Best Online RN Programs The Professional Standard for Nurses

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Those interested in a nursing career but with limited availability may benefit from enrolling in an online RN program. Accredited online schools prepare students to take the NCLEX-RN licensure exam and enter the workforce with this in-demand career. This guide provides detailed information about career paths for registered nurses and accredited online programs of all degree levels.

I am currently…

Before becoming an RN, you’ll need a combination of working experience and in-lab clinical hours. A good starting point to see if a career in healthcare is right for you is to explore an online Medical Assisting degree. Becoming a Medical Assistant can help you earn valuable career experience in the medical field that can assist you in your path to becoming an RN.

Explore Online Degree Programs to Become a Medical Assistant

If you\'re looking to advance your career by becoming an RN, you\'ll first need to apply for a nursing license from your state board of nursing, then pass the National Council Licensure Examination. The content of the NCLEX exam is based on client needs and is primarily made up of multiple choice questions. Learn more about how to prepare for and pass the NCLEX exam.

Get Prepared for the NCLEX Exam with a Test Prep Program

There are many educational paths that can lead to a career in nursing, including working towards an RN diploma or certificate, studying for an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Continue reading to find out more about becoming an RN.

Get more information about online LPN/LVN programs

If you already have your RN diploma or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can help you be eligible for higher-earning nursing positions, such as a clinical nurse manager, case management director or charge nurse. Find out more about earning your BSN online.

Explore Online Degree Programs to Complete a BSN

Best Online RN Degree Programs

Enrolling in an online RN degree program can help students enter a fulfilling career in a fast-growing field. Many schools have adapted to this increasing demand by offering fully online programs for prospective RN students. To narrow down the long list of schools that offer this degree, we have ranked every school with an RN program in the country by analyzing factors such as tuition, financial aid provided by the school and class size. Learn more about the top online RN degree programs here.

Minimum Qualifications
  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution, including specialized accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)

  • At least 1 online RN degree at the associate or certificate/diploma level (2-year schools)

  • At least 1 online RN degree at the bachelor’s or master’s level (4-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)

  • Availability of academic/career counseling services

  • Availability of job placement services for graduates

Ranking Metrics

Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:

  • Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates

  • NCLEX-RN pass rate for ADN programs (2-year schools) or BSN programs (4-year schools)

  • Count and breadth of RN programs available

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)

  • % of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college

  • Average $ of financial aid students receive directly 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.

Data Sources

Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.

  • Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio NCLEX Pass Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Newman University Wichita, KS 99.45 $23,700 1 98% 14:1 94% yes yes yes

With a 100 percent pass rate for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), Newman University prepares nursing graduates to be generalists while laying groundwork for graduate school and specializations. The college offers a few different degree options for current and aspiring RNs. The BSN Program requires a total of 124 credit hours and a GPA of at least 2.0. To be considered for the program, students must first complete 58 semester hours of pre-nursing courses. The university's LPN to BSN Bridge Program is designed for licensed practical nurses looking to earn their bachelor's. It requires 57 hours of completed prerequisite courses. All incoming students are required to take a two-credit hour bridge course to begin the Newman nursing program. Students who earned a nursing degree more than 10 years ago from a Kansas school must validate three required courses (NSG 3011, 3015 and 3053) through exams, have 1,000 hours of nursing work experience in the past three years and a hold a current Kansas license. However, LPN students who graduated from a Kansas school within the past 10 years, have a current Kansas license and are accepted into Newman's nursing program can receive credit for the three courses. Nursing-specific scholarships are available for eligible students through the university.

2 Lincoln Memorial University Harrogate, TN 99.14 $19,440 1 100% 13:1 91% yes yes yes

Lincoln Memorial University's School of Nursing touts a 96 percent employment rate within six to 12 months of graduation. Applicants can choose between the Associate of Science in Nursing Degree (ASN) or the Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Registered nurses who wish to further their education can enter the RN-BSN degree program if they have earned an (ASN) or diploma in nursing from an accredited institution and have a current nursing license. Graduates of this program should be prepared for professional-level nursing and/or continued graduate studies. Coursework is available completely online to fit into a busy RN's schedule. 49 credit hours of general education requirements can be completed throughout the program instead of before acceptance, which is typically the expectation at other nursing schools. 29 credit hours must be completed for nursing-specific coursework, but currently licensed registered nurses may be able to receive up to 31 upper-level nursing credit hours for work experience if they have been in clinical practice for two years or graduated from a nursing program in the past year, earned a C or better in past nursing classes and have earned 16 credits in the RN-BSN program in the Caylor School of Nursing. Lincoln Memorial's pass rate for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) was 91 percent in 2016.

3 Ball State University Muncie, IN 98.11 $8,682 2 48% 14:1 93% no yes yes

Ball State University's School of Nursing has earned the National League for Nursing Center of Excellence in Nursing Education designation. The university offers a Baccalaureate Concentration Nursing Program which is an on-campus track that prepares students for licensure and can be completed in four years. Graduates are prepared to work in a variety of settings or pursue graduate degrees. Annual pass rates on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) are 94 to 100 percent. Ball State Nursing also includes a Degree in 3 program which makes graduation possible in three years, a Second Baccalaureate Degree for students with a bachelor's in a non-nursing field to earn a BSN in 19 months and an LPN to RN on-campus degree. For individuals who need more flexibility, Ball State's Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science (RN to BS) program can be completed online, with the exception of clinical hours. Coursework emphasizes community care and blends rigorous nursing curriculum with liberal arts for a well-rounded education. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and is approved by the Indiana State Board of Nursing. To be admitted, students must have graduated from an accredited nursing program, hold a current nursing license, earned a 2.75 GPA, completed all nursing prerequisites and pass a background check. Ball State considers out-of-state applicants, depending on the state and specific degree program. Working nursing students should find out whether employer assistance is available through their workplace. The nursing school's National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate has remained above 90 percent in recent years.

4 Fort Hays State University Hays, KS 97.52 $3,450 1 74% 16:1 95% no yes yes

Fort Hays State University's nursing program achieved an NCLEX pass rate of 100 percent in 2016. Degree options for aspiring and current RNs include a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing and an online RN to BSN program. The RN to BSN allows registered nurses to complete their degree entirely online, aside from clinical hours, in about three semesters. Incoming students can enter the program during any semester but must first meet a number of requirements - applicants must hold a current U.S. nursing license, have a GPA of 2.5 or above and transfer courses must be from a regionally accredited school. The school's Department of Nursing does not accept applicants from Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming, Alabama or Washington or international students. Once accepted, students must pass a background check within the first month. RNs may earn Advanced Standing Credit toward their BSN degree by successfully passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). A $25-per-credit charge will be applied to each credit earned in this manner. Several in-state financial aid options are available for Kansas nurses, including the Kansas Nursing Service Scholarship, Kansas State Board of Nursing Undergraduate Scholarship and discounts for Kansas State Nurse Association members' continuing education.

