2020 Best Online RN Programs The Professional Standard for Nurses

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Over three million registered nurses (RNs) provide care for patients across the country. RNs benefit from strong job demand, with faster-than-average job growth projections over the next decade.

Prospective nurses can earn their RN through an online nursing program. Because of their flexibility, online programs allow students to fit their coursework around work or family obligations while offering an accessible route to a nursing career.

This page introduces the most affordable online nursing schools to help prospective RNs find the best program to meet their career goals. It also covers career paths for nurses, online program options at different degree levels, and requirements for an RN license.

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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

Top Online RN Degree Programs

Best Online RN Programs
Pursuing an RN degree online provides flexibility and accessibility compared to in-person programs. Online nursing students can attend one of the top programs in the country without relocating or quitting their job. RNs earn an annual median salary of $71,000 per year, and a two-year associate program meets the requirements for a registered nurse license.

Below, we rank the most affordable online nursing degrees to help prospective nurses find a program that fits their budget and their schedule. Our analysis considers tuition, financial aid, and class size.

To view more information about our methodology, visit this page.

Best Online Bachelor's in Nursing Programs

Rank Logo School Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit For Experience Placement Service Counseling Services Description & Additional Information Toggle
1 Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK
$6,707 Tuition
61% Graduation Rate

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

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

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

2 Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences Memphis, TN
$11,068 Tuition
48% Graduation Rate

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

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

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

3 Rutgers University-Camden Camden, NJ
$12,279 Tuition
58% Graduation Rate

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

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

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

4 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, IN
$11,931 Tuition
78% Graduation Rate

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

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

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

5 Goshen College Goshen, IN
$18,519 Tuition
68% Graduation Rate

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

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

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

6 Appalachian State University Boone, NC
$10,491 Tuition
72% Graduation Rate

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

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

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

7 Mercer University Macon, GA
$21,202 Tuition
66% Graduation Rate

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

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

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

8 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
$10,460 Tuition
73% Graduation Rate

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

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

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

9 Mary Baldwin University Staunton, VA
$16,556 Tuition
47% Graduation Rate

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

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

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

10 Lewis University Romeoville, IL
$18,899 Tuition
64% Graduation Rate

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

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

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

11 Florida International University Miami, FL
$9,180 Tuition
58% Graduation Rate

Florida International University, a public institution in Miami, offers an online RN-to-BSN program that helps nurses expand their skills and increase their earning potential. FIU emphasizes evidence-based practice in its fully online nursing program.

Nurses complete courses on topics like nursing leadership in global healthcare, community health, and health and wellness across cultures. Students culminate the degree with a 120-hour clinical practicum. The practicum builds leadership experience, preparing graduates for advanced nursing roles.

Florida residents receive a tuition discount. Prospective students need a minimum 2.75 GPA and a Florida RN license. Florida International University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

12 Northwest Nazarene University Nampa, ID
$18,786 Tuition
59% Graduation Rate

Located in Nampa, Idaho, Northwest Nazarene University is a private Christian institution that offers a flexible online RN-to-BSN program. The program emphasizes critical thinking and communication skills with a schedule designed for working nurses.

Online learners take one course at a time, completing the BSN degree in five semesters. The program features asynchronous coursework, allowing students to balance their studies with personal and professional responsibilities. The curriculum covers topics like evidence-based practice, nursing research, and nursing of older adults.

Prospective students need an associate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.75 GPA. Northwest Nazarene University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits NNU's nursing programs.

13 CUNY Lehman College Bronx, NY
$3,467 Tuition
49% Graduation Rate

Lehman College, a public institution in the Bronx, offers a fully online RN-to-BSN program. Graduates can pursue leadership roles in nursing practice or graduate study in nursing. The nursing curriculum covers topics like nursing practice, clinical decision-making, and professional nursing management. Students build cultural awareness and critical thinking skills while learning to serve diverse patient populations.

Prospective students need a current New York RN license and at least 60 college credits with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Lehman College holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The RN-to-BSN degree holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

14 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
$36,727 Tuition
47% Graduation Rate

Founded in 1891, Drexel University is a private institution that hosts students on its Philadelphia campus and online. The online RN-to-BSN program emphasizes evidence-based practice through experiential learning.

The curriculum covers topics like nursing research, health assessment, and population health. Students culminate the degree with a senior capstone experience. Students can transfer up to 135 quarter credits toward the 180-quarter-credit degree.

Drexel guarantees the same tuition rate for three years. Prospective students need an associate degree or diploma in nursing with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Drexel University holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The nursing program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

15 California State University-Stanislaus Turlock, CA
$6,930 Tuition
74% Graduation Rate

California State University, Stanislaus is a public institution in Turlock that offers an online RN-to-BSN program. Designed for working nurses, the program builds critical thinking and creative problem-solving abilities.

Online learners take 10-week courses in a cohort-based format, graduating in one year. In addition to online coursework, students complete an in-person orientation and a health assessment requirement. Through clinical experiences, students learn to collaborate with organizations and communities.

Prospective students need a minimum 2.75 GPA and a current California RN license. California State University, Stanislaus holds regional accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission. The bachelor's program in nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

16 St Catherine University Saint Paul, MN
$20,157 Tuition
58% Graduation Rate

A private Catholic institution located in Marshall, Minnesota, St. Catherine University is a women's college that offers an online BSN degree-completion program for registered nurses. Thanks to the program's generous transfer credit policy, which accepts up to 90 credits toward the 120-credit bachelor's degree, some nursing students can graduate in 10 months.

The curriculum emphasizes real-world skills. Courses cover topics like biomedical ethics, nursing leadership, and evidence-based practice. St. Kate's offers a 10% tuition discount for nurses working at corporate healthcare partners.

