Best Online RN Programs

During an RN program, nursing students learn how to conduct a patient health assessment, identify patient needs, and apply evidence-based practices.

November 16, 2021

reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Best Online RN Programs

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RN Programs

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. An RN 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.

"My daughter was able to see her mother get a degree."

Read more student reviews from nursing and healthcare professionals

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.

AccreditedSchoolsOnline.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 Nursing Programs

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

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Questions to Ask When Becoming an RN

true Q. 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.

true Q. 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.

true Q. 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.

true Q. 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.

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 Become a Registered Nurse?

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:

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. 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. The demand for RNs continues to grow. According to BLS projections, the workforce will add nearly 222,000 new RN jobs between 2019-2029. 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. 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.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse - Nursing Timeline

A typical nursing degree can take 2-4 years to complete. Each level of nursing has its own timeline, and that timeline can vary depending upon factors like part-time vs. full-time enrollment, certification, and the type of program. 

Below is an overview of the typical amount of time it takes to complete a nursing degree, keep in mind that the length provided is for the amount of time it takes to complete that segment of the degree, not the entire academic path overall:

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

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.

Best Online RN Programs

North Central Missouri College true View School Profile Trenton, MO $8131

Located in Trenton, NCMC offers a nine-month online RN program designed to provide a path for certified nurses to earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Students must travel to campus two to three times during the program.

Nursing course requirements include adult nursing, pharmacology, mental health nursing, and leadership in nursing. The program also requires general education courses to finish the associate degree. Required on-campus visits include skills checks and a simulation lab.

Applicants must provide evidence of graduation from a state-approved LPN program with a minimum GPA of 2.0 to qualify for admission. The program requires the TEAS entrance exam, and students must hold unencumbered licensure with IV certification.

NCMC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation.

Allegany College of Maryland true View School Profile Cumberland, MD $9509

Based in Cumberland, ACM offers an online associate of science in nursing for students interested in becoming registered nurses.

Students earn a certified nursing assistant or geriatric nursing assistant distinction after the first semester of study. The first year of study plus a five-week summer term awards students LPN licensure upon successfully completing the NCLEX-PN. In the second year, students finish general education requirements and clinicals required to graduate with an associate degree and sit for exams to become a registered nurse. Students spend over 1,400 hours in a clinical setting by the end of the program.

Applicants need a minimum GPA of 2.5 and a grade of "C" or better in all science courses to qualify for admission. Students must complete prerequisites before beginning nursing courses. The school strongly prefers applicants to finish general education courses before starting nursing courses as well.

ACM is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Minnesota West Community and Technical College true View School Profile Granite Falls, MN $10068

Located in Worthington, MWCTC offers an online associate of science in nursing. Current LPNs can finish coursework online to complete the program.

Nursing courses include pharmacology, principles of professional nursing, health promotion and role of the professional nurse, and family-centered care. Students must also complete general education courses and electives. Learners must prepare to travel to assigned clinical sites within southwest Minnesota whether part of the on-campus or online cohort. The clinical requirement provides critical hands-on experience in direct patient care.

Students need LPN licensure by August 1 before their desired program start date. The program requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 in prerequisite courses and a minimum decision score of 80 on the NACE 1 foundations exam.

MWCTC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Northwest Technical College true View School Profile Bemidji, MN $11348

Located in Bemidji, Minnesota, NTC offers an online and hybrid delivery associate of nursing. Students complete the majority of coursework online, with a few on-campus requirements for skills assessment and labs.

In addition to any general education requirements, students must take nursing core coursework. Notable courses include maternal-newborn nursing, foundation nursing skills, psychosocial nursing, and bioethical issues in contemporary society. Students complete required clinicals on campus to gain hands-on experience and participate in simulations for practice delivering care. Students who graduate can sit for the state registered nurse licensing exam.

Applicants must take the ACCUPLACER general education placement exam and pass the TEAS exam with a minimum score of 64. The program requires students to possess a "C" or better in all prerequisite courses and an overall GPA of 2.76 to qualify for admission.

NTC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Excelsior College true View School Profile Albany, NY Unconfirmed

Located in Albany, New York, Excelsior offers a competency-based associate in applied science in nursing that allows students to transfer in up to 31 eligible credits.

