The Best Accredited Online Nursing Programs for Aspiring RNs

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Updated November 16, 2022

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Earning your nursing degree online often means a flexible schedule and budget-friendly tuition. Explore our picks for the best online nursing programs.

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A popular career path, nursing is in higher demand than ever. If you'd like to jump right into the field, an online bachelor's degree offers a flexible and convenient route to becoming a registered nurse (RN). Some of the best nursing schools offer online nursing programs.

Online nursing schools also allow you to enroll in the most affordable school without having to relocate. Explore our picks for the best accredited online nursing programs and get tips to jumpstart your nursing career today.

Why Get Your Nursing Degree Online?

  • You'll get specialized training for an in-demand healthcare role.
  • You can apply for an RN license and start working immediately after graduating.
  • 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 earn a bachelor's in less time — usually in one year.
  • A BSN prepares you to apply to graduate programs to become a nurse practitioner or other advanced practice RN.
  • Online degrees are flexible and generally more affordable than on-campus programs.

Did You Know?



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How Important Is Accreditation for Online Nursing Schools?

Accreditation is especially important for online nursing programs. Your nursing program is a major step in qualifying for a nursing license. If your program is unaccredited, you may be unable to apply for licensure.

An online degree will be just as respected as a traditional degree, so long as it's accredited.

Here are legitimate accreditors for nursing schools to look for as you compare programs:

There are also national and regional accreditors to be on the lookout for:

Top 4 Online Nursing Schools

Read About Our Methodology Here

#1 The Best Accredited Online Nursing Programs for Aspiring RNs

University of Central Florida

  • Orlando, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Central Florida, a public college, educates students across dual modalities. The online RN-to-BSN program is one of 88 online bachelor's degree programs available to distance learners. The college also offers 19 online bachelor's degree programs, supporting 41,097 distance learners.

Learners interested in the nursing field will find the RN-to-BSN program to be an attractive choice. The program facilitates interactive learning through a virtual classroom environment, where students can work and collaborate with colleagues and faculty. The program curriculum consists of foundational and advanced coursework, covering topics relevant to the nursing field. The program enables students to pursue experiential learning opportunities relevant to their career goals, such as research projects and internships. Throughout their studies, enrollees receive personal and professional guidance from the institution, benefiting from academic advising, career services, and other departments.

Eligible students can receive internal and external funding opportunities to defray the cost of their degree. The financial aid office can provide guidance to prospective students on this matter.

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,478
Out-of-state
$19,810
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
44%
Students Enrolled
69,402
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 The Best Accredited Online Nursing Programs for Aspiring RNs

Texas A&M International University

  • Laredo, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Looking for a premier bachelor's degree program that suits your schedule? Consider Texas A&M International University. The public institution offers 35 bachelor's degree programs, two of which are available online. The online modality benefits learners seeking flexible study.

The RN-to-BSN program equips students with the skills needed to succeed in the nursing field. The virtual learning environment enables collaborative work and interactive learning among classmates and faculty. Students attend weekly lectures while completing courses in foundational and advanced topics relevant to the nursing field. Enrollees can also pursue internships and other experiential learning opportunities to further prepare for the demands of a nursing career. Learners can receive career guidance throughout the duration of their program, benefiting from career workshops and other institutional resources.

Enrollees can explore their eligibility for scholarships and other forms of financial aid in consultation with the financial aid office.

Average Tuition
In-state
$3,818
Out-of-state
$13,946
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
54%
Students Enrolled
8,305
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#3 The Best Accredited Online Nursing Programs for Aspiring RNs

New Mexico State University

  • Las Cruces, NM
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in Las Cruces, New Mexico State University supports 12 online bachelor's degree programs for learners around the world. The public college connects 6,244 distance learners with competitive educational opportunities.

The bachelor of science in nursing is a wise choice for working professionals and busy students hoping to advance in the nursing field. Students in the BSN program connect with classmates and faculty through a virtual classroom environment, completing coursework and benefiting from industry-relevant lectures. Students complete a rigorous curriculum consisting of foundational and advanced coursework. In consultation with their academic advisor, students can modify courses, choose electives, and pursue internships and other experiential learning opportunities.

