourselves and knowledge.

Now that I've been a nurse for 10 years, I really appreciate the emphasis on pushing yourself as a nurse. The focus coupled well with my motivation to continually improve myself professionally. I started as a new grad in the ICU and have had the pleasure of being an ER nurse for several years. No doubt the confidence to try new things and not listen to those who don't believe new grads belong in critical care helped me in the beginning.

Are there any challenges you face in your work on a day-to-day basis?          

The biggest challenges I currently face have to do with time. Squeezing task management, charting, and quality patient and physician communication into a shift can seem impossible at times. Luckily, I work with amazing nurses and staff who jump in and we all help each other out.

How did your degree prepare you for these challenges?                                                    

I really couldn't say that my degree is better or worse than anyone else's when dealing with nursing's daily challenges. At the time, it coupled well with my education level and needs. I've worked with exceptional nurses and had no idea what level of education they completed.

The unit and new grad program you start in is just as important as the school. It really is accurate that you truly learn how to be a nurse when you start your first job.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of a career in nursing?                         

The people and patients make nursing different from any other career. You are down in the trenches with them on some of their worst days. Being able to help and make a difference in someone's world is truly rewarding.

Also, science and the human body are simply amazing. Working in ICU, ER, and now clinical documentation improvement allows me to see and analyze all kinds of amazing medical events and situations. I'm constantly fascinated by something new and different.

What advice would you give students who are considering a nursing degree?

Get a job in a hospital while you're in school. Being able to do the job of a certified nursing assistant, unit clerk, care technician, or scribe brings a level of perspective to your future profession. It allows you to see the real-world happenings of hospital units and staff interactions.

Also, don't blindly take out student loans. You must pay them back eventually and the less you have the better.

The Next Step: Advanced Nursing Degrees

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)

While an MSN is an advanced credential for RNs, the degree is a core entry requirement for professionals seeking positions in nurse management or nursing education. MSN students also enjoy a variety of specialization options, which offer paths to positions as nurse anesthetists, critical care nurses, certified nurse midwives, healthcare administrators, patient safety directors, and nurse practitioners (NPs).

Entry standards vary among nursing schools, but all reputable MSN programs require applicants to hold at least a BSN from an accredited school. Graduate schools typically only consider students with valid state-issued nursing licenses. Students must also submit evidence of strong academic performance in their previous studies.

For example, many MSN programs favor applicants with at least a 3.0 GPA. Some programs, especially those leading to specializations, also look for specific academic prerequisites. For example, you may need a background in statistical analysis, research methodology, or another subject area with direct links to the MSN program's content. Multiple recommendation letters and admission interviews also count among commonly requested application materials.

Program content varies, but generalist MSN curricula guides students to enhanced clinical practice, patient assessment, pharmacology, and critical research skills. If you choose to specialize, you will also take core courses in your chosen concentration area. Graduation requirements include a minimum number of clinical hours, during which you will further develop your skills under the supervision of an advanced practitioner in a field setting.

Learn more about the nation's leading online MSN programs.

Online Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral programs in nursing include study paths leading to a Ph.D. or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). As with MSN programs, entry requirements vary. Some schools require applicants to hold an MSN, while others accept applicants with BSN credentials. In either case, incoming students must have a history of outstanding academic performance. GPA requirements usually exceed those needed for admission to MSN programs. Additionally, most online nursing doctoral programs demand valid, active RN licenses and at least one year of full-time work experience in a clinical or acute care setting.

At the doctoral level, curricula embraces an intensive focus on advanced, highly specific niche aspects of nursing research, clinical practice, management, or institutional administration. Learners can pursue programs with either indirect or direct care concentrations. Opting for indirect paths qualifies graduates to work in high-level management, administration, or executive roles in healthcare institutions. Direct paths deliver practical education in the highest possible clinical practice levels and help learners develop organizational leadership skills.

Students in DNP programs can specialize in a concentrated area. Learners can work toward exclusive credentials in gerontology, midwifery, anesthesiology, clinical nursing, family nursing, neonatal or pediatric care, psychiatric care, and women's health. Studies take several years to complete and often culminate with a supervised field residency, advanced clinical research project, or doctoral dissertation.