5 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ 97.44 $8,072 2 64% 18:1 83% no yes yes

Northern Arizona University School of Nursing has a National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate of 91, which surpasses several other large Arizona universities as recently as 2015. The school's RN programs include the traditional 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing, an Accelerated Nursing (BSN) for those who have a bachelor's degree in another field and an RN to BSN program for current registered nurses pursuing a bachelor's degree. For the RN to BSN, nurses must have an associate degree or diploma in nursing and can transfer previously earned credits toward their BSN, provided they graduated from a state or nationally accredited nursing program. Up to 90 credits can be transferred this way. Courses are available 100 percent online, while clinicals can be completed locally. Applicants must have a current state license; however, students living in or relocating to Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee or Washington are ineligible to apply. To graduate, accepted students must meet all university requirements, which include 30 upper-division credits, 30 credits taken through Northern Arizona University with 18 at 300-level or above and a GPA of at least 2.0. Students can also take elective courses. A minimum of 120 units is required for graduation.

6 University of Rhode Island Kingston, RI 97.43 $10,878 1 84% 17:1 78% no yes yes

In 2017, the College of Nursing at University of Rhode Island achieved a 94 percent pass rate for first-time National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) test-takers. Students interested in an RN career can enroll in the traditional four-year on-campus baccalaureate program in nursing. There is also an on-campus RN to BS program for those who have an associate degree or a diploma in nursing and wish to earn their BS. The university's new online RN to BS program allows students to earn a BSN from the comfort of their own home and on their own time. All of the required coursework, except for clinicals, can be done online. This accelerated program can be completed in as few as 15 months, depending on transferable credits and course load. The program cost is $318 per credit hour plus fees. A $1,000 Affiliate Partner Scholarship is offered to online students through the university to qualified nurses working for partner hospitals. The College of Nursing maintains high standards in education - a cumulative GPA of 3.0 for all prerequisites is required of all applicants, and once admitted students must maintain a 2.20 GPA. To graduate, students must have 120 credits, but up to 90 may be transfer credits.

7 Aurora University Aurora, IL 96.99 $21,120 2 100% 17:1 97% no yes yes

Aurora University's School of Nursing and Allied Health prepares students for the nursing profession through full and part-time programs online and on-campus. The on-campus BSN degree is offered as a traditional BSN as well as an RN to BSN option for those who already have an associate degree or diploma. With AU's Online RN to BSN program, which consists of eight-week courses, students can earn their BSN in three years or as little as 18 months. The RN to BSN program is a great choice for nurses who already have an associate degree or diploma in nursing and have a busy work schedule as it can be completed 100 percent online, aside from clinicals. To graduate, students must have a total of 120 credits, with 30 in the major. The cost per credit is $350. Students should contact the Aurora University financial aid office for information on available assistance. Applicants must have a current nursing license in Wisconsin or Illinois, have practiced in the past five years or taken a refresher course, submit all transcripts from previous higher education institutions and have a GPA of 2.5. All nursing graduates must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to be eligible for employment. In 2016, the university earned a pass rate of 97 percent on the NCLEX.

8 University of Northern Colorado Greeley, CO 96.92 $6,024 1 69% 18:1 93% no yes yes

University of Northern Colorado's School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and is approved by the Colorado State Board of Nursing. The school has a pass rate of between 95 and 100 percent for first-time NCLEX test-takers. The traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) requires two years of prerequisite coursework and two years of clinical experiences. For prospective students who already have a bachelor's degree, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN second degree) is a full-time, on-campus program that takes 20 months to complete. For RNs with an associate degree in nursing who wish to keep their full-time jobs while boosting their career and salary potential, the online RN to BSN degree is perfect. There are two online courses per semester for five semesters over 20 months. UNC's online program offers students the ability to communicate with instructors and classmates in real time through a video platform. To apply for the RN to BSN program, applicants must have a C or higher in all prerequisites, two letters of recommendations, a personal essay and a 3.0 GPA for the most recently-earned 45 credits. The cost for the degree program is $450 per credit, and various financial aid options are available to eligible students.

9 Western Carolina University Cullowhee, NC 96.59 $3,669 2 69% 16:1 96% yes yes yes

Western Carolina University has an accredited School of Nursing where students can prepare for a nursing career. Degree options include a BSN Pre-Licensure Program, Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) for students who have a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing and an online RN to BSN Program for RNs who want to enhance their career and salary potential. Graduates can then go on to pursue graduate-level education or higher-paying, specialized RN positions. Students can complete their BSN in four semesters, which would consist of 24 hours of online core classes and six hours of upper division electives. The classes can also be taken on a part-time basis for RNs who are unable to commit to full-time studies. To apply, applicants must earn 60 credits before admission and have a cumulative GPA of 2.5. Prerequisites may be met through liberal studies and School of Nursing studies or through a North Carolina community college nursing program. The liberal studies prerequisites may be waived if the applicant already has an associate degree. Visit the Admission Requirements page to have an adviser review transcripts for potential transfer credits that can be used towards degree completion. 96 percent of Western Carolina's first-time NCLEX test-takers pass the exam. Estimated tuition is $3,500 for in-state residents and $9,500 for out-of-state residents but for the most up-to-date information on tuition and fees, contact the school's Division of Campus Operations and Finance.

10 Clarkson College Omaha, NE 96.43 $11,016 1 68% 13:1 96% yes yes yes

Clarkson College boasts a 96 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The college's RN to BSN program is created specifically for registered nurses seeking a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Students can attend full-time for three semesters or part-time for six to earn the 28 semester hours required to complete the degree. Coursework is a mix of general education, support courses such as anatomy and gerontology, and major courses such as evidence-based inquiry in health care and population health. Clarkson College also offers a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing for those who aren't already in the nursing field and want to enter the profession, and an LPN to BSN program for LPNs who want to earn a bachelor's degree to become a registered nurse.

11 East Carolina University Greenville, NC 96.42 $3,959 2 48% 18:1 96% no yes yes

Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, East Carolina University offers nursing degrees at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral level. Their BSN graduates boast an NCLEX first-time pass rate of 95 percent - or even higher. While many nursing students study on campus, ECU's College of Nursing does offer online options for those who need flexibility. One of their most popular online nursing degrees is the RN to BSN program. Because a BSN is becoming more important for a successful nursing career, ECU has made earning a degree easier for registered nurses who are already working. All courses in this program can be completed entirely online. It takes four semesters to complete, with summer courses as a requirement.

12 Fayetteville State University Fayetteville, NC 96.37 $2,743 1 88% 17:1 87% yes yes yes

Nursing students often attend college with the expectation of landing a job immediately after graduation. Fayetteville State University has structured their undergraduate nursing program with that in mind, and they have reached a 100 percent job placement rate for students after graduation. A big part of why all students get positions is their NCLEX pass rates - in 2017, 93 percent of students passed the NCLEX on their first try. Because Fayetteville is home to many RNs and has a huge demand for nurses with four-year degrees, FSU offers an RN to BSN program that is among the top in North Carolina. Students who take this program can earn their degree in as little as 2.5 semesters if they study full time. However, part time options are also available for those who want to continue working while earning their BSN.

13 King University Bristol, TN 96.16 $24,316 2 86% 16:1 73% yes yes yes

Among the best regional schools in the South, King University is a Christian college that brings faith into all their academic programs. The nursing school at King is no exception as they've adopted the holistic approach for all their programs. This can be seen in their BSN program, and the holistic approach is a large reason why many students land a job at their first-choice employer upon graduation. There are three ways to become an RN at King University: the traditional BSN, the RN to BSN and the online RN to BSN. The campus-based RN to BSN program can be completed at one of seven different locations across Tennessee, and has a rolling admission calendar, so students can apply at any time. The online RN to BSN program, on the other hand, can be studied from anywhere with internet access and requires 124 semester hours. This program can be completed in as little as 16 months.