While enrolled, students benefit from institutional support systems through career services, academic advising, and other offices. These institutional supports contribute to the college's 48% graduation rate. Students can meet with the financial aid office to discuss funding opportunities and determine their eligibility. Of all students, 99% benefit from financial aid awards.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,875
Out-of-state
$21,864
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
55%
Students Enrolled
14,296
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 The Best Accredited Online Nursing Programs for Aspiring RNs

The Ohio State University

  • Columbus, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in Columbus, The Ohio State University provides flexible online study to learners from all walks of life. To date, the school offers two online bachelor's degree programs, supporting distance learners across various fields.

Students can choose from several subject areas, such as the top-ranked RN-to-BSN program. The nursing program enables remote study through a virtual classroom environment. Program coursework equips learners with foundational and advanced knowledge, preparing them for the demands of the nursing field. Students can further their nursing knowledge through internships, externships, and other experiential learning opportunities.

While enrolled, students benefit from institutional support systems through career services, academic advising, and other offices. These institutional support services contribute to the college's 86% graduation rate. Students can access internal and external funding opportunities through the college. Of all degree-seekers, 79% receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,197
Out-of-state
$31,174
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
54%
Students Enrolled
61,391
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

How Much Does a Nursing Degree Cost?


While nursing degree costs can vary greatly, you can generally expect to spend anywhere from $38,000 to $73,000 on a BSN degree.

You'll spend less if you pursue an associate degree in nursing (ADN) at a two-year college. Be aware, however, that many states and employers require or strongly prefer RNs to have a bachelor's degree in nursing.

An RN-to-BSN program for nurses who already have an associate degree typically costs $100-$600 per credit. These bridge programs last 1-2 years.

If you enroll in an accredited online nursing program, make sure to budget for extra expenses, like a laptop, books, supplies, and scrubs. Some online programs charge a technology or distance learning fee as well.

You should also be prepared to pay for any travel or in-person practicums, the NCLEX-RN, and state licensure.

How Much Can You Make With an Online Nursing Degree?

Registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $77,600 as of May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

That said, nurses' salaries vary greatly depending on their location, specialty, and experience. RNs with a BSN can usually qualify for higher-paying leadership positions than nurses with just an associate degree.

Your location can also influence your salary. Use the following map to see the median annual salaries of nurses in each state.



As you can see, nurses in states like California, Hawaii, and New York typically earn more than RNs in states like Alabama, South Dakota, and Mississippi.

If you get a graduate degree in nursing, you may qualify for even higher salaries than those on the map. Advanced practice RNs, such as nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists, earn a median salary of over $117,000 a year!

How to Become a Registered Nurse: 6-Step Overview

There are key steps you must take in order to become an RN. For example, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for a state nursing license.

You do, however, have a few education options you can take to qualify for that test and license.

1 Define Your Goals

As you begin your journey to becoming a registered nurse, consider your career and educational goals.

If your budget and timeline mean an ADN is the right move for you, be sure that an ADN is sufficient for the type of job and workplace you want.

Many employers prefer nurses who have a BSN, especially for leadership positions. You can also earn a higher salary with a BSN. On the other hand, a BSN takes four years to complete and will likely cost a lot more.

Research the job requirements for the nursing careers you're interested in to help define your educational goals.

2 Compare Accredited Nursing Programs

The next step is to compare accredited online nursing programs. Look at cost, course structure, flexibility, courses offered, networking opportunities, and student resources.

For example, some programs use a hybrid structure, while others are entirely online. Regardless, you'll want to make sure the programs you consider have proper accreditation.

Two major nursing school accreditors are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Students who already have a nursing diploma or ADN might want to consider bridge programs that help expedite the completion of a BSN.

3 Earn Your Nursing Degree

The two main degree options for becoming a nurse are the ADN and BSN. While working toward your degree, you'll learn foundational knowledge and essential skills around healthcare and patient care.

Nursing degrees also include clinical components, or practicums, in which you use what you learned in school with real patients.

4 Pass the NCLEX-RN

To become an RN, you'll need to do more than just earn your degree in nursing — you'll also need to pass an exam.

The NCLEX-RN tests your application and analysis of the knowledge you learned in school. You'll be tested on your ability to make nursing judgments and think critically.