Learn more about the top available online doctoral programs in nursing.

Bridging the Gap

Both students who have already completed some nursing education and working nurses seeking to upgrade their degrees can enroll in bridge programs. Designed to provide an accelerated path to superior academic credentials, bridge programs build on existing clinical knowledge and clinical practice skills.

Compact graduation timelines define bridge programs. Qualified students can graduate in as little as half the time it would normally take to earn a regular degree. Bridge programs also offer significant cost savings. Online study options provide convenience and flexibility that enables licensed nurses to continue working as they study. Thus, bridge programs are often some of the most affordable online nursing schools.

What are Bridge Programs?

Bridge programs feature a compressed academic structure and do not function as complete, standalone degree paths. Institutions usually define them according to the minimum credential needed for admission and the degree type. For example, a student seeking to upgrade their existing MSN by earning a DNP would enroll in an MSN-to-DNP bridge program.

Three of the most common types of nursing bridge programs include:

LPN-to-RN

These bridge programs allow licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to qualify for licensure as RNs. LPN-to-RN programs culminating in bachelor's degree designations are sometimes alternately referred to as LPN-to-BSN programs. As an RN, you possess the necessary qualifications to move beyond the long-term care settings most LPNs work in, graduating to positions in hospitals and clinical care environments.

RN-to-BSN

In many states, RNs need a nursing diploma or associate degree to meet minimum educational requirements. However, diplomas and two-year degrees significantly limit career advancement opportunities. Many RNs seek to upgrade to bachelor's degrees to expand their professional horizons.

RN-to-MSN

Earning an MSN is an excellent investment for established nurses seeking a variety of specialized and advanced practice opportunities along with higher pay, more prestige, and greater future potential. RN-to-MSN programs expand the scope of working nurses' knowledge and clinical practice skills while allowing them to earn a valuable concentration or specialist designation.

How Do They Work?

Bridge programs deliver course content that closely matches the conventional or non-bridge version of the same degree path. However, bridge programs follow an expedited timeline. Because they target students with existing, relevant knowledge bases or professional experience, they can compress program completion times without sacrificing academic depth.

To qualify for admission into a bridge program, you need the initial credential indicated by the program title. For example, to get into an RN-to-BSN program, you need an active RN license, whereas a standard BSN program would not require this. Full-time students can usually complete RN-to-BSN bridge programs in 1-2 years, compared to about four years for learners in their non-bridge counterparts.

Online Bridge Programs at a Glance

Bridge programs target working professionals seeking an efficient, direct path to improved academic credentials. In contrast, standard programs primarily appeal to students who have not yet earned licensure or worked as nurses in clinical settings.

Category LPN-to-RN RN-to-BSN BSN-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 RN license (must remain current throughout program) Active RN license (must remain current throughout program)
Required Credits/Time to Graduation 64-72 credits or 2-3 years of study 120-128 credits or two years for associate degree-holders 60 credits or 2-3 years of study
Curriculum Focus
  • General education, including mathematics, social sciences, and English
  • Nursing curriculum, including evidence-based nursing, principles of nursing, nursing care, and adult health
  • General education, including mathematics, social sciences, and English
  • Major coursework, including nursing research, foundations of nursing, pharmacology, and informatics
  • Advanced major coursework, including clinical leadership, theoretical foundations of nursing, health policy, nursing informatics, and health assessment
Potential Career Titles
  • RN
  • Staff Nurse
  • RN, BSN
  • Acute care nurse
  • Critical care nurse
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Family NP
  • Women's health NP
GET MORE INFO GET MORE INFO GET MORE INFO
FAQs

How are clinical requirements fulfilled in online bridge nursing programs?

Students must complete their clinical practice requirements in person at a faculty-approved healthcare facility. Nursing schools usually maintain internal lists of approved facilities, but they can also grant institutional approval at your request if you live far from the physical campus. Learners can still complete most if not all of their core academic coursework remotely.

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

In most cases, learners can get credit for previously completed coursework if the content closely or completely matches the required course at the new school, and if the initial course was offered at the same degree level. For example, you could likely receive credit in an RN-to-MSN program for an identical graduate-level course, but not for a course you completed as an associate or bachelor's student.

