Best Online Nursing Programs 2021

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Integral to any healthcare system, nurses focus on health promotion and disease prevention. These professionals care for individuals of all ages, including those with physical and mental illnesses. Many nurses work in hospitals, but they can also find positions in settings such as community centers, physicians’ offices, and schools.

Nursing professionals need specialized training to provide comprehensive and appropriate care. Nurses must also apply a caring and compassionate approach and should be committed to patient advocacy. Students earning an on-campus or online degree in nursing develop the professional and communication skills necessary to succeed in healthcare roles.

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Top 10 Best Online Nursing Programs

Rank School Location
1 Eastern University St. Davids, PA
2 Misericordia University Dallas, PA
3 Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick, NJ
4 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
5 North Dakota State University Fargo, ND
6 Vermont Technical College Randolph, VT
7 Davenport University Grand Rapids, MI
8 The University of Texas at Arlington Arlington, TX
9 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
10 University of Maine at Fort Kent Fort Kent, ME


  • What is nursing?

    Nursing is a healthcare profession that focuses on the care of individuals, families, and communities. Individuals in the field promote health and prevent illnesses.

  • How long does it take to earn a nursing degree?

    Full-time students typically complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing in four years. Part-time learners may need longer.

  • What kind of nursing degree can I get?

    Institutions offer on-campus and online college nursing programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

  • Can I earn a nursing degree online?

    Many colleges and universities offer online nursing programs. When choosing the best nursing degree, online learners can select from distance programs at all levels.

Nursing Degree Programs 2021

The following list ranks nursing programs based on factors including cost of attendance, available specializations, accreditation, and faculty credentials. Prospective students can use this ranking as a starting point when researching online college nursing programs. Learners should consider their individual academic and career goals when evaluating program curricula.

  1. Eastern University

    St. Davids, PA



    Eastern University offers an online RN-to-BSN program designed to help working nurses advance professionally. Students complete the program entirely online and asynchronously.

    The degree requires 42 major credits, and most learners graduate in 14 months. Core courses include healthcare informatics, scholarly writing in nursing, physical assessment, population-focused nursing, and nursing research.

    Students must complete 46 hours of clinical experience, and the program culminates in a nursing capstone course. The curriculum meets requirements for two certificates, the Sigma Theta Tau nursing manager certificate and the end-of-life trained certificate of completion.

    Eastern University charges an affordable per-credit tuition rate. Applicants must have a current RN license and a minimum 2.0 GPA in previous college coursework. Eastern University accepts up to 89 transfer credits.

  2. Misericordia University

    Dallas, PA



    A private university located in Dallas, Pennsylvania, Misericordia University offers an online accelerated RN-to-BSN program ideal for working nurses. Misericordia delivers the program primarily online. However, some students may need to complete on-campus requirements.

    The curriculum includes general education coursework and 22 cognate credits in the major. Core courses explore topics in nursing research for evidence-based practice, nursing concepts, and pediatrics. Learners take one clinical practice course in community health, and most students graduate in seven semesters.

    Applicants must have a registered nurse license and a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75. Misericordia waives general education requirements for students who hold a bachelor's degree in another field. The university accepts transfer credits and Advanced Placement exams.

  3. Rutgers University-New Brunswick

    New Brunswick, NJ



    Rutgers-Camden offers an online RN-to-BSN program for licensed registered nurses who want to advance their education and professional skills. Students can pursue the bachelor's degree entirely online, and the university maintains partnerships with local community colleges to offer the program in a hybrid format.

    The RN-to-BSN program requires 121 credits, including 27 major credits. Full-time students typically complete the program in one year. Core courses include wellness and assessment, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and global health. Learners must complete at least 30 credits through Rutgers-Camden.

    Applicants must have an associate degree in nursing from an accredited institution, a minimum 2.7 GPA, and an RN license. Admitted students receive 33 credits for passing their NCLEX licensing exam and can apply up to 60 transfer credits from their associate degree.

  4. Concordia University-Saint Paul

    Saint Paul, MN



    Nursing professionals can pursue an online RN-to-BSN program from CSP. The university offers a low per-credit tuition rate, making its offering one of the most affordable online BSN degrees.

    The program requires 120 credits, including 36 major credits. Learners explore topics in transcultural nursing and health assessment, evidence-based practice, ethics and decision-making, and nursing informatics. The curriculum includes required field experiences and culminates in a capstone course. According to a survey by the university, 95% of CSP graduates receive a job offer within one year of graduation.

