2021 Best Online RN Programs

Advertisement 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.

Search for online colleges by subject.

Best Online RN Programs badge

Registered nurses (RNs) care for patients in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and home healthcare settings. They specialize in areas such as emergency care, pediatrics, hospice care, and informatics. A registered nurse program prepares graduates for high-paying nursing careers.

During an RN program, nursing students learn how to conduct a patient health assessment, identify patient needs, and apply evidence-based practices. They also complete clinical hours to strengthen their patient care skills. After earning a BSN, nurses qualify for RN licensure and entry-level nursing careers.

Advertisement 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 Programs

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

RNs benefit from strong demand and an above-average salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs earn a median annual salary of $73,300. The BLS projects nearly 222,000 new RN jobs between 2019-2029.

Our list ranks the best online nursing programs for 2021. Prospective nurses can use the rankings to identify the right fit for reaching their professional goals. This article also introduces the benefits of earning an RN degree online, admission requirements, and scholarships for nursing students.

See Our Rankings Methodology

Top 10 Best Online RN Programs

FAQ


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

    An RN provides patient care in a healthcare setting. RNs enter the healthcare field with an associate degree in nursing or a BSN degree.


  • Do you need a bachelor's degree to be a nurse?

    Some employers hire nurses with an associate degree and an RN license. However, a growing number of employers prefer to hire nurses with a bachelor’s degree.


  • What kind of nurses get paid the most?

    Advanced practice RNs, like nurse practitioners, earn the highest salaries in nursing. A BSN degree meets the requirements for graduate programs in nursing.


  • How do I start a career in nursing?

    A BSN represents the typical entry-level education for registered nurse careers. The degree trains graduates for an RN license and nursing jobs.


2021 Best Online RN Programs



  1. Oklahoma State University
    Location

    Stillwater, OK

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public university in Stillwater, Oklahoma State University offers several on-campus and online programs for registered nurses. OSU offers among the best RN bachelor's programs for working nurses seeking a flexible route to career advancement. With full-time and part-time enrollment options, nurses can find a format that fits their schedule.

    The nursing curriculum prioritizes evidence-based practice. Online learners take courses on topics like epidemiology, gerontology, and community health, building a broad foundation of knowledge. The program also incorporates classes in nursing research and leadership in nursing. Students culminate the degree with a capstone course.

    OSU offers a transfer scholarship for its online RN-to-BSN degree. Oklahoma State University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  2. Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences
    Location

    Memphis, TN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1912, the Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences hosts students on its Memphis campus and online. The school's online BSN program allows registered nurses to increase their earning potential and expand their career options.

    Nursing students can design an individualized plan of study based on their professional goals. Courses cover topics like health assessment, nursing research in evidence-based practice, population health, and professional nursing roles. Students can earn transfer credit for prior learning, including up to 41 credits for prior nursing education. Nurses can also earn credit toward the BSN through competency-based exams.

    Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA. Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The online RN-to-BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  3. Rutgers University-Camden
    Location

    Camden, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A branch campus of New Jersey's state university system, Rutgers-Camden offers an online RN-to-BSN degree that features small class sizes and no required campus visits. Full-time nursing students can graduate in one year.

    The nursing curriculum includes coursework in pharmacology, pathophysiology, and leadership development. Online learners strengthen reasoning, critical thinking, and communication skills. The program prepares graduates for clinical leadership roles and emerging nursing specialties.

    The RN-to-BSN program admits applicants on a rolling basis. Incoming nursing students receive 33 credits for passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Rutgers University-Camden holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the BSN program.

  4. Indiana University-Bloomington
    Location

    Bloomington, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Indiana University Bloomington, the flagship campus of the state's public university system, offers one of the best RN bachelor's programs in the state. The program emphasizes leadership skills and clinical experience and takes one year of full-time study to complete.

    Nursing students take courses like analysis in nursing management, clinical practice, nursing research, and applied healthcare ethics. Online learners can customize the program through electives on topics like comprehensive health assessment, gerontological nursing, and global health issues in nursing.

    IU offers career services, technical support, and financial services for online students. Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA. Indiana residents receive a tuition discount. Indiana University Bloomington holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the School of Nursing.