The program includes general education requirements for completing the associate degree, but students also take nursing-specific core coursework. Notable courses include transition to the professional nurse role, essentials of nursing care and safety, health differences across the lifespan, and reproductive health. Students take clinical practicums to gain real experience delivering direct care to patients and travel to the assigned clinical site to complete the requirements.

Applicants must reside in one of 17 reciprocal states to apply for the program. The program requires students to possess an LPN license, employment in a healthcare setting, and at least 200 hours of direct work experience. Students must also complete the TEAS exam to qualify for admission.

Excelsior is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

School Reviews from Nursing & Healthcare Students

We believe the best people to share about online learning experiences are students who have really done it, which is why we surveyed 600 unique students. Filter to find a student like you or sort to read the good, the bad, and everything in between. By leaving a review, students were entered to win a sweepstakes.

* means this student may have had to visit the campus a few times a year for their program.

  • Age 37
  • Medical Coding
  • UCF
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

4.0
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Affordability

4.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"I want to grow in my company."

  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 29
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • University of Wyoming
  • Online

Experience

4.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

3.0
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What did you like most about your online college experience?

"Flexibility of doing school at whatever time of day worked best for me"

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
Recommends
  • Age 30
  • Bachelor of Science - Health Administration
  • University of Phoenix
  • Online

Experience

3.0
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Value

2.0
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Affordability

1.0
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How has completing an online degree changed your life?

"My daughter was able to see her mother get a degree."

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 36
  • Medical Lab Science
  • CNM
  • Online *

Experience

3.0
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Value

3.0
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Affordability

3.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"More flexible and costs less"

  • Financial assitance
  • Has support system
Doesn't recommend
  • Age 59
  • Bachelor of Nursing
  • Chamberlain University
  • Online

Experience

4.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

4.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"In case my employer requires nurses to hold a BSN in the future"

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
Recommends
  • Age 21
  • Healthcare
  • McHenry County College
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

5.0
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How has completing an online degree changed your life?

"Made me realize that I should take time for personal happiness."

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 28
  • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration
  • Grand Canyon University Online
  • Online

Experience

4.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

3.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"Because I couldn't keep traveling to school, and I needed to work in order to finish school"

  • Financial assitance
  • Works in field of study
Recommends
  • Age 51
  • Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner, MSN
  • Spring Arbor University
  • Online *

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

4.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"Convenience, flexible schedule"

  • Financial assitance
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 27
  • Bachelor's in Nursing
  • University of Phoenix
  • Online *

Experience

4.0
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Value

3.0
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Affordability

4.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"To further my career"

  • Financial assitance
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 37
  • Associate in Medical Coding
  • Mid State Technical college
  • Online *

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

5.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"To have a degree for my line of work, as I didn't use my BS"

  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 52
  • Associate in Medical Coding and Auditing
  • Three Rivers Community College
  • Online

Experience

4.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

3.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"The ability to complete work on my schedule"

  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 67
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Owens College and Bowling Green State University
  • Online

Experience

4.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

5.0
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How has completing an online degree changed your life?

"It's allowing me the chance to be in the career I've always wanted to be in."

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
Recommends
  • Age 21
  • BS in Medical Assisting
  • Monroe Community College
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

3.0
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Affordability

3.0
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What advice would you give to a student looking to enroll in an online program?

"Go for it! But at a community college"

  • Financial assitance
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 52
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Care Administration
  • Upper Iowa University
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

2.0
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How has completing an online degree changed your life?

"I got a promotion at work. I achieved a personal dream and goal."

  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 63
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • WGU
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

4.0
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Affordability

5.0
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How has completing an online degree changed your life?

"I have job security. A master's was required in my job."

  • First generation student
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 46
  • Associate in Medical Billing and Coding
  • Bryant and Stratton College
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

5.0
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How has completing an online degree changed your life?

"My income is higher and my education is bigger."

  • Financial assitance
Recommends
  • Age 26
  • Nursing Administration
  • Chamberlain
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

5.0
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How has completing an online degree changed your life?

"I am able to advance my career and make more money."