14 Cumberland University Lebanon, TN 96.09 $19,200 1 99% 16:1 81% yes yes yes

One of the most important considerations when picking a school is its reputation. Cumberland University is recognized as one of the top schools in Middle Tennessee and is known for placing nursing students in the jobs of their choice. All nursing programs are fully accredited and approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing, and Cumberland receives ample seed money for student scholarships and education supplies. The school offers a traditional BSN degree, a masters of science in nursing, which is available online as well, and for students who want to earn a BSN but are already registered nurses, the online RN to BSN program is an excellent option. One of the most popular programs at the nursing school, this can be completed in just 12 months. Also, since the program is entirely online, students can study at whatever pace suits them best.

15 Bethel University McKenzie, TN 95.78 $9,600 1 70% 17:1 74% yes yes yes

Recent Bethel University nursing graduates have the distinction of achieving a 100 percent pass rate on the NCLEX exam. Passing the exam is the final hurdle for students aiming to earn licensure as a registered nurse. In addition to a traditional on-campus BSN program, Bethel University also offers a fully online RN to BSN program for students who have already passed the NCLEX exam. These students must be graduates of an associate in nursing or a diploma program and must be current registered nurses. The RN to BSN program is designed to take nursing students to the next level in their judgement, capabilities and career potential. The program is comprised of a total 124 credits, with 32 core bachelor of science credits. Fifty-five credits are general education prerequisites and 37 credit hours are earned at the associate degree level. As each student's prior education experience is different, program duration depends on individualized needs. Classes for this online program begin every 10 weeks, giving students five potential start dates per year.

16 Tennessee Technological University Cookeville, TN 95.76 $6,168 1 43% 19:1 95% no yes yes

Nursing students at the Tennessee Technological University can earn their BSN on-campus or right from home through the school's online RN to BSN degree program. Graduates from TTU's four-year nursing degree program have maintained a pass rate on the NCLEX exam of 95 percent or higher. Students who have previously taken and passed the NCLEX exam as part of an associate in nursing degree program are permitted to enroll in the fully online RN to BSN program. This program is flexible and allows credits from general education and some upper division classes completed at the associate level to transfer over into the bachelor program. Because RN to BSN students may already have work experience in nursing, credit hours for their real life experience can also be credited to their bachelor's degree. By working to tailor coursework to each student's education and work experience, TTU aims to help students complete their degree faster. Tennessee residents enrolled in this program may finish a BSN with more money in their pockets, though out-of-state students can expect to pay nearly double the tuition rate. To help with high costs of college, a number of scholarship opportunities are available to TTU nursing students.

17 Appalachian State University Boone, NC 95.73 $3,772 1 34% 16:1 90% yes yes yes

Appalachian State University, one of 12 University of North Carolina schools, provides a comprehensive education aimed at promoting a sustainable future. RN students can complete their entire degree online. The RN to BSN program is fashioned for nurses wishing to pursue their Bachelor of Science in Nursing and, while the degree requires 124 credits for graduation, some of those will be covered by previous nursing experience. Classes are offered part-time, which fits a busy work schedule, and include online instruction in the format of discussion forums, quizzes, papers, case study analyses and lectures. Nursing credits earned elsewhere will not transfer to Appalachian State; however, other prerequisites may be able to transfer, pending review. In addition to traditional forms of financial aid, all nursing students are eligible for Forgivable Education Loans for Service, which is a program offered by the North Carolina legislature for critical job shortages in the field. The RN to BSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

18 University of Memphis Memphis, TN 95.61 $7,056 2 40% 14:1 85% yes yes yes

University of Memphis boasts one of the lowest tuition rates in Tennessee. Its RN to BSN program, designed for nurses who have already completed an associate's degree and wish to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing, is offered on a full-time or part-time basis. The 31 necessary credits may be completed within four academic years or as quickly as one year. Up to four credits may be earned through previous nursing experience. Examples of allowances include new graduate residency, national nursing certification, professionally recognized continuing education credits, clinical teaching in higher education, scholarly presentations and publications, clinical project leadership, and leadership in professional nursing or healthcare organization. In addition, credit by examination (CBE) allows nursing students to earn college credit by passing an exam at the national proficiency mark for three courses: Health Assessment & Lab, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology. The Loewenberg College of Nursing's individualized learning offers a flexible 24/7 education via eCourseware, the university's web-based instructional program, an invaluable resource for busy nurses pursuing their higher education.

19 Anderson University Anderson, SC 95.57 $21,660 1 99% 16:1 90% no yes yes

Located in South Carolina, Anderson University offers various majors and concentrations leading to bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. When it comes to nursing, AU's Christ-centered perspective contributes to a student's understanding of compassionate patient care. AU's online Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) degree was created for students who already hold a bachelor degree in another field, or have taken up to 59 hours of college credits. The ABSN can be completed in 15 months. In 2017, 98 percent of AU nursing graduates passed the NCLEX. Registered nurses seeking advancement may enroll in AU's online RN to BSN Completion (RN-BSN) Program. Applicants must provide their nursing license and transcripts indicating they have maintained a 2.75 GPA in previous ADN schooling. Online classes are as short as five weeks in duration. At the graduate level, AU offers an online master's degree (with four concentrations) intended to be completed in 15 months, or an online nursing doctoral degree in 36 months.

20 Lander University Greenwood, SC 95.53 $9,538 1 49% 14:1 89% yes yes yes

Lander University, located in Greenwood, South Carolina, was founded in 1872 by Methodist clergyman Samuel Lander as a college for women. Today, Lander University serves 3,000 students with professional programs in nursing, education and business. The William Preston Turner School of Nursing made Lander one of the first universities in the state to offer an online RN to BSN degree program. Its graduates have averaged a 95 percent passing rate on the NCLEX-RN for the last five years. The RN to BSN completion option at Lander is comprised of 126 total semester hours, 30 of which must be undertaken at the school of nursing. The program emphasizes management and leadership, community health and research. Graduate students can complete an online Master of Science in Nursing, Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL). Applicants to the online CNL program must be a graduate of a baccalaureate nursing program with an overall grade point average of 3.0. The school and nursing program are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

21 North Carolina Central University Durham, NC 95.50 $3,455 1 85% 16:1 70% yes yes yes

North Carolina Central University is America's first public liberal arts postsecondary school founded for African Americans. More than 8,000 students attend the school that is located in Durham, North Carolina's fourth most-populated city. The majority of the students at North Carolina Central are undergraduate students. An online and a traditional registered nurse to bachelor's in science nursing degree are offered at the school. The nursing distance program is fully online. The only time that nursing majors need to come to campus is to complete a preceptorship or a practicum. Students need a nursing diploma or associate's degree to enter the program that is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. It's possible to complete an accelerated version of the nursing program within 14 months. Whether they take the traditional, online or accelerated track, students should know that community is big at North Carolina Central University. Students must complete at least 120 hours of community service to graduate.