  5. Goshen College
    Location

    Goshen, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private institution in rural Indiana, Goshen College offers an online RN-to-BSN degree that comprises 40 credits. The program enrolls registered nurses with an associate degree from an accredited institution.

    Online learners take asynchronous courses. Classes include community health nursing, leadership in nursing, nursing research, and holistic client assessment. GC integrates clinical components and practice-based projects into its curriculum to strengthen clinical skills. Students typically complete clinical hour requirements at their current workplace.

    Applicants need a current RN license and a minimum 2.7 GPA. Goshen College holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  6. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian State University is a public institution that offers a fully online BSN degree for registered nurses. The program prepares students for leadership positions in nursing and graduate study. Appalachian prioritizes flexibility, affordability, and practical training in its online nursing program.

    Nursing students take classes on topics like nursing informatics, health assessment, and nursing research. In addition to classroom learning, Appalachian incorporates nontraditional clinicals using class projects and research. Students culminate the program with a professional nursing capstone that synthesizes degree knowledge and skills.

    Prospective students need a minimum 2.5 GPA. North Carolina residents receive a tuition discount. Appalachian State University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the BSN program.

  7. Mercer University
    Location

    Macon, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Macon, Georgia, Mercer University is a private institution founded in 1837. The fully online RN-to-BSN degree admits RNs residing in Georgia with an accredited associate degree or diploma in nursing. Full-time students can graduate in three semesters.

    The program features flexible, asynchronous coursework and covers topics like leadership in nursing, health policy for nursing practice, and health assessment. Online nursing students also complete clinical hours to build hands-on skills.

    New students must complete a one-day, on-campus orientation. Mercer University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits Mercer's online RN programs.

  8. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of South Florida is a public institution based in Tampa. The school offers one of the best RN-to-BSN programs in the state. The fully online program lets nurses customize the program around their career needs, offering focus areas in leadership and management, patient and staff education, and clinical excellence. Full-time students can complete the degree in three semesters.

    The 30-credit program covers topics like the educational role of the nurse, healthcare leadership and management, and population health. Online nursing students complete six credits in their focus area and nine credits of nursing electives.

    Prospective students need a current RN license in Florida and a minimum 2.5 GPA. The University of South Florida holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The College of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  9. Mary Baldwin University
    Location

    Staunton, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private institution based in Staunton, Virginia, Mary Baldwin University dates back to 1842. MBU offers a fully online BSN program for registered nurses. The program features asynchronous courses, giving students the flexibility to balance their studies with professional and personal obligations.

    The 30-credit BSN curriculum includes courses in nursing informatics, research in nursing, nursing across the lifespan, and nursing leadership and management. Online students also complete a community health practicum to strengthen their clinical skills. Nurses considering a master's degree can enroll in the RN-BSN-MSN program at MBU.

    Prospective students need a current RN license and an associate degree or diploma in nursing with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Mary Baldwin University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  10. Lewis University
    Location

    Romeoville, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private Catholic institution located 35 miles from Chicago, Lewis University offers an online RN-to-BSN program designed for working nurses. Lewis prioritizes small class sizes, active participation, and interactive discussion in its online nursing program.

    The nursing curriculum includes coursework in evidence-based practice, health assessment, healthcare informatics, and promoting healthy communities. Students also complete a leadership practicum to strengthen their skills. Nursing students may qualify for employer tuition discounts through several local medical centers and hospitals.

    Applicants need a current Illinois RN license and an associate degree or diploma in nursing with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Lewis University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The College of Nursing and Health Sciences holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

What Are the Goals of an RN Degree?

A registered nurse program builds the knowledge and skills required for RN careers. During an RN degree, nursing students take classes in anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, and health assessment. They also gain hands-on training through clinical practicums at hospitals and other healthcare settings.

RN students strengthen their core nursing skills while also specializing in areas including pediatrics, emergency care, and surgical nursing. A BSN degree meets the requirements for these nursing specialties and more. After completing coursework and clinical requirements, RN students take the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for a nursing license.

Why Get an RN Degree?