Questions cover four major categories:

  • Safe and effective care environment
  • Health promotion and maintenance
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Physiological integrity

The NCLEX-RN costs $200 and typically takes 2-3 hours to complete. If you don't pass the exam the first time around, you can take it again after 45 days.

5 Apply for State Licensure

The final step to becoming an RN is to apply for state licensure.

Each state sets its own licensure requirements. Some of the most common requirements for becoming an RN are:

  • Pass a criminal background check.
  • Earn a nursing diploma, an ADN, or a BSN from an accredited nursing program.
  • Meet all practicum requirements.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN.

When applying for your license, you'll need to provide proof of citizenship and nursing program transcripts. You'll also have to pay an application fee and license fee.

6 Renew Your License as Needed

How often you'll need to renew your nursing license will vary by state.

For example, Alabama licenses need to be renewed every two years. In New York, it's every three years, and in North Dakota, it's every year.

You'll usually need to meet a few requirements to renew your nursing license. These also vary by state, but may include a set number of CEU hours, a certification, or a specific class.


Q&A With Real Registered Nurses and BSN Grads



Q: What attracted you to the RN program you ultimately chose?


"There were two main factors for me. The first was having access to 1-on-1 assistance throughout the program. Smaller cohorts are more likely to have this. The other influencing factor was job placement."
 — Nancy Mitchell, Registered Nurse and Contributing Writer at Assisted Living Center
"At the time, Texas Woman's University (TWU) … was one of the cheapest schools in the top 10 best nursing schools in Texas. I applied to a few Texas schools for my two-year prerequisite courses and was accepted, but ultimately I chose TWU because of cost."
 — Rachel Adams, Registered Nurse, University of Washington Medical Center

Q: In your opinion, what is the value of earning a BSN?

"ADNs are becoming more obsolete and phased out. … It is valuable to earn a BSN right off the bat because you are more competitive on your application and often have a slightly broader science background that will aid in your nursing school courses."
 — Rachel A.
"Earning a BSN gives you an edge above others who may only have a diploma or associate degree [in nursing]."
 — Nancy M.

Q: What is something that surprised you about the field of nursing?

"I was most surprised at how much advanced medicine nurses are required to learn. Most nurses have shared information with doctors, which allows them to monitor and treat patients outside of doctors' rounds."
 — Nancy M.

Q: What is your biggest piece of advice to students considering becoming RNs?

"If you can, try to shadow before you start your college courses to make sure that nursing is the right career for you. It is a valuable career, but can be emotionally, physically, and mentally draining if you are not fit for it."
 — Rachel A.
"Be sure that you have a passion for nursing. Contrary to popular belief, a nursing degree is not easier than studying medicine. It may take fewer years, but it requires serious commitment and sacrifices to manage practicals, theory lectures, and rigorous examinations."
 — Nancy M.

Frequently Asked Questions About Registered Nursing Programs

Can I earn a nursing degree completely online?

Yes, you can earn a nursing degree 100% online. In fact, many of the best nursing schools offer fully online degrees. This applies to associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in nursing.

Students complete coursework online through a distance learning platform. You'll then need to fulfill clinical requirements locally and in person.

Can you become a nurse without a degree?

Yes, you can become a nurse without a college degree. A few states permit you to become an RN with only a nursing diploma. This diploma provides you with a foundation in biology and social sciences, in addition to clinical experience with patients.

Alternatively, you can become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) with a diploma. These programs normally take about a year.

How long does it take to become an RN?

In general, it takes 1-4 years to become an RN. The specific timeline for becoming an RN will depend on the educational path you take, whether that's a nursing diploma (one year), an ADN (two years), or a BSN (four years).

What courses will you take in a registered nursing program?

Typically, an RN program will include courses like basic nursing care, family health assessment, and nursing leadership. You'll also learn about physiology, psychology, microbiology, and pharmacology.

What type of nurse is most in demand?

Nurse practitioners are not only the most in-demand nurses but also the fastest-growing job in the U.S. The BLS projects a 46% growth rate for nurse practitioners between 2021 and 2031. Nurse practitioners earn a median annual salary of $120,680 as of May 2021.

To become a nurse practitioner, you'll need a master's degree in nursing.


All rankings and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by the ASO Rankings Team.


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