22 University of South Alabama Mobile, AL 95.49 $6,888 1 58% 20:1 85% no yes yes

The University of South Alabama is a Gulf Coast school that stretches across 1,200 acres. Founded in 1963, the school is known for its health programs. Nursing majors get-hands on experience while completing internships at the university's medical center, women's hospital or cancer institute. Students seeking the registered nurse bachelor's degree have the option of taking classes on campus or online. A master's in nursing and a doctorate in nursing are also offered. Each of the programs is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Specializations within the graduate nursing programs include family psychiatric, clinical nurse specialist, women's health nurse practitioner, clinical nurse leader and executive nurse administrator. Lunch and learns and alumni events like the College of Nursing Community Awards offer students networking and continual learning opportunities.

23 Plymouth State University Plymouth, NH 95.43 $10,410 1 85% 17:1 95% no yes yes

Admission to the nursing program at Plymouth State University (PSU) is competitive, with a maximum of 40 students being admitted in each cohort. This is typically a four-year program, with full-time enrollment, although students may be able to finish sooner by transferring in prerequisite and general education credits. With an emphasis on hands-on learning, students are required to complete nursing-specific courses on campus but can choose to complete prerequisite and general education courses online. PSU also offers a RN to BS Pathway program for students with a current RN license, or for those holding an AS degree in nursing from a New Hampshire community college and NCLEX-RN eligibility. This is a flexible and affordable option, as it allows students to complete most of their nursing degrees at a community college, including their third year, with the final few upper-level nursing courses at PSU. For increased affordability, students can find several general scholarships through PSU, along with several specific to nursing students.

24 Towson University Towson, MD 95.41 $6,004 2 35% 17:1 83% yes yes yes

Towson University offers three degree track options leading to a BS in nursing, including a BS with a nursing major, for students with non-nursing bachelor's degrees. The Associate-to-Bachelor's track is an accelerated program, with completion in two and a half years for students that have earned an AA in nursing at one of Towson's partner community colleges. This is a dual enrollment program, which means students will be completing their AA degrees at a community college while simultaneously earning their BS in nursing degree through Towson. The RN to BS track allows up to 90 transfer credits and can be completed with either part or full-time enrollment, which is great for students already working in the nursing field. Nursing courses are mostly face-to-face, with web-enhanced, hybrid and online classes mixed in. Students will have clinical rotations throughout the Baltimore and West Maryland area, with opportunities at top research institutions such as John Hopkins and The University of Maryland Medical Center.

25 East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN 95.36 $6,312 2 15% 17:1 88% yes yes yes

While East Tennessee State University is one of the largest nursing schools in Tennessee, they don't sacrifice the quality of their education to support large class sizes. With an NCLEX pass rate of nearly 95% in 2017, East Tennessee continues to cement their place as one of the top nursing schools in Tennessee. East Tennessee is also one of the most affordable nursing degree programs in the state. To make earning a BSN even more affordable, East Tennessee offers an RN to BSN program that offers students a quick way to earn their bachelor's degree. Applications are accepted each semester, and students can study on a two, three, five or nine semester track to earn their degree. The RN to BSN program is offered entirely online, so students won't be forced to commute to campus for classes and can study at their own pace.

26 Texas Woman's University Denton, TX 95.35 $5,650 1 43% 18:1 92% no yes yes

As the name insinuates, Texas Woman's University began primarily as a college for women. However, they have since become more well-known for their nursing school which is available to both women and men. TWU's nursing school has become recognized as one of the top nursing programs in the nation. There are three locations in Texas where students can study toward their nursing degree – Denton, Dallas and Houston – as well as a robust study abroad program and an online school for specific degrees. One online option in the nursing school is the RN to BSN program. This 100% online program allows students to continue working while they earn the degree, something that is not offered with all RN to BSN programs.

27 Shepherd University Shepherdstown, WV 95.21 $4,660 1 45% 15:1 81% yes yes yes

Considered to be one of the top nursing schools in West Virginia, Shepherd University maintains a small class size of approximately 20 students, and its nursing education program is its most popular offering. As Shepherd has continued to grow, they've added DNP, MSN and nurse practitioner programs, all in addition to their flagship BSN program. In addition to their traditional BSN program, Shepherd offers an RN to BSN option, available to nurses who have ample professional experience. This program can be studied in either a full time or part time format, depending on what fits the student's needs best. Also, anyone who graduates with a BSN from this program is guaranteed to have the same quality of education as traditional BSN graduates.

28 Wichita State University Wichita, KS 95.18 $5,869 1 74% 18:1 86% yes yes yes

To help prepare students to fill the expected shortage of nurses in the coming years, Wichita State University has grown into the second-largest nursing school in Kansas. Also, to make sure that all students have the means to earn a degree, WSU provides six different programs that lead to a BSN. One program of note is their RN to BSN option, available to anyone who has already received an associate degree and is a registered nurse. RNs can study toward their BSN in either a full time or part time format, and if studying full time can complete their degree in as little as 12 months. The RN to BSN program is also completely online, allowing students to study at their own convenience from anywhere with internet access. In-state tuition is also offered to all students in this program regardless of whether they are Kansas residents or not.

29 Midwestern State University Wichita Falls, TX 95.08 $5,012 1 68% 18:1 84% yes yes yes

Midwestern State University has become a leader in nursing education in Texas, largely due to their different options of studies. Nursing students at all levels – ranging from no experience to full-time, working RNs – have various options for earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). One of the most popular BSN options is the RN to BSN program, a 100 percent online degree that many students complete in as little as three semesters. Students in this program can begin during the fall, spring or summer term. Courses are offered in 8- or 16-week periods for fall and spring, and 5- or 10-week periods for summer. This program is fully accredited, and it carries the same respect as a traditional, on-campus BSN from Midwestern.

30 University of Southern Indiana Evansville, IN 95.03 $6,637 2 41% 18:1 98% yes yes yes

No matter what stage of nursing education you're in, the University of Southern Indiana has programs that are likely to fit your needs. With high NCLEX pass rates, USI has established itself as a consistent presence in nursing education, and many students go on to have long, successful nursing careers. There are well over a dozen degrees offered in the school of nursing, although there are only two undergraduate options: a traditional BSN and RN to BSN program. USI's RN to BSN program offers 8-week classes, all of which are entirely online. Transfer credits are accepted by USI as well, allowing students with previous credits to avoid repeating classes and save money. In all, 120 credits are required to earn a BSN, but many RNs have enough prior education to significantly reduce this number.

31 University of North Alabama Florence, AL 94.95 $5,856 2 60% 21:1 85% no yes yes

Among the top up and coming schools in their region for nursing, the University of North Alabama offers different programs that suit the needs of nursing students at all levels. Their undergraduate programs, which are the most popular among current nursing students at UNA, prepare students for the NCLEX and their career as a nurse. Perhaps the most popular undergraduate degree option is the RN to BSN program which is designed to improve a nurse's career outlook while also remaining affordable. All classes in the RN to BSN program are online, and all necessary resources can be accessed online as well. To keep the program affordable, non-resident fees are waived, making it a cheap way to earn a BSN. For students who want to continue, an online BSN to MSN program is also available, allowing RNs to study toward a master's degree entirely online.

32 Pittsburg State University Pittsburg, KS 94.91 $4,936 1 54% 18:1 89% yes yes yes

The first thing that stands out about Pittsburg State University's nursing program is their 97.26% NCLEX pass rate for 2017. They credit the high pass rate to their attention to each student's education, making sure that nobody is left behind. Another factor that plays into their high pass rate is the quality of their BSN programs. One of their BSN programs, the RN to BSN program, allows registered nurses to study toward the same BSN as traditional Pittsburg State students, only they can earn their degree in less time. With both full time and part time options available, RN to BSN students will be able to create a schedule that works best for them, all while studying entirely online and without the need to be supervised during hospital clinics.