With an RN degree, graduates can pursue careers in an in-demand, high-paying field. An RN degree offers several other personal and professional benefits:

Earning Potential
RNs earn an above-average salary. The median annual salary for RNs exceeds $73,000, according to the BLS. A BSN degree increases nurses’ earning potential.
Specialities
During a BSN program, nursing students specialize their skills through electives and clinical rotations. Nurses specialize in areas such as pediatrics, acute care, and oncology.
Demand
The demand for RNs continues to grow. According to BLS projections, the workforce will add nearly 222,000 new RN jobs between 2019-2029.
Flexibility
An online learning format prioritizes flexibility. In an online nursing program, learners often complete coursework around other obligations, making it easier to earn a degree.
Accessibility
RN degrees online offer greater accessibility compared to in-person programs. Degree-seekers can choose a top-ranked program outside their local area without relocating.

Online Guide to Accredited Colleges and Universities

What Are the Requirements for an RN Degree?

Applicants to an online nursing program must meet certain prerequisites. Typically, an RN program offering BSN degrees expects a high school diploma or equivalent and standardized test scores. Schools may also ask for recommendation letters, a resume, and a statement of purpose. Some online RN programs interview applicants during the admissions process. During the interview, nursing faculty learn more about the applicant’s background and preparation for an RN degree.

After gaining admission, RN students take courses in health assessment, evidence-based practice, and patient care. Nursing students also complete clinical hours to build hands-on skills. After earning an RN degree online, nurses take the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for an RN license.

Professional Organizations for RN Students



Professional organizations help RN students transition from their BSN program into the workforce. These associations provide professional development resources, career counseling, and continuing education opportunities. Nursing students also network with experienced nurses through local events and national conferences. Many professional organizations offer student membership discounts.


  • American Nursing Association Founded in 1911, the ANA represents the 3.4 million RNs in the U.S. The association sets nursing practice standards and a code of ethics. Members also benefit from continuing education opportunities, professional journals, and a career center with job postings and career counseling support.

  • Sigma An international honor society, Sigma dates back to 1922. The association recognizes exceptional nursing students and supports nursing research. Members participate in networking opportunities through local chapters, pursue leadership roles in Sigma, and access career advising and coaching information. The organization represents 135,000 nurses worldwide.

  • National Student Nurses' Association NSNA offers mentorship opportunities for nursing students pursuing initial RN licensure. The association promotes clinical and patient care skills, publishes data on nursing, and hosts a career center with online education tools. NSNA also provides resources on the NCLEX-RN exam and career planning support.

Scholarships for RN Students

RN students qualify for many scholarship opportunities. Professional associations, private foundations, and private donors all award scholarships for future nurses. Nursing students should research scholarships based on their nursing specialty, school, and state. Many states offer grants to fund nursing degrees. Below, we list a few scholarships to start your search.

Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) awards the scholarship to support nursing students with a minimum 3.2 GPA. Applicants must enroll in a BSN program at an AACN member institution to qualify. The scholarship requires good academic standing at the recipient’s current institution.
Amount: $5,000

AfterCollege-AACN Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The scholarship funds nursing students at the bachelor’s and graduate levels. Applicants enrolled in an RN-to-BSN program or an accelerated program receive special consideration. The fund grants a scholarship every quarter.
Amount: $2,500

AACN Scholarship

Who Can Apply: AACN offers the scholarship in partnership with Hurst Review Services, an NCLEX preparation company. Prelicensure students at AACN member schools qualify for the award. AACN and Hurst Review Services select winners twice annually.
Amount: $2,500

Latest Posts

See All Posts
Common Student Financial Misconceptions

Common Student Financial Misconceptions

April 6, 2021   |   Genevieve Carlton

Student loans, budgeting, and paying off debt can leave students, recent graduates, and their parents feeling lost. Can you appeal for more financial aid? Should you open a credit card?...

Financial Terms Glossary for College Students

Financial Terms Glossary for College Students

April 14, 2021   |   Genevieve Carlton

College students make financial decisions that can shape their future. This financial glossary includes terms related to financial aid, credit, and taxes. By learning financial vocabulary and studying financial literacy...

Advertisement 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.

Search for Online Colleges by Subject

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.