Best Online BSN Programs

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Registered nurses (or RNs for short) treat and care for sick and/or injured patients at hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers and other healthcare facilities. RNs are tasked with a wide assortment of day-to-day responsibilities, most of them related to diagnosing patients, collecting samples for testing, counseling, patient record keeping and appointment scheduling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are approximately 2.75 million registered nurses working in the U.S. today ― making this one of the largest employment fields in the country. Jobs for RNs are also projected to grow by 16% between 2014 and 2024, resulting in the creation of roughly 440,000 new positions. RNs must be licensed to work in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Although many RNs launch successful careers with an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma, a bachelor’s degree can help qualified candidates compete in the tough job market. The most popular undergraduate route for RNs is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN. BSN degree programs feature foundational coursework designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to advance their nursing career. BSN pathways also include at least one internship or clinical residency, allowing students to receive supervised, hands-on training from experienced professionals at working healthcare facilities. Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their BSN online, rather than in a classroom. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to a comparable number of post-degree job opportunities; many BSN programs are also accelerated, enabling students to graduate in as little as one to two years. Additionally, the study-from-home online format can be ideal for students with conflicting commitments ― such as part-time jobs or childcare ― that may interfere with campus-based education.

This guide will cover BSN programs designed for students with experience as licensed registered nurses. For more information on a similar educational pathway, please visit our Guide to Online RN to BSN Degree Programs.

Learn more about what you can do with an RN to BSN and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

WILL AN ONLINE BSN PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

BSN degree programs will build on the knowledge and skills that students have gained while working as licensed RNs. The curricula include coursework in human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, healthcare administration and medical billing and coding. Internships and residencies give students the chance to apply what they have learned in order to solve problems and address concerns at real-world healthcare facilities.

WILL AN ONLINE BSN WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Online BSN degree programs provide a flexible alternative to traditional higher education. Students can access course readings and lectures, participate in virtual discussions with other students and faculty, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors ― all on their own schedule, and from the comfort of home. Current technology also allows them to study away from their desktop using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities. For added convenience, online BSN students can often coordinate onsite trainings at healthcare facilities close to their current residence.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY BSN?

The BSN degrees listed below are aimed at registered nurses who plan to advance in their RN career. Many BSN programs offered today enable students to earn degree concentrations in niche areas of nursing like critical care, pediatrics, rehabilitation or addiction nursing. A specialization can open up additional opportunities for qualified graduates. A BSN is also suitable for students who plan to continue their education with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree; a master’s is often required for advanced nursing roles, such as midwives, anesthetists and nurse practitioners.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE BSN PROGRAMS?

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online BSN programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online BSN program, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific bachelor’s degree requirements and offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1Northeastern University 5/581.62%Boston, MA

The Program

This online program can take from three semesters (full-time) or two years (part-time) to complete. Classes in the online RN to BSN are offered completely online for students in many states, with over 200 specially designed courses that simulate the kind of decision-making that students will need for their career in nursing. The college also offers an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) hybrid program for students in the Boston area. This full-time 16 month program marries online coursework with the same experiential learning that on-campus students experience.Currently, the clinical supplements which are required for completion of these programs are available in the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina (conditional), South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The Platform

As part of the experiential learning component associated with this program, students must be enrolled in a state in which they may complete clinical practicum. Please see the list above.Northeastern University uses Blackboard Learn as the online learning environment for their nursing program. Here, students will have access to assessments, exams, classroom/instructor communications, course materials, a suite of Google productivity apps, and mobile connectivity.

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2Florida National University 3/556.84%Hialeah, FL

The Program

Florida National University’s Advanced RN to BSN program is 100% online. Taught by instructors who are active in the healthcare field, students who enroll in the RN to BSN can study in any state in the U.S. without restriction.The 120 credit-hour BSN Advance program is designed to enhance the education of RN graduates and advance the professional options of those who already possess an RN in their state of residence. Students who meet the program requirements can begin eight-week classes once every 16 weeks.The college also offers an on-campus program for entry level nursing students. However, clinical work will be required to complete this program.