  • Financial assitance
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 29
  • Medical Billing and Office Administration
  • Martinsburg College
  • Online

Experience

4.0
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Value

1.0
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Affordability

5.0
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What advice would you give to a student looking to enroll in an online program?

"Don't do medical billing online; it isn't worth it."

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
Doesn't recommend
  • Age 59
  • Master of Science in Nursing Education
  • Benedictine University
  • Online

Experience

3.0
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Value

4.0
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Affordability

4.0
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What were the challenges of getting your degree online?

"Time management was an issue at times and feeling like I was as alone in my class work. Also, having instructors who were not really involved in the class and gave only minimal feedback to students work and participation."

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 32
  • RN-to-BSN
  • Houston Baptist University
  • Online

Experience

3.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

1.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"Worked better with my work schedule, and I had to work to maintain my license"

  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 28
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Phoenix
  • Online *

Experience

4.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

4.0
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How has completing an online degree changed your life?

"It has given me more opportunities for jobs in my rural area."

  • First generation student
Doesn't recommend
  • Age 36
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Tarrant County College
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

4.0
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Affordability

3.0
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What were the challenges of getting your degree online?

"Not being able to get immediate responses to questions"

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 44
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Brigham Young University-Idaho
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

5.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"More conducive to working full time while doing school."

  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 26
  • Nursing
  • Daytona State College
  • Online *

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

5.0
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What advice would you give to a student looking to enroll in an online program?

"Stay focused; be consistent and you'll be there!"

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 28
  • Nursing
  • Online School
  • Online *

Experience

3.0
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Value

3.0
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Affordability

3.0
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What did you like most about your online college experience?

"Flexibility"

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 35
  • Medical Billing and coding Sociology
  • Calhoun Community College
  • Online

Experience

4.0
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Value

4.0
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Affordability

4.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"I have seizures and am unable to go to a classroom. The program keeps me busy."

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 30
  • Associate Medical Billing
  • Liberty
  • Online

Experience

3.0
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Value

4.0
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Affordability

4.0
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What were the challenges of getting your degree online?

"Having time to do work in school"

  • First generation student
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 36
  • Bachelor's Degree in Nursing
  • Widener University in Chester pa
  • Online

Experience

4.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

2.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"Ability to work full time and complete coursework when schedule allowed"

  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 30
  • Nursing
  • University of Mary
  • Online *

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

4.0
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What did you like most about your online college experience?

"Freedom"

  • Financial assitance
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 39
  • Master of Nursing
  • Capella University
  • Online

Experience

4.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

3.0
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What were the challenges of getting your degree online?

"Mainly financial challenges, but also practicum requirements. I was on my own to find placement."

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 35
  • Master of Science in Nursing - Family Practice Nurse Practitioner
  • Ohio University
  • Online *

Experience

3.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

3.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"Managing work and family - I would not have had the time to attend in person classes"

  • Financial assitance
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 34
  • Technical Certificate in Medical Assisting with a Concentration in Phlebotomy
  • Ivy Tech Community college
  • Online *

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

5.0
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What were the challenges of getting your degree online?

"Being able to maintain a GPA of 3.6 while not missing any school"

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 31
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Capella University
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

4.0
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What were the challenges of getting your degree online?

"Scheduling time to do schoolwork with other things going on."

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 36
  • Bachelorof Science - Healthcare Administration
  • University of Phoenix
  • Online

Experience

4.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

4.0
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What were the challenges of getting your degree online?

"There was no hands-on experience."

  • Financial assitance
  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
Recommends
  • Age 38
  • Medical Billing
  • Study USA
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

4.0
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What were the challenges of getting your degree online?

"complete the hours on internet"

  • First generation student
  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 35
  • Master's in Healthcare
  • Golden Gate University
  • Online

Experience

5.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

4.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"I love learning online"

  • Works in field of study
  • Has support system
Recommends
  • Age 29
  • Bachelor of Science - Healthcare Administration
  • University of Cincinnati
  • Online *

Experience

4.0
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Value

5.0
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Affordability

3.0
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Why did you decide to enroll in an online degree or certification program?

"Easier to do while working full time"

  • Has support system
Recommends

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