Prospective students need a minimum 2.5 GPA and a current RN license. St. Catherine University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The nursing department holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission on Education in Nursing.

17 University of Saint Francis-Fort Wayne Fort Wayne, IN
$16,544 Tuition
56% Graduation Rate

Located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the University of Saint Francis is a private Catholic school that dates back to 1890. USF offers an online RN-to-BSN program designed for working nurses seeking career advancement.

Students learn to improve health outcomes and apply clinical judgment. The 39-credit program examines topics like nursing informatics, community-focused nursing, and professional communication. In addition to coursework, students complete a leadership immersion practicum that involves planning and leading an evidence-based healthcare project. Students can graduate in one year of full-time study. The program offers six start dates per year.

USF supports online learners with a dedicated success coach and online tutoring services. The University of Saint Francis holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the online nursing program.

18 The College of Saint Scholastica Duluth, MN
$24,007 Tuition
55% Graduation Rate

A private Benedictine school located in Duluth, Minnesota, the College of Saint Scholastica offers a 128-credit online RN-to-BSN degree that emphasizes strong patient outcomes, health promotion, and holistic nursing intervention.

The flexible online nursing program allows nurses to design an individualized plan of study based on previous education and professional experience. Students can gain credit for prior RN experience through a nursing portfolio, potentially graduating from the program in two semesters.

Prospective students need a current RN license and an associate degree in nursing from an accredited college with a minimum 2.5 GPA. The College of Saint Scholastica holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The nursing department, which dates back to 1908, holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

19 University of St Francis Joliet, IL
$19,418 Tuition
69% Graduation Rate

Founded in 1920 in Joliet, Illinois, the University of St. Francis is a private Catholic institution that offers an online RN-to-BSN program designed for experienced nurses. The program uses an interactive learning environment to train students in evidence-based nursing research and practice. Graduates can pursue advanced roles in healthcare organizations or graduate school.

Nursing students take classes on topics like health policy, informatics, nursing leadership, and research. Students also explore topics such as managed care, primary care clinics, and home health. Online learners engage in real-world experiences to reinforce classroom knowledge.

Prospective nursing students need a minimum 2.5 GPA. The University of St. Francis holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Leach College of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

20 Misericordia University Dallas, PA
$24,669 Tuition
62% Graduation Rate

Located in Dallas, Pennsylvania, Misericordia is a Catholic school that dates back to 1924. Registered nurses can enroll in the school's part-time online BSN program.

Courses cover topics like health assessment, evidence-based practice, community health, and clinical application of nursing concepts. The curriculum incorporates simulated clinical situations to strengthen students' clinical abilities. Incoming nursing students can apply transfer and advanced placement credits toward the BSN. Misericordia also accepts credit by exam and prior learning assessment.

Prospective students need a minimum 2.75 GPA. Misericordia University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The online RN programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

21 Saint Louis University Saint Louis, MO
$31,460 Tuition
69% Graduation Rate

Founded in 1818 in Missouri, Saint Louis University is a Catholic institution that offers several online and on-campus nursing programs. The online RN-to-BSN degree offers full-time and part-time enrollment options.

Students work with advisors to create an individualized curriculum plan. Learners complete coursework during accelerated eight-week terms, graduating in as little as two semesters. Nurses can earn up to 38 credits toward the 120-credit degree for prior experience or by passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

Applicants need at least three years of nursing experience and a minimum 2.5 GPA. Students can choose from six start dates per year. Saint Louis University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. SLU's School of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

22 Milligan College Milligan College, TN
$20,362 Tuition
77% Graduation Rate

A private Christian school in Elizabethton, Tennessee, Milligan College offers an online RN-to-BSN degree tailored to working nurses. Online nursing students work with advisors to create a personalized degree plan based on prior education and work experience.

The core curriculum covers topics like global health, health assessment, community health nursing, and nursing research. Students also complete clinical requirements, including a nursing leadership and management practicum.

Prospective students need a minimum 2.0 GPA and a current RN license. Milligan College holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the RN-to-BSN degree.

23 University of Florida-Online Gainesville, FL
$10,287 Tuition
70% Graduation Rate

Founded in 1853, the University of Florida hosts students on its Gainesville campus and online. The school's online RN-to-BSN degree prepares nurses to advance their careers and increase their earning potential.

Students complete coursework on topics like health assessment, public health, and evidence-based practice. The program also incorporates clinical requirements through online practicums and activities in students' local communities.

Prospective students need a Florida RN license or enhanced licensure through the Nurse Licensure Compact and an accredited associate degree in nursing with a minimum 2.8 GPA. The University of Florida holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The online RN programs at UF hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

24 McKendree University Lebanon, IL
$19,676 Tuition
54% Graduation Rate

Established in 1828, McKendree University hosts students on its Lebanon, Illinois, campus and online. The private institution offers an online RN-to-BSN degree designed for working nurses. Students enhance patient care skills and broaden their professional scope of practice.

The curriculum covers topics like health assessment, concepts in research, and leadership and management. In addition to online courses, nursing students complete community health and nursing leadership practicums. Nurses can complete practicums with their current employer. Courses span eight weeks, and students can graduate in five semesters.

McKendree University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The RN-to-BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

25 Saint Joseph's College of Maine Standish, ME
$27,221 Tuition
54% Graduation Rate

A private Catholic school in Standish, Saint Joseph's College of Maine dates back to 1912. The school's online BSN degree ranks among the best RN bachelor's programs for nurses seeking career advancement. Registered nurses with an associate degree or diploma in nursing qualify for the flexible online program.

Learners study topics like clinical decision-making, ethical practice, and health promotion. Working nurses can complete the program's clinical requirements at their current workplace. Students can transfer up to 90 credits toward the degree.