33 Western Illinois University Macomb, IL 94.81 $8,175 1 69% 14:1 84% yes yes yes

The Western Illinois University school of nursing offers three nursing programs: a pre-nursing, a pre-licensure and an RN to BSN program. The pre-nursing and pre-licensure programs are for students who have the general education necessary for a degree but haven't taken nursing courses yet, allowing them a quick way to earn a BSN. The RN to BSN program is for registered nurses who want to continue their education and earn a degree to further their career. This program is offered entirely online, and any students enrolled should plan on taking close to a full course load each semester. While some students may prefer the flexibility of a part time program, Western Illinois' RN to BSN program ensures that students complete their degree in a timely manner, with some students finishing in about one year.

34 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 94.41 $6,423 1 43% 14:1 N/A no yes yes

It's no secret that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is among the elite nursing programs in the nation. Almost all of their nursing programs are ranked in the top in the nation, and they boast an impressive 97 percent first-time pass rate on the NCLEX. While they do offer undergraduate degrees, the most impressive part of UNC's nursing school lies in their graduate degree programs. For example, their MSN program is considered one of the most innovative in the nation. There are two track options for earning an MSN at UNC. The RN to MSN program requires students to study full time, but the end result is both a BSN and MSN in nursing. After three years, students will leave UNC with a master's degree in nursing, a great way to boost their career potential.

35 Lees-McRae College Banner Elk, NC 94.40 $23,450 1 100% 15:1 69% no yes yes

Lees-McRae College is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the top regional nursing schools in the south, and they've invested over a million dollars into updating their nursing program with state-of-the-art technology. Their main program is a BSN, which prepares students to take the NCLEX. Their nursing school also offers other programs, such as the RN to BSN option, which can be completed on campus or online. This option is for registered nurses who want to improve their career, and it can be completed in as little as two years. Depending on how much experience the RN has coming into the program, different amounts of class credit will be rewarded, reducing the time and cost of schooling. While this program primarily prepares students to further their career, many Lees-McRae graduates go on to continue their education toward an MSN or DNP.

36 Fitchburg State University Fitchburg, MA 94.36 $970 2 42% 14:1 94% yes yes yes

Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the bachelor's degree programs in nursing at Fitchburg State University are recognized for their quality. Because of their long history with nursing, Fitchburg has also gained national respect for their undergraduate programs. Perhaps the highlight of their undergrad options is the RN to BSN program, an entirely online program that can be completed in as little as 12 months. Students in this program take courses in seven week periods, allowing them to study at their own pace. The total tuition cost for this program is relatively inexpensive, one reason why this is such a sought-after program. The RN to BSN program is designed for nurses who want to advance their careers, so brevity and low cost are important – and Fitchburg State provides both.

37 MacMurray College Jacksonville, IL 94.37 $22,900 1 99% 14:1 100% no yes yes

Professional development is one of the central focuses of MacMurray College's nursing school. While some students do go on to study toward a graduate degree after earning their BSN, many students opt to begin their career as a nurse. However, some students already have experience as a nurse. RNs who want to further their career might be interested in MacMurray College's RN to BSN program. This is perhaps the fastest RN to BSN program in the nation as it can be completed in just 10 months, and all courses are entirely online. Also, students will only be required to take courses related to nursing, so they won't have to pay for extra education they may not need. MacMurray is also one the cheapest schools in Illinois in which to attain an RN to BSN, largely due to the quickness of the program.

38 Georgia Southwestern State University Americus, GA 94.34 $3,792 2 37% 17:1 89% yes yes yes

With over 55 years of experience in educating nurses, Georgia Southwestern State University continues to build on their history of success with their current BSN programs. Their NCLEX passing rates are well above the national average, and students can easily earn an MSN after completion of their BSN. One newer addition to their nursing school is their online RN to BSN program. Consistently ranked as one of the most affordable online BSN programs in the nation, students can save time and money by completing their degree quickly. While most students complete their degree in 1-2 years, nurses can study at their own pace – one of the advantages of studying online. One popular option after earning a BSN through this program is to continue on to earn an MSN.

39 Indiana Wesleyan University Marion, IN 94.14 $24,102 2 43% 15:1 87% yes yes yes

With over 2,000 current nursing students, Indiana Wesleyan University is one of the largest nursing schools in the region. There are three main campuses for the nursing school, as well as an online portal and different sites across Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Indiana Wesleyan takes advantage of their different campuses and locations and uses it to their advantage. For example, the RN to BSN program can be completed entirely on campus, entirely online or through a hybrid of the two, depending on what the student prefers. The RN to BSN program is primarily for adult learners who want to study at their own pace while advancing their career, and it can usually be completed in 15 months or less.

40 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN 94.10 $8,216 2 64% 20:1 87% yes yes yes

Since opening in 1963, Indiana State University's nursing school has grown into three distinct departments: advanced practice nursing, baccalaureate nursing and baccalaureate completion nursing. The separation is necessary to give each student better access to materials they need; for example, an undergraduate student might want more on-campus aide while graduate students would be more interested in experience and research. For baccalaureate nursing completion, students can choose between LPN to BSN or RN to BSN. The RN to BSN option is the among the most popular options in the school of nursing. The program combines both online and in-person courses, allowing students to study at home and learn at local clinics. No on-campus courses are required, though, so students only have to commute to local clinics.

41 North Carolina A & T State University Greensboro, NC 94.08 $3,270 1 67% 19:1 73% no yes yes

North Carolina A&T State University's nursing students most recently scored a 92 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), a requirement for nursing licenses. A&T 's College of Health and Human Sciences School of Nursing has three options for nursing degrees; traditional, accelerated second degree, and RN completion. The traditional BSN option for freshman and transfer students is a 4-year on campus program. The ABSN option offers a BSN in 12 months and a 100 percent licensed graduates employed within 6 months. The RN Completion Option is geared toward RNs who already have an associate's degree in nursing and want to widen their career options. The online program accommodates either part-time or full-time coursework, and students can pick from on-campus or online classes. The 13 required courses can be completed in as little as full-time semesters, during which eight to 12 hours of class time should be expected per week. What sets NC A&T apart from other North Carolina schools is that the education includes nursing ethics, informatics, interprofessional collaboration and global health. BSN completion sets graduates up for careers in nursing leadership and clinical management. In addition to the required associate's degree, applicants must meet current university GPA guidelines, be a currently licensed RN eligible for an NC license, score C or better on all prerequisite courses, pass a background check and pass a drug screening.

42 Schreiner University Kerrville, TX 93.95 $22,760 1 99% 14:1 73% no yes yes

Schreiner University's BSN Program is the definition of a flexible education. Students can choose a 4-year traditional BSN program or those who are already RNs can enroll in the university's online RN to BSN program. The coursework is available 100 percent online with no clinicals and can take as little as one year to finish. Unlike other colleges and universities, Schreiner does not require prerequisites. RN to BSN courses are set up in seven-week increments with five start dates per year. Adding a little more flexibility to the online learning, students may pick study-abroad electives or earn credit for certifications already possessed. The school participates in Schreiner Premier partner healthcare providers, which is a tuition-discount program for students connected to specific employers throughout Texas. Veterans may also qualify for Premier. With this discount, the RN to BSN program would cost $8,540 for 31 credits. Program applicants must maintain a 2.5 GPA or above, have an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) from an accredited college and have a current U.S. nursing license.