    Applicants must hold an associate degree in nursing from an accredited institution, a minimum 2.75 GPA, and a valid nursing license. Students with a license issued by a state other than Minnesota should contact an enrollment counselor to ensure they qualify for admission.

  5. North Dakota State University

    Fargo, ND



    The online RN-to-BSN program from NDSU builds on the previous training of working nurses. The university offers the program in a blended learning format. Students take eight-week classes online and complete an on-campus immersion each semester.

    The 120-credit RN-to-BSN program requires 30 major credits. After completing general education requirements, most students earn their bachelor's degree in five semesters. Major courses include the essence of nursing, chronicity throughout the lifespan, quality and safety in healthcare, and transcultural nursing care. Students can apply up to 60 transfer credits toward the degree.

    Applicants must hold an associate degree in nursing from an accredited institution, a current RN license, and a minimum 2.75 GPA. North Dakota residents pay a discounted tuition rate.

  6. Vermont Technical College

    Randolph, VT



    Vermont Technical College offers an online bachelor of science in nursing program that allows registered nurses to advance their education while working. Students complete coursework entirely online and experiential learning requirements in their community or workplace.

    The 120-credit curriculum includes 45 major credits. Learners study topics in nursing informatics, pathophysiology and assessment, nursing leadership and management, and community health. Students must earn a grade of "C" or better in nursing courses to receive credit.

    Students who earn the associate degree in nursing from Vermont Tech can pursue the BSN degree after obtaining an RN license. The college accepts transfer students and maintains articulation agreements with community colleges in Vermont and other states.

  7. Davenport University

    Grand Rapids, MI



    Davenport University offers an online BSN completion program that prepares registered nurses to advance in the field. Nursing students can pursue an optional specialization in medical case management.

    The BSN degree requires 121-134 credits and includes coursework in healthcare research, health promotion and education, and health assessment in nursing. The case management specialization covers topics in insurance reviews, casework reporting techniques, and case management for special populations.

    Applicants must have an active registered nurse license, a minimum 2.5 GPA, and a current CPR card. Admitted students receive 30 credits for passing the NCLEX exam and can apply up to 60 credits from an associate degree in nursing.

    The university charges a per-credit tuition rate, and Michigan Hospital Association employees receive a 20% tuition discount.

  8. The University of Texas at Arlington

    Arlington, TX



    The University of Texas at Arlington offers an online accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program for students who have previous college experience in the field. UTA delivers the program in a hybrid format that blends online courses with supervised clinical experiences in hospitals throughout the state.

    The accelerated BSN program requires 51 credits and takes 15 months to complete. Core courses include pharmacology, pathophysiology, holistic health assessment, nursing of adults, and pediatrics. According to UTA, more than 90% of the university's nursing students graduate and pass the NCLEX exam.

    Applicants must have at least 70 previous credits. Prospective students can complete certain prerequisite requirements during the semester in which they apply or one semester after the application deadline.

  9. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

    Oshkosh, WI



    UW-Oshkosh students can pursue a BSN in an online accelerated format. One of the most affordable online BSN degrees, the program is ideal for bachelor's degree-holders who plan to transition into the nursing field. UW-Oshkosh delivers the program in a hybrid format. Students take online courses and complete three on-campus residencies. Learners progress through the curriculum in cohorts, which encourages networking among peers.

    The BSN program requires 52 credits, and students can earn the degree in 12 months. Core courses explore topics in health assessment theory, evidence-based practice, mental health theory, and legal and ethical care. The curriculum also incorporates six clinical rotations during which students complete 728 clinical hours.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA. Prospective students must have a 3.0 GPA in prerequisite courses and a current nursing assistant certification.

  10. University of Maine at Fort Kent

    Fort Kent, ME



    UMFK offers an online RN-to-BSN program designed for working nurses. The university delivers the program entirely online in seven-week asynchronous courses. Full-time students typically earn the degree in 10 months.

    The 120-credit curriculum includes 30 credits of core nursing coursework, in addition to general education requirements and electives. Learners study topics in holistic health assessment, transcultural care, and healthcare policy. Students also complete a practicum course during which they design, plan, implement, and evaluate a community nursing intervention.

    Like many affordable nursing schools, UMFK charges online students a low per-credit tuition rate. Applicants must either hold a current registered nurse license or hold an associate degree and have scheduled their NCLEX exam.

Career and Salary Outlook for Nursing

The nursing field encompasses several practice areas, including geriatrics, mental health, oncology, and pediatrics. Specialized nursing roles often require a postgraduate degree and advanced training. Graduates of online college nursing programs can also pursue professional opportunities in non-practice areas such as nurse education, hospital administration, and research.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment in the healthcare sector to grow 15% from 2019-2029, much faster than the average growth rate of 4% for all occupations. Additionally, the BLS reports that healthcare practitioners earn a median salary of $68,190 per year, compared to a median annual salary of $39,810 for all occupations.