Recent graduates from Maine community college nursing programs qualify for discounted tuition rates at SCJ. Saint Joseph's College of Maine holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education. The nursing program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

26 Dickinson State University Dickinson, ND
$6,768 Tuition
63% Graduation Rate

Founded in 1918, Dickinson State University offers a 32-credit online RN-to-BSN degree designed for working nurses. Students learn to develop individualized patient care plans and lead nursing teams.

Learners study topics like nursing leadership, community health, and health assessment. During a three-course capstone requirement, students build a professional portfolio centered on evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and patient-centered care.

Prospective students need an associate degree in nursing with a minimum 2.5 GPA and a current RN license. Dickinson State University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Department of Nursing holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

27 Saint Peter's University Jersey City, NJ
$13,246 Tuition
34% Graduation Rate

Based in Jersey City, New Jersey, Saint Peter's University is a private Jesuit school that allows RNs to earn a BSN degree online. The accessible learning format prepares graduates for generalist professional practice and leadership roles. Working nurses can earn the online degree in 21 months.

The curriculum provides advanced knowledge and skills in health assessment, nursing research, and patient care. Learners also study topics like nursing leadership and management. The program incorporates a nursing seminar to strengthen students' professional skills.

Applicants need a New Jersey RN license. Saint Peter's University holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the online RN programs.

28 University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, IL
$12,248 Tuition
50% Graduation Rate

Part of the state's public university system, the University of Illinois at Chicago offers one of the best RN bachelor's programs in the country. The fully online RN-to-BSN degree boasts a 94% graduation rate.

The nursing curriculum includes eight, eight-week courses, which students complete as a cohort. Rather than traditional clinical placements, the program incorporates practical applications and advanced nursing knowledge into its classes. UIC provides a tuition guarantee for continuously enrolled students, with no tuition increases during the 16-month BSN program.

Students can begin on one of three start dates per year. UIC offers guaranteed admission to RNs with an active license and an associate degree in nursing with a minimum 2.5 GPA. The University of Illinois at Chicago holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

29 Marian University Indianapolis, IN
$20,427 Tuition
59% Graduation Rate

A private Catholic institution, Marian University offers nursing programs on its Indianapolis, Indiana, campus and online. Registered nurses can earn an online BSN degree that emphasizes evidence-based practice, healthcare systems leadership, and management skills.

Courses span seven weeks and cover topics like nursing management, healthcare policy, and population health. In addition to online classes, students complete 90 clinical hours at an approved site in their community, strengthening clinical skills in a flexible format.

Marian accepts up to 90 transfer credits toward the 120-credit BSN degree, and full-time students can graduate in one year. Marian University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The RN-to-BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

30 Ball State University Muncie, IN
$13,642 Tuition
57% Graduation Rate

Founded in 1918, Ball State University is a public institution in Muncie, Indiana, that offers a fully online RN-to-BSN degree created for working nurses. The nursing program emphasizes care in community settings, with a focus on women and children in need.

The curriculum includes courses in health assessment, applied nursing concepts, and nursing leadership. Students also complete 180 clinical hours, often at their current place of employment, gaining hands-on experience in the field.

Students can choose between three-semester and six-semester program tracks. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA. Ball State University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The nursing programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

31 Cardinal Stritch University Milwaukee, WI
$17,471 Tuition
63% Graduation Rate

A private Catholic school, Cardinal Stritch University dates back to 1937. Stritch offers a flexible, online RN-to-BSN degree that helps nurses enhance their career opportunities through a curriculum focused on participative learning.

Online nursing students build critical thinking and communication skills through projects and group activities. The curriculum covers topics like nutrition for health, information management, population-focused health, and evidence-based practice. The program culminates in a capstone course that synthesizes degree knowledge and skills. Learners take six-week courses, potentially graduating in 16 months.

Prospective students need an associate degree or diploma in nursing from an accredited program with a minimum 2.33 GPA. Cardinal Stritch University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the RN-to-BSN program.

32 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Mount Vernon, OH
$20,626 Tuition
51% Graduation Rate

Mount Vernon Nazarene University, a private Christian school in Ohio, offers several online degrees, including an online BSN program for registered nurses. The degree-completion program emphasizes innovative approaches to improving healthcare outcomes.

Online nursing students complete accelerated, five-week courses. The 43-credit program covers topics like comprehensive health assessment, gerontological nursing, nursing informatics, and nursing leadership and management. The program features a cohort model, fostering peer-to-peer connection.

MVNU offers a flat tuition rate for nursing students, guaranteeing the same tuition rate during the program. Mount Vernon Nazarene University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

33 Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL
$9,486 Tuition
59% Graduation Rate

Florida Atlantic University, part of the state's public university system, grants degrees from its Boca Raton campus and through an online learning division. Registered nurses can advance their careers in a flexible format through the school's online BSN program.

Learners study topics like health assessment, nursing research, and pharmacotherapeutics. In addition to coursework, the program incorporates a nursing practice immersion to build students' clinical skills. Students culminate the degree with an evidence-based nursing practice capstone experience.

Florida residents enjoy a tuition discount. Prospective students need a minimum 2.5 GPA and a current RN license. Florida Atlantic University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

34 Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC
$19,197 Tuition
52% Graduation Rate

Gardner-Webb University is a private Christian institution that offers a flexible, online RN-to-BSN program. The 30-credit core nursing curriculum covers topics such as evidenced-based research, advanced health assessment, and nursing leadership. In addition to coursework, online learners complete a community and public health practicum to strengthen their clinical skills.