The Platform

FNU’s Blackboard Learn provides students with all of the tools needed to learn immersively online. Through Blackboard, students have 24/7 access to assessments, class announcements, lectures and assignments, discussion boards and more.Students who possess an RN license to practice in their state of residence are not required to complete any on-site clinical work for Florida National’s Advanced RN to BSN program.*Thanks to a partnership with Ed4Online, FNU also offers enrichment courses that healthcare students might find interesting. Information about these self-paced courses can be accessed online.

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3Crown College 4/557.14%Saint Bonifacius, MN

The Program

Crown College has a 95-year history of affordable excellence in the Christian tradition. The program builds on the already in-place skillsets of those who have earned their RN degree.
This curriculum boasts high employment rates among its graduates, and a student-to-teacher ratio of only 15:1.Nationally ranked among the Top Online Programs by U.S. News and World Report, Crown College’s online offerings have been recognized for being military friendly. The school extends a number of scholarship opportunities to students, which boasts a higher-than-average percentage of online learners at both the undergraduate (38%) and graduate (97%) levels.Crown takes pride in making every effort to provide an affordable online nursing education. Tuition at Crown is 20-40% lower than at most other area private Christian colleges, and 98% of Crown’s student body receives financial aid; the average aid amount is $10,320.

The Platform

Students at Crown College online utilize the Blackboard Learn LMS. This up-to-date learning management software allows students to collaborate from locations across the country 24/7. Using video, audio, and Powerpoint supplements, asynchronous modules and assessments inform students about the latest trends in nursing.As a benefit to Crown students, Microsoft office 2010 (or newer) is offered at a discount. Students have access to an .edu email, as well as productivity tools and networking opportunities thanks to a class directory that helps keep students and teachers just an email away.

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4Augsburg College 5/562.64%Minneapolis, MN

The Program

Augsburg College has offered a strong nursing program since 1978. Their flexible, hybrid nursing curriculum is one of the most popular programs on campus for professional undergraduates. With evening and online course of study, students can earn their degree in as few as two years at one of two Minneapolis locations. Classes meet on alternate weekday evenings for four-hour time blocks. Online instruction and activities occur between face-to-face class times.There is an experiential learning component to the program that offers students more than just a regional flexibility for the completion of hands-on, practical course credit. Clinical practicum typically occurs during the week; optional field experience both locally and abroad take place at various times. The Department of Nursing can offer prospective students greater detail.The Minnesota Nurses Association offers scholarships to students/nurses who are members of the association. Augsburg offers other aid and grant opportunities to its students, as well; these are outlined on the school’s scholarship page, and may be of interest to American Indians, military students, or those pursuing their BSN as a new student to Augsburg (the Grand Scholarship).

The Platform

Based on the principles of transcultural nursing and holism, local and global practicum is an important part of a nursing degree at Augsburg. For this reason, students who are unable to complete the immersion practicum are ineligible to enroll in this distance program. Currently, the hybrid RN to BSN program at Augsburg is available in the following cities: Minneapolis, Nicaragua, Pine Ridge, Rochester.Online, students use a Moodle-based learning management system to access course content. At their convenience, working nurses can review quiz materials, access lectures, and interact with classmates all from the comfort of their home.

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5Arizona State University 2/563.43%Tempe, AZ

The Program

ASU’s RN to BSN online program (45 credits) is offered completely online. The curriculum consists of 45 credits (38 of those being upper-division), and can be completed is as little as 15 months. The program offers four convenient start dates to accommodate busy, working students.More than 40% of ASU’s nursing students receive scholarship or financial aid to offset the cost of attendance. There are many options for nursing and healthcare students to apply for merit and needs-based scholarship.

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6Marian University 4/553.99%Indianapolis, IN

The Program

Students who hold a bachelor’s degree and live in the Indianapolis area may be interested in this accelerated nursing program in Indianapolis. This full-time hybrid curriculum can be completed in just 16 months, and has synchronous and asynchronous learning components.

Marian University’s faith-based nursing program is offered as part of a collaboration with St. Vincent Health. Students can choose from three annual start dates: January, May, or August.Didactic coursework is completed online, but students of this accelerated program will receive hands-on experience in a simulated hospital environment. Experiential learning in a clinical setting is vital to nursing success; that’s why students are able to practice core nursing skills concurrently with classroom learning.