43 Columbus State University Columbus, GA 93.68 $4,078 2 11% 17:1 90% yes yes yes

Columbus State University ranks among the top Southern regional universities with special focus on its online health professions programs. Bachelors of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing RN to BSN are both offered to those desiring a career in nursing. While those who are not nurses would prefer the traditional BSN, registered nurses looking to earn their Bachelor of Science in nursing degree can complete coursework for the degree completely online, with only clinicals to be completed in-person at clinics local to the student's geographical area. The option to finish the program in one year through seven-week course sessions gives added convenience to the learning environment. To promote a competitive spirit, in-state Georgia residents and out-of-state students are charged the same tuition: $8,120 plus fees, calculated by the cost per credit hour. Out-of-state students, however, should email the university to be sure Columbus State is allowed to provide specific programs for that state. Applicants must have a current nursing license, submit all transcripts, make at least a 2.5 GPA in nursing and earn a C or better in all sciences and labs.

44 College of Coastal Georgia Brunswick, GA 93.50 $2,990 1 11% 19:1 100% yes yes yes

College of Coastal Georgia owns the distinction of a 100 percent passage rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) four years in a row by first-time nursing exam-takers. The college also ranks 1 of 2,086 for its BSN program. CCGA has both a traditional Bachelor Concentration in Pre-licensure BSN Program and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Concentration in RN to BSN for registered nurses who already hold a Georgia license and have earned either an associate's degree or diploma in nursing. RNs choose from three-, six- or nine-semester degree completion options, for which classes are taught totally online. Clinical studies, however, are evaluated in person. Students must keep a 2.0 GPA in required classes. Sixty credits are required in nursing courses, but once two of the courses are finished successfully, 30 credit hours will be applied to the transcript.

45 Francis Marion University Florence, SC 93.25 $9,266 1 28% 15:1 79% no yes yes

Francis Marion University hosts two RN to BSN programs: One is for registered nurses, and the other is for veteran nurses. Incoming students must meet a host of requirements. To meet entry requirements for the university, applicants need an associate's degree or diploma in nursing and an RN certification. Program courses are offered solely online and better prepare nurses for advancement in the ever-changing health care field. For the RN to BSN, 30 semester hours, required in addition to general studies credits, can be finished in 11 months on a full-time schedule. Nursing courses may be taken concurrently with general studies. The RN to BSN for Veterans is set up differently; instead of taking a specific required nursing course, the veterans can join a one-day simulation of the class, which accounts for a tenth of the RN to BSN course load. Veterans will be evaluated by through a set of situations including triage, a substance-abusing co-worker, an end-of-life situation and an ESL family with a medication error. The program is available to honorably discharged military who have an associate degree in nursing. On the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), Francis Marion has 97 percent passage rate for first-time test-takers or 100 percent for passing within the second try.

46 Bemidji State University Bemidji, MN 93.11 $7,146 1 47% 21:1 90% yes yes yes

Bemidji State University offers both a four-year track traditional on-campus BS degree and a hybrid learning environment for those pursuing an RN to BS degree. Registered nurses experience education through both online and on-campus courses and local off-campus projects and clinicals. Recently, an almost fully online study option was added to the docket that requires its students to attend campus in-person just twice in the first semester. Bemidji State accommodates learners who wish to study full-time or part-time and meet on one of the six campuses three times each semester under the hybrid option. Applicants must have a state-approved associate's degree or nursing diploma, a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or above and an active nursing license or be within one semester of obtaining one. Once accepted, students must maintain a 2.25 GPA and complete 36 credits within the major. Prospective students can calculate their estimated tuition online. The university provides access to a handful of scholarships and grants specifically designed for distance-education students.

47 Georgia College and State University Milledgeville, GA 92.97 $6,970 1 9% 17:1 96% yes yes yes

Georgia College and State University provides a traditional BSN program and an RN-BSN flexible learning option for registered nurses seeking a bachelor's degree in nursing. The RN to BSN program offers asynchronous classes, which are accessible 24/7 with no specific log-in times, to better fit around a busy nurse's professional life. The degree can be finished totally online within one year, and 100 percent of graduates are employed after graduation. Orientation, exams and presentations may be offered in-person but attendance is not mandatory. Online students have access to a degree-specific adviser and a program coordinator. RNs with an associate's degree will earn six credits for a specific course. To apply, students must have completed all of their prerequisites, including U.S. and Georgia history courses. Georgia State's BSN programs are accredited by the Georgia Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

48 University of West Georgia Carrollton, GA 92.92 $4,080 1 8% 20:1 91% no yes yes

University of West Georgia prepares its nursing students to earn their license, touting a 90 percent passage rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) in recent years. The university's Bachelor of Science in Nursing can be earned in six semesters at The Carrollton campus and eight semesters at the Newnan campus. The traditional programs offered on these campuses are for students who have never been licensed as an RN. For registered nurses who already have a nursing license but want to get ahead in the field with a bachelor's degree, the RN to Bachelor of Science Degree Program is now offered completely online via asynchronous classes. Students can earn up to 60 hours of prerequisite credit through transfers and licensure. Credit by examination may be an option, but students should contact their adviser for more information. A virtual orientation is required, and RNs must take 17 semester hours in fall and spring. The university may accept students outside of Georgia, but this is dependent on the specific state and its requirements. New students are admitted only once a year in the fall semester, which begins in August.

49 Winona State University Winona, MN 92.73 $6,860 1 45% 20:1 87% yes yes yes

Winona State University provides a quality education for registered nurses pursuing a bachelor's, as the university's nursing program consistently meets or exceeds the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) guidelines, and 96 percent of recent grads are employed. The Pre-Licensure Nursing Program is a traditional 4-year program for students without previous nursing education or a nursing license. WSU also offers an RN to BS Completion Program which includes full-time or part-time options to complete the mandatory 30 upper-level credits, with full-timers earning their degree within one year and part-timers earning their degree with a two-, three- or four-year plan. Courses may be taken fully online or in a hybrid format, with required clinical practice hours at the university's numerous local partners. Applicants must meet or exceed a 2.75 GPA and possess a current nursing license. Students in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota pay $244 per credit plus extra online and nursing fees. The Financial Aid office can help students prepare for the education costs.

50 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 92.63 $9,826 2 55% 24:1 N/A yes yes yes

The University of Alabama's BSN degree can be earned with two different program choices. The Nursing BSN is a traditional program for students who do not have nursing education or experience while the RN to BSN program is perfect for working registered nurses, who can complete the coursework totally online on their own time. Clinicals must be completed in-person but may be done in the student's community. RNs may enroll full-time or part-time to earn their 25 higher-level nursing credits, and the university offers fall, spring and summer start times. Applicants must have an associate degree or diploma in nursing. The tuition per credit hour is $355. Nurses who know they want to pursue a master's degree in nursing after their BSN may enroll in the accelerated RN to BSN/MSN program, which allows students to apply early for acceptance in the master's program. The difference is students must enroll full-time for this option, and there is only one summer program start. The program is designed to shorten the time it takes to achieve a master's degree in nursing. A number of financial aid options are available, including several scholarships specifically designed for nursing and distance education students.