Prospective students need one year of nursing experience, a current RN license, and a minimum 2.5 GPA. Gardner-Webb University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Hunt School of Nursing holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

35. University of Missouri St. Louis

The University of Missouri St. Louis is a public institution that offers a fully online RN-to-BSN degree. The flexible program, designed for busy professionals, lets nurses complete a BSN in five terms.

Online learners study topics like health assessment, nursing research, population health, and evidence-based practice. The program emphasizes leadership skills and incorporates community-based independent clinical activities to prepare nurses for career advancement.

Prospective nursing students need a current RN license and a minimum 2.5 GPA. The program offers rolling admission with multiple start dates each year. The University of Missouri St. Louis holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The College of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

35 University of Missouri-St Louis Saint Louis, MO
$9,481 Tuition
53% Graduation Rate

A regional campus of the state's university system, the University of Michigan-Flint ranks among the best RN bachelor's programs thanks to its online RN-to-BSN degree. Offered through the School of Nursing, the online nursing program incorporates experiential learning to train nurses for career advancement.

At UM-Flint, online nursing students shadow local medical professionals to build their clinical skills. The program offers two certificate options to specialize the degree: a certificate in nursing leadership and management and a certificate in nursing case management. UM-Flint offers a generous transfer credit policy and grants 15 credits for passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

The program admits students on a rolling basis with start dates in fall, winter, spring, and summer. Prospective students should hold a minimum 2.75 GPA.

The University of Michigan-Flint is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The online RN programs also hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

36 University of Michigan-Flint Flint, MI
$12,519 Tuition
52% Graduation Rate

A regional campus of the state's university system, the University of Michigan-Flint ranks among the best RN bachelor's programs thanks to its online RN-to-BSN degree. Offered through the School of Nursing, the online nursing program incorporates experiential learning to train nurses for career advancement.

At UM-Flint, online nursing students shadow local medical professionals to build their clinical skills. The program offers two certificate options to specialize the degree: a certificate in nursing leadership and management and a certificate in nursing case management. UM-Flint offers a generous transfer credit policy and grants 15 credits for passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

The program admits students on a rolling basis with start dates in fall, winter, spring, and summer. Prospective students should hold a minimum 2.75 GPA.

The University of Michigan-Flint is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The online RN programs also hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

37 California State University-San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
$8,586 Tuition
46% Graduation Rate

A public institution, California State University, San Bernardino grants degrees from its 440-acre campus in the foothills of the San Bernardino National Forest. At CSUSB, registered nurses can earn a hybrid BSN degree from the Palm Desert campus in the Coachella Valley. The hybrid program primarily relies on distance learning to train RNs for leadership roles in healthcare.

Nursing students at CSUSB complete coursework online while completing clinical rotations at pre-arranged community sites. The curriculum covers topics like patient education, health promotion, and health assessment. Students also take a nursing leadership practicum to gain hands-on skills.

Prospective students must hold a current California RN license and a minimum 2.0 GPA to earn admission.

California State University, San Bernardino is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. The BSN program also holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

38 Madonna University Livonia, MI
$16,415 Tuition
57% Graduation Rate

Founded as a private Catholic institution in 1937, Madonna University grants degrees from its campus in Livonia, Michigan, and online. MU's undergraduate nursing program educates students for professional nursing careers. The online BSN program incorporates Catholic values and a commitment to community service into the healthcare curriculum. Online nursing students study relationship-centered care at MU.

MU provides an academic foundation while incorporating experiential learning components into its BSN curriculum. Nursing students receive personalized attention and complete hands-on lab experiences and simulations to practice their skills. Learners study topics like population-based care, health assessment, and nursing leadership. Online students also complete courses in spiritual considerations in end-of-life care and medical ethics.

MU's accelerated BSN program admits candidates with 60 college credits and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Madonna University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the online RN degree.

39 Maryville University Saint Louis, MO
$26,540 Tuition
61% Graduation Rate

A private university located outside of St. Louis, Maryville University dates back to 1872. The Catholic institution offers one of the best online RN bachelor's programs in the country. At Maryville, nurses can enroll in the online RN-to-BSN program to advance their education and qualify for leadership positions in healthcare. Designed for working nurses, the curriculum helps learners build the knowledge and skills needed to pursue roles with greater responsibilities and higher earning potential.

The 129-credit bachelor's program at Maryville includes coursework in nursing research, individual assessment, family assessment, and nursing informatics. Online learners also take a public health capstone to bring together the knowledge gained during the program. Full-time students can complete the online BSN program in one year.

Maryville offers three start dates per year. Applicants must hold a current RN license for admission.

Maryville University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The online RN program also holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

40 University of Saint Joseph West Hartford, CT
$25,714 Tuition
72% Graduation Rate

A private Catholic institution founded in 1932, the University of Saint Joseph grants degrees from its West Hartford, Connecticut, campus and online. At USJ, nurses can earn their online RN-to-BSN degree through a flexible program. The 30-credit nursing curriculum lets students customize the degree by selecting 12 elective credits.

USJ blends nursing major courses and electives in a curriculum that facilitates professional growth. Major coursework prepares students for career advancement, and USJ supports online learners through student services and online resources. Graduates from any Connecticut community college nursing program can earn a guaranteed place in the online RN-to-BSN program at USJ.

Prospective students must hold an associate degree in nursing and a current Connecticut RN license. USJ also requires a minimum 2.5 GPA.

The University of Saint Joseph is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits USJ's nursing programs.

41 Elmhurst College Elmhurst, IL
$23,042 Tuition
63% Graduation Rate

A private Christian college in Illinois, Elmhurst College offers online RN programs for nurses pursuing a bachelor's degree. The online BSN program provides a degree-completion pathway for working registered nurses. In the program, RNs master nursing practice and leadership skills in a flexible learning environment.

