Nurses play a vital role in the healthcare industry. Online nursing programs train students to enter the field and advance into leadership roles.
Some of the best nursing schools offer online nursing programs. These flexible programs allow working RNs to earn their degree while continuing their career. Online programs also allow learners to enroll in the most affordable school without relocating.
Our list ranks the top online nursing programs. Use this ranking to find the best fit for your needs and career goals.View Our Rankings List Here
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Top Online Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing
Yes. Many of the best nursing schools offer fully online degrees. Students complete coursework through a distance learning platform. They fulfill clinical requirements locally.
RNs need a two-year or four-year degree to meet the educational requirements to become an RN.
Nurse practitioners are the most in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for these nurses to grow 45% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than average.
Why Get a Nursing Degree?
A nursing degree trains students for many in-demand careers. Nurses can apply for an RN license and enter the field with a two-year degree. Community colleges educate nurses at affordable tuition rates. Nursing students can choose from in-person, hybrid, and online programs.
Current RNs can increase their earning potential and move into leadership roles with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). RN-to-BSN programs allow current RNs to complete a bachelor's degree in 12 months. With a BSN, nurses can apply to graduate programs to become nurse practitioners or other advanced practice RNs.
How Much Does a Nursing Degree Cost?
Nursing degree costs vary by school and program. Students pursuing a two-year degree at an in-state community college paid around $3,400 in 2019-20, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Learners pursuing a four-year degree at an in-state public university spent around $9,350. Private school enrollees spent an average of $32,750.
Nurses can complete an online RN-to-BSN program in 1-2 years. BSN students with no prior nursing experience can earn the degree in four years.
Additional Online Student Fees
Online students spend the most money on tuition. However, they should also budget for extra expenses. Students may need to buy books, supplies, and scrubs. Some online programs charge a technology or distance learning fee. Nurses should also save money for the NCLEX-RN exam and state licensure.
Some online nursing schools include in-person requirements such as clinical rotations. Travel and lodging costs add to learners' expenses. Prospective students can ask schools for an estimate of the total cost of attendance.
How Much Do Nursing Majors Make?
According to the BLS, nurses earn an annual median salary of $75,330. The BLS projects that the nursing field will add more than 276,000 new jobs from 2020-2030.
Nurses' salaries vary depending on their location, specialty, and experience. BSN nurses in leadership roles typically earn higher salaries than nurses with an associate degree. Nurses earn higher salaries as they gain experience.
Nurses can increase their earning potential by pursuing specialty certifications and moving into high-demand roles. A graduate degree can also lead to more responsibilities and higher salaries. Advanced practice RNs like nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists earn a median annual salary of over $117,000.
Courses in Nursing
Nursing courses blend theoretical knowledge with experiential learning. Learners study best practices in nursing care. They also build clinical skills through practica, clinical rotations, and nursing labs. Students grow their nursing skills while developing critical thinking, decision-making, and leadership experience.
Online nursing programs include core courses and specialized courses. Students may take classes in medical-surgical nursing, ambulatory care, or neonatal nursing. See below for common nursing courses.
Students learn basic theories and concepts for providing effective patient care. The course introduces nursing practices based on data. Learners also study measurements of patient care outcomes and care throughout the life cycle. Enrollees complete clinical components, including labs and simulations.
Basic Nursing Care
Health assessment courses train nurses to evaluate a patient's mental health and physical condition. Learners strengthen their assessment strategies for patients of all ages. The course focuses on health promotion and taking client histories.
Family Health Assessment
The course helps nurses strengthen their leadership and management skills. Students learn how to manage nursing care, lead nursing teams, and lead in healthcare settings. Coursework covers case management and strategies for evaluating personnel. The course prepares BSN nurses for leadership roles.
How to Become a Nurse
Aspiring registered nurses must complete an accredited nursing program. Students can enroll in a two-year diploma or associate program to meet the minimum education requirement. A four-year BSN degree also qualifies graduates for licensure.