2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio NCLEX Pass Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City, KS 99.10 $2,190 2 21% 13:1 73% yes yes yes
2 Snead State Community College Boaz, AL 97.92 $3,390 1 55% 23:1 97% yes yes yes
3 Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson, KS 97.37 $2,432 2 65% 15:1 70% yes yes yes
4 Mitchell Community College Statesville, NC 94.04 $2,304 1 10% 16:1 100% no yes yes
5 Western Wyoming Community College Rock Springs, WY 91.45 $1,992 1 62% 12:1 N/A yes yes yes
6 Amarillo College Amarillo, TX 90.92 $1,008 1 10% 19:1 95% no yes yes
7 Pratt Community College Pratt, KS 89.79 $1,792 2 73% 24:1 31% yes yes yes
8 West Kentucky Community and Technical College Paducah, KY 89.39 $3,528 2 N/A 18:1 N/A no yes yes
9 Southeast Arkansas College Pine Bluff, AR 87.52 $2,520 1 12% 16:1 N/A yes yes yes
10 Holmes Community College Goodman, MS 86.07 $2,000 1 38% 18:1 N/A no yes yes
11 Bluegrass Community and Technical College Lexington, KY 85.91 $3,528 1 2% 19:1 N/A yes yes yes
12 Mississippi Delta Community College Moorhead, MS 85.77 $2,490 3 54% 18:1 N/A no yes yes
13 Henderson Community College Henderson, KY 85.08 $3,528 1 21% 13:1 N/A yes yes yes
14 Jefferson Community and Technical College Louisville, KY 84.54 $3,528 1 N/A 18:1 N/A yes yes yes
15 Columbus State Community College Columbus, OH 83.88 $3,808 1 16% 20:1 N/A yes yes yes
16 Madisonville Community College Madisonville, KY 83.80 $3,528 1 27% 19:1 N/A no yes yes
17 Somerset Community College Somerset, KY 82.96 $3,528 1 9% 20:1 N/A yes yes yes
18 Ridgewater College Willmar, MN 82.31 $4,839 1 N/A 21:1 86% yes yes yes
19 Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College Cumberland, KY 82.01 $3,528 1 15% 19:1 N/A no yes yes
20 Ashland Community and Technical College Ashland, KY 82.00 $3,528 1 6% 18:1 N/A yes yes yes
21 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Fennimore, WI 81.70 $3,750 1 15% 14:1 N/A yes yes yes
22 Hopkinsville Community College Hopkinsville, KY 81.14 $3,528 2 9% 20:1 N/A yes yes yes
23 North Central Kansas Technical College Beloit, KS 80.94 $3,780 1 20% 10:1 N/A no yes yes
24 Thomas Nelson Community College Hampton, VA 80.76 $3,855 1 4% 22:1 N/A yes yes yes
25 Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay, WI 80.10 $3,776 1 12% 16:1 N/A yes yes yes

National Median Annual Salary & Job Growth for Nursing

The bureau of labor statistics provides the following data about job growth in the Nursing industry. As well as the following national median salary data for several different careers in the field of Nursing.

Specialization/Career National Job Growth (2012-2022) National Median Annual Salary Minimum Education
Labor and Delivery Staff Nurse 31% $67,000 Diploma or Nursing Degree
Emergency Nurse 16% $68,546 Nursing Degree and Specialty Certification(s)
Nurse Anesthetist 31% $137,052 Master’s Degree
Nurse Educator 35% $69,569 Master’s Degree
School Nurse 16% $39,318 Nursing Degree and Specialty Certification(s)

Sources: Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014)

Explore Online Degree Programs to Become an RN

Online Program Options for RNs

Many accredited schools and universities offer several options for online programs where aspiring RNs can gain a quality education. Shorter, accelerated programs may be more suitable for those who wish to pursue an entry-level job as soon as possible. Two- and four-year online nursing degree programs are most suitable for those who are prepared to invest in their education and career for the long-term.

Even though it is possible to obtain a nursing license without a degree, many employers now prefer graduates with degrees from accredited schools and goals to further their education. Working towards a bachelor’s or a master’s degree right away can open up career opportunities shortly after graduation and for the long-term. Still, there are options available for those who wish to make a smaller time investment and monetary investment before entering the workforce.

  • Diploma/Certificate
  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Entry-Level Master's (EL-MSN)

Students looking for a fast track to entering the workforce can work towards an RN diploma or certificate that covers basic nursing courses and provides students with hands-on training to excel in their career. Certification programs give students a chance to obtain licensure so that they can practice in their state; a diploma program offered by a hospital or other healthcare organization prepares students to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. A diploma or certificate program may be a good match for those who seek an entry-level job or are still exploring career and educational paths in the nursing and healthcare field. While much of the training can be completed online, students will need to attend a lab or go to a healthcare setting to complete their hands-on training.

These two-year programs include both the theory component and clinical training for a well-rounded education in preparation for the NCLEX-RN examination. An associate degree prepares students for the option to work towards a bachelor’s degree. These programs are typically offered at vocational schools or community colleges and include more nursing and clinical training than a diploma or certificate program. They include both online training and a clinical component.

Four-year degree programs from an accredited online school provide comprehensive training and education in the field of nursing, covering everything from science, nursing care practices, statistics, research studies, and specialized subjects. Students who graduate with a BSN may have more advancement opportunities throughout their career and opportunities to specialize in a certain area, such as pediatrics or geriatric care. Having a bachelor’s degree also gives the student the option to pursue a master’s degree at a later date. Online BSN programs include both virtual classroom-based instruction and a clinical component.

Students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing or in a non-nursing field can become a professional RN by completing graduate level studies through an online master’s program. Some schools offer programs that are divided into three core sections: RN/pre-licensure, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and Case Management (CM). Students take the NCLEX-RN licensing exam during their fifth semester and can also take specialty classes at that time. The program may be divided into both virtual classroom training and clinical to fulfill all educational requirements.

Registered Nurses: Milestone Map

Becoming a registered nurse can be a rewarding career for those who enjoy working directly with patients and want to provide nursing care to patients of all ages. After obtaining licensure, RNs can explore several different career paths and job opportunities, as well as increase their education with an advanced degree program or research-based study. Below is a map that illustrates key milestones an RN may work towards throughout their career:

Explore Online Degree Programs to Become an RN Search Program
High school

Excelled in science and math courses; volunteered at a nursing home, hospital, or clinic over the summer.

LPN program

Completed a one- or two-year LPN program and obtained a state license (optional).

RN program

completed a diploma program, associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree program at an accredited school.


passed the NCLEX-RN exam and obtained license to practice.


obtained certification(s) in a specialty area to increase career options.

Master of Science
in Nursing (MSN)

completed one to two-year degree program to pursue managerial roles in a healthcare setting.

RN Degrees in Online Format

All registered nursing programs include a theory component and clinical components since it is critical that students obtain a significant amount of hands-on training before obtaining licensure. Many nursing program courses can be taught in an online format where students log in to a dashboard to watch lectures, review materials, download assignments, and interact with class members and instructors via an online forum or chat room. Students who have good time management skills and want some flexibility with their schedule can benefit most from an online RN program.