At EC, nurses take courses in accelerated eight-week sessions. Students in the program choose between synchronous and asynchronous online learning. The program's supportive learning environment builds teamwork skills, and nurses complete clinical projects in two courses. The curriculum covers topics like nursing leadership, public health nursing, and evidence-based practice. Nurses complete BSN requirements in four semesters.

Prospective nursing students must hold a current Illinois RN license and a minimum 2.75 GPA.

Elmhurst College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the nursing programs.

42 Chatham University Pittsburgh, PA
$25,687 Tuition
63% Graduation Rate

Founded in 1869, Chatham University is a private institution located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Chatham offers an online RN degree for working nurses seeking a BSN. The RN-to-BSN program builds professional nursing skills that students can implement immediately in their nursing practice.

Chatham's curriculum emphasizes academic knowledge and nursing skills, with an emphasis on leadership abilities, holistic nursing care, and evidence-based practices. Nursing students complete the 26-credit nursing core requirements through an accelerated seven-week format. The program covers topics like geriatric care, health policy, and women's health, while incorporating practicum requirements to strengthen clinical skills.

Prospective students may enter the program at six start dates each year. Chatham requires a minimum 2.0 GPA for admission.

Chatham University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission of Higher Education. The online BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

45 Northwestern College Orange City, IA
$24,269 Tuition
63% Graduation Rate

A private Christian institution in Orange City, Iowa, Northwestern College dates back to 1882. At NWC, registered nurses can earn a BSN degree online. The accessible program lets working nurses arrange coursework around their variable schedules. NWC's faith-based BSN curriculum emphasizes community health, social justice, and healthy environments.

The fully online program operates on eight-week terms, with students taking two classes per semester. The curriculum incorporates practicum hours that rely on digital simulation and clinical requirements, which students complete at their workplace. Nurses in the program study topics like lifespan health assessment, nursing informatics, and clinical scholarship. Online nursing students complete their BSN within two years.

Prospective nursing students must hold an associate degree or diploma in nursing from an accredited institution with a minimum 2.7 GPA.

Northwestern College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education also accredits the nursing program.

44 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA
$9,455 Tuition
69% Graduation Rate

The University of Louisiana at Monroe, a public institution, offers an online RN-to-BSN program tailored to working nurses' schedules. The program provides a global view of nursing through a curriculum focused on management, advanced nursing roles, and evidence-based nursing care. Online nursing students can finish the degree in 14 months.

ULM's 30-credit BSN program covers health assessment, nursing informatics, and improving patient care. Learners also study nursing research, public health nursing, and professional nursing concepts in addition to practicum requirements that build hands-on skills. During the capstone course, students integrate their clinical knowledge with the program's curriculum through experiential learning. Online nursing students complete coursework on an eight-week schedule with five start dates per year.

ULM requires a current RN license and a minimum 2.0 GPA for admission.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the BSN program.

45 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA
$15,817 Tuition
80% Graduation Rate

A public research institution in Iowa City, the University of Iowa grants degrees from its campus on the Iowa River and through its online programs. At UI, registered nurses can earn an online BSN degree through a convenient schedule designed for working nurses. The program builds vital knowledge and skills so that graduates can improve patient care and advance their careers.

IU incorporates practicum requirements to strengthen professional experience. The program places Iowa-based online learners at local sites, while nursing students in other states can complete a program in Iowa or over a two week period in Swaziland, Africa. Nursing students also complete a quality improvement project at their current place of employment.

Prospective students should hold a current RN license and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

The University of Iowa is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The College of Nursing also holds programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

46 Lincoln Memorial University Harrogate, TN
$16,291 Tuition
44% Graduation Rate

Founded in 1897 as a private institution, Lincoln Memorial University grants degrees from its Harrogate, Tennessee, campus and online. LMU offers an online RN-to-BSN degree for working nurses who want to expand their career and educational opportunities. The BSN degree at LMU prepares registered nurses for professional roles in healthcare or graduate education.

LMU's fully online BSN program covers topics in health assessment, nursing research, and nursing informatics. Online learners also complete a senior nursing seminar. The curriculum prepares nurses for generalist roles in healthcare, including caring for individuals, families, and community groups.

Prospective students must hold an associate degree in nursing from an accredited institution and a current RN license.

Lincoln Memorial University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The BSN program also holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

47 Olivet Nazarene University Bourbonnais, IL
$20,741 Tuition
73% Graduation Rate

A private institution established in 1907, Olivet Nazarene University provides education with a Christian purpose. At ONU, registered nurses can earn an online BSN degree. The program admits RNs with a diploma or associate degree in nursing.

ONU's 30-credit nursing curriculum covers topics like health assessment, transcultural nursing, and community health nursing. ONU prepares nurses to incorporate moral, spiritual, and professional concepts into their nursing practice. Online learners can complete their BSN in 12 months through a fast-track option. In addition to the core nursing curriculum, ONU also requires six credits of coursework on the Bible and Christianity.

Prospective students must hold a current RN license and a minimum 2.75 GPA.

Olivet Nazarene University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the BSN program.

48 University of Mary Bismarck, ND
$17,216 Tuition
57% Graduation Rate

A private Catholic institution in Bismarck, North Dakota, the University of Mary offers an online BSN degree for registered nurses. The fully online program builds the knowledge and skills required for nursing roles with greater responsibilities. Graduates also pursue additional education to become nurse practitioners.

Mary integrates spirituality in its BSN program while encouraging critical thinking and leadership skills. The curriculum covers topics like health assessment, evidence-based practice, health promotion, and healthcare ethics. Online learners also complete coursework on nursing leadership and management, and the program incorporates a capstone course in which nurses synthesize and integrate knowledge gained during the degree.

Prospective students must hold a current RN license and a minimum 2.75 GPA.