  • Registered Nurses

    Registered nurses’ duties include administering medication, performing health assessments, and educating patients about health conditions and medical procedures. Registered nurses usually work with a team of medical practitioners. They also often play a major role in coordinating patient care and delivering timely services.

  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

    The responsibilities of these professionals vary by state. Most licensed practical and vocational nurses work under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors. These nurses provide basic care, including monitoring patient health, assisting with bathing and dressing, and keeping accurate records of patient progress.

  • Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

    Depending on their qualifications and state regulations, advanced practice registered nurses can typically perform physical exams, diagnose patients, prescribe medications, order diagnostic tests, and create patient treatment plans. Some states allow these professionals to practice independently, without the supervision of a medical doctor.

Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Registered Nurses $73,300 7%
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses $47,480 9%
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners $115,800 45%

Source: BLS

Accreditation for Nursing

Colleges and universities obtain accreditation to demonstrate the quality and rigor of their programs. Third-party accrediting agencies evaluate a school’s educational offerings to ensure they meet established standards. Nonprofit, degree-focused institutions typically seek regional accreditation, while for-profit and vocational schools often receive national accreditation.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Commission for Higher Education Accreditation oversee both regional and national accrediting agencies in the United States. Learners should choose an accredited school to ensure they can qualify for federal financial aid. Many private organizations also require applicants to attend an accredited school to receive scholarships and grants.

In addition to institutional accreditation, nursing students can look for programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Courses in a Nursing Program

Students earning an online degree in nursing typically follow the same curriculum as their on-campus counterparts. Nursing programs usually begin with basic science coursework, such as biology, anatomy, and chemistry. These classes provide a foundation for advanced and specialized coursework. Most nursing curricula also feature classes in research methods and oral communication.

Nursing students typically complete an internship, during which they observe and experience the demands of the nursing profession. Online nursing students usually fulfill internship requirements at a local site. Although curricula vary by program, many nursing programs include the courses below.

Students in this class explore the structure and parts of the body, and they learn how each part functions in relation to the whole. The course includes an overview of the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of various diseases. Degree-seekers examine how diseases develop and spread, and they explore treatment and prevention methods. Coursework often incorporates emerging topics such as genetic engineering, cell cloning, and bioinformatics.

The field of gerontology involves the study of aging and older adults. This class explores topics including geriatric syndromes, safety protocols for elderly patients, and disease prevention. Students examine the implications of the aging American population and its impacts on society and healthcare. Degree-seekers also learn about transitional care environments and end-of-life issues.

Students in this course prepare to conduct health assessments by properly collecting subjective and objective data. Learners develop interviewing skills and improve their cultural competence. Students also learn how to elicit accurate and relevant information from clients of all ages. Coursework explores strategies for discussing issues such as tobacco use, cancer risks, and stroke prevention with patients.

This course introduces students to single-cell and multicellular organisms and covers topics including bacteriology, virology, and parasitology. Nurses need a solid understanding of microbiology to create and maintain sterile environments. Professionals also use this knowledge to properly collect specimens and safely dispose of biomedical waste.

Learners in this course study various classes of drugs and examine how drugs affect the human body. Students become familiar with side effects drugs can cause, and they learn how to avoid potentially fatal drug interactions. Nurses need a solid grasp of fundamental pharmacological concepts to administer medications safely, especially to patients with multiple comorbidities.

Scholarships for Nursing

Students pursuing an on-campus or online degree in nursing can often qualify for institutional scholarships. Learners can also apply for awards from professional associations and nonprofits. With the high demand for trained nurses nationwide, many organizations offer financial assistance for students pursuing a career in the field. Learners can also qualify for scholarships based on factors such as financial need and identity.

ARN Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The Association of Rehabilitation Nurses offers scholarships for undergraduate and graduate nursing students. Applicants must demonstrate membership and involvement with the association. Candidates must have successfully completed at least one course in their nursing program.
Amount: $1,500 Education Award

Who Can Apply: offers the scholarship to full-time or part-time students enrolled in an accredited nursing program. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and fill out a registration form to apply.
Amount: $5,000

Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The American Association of Colleges of Nursing administers the scholarship to two recipients four times each year. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.2 GPA and must attend a qualifying nursing program at the bachelor’s level or higher.
Amount: $5,000

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Advertisement is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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