In order to complete the clinical rotations component of an RN program, the student will need to work in a laboratory or go to another medical setting to complete their clinical hours under direct supervision.

Online RN: Sample Coursework

Coursework for online registered nurse programs varies by degree level and a student’s prior experience. Certification and diploma programs, for example, encompass very basic and core concepts of nursing care to train students for the workforce. Bachelor’s and master’s degree programs include more comprehensive courses and may include courses in a certain specialty area. Examples of courses offered typically offered in online RN programs include:

History and Introduction to Nursing

An introductory course that includes an overview of the history of nursing practice, and the nursing profession in relation to ethics, cultural and social issues, and professional values.

Mathematics for Health Sciences

A core course that covers key computations, formulas, and measurements used in the health science field. Students learn units and measurements, ratios, dosages, solutions, and other applied mathematical concepts.

Fundamentals of Patient Care

A foundational course of all nursing programs, this course introduces students to social and cultural factors that play a role in patient care and concepts related to the application of the nursing process. A part of this course may include clinical experience in a hospital, nursing home, or similar healthcare facility.

Human Physiology

May be an upper level course for bachelor’s degree and master’s degree programs, this course focuses on a correlative approach to human anatomy and physiology of the body.


Provides students with a basic understanding of pathophysiological changes that occur in the body and how these may affect nursing care and practices. Students learn about different variations and factors affecting patients of all ages and life stages.

Finding the Online RN Program for You

Choosing the right online RN program can feel overwhelming with so many options available and a variety of factors to consider before enrolling. Here are some things to consider that may make it easier to find the perfect fit:

  • Choose an online school that caters to your short-term and long-term educational needs in the nursing field
  • Learn about enrollment requirements, such as high school GPA, work experience, or educational background.
  • Determine whether the school is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or other national accrediting party.
  • Visit the campus to decide whether the location is convenient for your hands-on training requirements
  • Review options for completing your clinical training (e.g. locations of hospitals and medical centers)
  • Talk to an admission representative about your educational and career goals.
  • Determine whether support service are available for online students.
  • Review financial aid and scholarship options.
  • Review tuition costs and make arrangements for handling the financial side of your education.
  • Learn about professional and networking organizations in the nursing field.

xOnline RN Program Accreditation

Participating in an accredited online program allows students to attend other accredited nursing schools when they are ready to further their career. Hospitals, clinics, physician’s offices, and other healthcare organizations hiring registered nurses typically prefer candidates that have completed training at an accredited school, whether on campus or online. Accreditation requires the school to maintain educational standards in line with nationally established guidelines.

For more detailed information about accreditation for online schools, visit our comprehensive guide to accreditation.

Pathway to Becoming an RN

There are a variety of paths that lead to becoming a licensed RN, with different educational options along the way. The following is an example timeline of an academic track towards earning licensure and starting a career:

Time to Complete
Step 1

Obtain High School Diploma or GED

4 years
Step 2

Complete diploma program, certification program, or associate’s degree program

1 to 2 years
Step 3

Gain practical experience working as an LPN

1+ years
Step 4

Complete Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and pass NCLEX-RN licensure exam

2 to 4 years (depending on educational track)

Step 5

Complete Master’s Degree in Nursing

1 to 2 years

Individuals committed to their careers can round out their educational experience beyond clinical training and classwork by pursuing a specialty certification with advanced courses, volunteering in between semesters, or working part-time in a related field. Obtaining as much work experience as possible throughout the educational journey can help graduates secure a more attractive job or explore alternative career paths.

Registered Nurse: Career Concentrations

Completing a nursing program with a high GPA and strong educational record can open up a number of attractive job options upon graduation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median pay for registered nurses in 2014 at $66,640, with an expected job growth of 16% through 2024. Here are just a few career options a registered nurse may be interested in:

Labor and Delivery Staff Nurse

These nurses work exclusively with women and newborns during the early life stages. They are responsible for developing individualized care plans for mothers and babies, and teaching patients about women’s health and newborn care issues. These nurses may choose a specialty track such as high risk obstetrics during their educational career.

Emergency Nurse

Those who like to work in fast-paced environments and work well under pressure can explore careers in the emergency room. Emergency nurses are needed to treat illnesses and injuries in emergency care units at a hospital, urgent care center, or similar environment. Most require specialty certification in areas of trauma nursing, injury prevention, and pediatric care.

Nurse Anesthetist

This is a specialized area of nursing and requires a graduate degree plus additional certification. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) provide anesthesia during surgeries and for trauma care patients. They work with surgeons, dentists, and other qualified health professionals.

Nurse Educator

These professionals are leaders in the industry and responsible for creating an educational framework and training programs for nurses. They may serve in administrative or managerial roles to design curriculum, implement various types of programs and course of study, and evaluate the learning process.

School Nurse

Registered nurses may be on staff at a public or private school to provide basic nursing care for students. They work to promote student and staff health and safety, and may provide everything from nutritional service to counseling.

Final Step: RN Licensure & Certifications

All registered nurses must be licensed by their state’s Board of Nursing before they can practice. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing provides contact information for state boards across the country, as well as additional resources and tools for nurses.


Also known as the National Council Licensure Examination, this standardized exam determines whether the candidate is prepared for an entry-level job as an RN. Individuals must submit an application for registration to the board of nursing regulatory body where they want to be licensed. They can then register for the NCLEX. More details about the application and registration process can be found at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website.

Specialty Certifications

Completing a specialty certification program can provide additional job skills and increase credibility in the eyes of an employer. Some positions, such as emergency care nurses and school nurses, require certain types of certifications as a minimum requirement.

  • Ambulatory Care Nursing

    This certification is designed for RNs who wish to work in emergency care.

  • Pediatric Nursing

    For RNs who want to work only with newborns, children, and younger patients, this certification is recommended.

  • Home Health Nursing

    Nurses who want to serve as a home health care aide or in similar roles often earn this certification.

  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing

    This certification is designed for nurses who want to work in mental health clinics, psychiatric care departments, or similar environments.

  • School Nursing

    Nurses who wish to work in a public or private school setting to provide care to young patients and educators can earn a certification in school nursing.

Similar Online Nursing Programs

After reviewing the requirements for a nursing degree in this guide, some students may be wondering whether this is the right career and educational track for them. Training to become a registered nurse can open up a number of rewarding career opportunities but there are a few similar training programs available for those who want to consider other career paths in the healthcare and nursing field. These include:

Online CNA Programs

Certified nursing assistant programs are designed for those who want to provide support to a registered nurse and other nursing professionals. These programs include both virtual classroom and clinical components so that students can learn the practical and social skills needed to excel in this field. In addition, students need to complete CPR/AED or the Healthcare Provider training, and First Aid Training.

Online LPN Programs

Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) can be a rewarding career and serve as a gateway career to becoming a registered nurse or advancing in the nursing field. LPN programs provide basic training to serve as a practical nurse under the supervision of a medical team. These programs prepare students to sit for the NCLEX-PN to obtain their state license.

Online LPN-to-BSN Programs

Licensed practical nurses looking to advance in their career with a bachelor’s degree may fare well with a bridge program that allows them to use existing work experience and training towards a formal degree. Some of the training can be completed online and students may be required to log a certain number of hours of clinical training or work experience in order to complete their degree. Having a bachelor’s degree gives students the option to pursue a master’s degree in nursing at a later date.

Additional Resources