The University of Mary is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The BSN program also holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

49 Malone University Canton, OH
$20,875 Tuition
61% Graduation Rate

Founded in 1892, Malone University is a private liberal arts institution located in Canton, Ohio. Malone's online BSN program, designed for adult students, prioritizes the convenience of an online schedule for working nurses.

Malone's online nursing students take one course at a time to complete the program in 14 months. The fast-paced program incorporates Christian values into nursing practice. Learners study topics like health promotion, applied therapeutics, nursing research, and health assessment. The curriculum also includes two 30-hour practicum experiences in community health and nursing leadership. The program's capstone course blends liberal arts and nursing.

Prospective students must hold a current RN license and at least six months of clinical practice. Students who both complete a BSN and pursue a master's in nursing at Malone receive a 15% discount.

Malone University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the RN-to-BSN program.

50 Viterbo University La Crosse, WI
$20,721 Tuition
55% Graduation Rate

A private Catholic school in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Viterbo University dates back to 1890. Viterbo offers an online BSN program for registered nurses. The program emphasizes evidence-based practice coursework while providing personalized attention and supportive resources. By examining emerging trends and completing clinicals at a local site, nursing students build the skills and knowledge required for career advancement.

At Viterbo, online learners study topics like nursing leadership, public health nursing, and nursing research. The program operates in an eight-week format, with students personalizing the program around their career goals and interests. Incoming students work with advisors to create a degree plan based on their prior education and experience. Viterbo's program offers a one-year path to a BSN.

Prospective students should hold an associate degree in nursing with a minimum 2.25 GPA to gain admission.

Viterbo University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The School of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.



Best Online Associate in Nursing Programs

Rank Logo School Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit For Experience Placement Service Counseling Services Description & Additional Information Toggle
1 North Central Missouri College Trenton, MO
$8,131 Tuition
45% Graduation Rate

Based in Trenton, North Central Missouri College is a public community college accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. NCMC hosts students on three campus locations and online. The school's online associate degree in nursing typically takes nine months to complete.

The curriculum covers topics in microbiology, pharmacology, mental health nursing, and leadership in nursing. Courses feature an asynchronous format, giving students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

Individuals must complete the following prerequisite courses prior to enrolling in the RN program: anatomy, physiology, speech, general psychology, and English. Prospective students must be graduates of a state-approved LPN program, possess an unencumbered LPN license with IV certification, and hold a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA. They must also submit ATI TEAS scores and pass a criminal background check.

2 Western Oklahoma State College Altus, OK
$6,969 Tuition
29% Graduation Rate

Founded in 1926 and based in Altus, Western Oklahoma State College is the state's oldest two-year college. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. WOSC offers a variety of degree programs, including an online associate degree in nursing with accreditation from the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation.

The online RN program includes coursework in anatomy, human physiology, chemistry, and nursing. Learners complete coursework online, but they must complete clinical hours at an approved local site. The program takes five semesters to complete. Graduates qualify to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination.

Applicants must be graduates of an LPN program and possess an unencumbered LPN license. They must also complete the HESI A2 and NLN challenge exams and submit official transcripts. The school encourages candidates to submit applications early due to limited space and a competitive selection process.

3 Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland, MD
$9,509 Tuition
22% Graduation Rate

The Allegany College of Maryland is one of 16 colleges in the Maryland Association of Community colleges. Located in Cumberland, the school holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. ACM offers a variety of on-campus and online programs, including an online associate degree in nursing.

The curriculum covers basic nursing principles and current treatment trends. In addition to coursework, students must complete about 1,400 clinical hours. After the program's first year, individuals qualify to sit for the NCLEX-PN exam. After year two, graduates can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. ACM's online RN program holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

ACM offers rolling admissions. Applicants must submit official transcripts, take a placement test, and pass a criminal background check.

4 Minnesota West Community and Technical College Granite Falls, MN
$10,068 Tuition
46% Graduation Rate

Located in Fergus Falls, Minnesota West Community and Technical College holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. Minnesota West offers a variety of online degree programs, including an online associate of science in nursing.

This 64-credit program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The curriculum covers topics in pharmacology, professional nursing, ethics theory and practice, and interpersonal communications. In addition to coursework, students must complete clinical hours at an approved healthcare facility. Graduates qualify to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. They can also seamlessly transfer to a BSN/BAN program at any college in the Minnesota State System.

Applicants need an LPN license; a minimum score of 80 on the NLN NACE 1 Foundations entrance exam; and at least a 3.0 GPA in anatomy, physiology, English, and developmental psychology courses. Applicants must also submit official transcripts.

5 Northwest Technical College Bemidji, MN
$11,348 Tuition
42% Graduation Rate

Located in Bemidji, Minnesota, Northwest Technical College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school offers a variety of traditional and online programs, including an online associate of science in nursing. Students can select from generic or LPN step-in tracks. The generic track caters to individuals seeking LPN licensure, while the LPN step-in track benefits students with a current LPN license.

Both tracks comprise 64 credits and include clinical hours. Learners study topics like pharmacology, psychosocial nursing, leadership, and ethics. Graduates can pursue licensure or seamlessly transfer to the bachelor of science in nursing program at Bemidji State University.

The generic track starts in the fall and the LPN step-in track begins in the spring. Applicants must complete the ACCUPLACER and TEAS exam and submit official transcripts for consideration.