Online nursing programs give learners the medical knowledge and hands-on training for nursing careers. BSN programs include specialized courses and clinical rotations. Students also complete clinical practicum hours. After earning a nursing degree from an accredited program, graduates can apply for their RN license.
Licensure for Nursing
Each state sets its own nursing licensure requirements. Some states require a criminal background check. Most states expect candidates to have a nursing degree from an approved program.
Accredited nursing schools that incorporate practicum hours meet the education requirement for a nursing license. Candidates must also pass the NCLEX-RN exam. The exam costs $200.
In addition to licensure, many nurses earn voluntary professional certifications. This allows them to show their experience in areas like pediatrics or oncology. Nurses can learn about their state's licensure requirements by visiting the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Best Online Nursing Programs 2021
Located in Orlando, UCF offers an online bachelor of science in nursing through their RN-to-BSN program. Students can complete the 30-credit post-licensure program online with minimal residency requirements.
Course topics include public and community nursing programs, health promotion across the lifespan, dimensions of professional practice, and pathophysiology for nursing practice. Students complete courses in 3-5 semesters, in addition to any required general education core coursework. Required clinicals take place at an approved location near the student and provide an opportunity to practice direct patient care.
Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.8 and must complete seven of the eight prerequisites before applying to the program. All applicants must reside in a nurse licensure compact state to participate in the online program.
UCF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Located in Miami, FIU offers an online bachelor of science in nursing through its RN-to-BSN program. Students can complete courses online with minimal on-campus requirements.
Students take courses such as professional nursing leadership concepts and issues, adult physiological nursing, nursing in a global healthcare system, and care of communities in community health. Students can take courses in any order and can transfer up to six credits from another BSN program. The 30-credit program takes place over 2-3 semesters. Students must also complete general education requirements. Required clinical rotations occur at an approved location near the student.
Applicants need a current registered nurse license with a minimum GPA of 2.75 from an accredited associate of nursing or nursing diploma program and a minimum of 60 lower-division transfer credits.
FIU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Based in Laredo, TAMIU offers an online bachelor of science in nursing program for licensed registered nurses. Nurses who live in Texas can complete the RN-to-BSN program with minimal in-person requirements.
Course topics include transition to professional nursing, cultural determinants of health behavior, community nursing, and global health nursing. A 35-credit embedded practicum totaling 126 hours provides hands-on experience from mentors in the field. Students must complete general university core requirements and electives to complete the bachelor's program. They can finish nursing requirements in one year.
Applicants must hold an unencumbered registered nurse license in the state of Texas to qualify for admission. They also need a minimum GPA of 2.5. The school accepts only Texas residents.
TAMIU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
Located in Las Cruces, NMSU offers an online bachelor of science in nursing. Students complete clinical requirements at a location near them.
The curriculum includes human anatomy and physiology for health sciences, principles of nursing practice, human pathophysiology foundation for nursing, and care of patients with chronic conditions. Students receive training in anatomy and physiology as well as microbiology. They take clinical intensives at an approved location, providing direct care to patients under the mentorship.
Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.75 in all nursing prerequisite courses and should complete the HESI-A2 admission exam in biology, chemistry, math, and all English sections before applying to the program. The department places a priority on these two components for admission consideration.
NMSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Located in Columbus, Ohio State offers an online bachelor of science in nursing through its RN-to-BSN program. The program uses open resources and university-provided resources, resulting in no textbook costs for the duration of the program.
Students must complete five prerequisite courses before beginning the nursing curriculum. Notable nursing courses include foundations and contemporary issues for registered nurses, cultural competence in healthcare in U.S. and global contexts, and healthcare informatics. From there, students choose approved nursing elective courses and complete clinical requirements at an approved location near them or at their own workplace.
Applicants must hold an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma and an active and unencumbered registered nurse license. Students must also possess a minimum GPA of 2.0 for program eligibility. Students must complete all prerequisites before the program begins.
Ohio State is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure as a history professor at the University of Louisville. An award-winning historian and writer, Genevieve has published multiple scholarly articles and a book with the University of Chicago Press. She currently works as a freelance writer and consultant.