Top Online Nursing Degree Programs

Online Nursing Degree

WHAT IS An Online NURSING DEGREE Program?

An online nursing degree is a program of study for current and emerging nurses. There are online nursing degrees at all levels from associate’s through to doctorate.

Many types of nursing degrees are available to nursing students. Each target specific career goals and educational background. Some help in the pursuit of mandatory state licensure.

Registered nursing degrees often serve as a prep for the NCLEX-RN exam. RNs need at least an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN). But another common pathway is the Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN).

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees often help RNs move into advanced practice. An MSN is mandatory for second nursing licenses and roles such as nurse practitioner (NP).

The highest level of nursing degree is the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). It is a clinical leadership program. At the same level, is a PhD in Nursing which focuses on research and nursing science.

online nursing degree information

BACHELOR’s DEGREES

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)


The program focuses on helping nurses make sense of science and use it in their nursing practice. Students take classes to gain skills in conducting health assessments. While covering lifespan health issues, other aspects focus on professional growth. These themes train RNs to work on health teams, manage cases and use IT.


  • Health Promotion and Education
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Pathophysiology

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

MASTER’s DEGREES

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)


This program helps RNs prepare for advanced roles. While studying quality patient care methods, students may choose a nursing niche. Family Nurse Practitioner, Forensic Nursing and Nurse Education. Apart from the clinical courses, students usually undertake to complete practicums.


  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Prevention and Health Promotion
  • Evidence-based Nursing Practice and Policy Development

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

DOCTORAL DEGREES

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)


This program guides nurses to apply current research to patient care. Courses focus on improving health care systems and enhancing patient outcomes. There are practice immersion activities to help nurses gain expertise.

In studying leadership and nursing science, a DNP project helps nurses tackle an area that interests them and encourages them to problem solve and foster change.


  • Scientific Underpinnings
  • Health Care Informatics
  • Emerging Areas of Human Health

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

Online NURSING DEGREE PROGRAMS

A typical Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will cover courses and lab time. But the actual curriculum depends on how you enter the program.

The goal of a BSN is to help nurses deliver quality direct or indirect patient care. There is usually a strong focus on developing professional skills. Central to this goal is helping students understand research and science (evidence). Then, learning to apply this knowledge into practice (evidence-based practice).

BSN degree students also learn the finer points of making health assessments. They often study emerging trends in health care therapies and professional ethics.

Other themes touch on health promotion and community health. These classes may cover diversity and health care management. This might mean learning how to coordinate patient care with other members of a health care team. Or, learning to manage case files.

If you still have general education credits to complete, factor these into your studies. The following are samples of potential BSN nursing major core topics:

  • Nursing Theory and Role Development
  • Healthcare Informatics
  • Health Assessment and Health Promotion
  • Bioethics
  • Healthcare Policy and Advocacy
  • Nursing Research
  • Population Health
  • Nursing Leadership in Healthcare

Online BSN students often complete their clinical rotations within their local community.

RN TO BSN

A RN to BSN is a bridge program for registered nurse graduates of an ADN or diploma. These often provide transfer credit which means you won’t repeat material.

RN TO BSN TO MSN

An RN to BSN to MSN program is often for nurses with either a diploma or associate’s degree. It may offer a step by step path to an MSN, though one must earn their BSN degree first.

SECOND DEGREE BSN

Second degree BSN programs are for students who earned a bachelor’s degree but not in nursing. These programs usually credit general education courses. Then help students prepare for RN licensure.

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING (MSN)

An MSN degree is an entry-point to advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) roles. For instance, an MSN Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Or, Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP). They usually include a strong focus on clinical training. Evidence-based practice is another key component.

Some MSN programs have a non-patient care focus. These include MSN-Nurse Educator, Nurse Informatics and Nurse Executive programs. There are also joint degrees which pair nursing with another major. Business administration, public health or hospital administration are a few.

DIRECT-ENTRY MSN

Direct entry MSN programs are for non-nurses who hold bachelor’s degrees in another field. Part of the program is a prep for RN licensure. Successful students then pursue their MSN courses in their chosen track

DOCTOR OF NURSING PRACTICE (DNP)

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree for practicing nurses. At some point, the nursing profession wants to make it the entry-point to advanced nursing.

MSN TO DNP

An MSN to DNP program is for advanced practice nurses in pursuit of a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Such programs focus on systems leadership and clinical expertise. Many offer anchor points like executive leadership.