National Salary and Career Concentrations for Nursing

Nurses work in different specialties, including pediatric care, emergency nursing, oncology nursing, and hospice care. As with most jobs, salaries and requirements vary depending on the specialization and degree requirement. For example, advanced practice RNs earn higher salaries, but these positions require an MSN degree. Read on for a summary of popular nursing career options:

Labor and Delivery Staff Nurse: Labor and delivery nurses care for expectant mothers and newborn babies. They assist women during the delivery process and provide postpartum care, including monitoring vital statistics, assisting with c-sections, and administering pain medication. Labor and delivery nurses must hold an RN license, and some employers prefer nurses with a BSN degree. The position requires work outside of typical business hours. Labor and delivery nurses earn an average salary of $63,000 per year.

Emergency Nurse: Emergency nurses work in ERs, ambulances, and medical evacuation helicopters to care for patients who experience an injury or medical emergency. They provide treatment in a high-stress situation, determining a patient's needs and performing medical tests. Emergency nurses must also interview patients, perform patient assessments, and assist ER doctors. The position requires an RN license and nursing experience. Emergency nurses earn over $67,000 per year on average.

Nurse Anesthetist: Nurse anesthetists administer pain medication to patients undergoing surgery or another medical procedure. They evaluate patients, monitor the patient's condition during the procedure, and oversee patients recovering from anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists must complete a specialized MSN program and earn certification in their field. They must also hold a state license for nurse anesthetists. The average salary exceeds $150,000.

Nurse Educator: Nurse educators train nursing staff and manage continuing education programs in healthcare settings. They evaluate nursing staff to determine training plans, advise hospital administrators on policies for patient care, and research educational resources for training nurses. Nurse educators must hold an RN and several years of experience in nursing, and some employers prefer candidates with an MSN degree. On average, nurse educators earn over $75,000 per year.

School Nurse: School nurses care for students in K-12 schools. They educate students about health risks, assess health problems, and treat small injuries. School nurses may also administer medications, give flu shots, and train teachers and staff members on health issues. The position typically requires a bachelor's degree and an active RN license. Some states require a school nurse certification. On average, school nurses earn over $46,000 per year.

Source: Payscale

Explore Online Degree Programs to Become an RN

Online Program Options for RNs

Prospective nurses can complete the requirements for a registered nursing license through an online nursing school, and current RNs can advance their career by earning an online nursing degree. The online program options to become an RN include diploma or certificate programs, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, and entry-level master's programs designed for students with no prior nursing experience.

A two-year nursing program appeals to students interested in their RN license who want to enter the workforce quickly. Students can also choose a four-year BSN program to qualify for more competitive RN jobs. MSN programs appeal to students seeking advanced practice roles like a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist.

Accredited online nursing programs offer a flexible schedule for students seeking a nursing license. These programs also prepare students for the NCLEX-RN exam, a requirement for earning an RN license.

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

In a diploma or certificate program, students complete foundational nursing coursework, including training in human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and patient care. These programs offer the fastest route to an RN license, with some programs taking only one year. However, they may not appeal to nurses seeking career advancement, since some RN-to-BSN programs require an associate degree in nursing.

Rather than taking courses through a college, as in a nursing degree, hospitals offer diploma programs. Nursing students gain hands-on skills in patient care and clinical practice through clinical hours completed on-site in the hospital. Some hospitals offer online coursework options; but as with other nursing programs, students must complete clinical requirements.

A diploma in nursing prepares students for licensure as a registered nurse. Many programs incorporate the NCLEX-RN exam at the conclusion of the coursework, and accredited diploma programs meet state requirements for an RN license.

An associate degree in nursing meets the educational requirement for an RN license. During an ADN, students complete coursework in nursing principles, human anatomy, physiology, and nursing leadership. ADN programs include significant clinical hours to build patient-centered skills. Completing an ADN generally takes two years, after which RNs can pursue a higher degree while working as a nurse.

Many community colleges offer ADN programs, including online programs that let students complete coursework online while meeting clinical requirements in their local area. In addition to foundational nursing classes, many ADN programs incorporate general education courses.

After completing an ADN, graduates can take the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for their RN license. Graduates can pursue a nursing career or enroll in an RN-to-BSN or RN-to-MSN program to advance their education. This pathway can save nurses money on tuition, since community colleges usually charge lower tuition rates than four-year colleges. However, many employers prefer to hire nurses with a BSN.

A bachelor's degree in nursing prepares graduates for an RN license and leadership roles in healthcare organizations. Earning a BSN generally takes four years for full-time students, during which nursing majors complete nursing coursework, general education requirements, and clinical requirements. Online nursing students meet the clinical requirements at a local hospital or healthcare facility.

Many programs offer specializations to train students in a particular field, including emergency care, pediatric care, and nursing leadership. A specialization prepares graduates for careers in their focus area after graduation.

A BSN offers several advantages over an ADN. Although it takes longer, nurses with a BSN stand out on the job market. Many employers prefer nurses with a BSN over those with a diploma or associate degree, and certain career paths, including nurse manager, typically require a BSN. After completing a BSN program, graduates can work as registered nurses or pursue a master's degree in nursing.

An entry-level master's degree in nursing enrolls students with no prior nursing experience. Also called a direct-entry MSN, these programs let prospective nurses earn an advanced degree without an RN license or BSN degree. In most EL-MSN programs, nursing students complete one year of RN coursework before taking the NCLEX-RN exam and earning their RN license.

After earning the RN license, students complete master's-level coursework in nursing. EL-MSN programs offer concentration areas for nurse practitioners, nurse educators, and clinical nurse specialists. These concentrations provide focused training for specialized career paths.

Entry-level MSN programs require a bachelor's degree in any subject before enrolling. During the program, students complete coursework online while meeting clinical requirements at a local healthcare facility. The clinical hours vary depending on the concentration, with nurse practitioner programs often requiring 700 hours or more.