Is accreditation important for online nursing bridge programs?

Accreditation is critical for all nursing programs, including online bridge programs. In practically all cases, you will not qualify for state licensure if you earned your academic credentials at a school without proper accreditation. Some states even demand that aspiring nurses graduate from regionally (and not nationally) accredited schools, as regional accreditation reflects a commitment to higher academic standards.

Nursing Specialties and Careers

Nurses who hold specialized licenses and credentials enjoy expanded career opportunities and greater overall advancement potential. Specializations focus on niche areas of clinical care, concentrating on particular healthcare fields or patient profiles. Students can pursue most specializations at the BSN or MSN levels, with common examples including:

Gerontology

This specialization encompasses the unique care needs of older adults and senior citizens. The field advances the cause of healthy aging, striving to help patients maintain the highest possible levels of bodily function while optimizing their quality of life. Gerontological nurses help older patients recover from illnesses, injuries, and surgeries. They also assist with checkups and work with doctors to create comprehensive care plans.

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

Oncology nurses work with patients living with cancer. The field supports many specific sub-specialties, such as pediatric cancer or breast cancer. In addition to clinical duties surrounding pre- and post-procedural care and support, oncology nurses also actively participate in patient education.

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

Pediatric nurses play a leading role in the care of newborn babies, infants, toddlers, and children. They primarily work in hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. These nurses can specialize in multiple pediatric fields, including direct nursing care, neonatal nursing, palliative nursing for children, and nursing for children with developmental disabilities.

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

Also known as critical care nursing, intensive care nursing involves providing treatment support to patients with life-threatening injuries or illnesses. Nurses with intensive care specializations usually work in hospital intensive care units or clinical settings where patients recover from major surgery, serious accidents or trauma, or severe conditions such as organ failure.

  • 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
Online Nursing Programs & Info

Students can choose from many other specialization options. However, note that many specialized or concentrated programs maintain higher admission or degree completion standards.

Researching Quality Online Nursing Programs

Beyond researching the most affordable nursing schools, prospective students should take program quality, accreditation, and clinical practice requirements into careful account. Check with your state's nurse licensing board to see if specific accreditation types, such as regional or programmatic accreditation, count among core eligibility requirements. You should also learn which hospitals, clinics, and care settings maintain partnerships with your desired school so you can confirm that they also meet requirements.

Some key questions to consider include:

  • Is a program accredited? Never consider a nursing school that is not accredited by a universally recognized body. Whenever possible, prioritize schools with regional rather than national accreditation. Programmatic endorsements from respected accreditors such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education also carry great value.
  • What type and how much hands-on, clinical practice does the program offer and require? Hands-on clinical practice is a critical aspect of your nursing education, and all reputable programs require it. The amount of clinical experience you need depends on your degree path. Learners typically need 45-320 hours in clinical field settings, in which students take patient histories, perform physical examinations, prepare care plans, and record observations.
  • Are students prepared for licensure after graduation? Yes. Accredited nursing programs prepare students to pass the relevant National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). For example, all regionally accredited or programmatically endorsed LPN-to-RN programs position graduates for success on the NCLEX-RN standardized test.
  • What types of specializations or research opportunities are available to students? Available specializations and research opportunities differ by school. Some schools only offer generalist degrees while others have built their reputation on a narrow or singular set of specializations or concentrations. If a particular specialization or research opportunity interests you, filter your searches to generate results that highlight only relevant programs.
  • What is the educational and clinical experience of instructors and faculty? The nursing profession changes quickly, and as a result, program quality remains closely tied to the faculty's educational and clinical experience and achievements. Look for programs with faculty and instructors who possess elite levels of education as well as current clinical experience. Ideally, clinical instructors should also have special pedagogical training, as even the most accomplished clinicians may lack the ability to effectively convey their knowledge.
  • What are the job placement and graduation rates for the online program? Graduation rates reflect the percentage of students who complete the program after initial enrollment. It ranks as a key signifier of student satisfaction, but it can mislead. Intensive programs with high academic performance standards may have lower graduation rates simply because many students struggle to meet the requirements. As such, consider this metric in tandem with job placement rates, which reflect the school's reputation among employers.

Also Consider These Other Nursing Options



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