PhD IN NURSING

A PhD in Nursing is a terminal degree for nurses who want to teach and research. It’s the same academic value as a DNP but asks you to conduct research and excel in thought leadership.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO EARN NURSING DEGREE?

Without an RN license, a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) may take four years at a college or university. 

With a RN license, one may enroll in an RN-to-BSN program. This is for RNs who have an Associate’s degree or nursing diploma. As such, it may take about two to three years depending on your course load.

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NURSING DEGREE PROGRAMS THAT COULD BE COMPLETED IN 53 WEEKS

SCHOOLDEGREE LEVEL# OF CREDITS REQUIREDSTART DATESMINIMUM MONTHS TO COMPLETE
Purdue University GlobalBSN90-130418
Grand Canyon UniversityBSN120Multiple12
Colorado Christian UniversityBSN120312

THE COST OF A NURSING DEGREE

The cost of a nursing degree varies from one school to the next. In some colleges, there is an in-state and out-of-state tuition too. The average in-state cost of a registered nursing degree is $5,965. The average out-of-state cost is $27,630.

SCHOOLDEGREE LEVEL# OF CREDITS REQUIREDCOST PER CREDITTOTAL TUITION COST
Purdue University GlobalBSN130$315$40,950
Grand Canyon UniversityBSN120$470$56,400
Regent UniversityBSN120$295$35,400

TOP SCHOOLS THAT OFFER NURSING DEGREES

According to the NCES, there were over 50  schools that offer registered nursing degrees or programs.  From those schools there were 233,329 registered nursing degrees or programs awarded to students. The majority (57%) of these programs were bachelors degrees.   

SCHOOL2017 GRADS TOTAL/DEGREES AWARDEDTUITION (OUT OF STATE)
Chamberlain College of Nursing – Illinois6,954$19,375
Grand Canyon University5,768$17,050
Western Governors University4,753$6,670
Walden University3,707$12,120
The University of Texas at Arlington3,180$26,553
University of Phoenix – AZ1,049$9,552
Rasmussen College – Minnesota650$10,935
Capella University319$14,516

CHOOSING AN ACCREDITED NURSING DEGREE PROGRAM

Online nursing degrees are available in schools with regional or national accreditation. This type of approval may allow a student to take part in federal aid and state entitlement programs.

Or, use transfer credits from another accredited nursing school. This is important as it may save you time and tuition.

An accredited school may also volunteer to have their BSN, MSN and DNP programs assessed. In doing so, they commit to follow and maintain quality standards. Especially about core curriculum.

Accredited BSN programs are one example. They tend to follow the Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice (AACN, 2008). This step may help you prepare for national licensure exams. Crucial in a regulated field like nursing.

The main accreditors of nursing programs in the U.S. are:

The length of the accreditation process varies by program. But most accrediting agencies maintain a database with current statuses.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A NURSING DEGREE?

There are 4.11 million people working as registered nurses, though this number is growing by 3.34%. The average age of a person in the workforce is 43.3 years. Most are women.

Top Salaries by State for Registered Nurses

STATEEMPLOYMENTANNUAL MEAN WAGE
California294,510$106,950
Hawaii11,310$98,080
District of Columbia11,110$92,350
Massachusetts80,630$92,140
Oregon36,020$91,080

NURSING CAREER PATHS AND POTENTIAL SALARIES

Nursing careers can help you change and save lives. Many people think the only thing they can do with a nursing degree is become a nurse, but there are various options for students who complete a Nursing program. Salary as a Nursing professional is largely decided by your specific job title, your level of education, your experience and your skill. Consider the following careers, with statistics compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018.

REGISTERED NURSES

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Median Salary: $71,730 per year
Job growth through 2026: 15% (Much faster than average)
Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor’s Degree


LICENSED PRACTICAL AND LICENSED VOCATIONAL NURSES

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Median Salary: $46,240 per year
Job growth through 2026: 12% (Faster than average)
Typical Entry-level education: Postsecondary nondegree award


NURSE ANESTHETISTS, NURSE MIDWIVES, AND NURSE PRACTITIONERS

Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty healthcare. The scope of practice varies from state to state.(iii)

Median Salary: $113,930 per year
Job growth through 2026: 31% (Much faster than average)
Typical Entry-level education: Master’s Degree


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EducationDynamics maintains business relationships with the schools it features.

This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.