Registered Nurses: Milestone Map

Becoming a registered nurse takes several years, and RNs follow different paths to becoming nurses, depending on their career goals and timeline. For example, prospective nurses wanting to become an RN can earn a diploma in nursing in one year. Those considering leadership roles may prefer a BSN program, which takes four years. Finally, those seeking advanced practice roles may earn an MSN, which can take 2-3 years post-bachelor's degree.

Regardless of the pathway, RNs must meet several milestones to become nurses. Before entering a nursing program, candidates must hold a high school diploma and meet the program's GPA requirements.

Nursing students in diploma or ADN programs complete two years of coursework before taking the NCLEX-RN exam and applying for a registered nurse license.

BSN nurses complete coursework and clinical experience for four years, often including specialized training in their specialty area. At the conclusion of the program, they pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for an RN license.

EL-MSN nurses who already hold a bachelor's degree take 2-3 years of coursework and clinicals, depending on their concentration, which includes earning an RN license after the first year of the program.

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.

NCLEX-RN
examination

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

Additional
certification

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

An online format appeals to working nurses pursuing career advancement and students who require a flexible schedule. But how is an online nursing degree different from an in-person degree?

During an online nursing degree, students complete coursework requirements online, including lectures, assignments, and exams. Some nursing programs use a synchronous format, where students log in at set times for classes; that said, many use an asynchronous format with no required meeting times to benefit students with complex schedules.

Nursing degrees at every level incorporate clinical requirements to build hands-on skills. In an online program, students complete the clinical hours at a healthcare facility near them. In many cases, working nurses can meet the requirements at their current place of employment. Some programs may also require on-campus residencies or in-person skills tests. Prospective online nursing students can research the requirements and format for programs before applying.

Online RN: Sample Coursework

During an online nursing degree, students take a variety of courses depending on the degree level and program. While diploma and associate programs focus on basic nursing knowledge, BSN and MSN programs include specialized courses. This section provides a sample curriculum, which will vary depending on the program and specialty.

Anatomy and Physiology

In this course, nursing students learn about the structures and functions of the human body. Coursework may incorporate lab or clinical experiences to study the organ systems, human body, and other physiological systems.

Pharmacology

Pharmacology courses introduce students to medicinal drugs and how they interact with the body. Topics may include receptor mechanisms, pharmacokinetics, and drug distribution.

Evidence-Based Practice

Nursing students often study the best evidence-based practices for patient care, including communication, nursing research, and nursing values.

Physical Assessment

Nursing students learn to conduct physical exams and interview patients. In addition to classroom training, the course may incorporate simulations and clinical components.

Applied Nursing Research

Nursing students learn about current research in the field and its applications in practice. The course trains nurses to implement research-based interventions in patient care settings.

Finding the Online RN Program for You

For many nursing students, cost remains a top priority. The best program will meet a student's budget while also providing the training necessary to meet their professional goals. When researching the most affordable nursing schools, prospective students must consider factors in addition to cost: clinical hour requirements, total credits required, program accreditation status, and any on-campus requirements.

These considerations shape a nursing student's experience in the program. The number of required credits and clinical requirements can change the length of an online nursing degree, for instance, which can also influence cost. Some online nursing programs include on-campus residencies or in-person examinations. Similarly, some programs offer full-time, part-time, and accelerated enrollment options, letting students find the right status for their schedule.

Prospective online nursing students should also consider their career goals. For example, certain nursing career paths require education beyond an RN, including nurse managers, who often need a BSN, and nurse practitioners, who need an MSN. Registered nurses considering careers as advanced care registered nurses may want to consider an RN-to-MSN program to save time and money. By researching these factors, prospective nurses can find the right online nursing program for their needs.

Final Step: RN Licensure and Certifications

After completing a nursing degree, nurses must meet licensure requirements to earn their RN license. States grant the license and typically require candidates to meet educational, experience, and testing requirements. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, an independent, nonprofit organization, creates the test required for an RN license.

NCLEX-RN

Nursing students must take the NCLEX-RN exam to earn their registered nursing license. The exam tests nurses on their knowledge and clinical skills. During the test, nursing students answer questions on effective care, health promotion, and reduction of risk. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing provides additional information on the NCLEX-RN exam.

Specialty Certifications

Registered nurses can apply for specialty certifications to demonstrate their qualifications in a certain subfield. For example, certifications in ambulatory care, pediatric nursing, and psychiatric nursing help RNs stand out on the job market.

Similar Nursing Programs

While training to become a registered nurse, students can pursue similar programs to gain nursing experience and expand their career opportunities. Many offer online routes to careers in nursing. These online programs provide healthcare training, and students can complete them in fewer than two months.

Online CNA Programs

A CNA, or certified nursing assistant, cares for patients in hospitals, homes, and long-term care facilities. An online CNA program, which can take under six weeks to complete, trains students in basic nursing care. While completing online courses to build knowledge, students also meet clinical experience requirements to practice their nursing skills. The coursework covers topics like patient care, nursing ethics, and infection control. States certify CNAs who meet the training requirements and pass an exam.

Online LPN Programs

A licensed practical nurse (or licensed vocational nurse) cares for patients in medical and home settings. Online LPN programs generally take one year, and students can often complete most of the requirements through an online format. In addition to coursework in patient care, physiology, and anatomy, LPNs complete clinical requirements to strengthen their skills. Online learners may take clinical rotations at hospitals, long-term care facilities, or residential facilities in their local area. LPNs must apply for a state-issued license.

Online LPN-to-BSN Programs

An LPN-to-BSN program helps licensed practical nurses meet the qualifications for a RN license while earning a bachelor's degree. These programs, which can take 2-3 years to complete, incorporate classroom training and clinical requirements. Course topics include evidence-based nursing, patient care, and nursing research, while the clinical requirement introduces students to several areas of nursing practice. Graduates can apply for an RN license through their state.

Additional Resources

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