The Platform

As an added convenience, students can earn all of their necessary pre-requisites online in accelerated formats. These five or eight week classes begin six times a year.The courses for this program are online, but all tests and exams will be administered and proctored on-site at St. Vincent Health.Via the Canvas online learning platform, students can review classroom material day or night, as well as communicate with peers and instructors, see course grades, and access lessons and notes to supplement the day’s clinical lessons.

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7University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh 2/554.34%Oshkosh, WI

The Program

The accelerated 12 month program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is unlike any other. Rigorous and competitive, the UWO admits two cohorts (one in May and one in October) of 30 students each annually.The program is not self-paced. Coursework for this program can take up to ten hours a day, and the required reading for the accelerated program is around 80-100 pages daily. Time commitments are so steep for this UWO curriculum that students are required to forgo full-time employment for the duration of their studies.Before students can be admitted into the accelerated program, they must complete the Test of Essential Academic Skills published by ATI Inc. This requirement is in addition to successfully completing the standard interview and application process that nursing students can expect from any accredited nursing college.

The Platform

The UWO program is currently available to students in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. As part of the experiential learning that takes place at UWO’s College of Nursing, students will learn online in Second Life at a facility exclusive to faculty and students.Even though this program is available online (barring clinical experience, which takes place over 728 clinical hours and six rotations), the classes are synchronous. Some meetings are held online at specified times, occasionally at the Second Life campus.

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8Wayland Baptist University 3/531.98%Plainview, TX

With more than 75% of students enrolled as part-time learners, Wayland specializes in catering to non-traditional learners like working professionals and parents. The online nursing program offers a standard nursing curriculum that is administered entirely online for RN to BSN students, and largely online for students interested in earning their standardized BSN.At 11:1, student teacher ratios at Wayland are low. Online and campus-based students receive a high level support from faculty and staff; scholarships are available to nursing students in both the hybrid and online programs. The generic BSN requires 21 months to complete; the RN to BSN program will require 12 months.For the online BSN, clinical practice must be completed in the San Antonio, Houston or Port Arthur area once a month. There are no clinical requirements for the accelerated RN to BSN program. Both curriculums have similar admission requirements.

Quick Facts

  • Wayland nursing students should be comfortable with technology, and are expected to use Blackboard as a learning management tool. Through Blackboard, students will have access to proctored tests, school Intranet, school email, electronic coursework and assignment portals. Lecture classes online are asynchronous for this program.
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9Methodist College 3/5N/APeoria, IL

The RN to BSN can be completed in as few as 12 months. However, students can take as long as five years to complete this program at Methodist College. New cohorts are accepted each January and August.Students are able to transfer up to 82 of the total 122 credits required to complete this bachelor of science degree, and only 23 required credits are required in order to begin learning online. (Some prerequisite courses, such as Statistics, need to be completed prior to enrollment.)Students seeking a second degree might be interested in the Accelerated BSN. This hybrid program, which can be completed in just five consecutive semesters (including summer sessions), schedules clinical and required coursework on evenings and weekends to accommodate working professionals. This program has a cap of 30 students per semester, all of whom are admitted once in the spring and again in the fall. The remainder of the class is taught online.

Quick Facts

  • All online classes are accessed through Sakai, Methodist College’s learning management system. For students who have never used the platform, tutorials are available online. Like most collegiate content systems, students can access course modules, multimedia learning tools, their school email, dropboxes for assignments, and much more 24/7. RN-BSN students pay a $100 technology fee each semester.
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Timeline
1 to 2 years
Program Costs
$8,000 to $20,000 for full tuition
Popular Minors and Dual Areas of Study
Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Administration, Healthcare Administration, Health Services Management, Medical Informatics
Leadership
Accreditation
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
Additional Considerations
RNs must be licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Licensing requirements vary by state.

Job Placement

In recent years, the demand for qualified RNs has been fueled by a rising number of patients who need medical care. Millions of previously uninsured Americans currently receive medical coverage under the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), and an aging baby boomer population has increased the need for nurses who specialize in caring for elderly patients. As a result, jobs for nurses are plentiful and unemployment rates are relatively quite low.

How to registered nurses stack up against other nursing personnel in terms of their job outlook? The table below lists unemployment rates of RNs and four other nursing occupations. All five entries were featured in the ‘Best Healthcare Jobs’ of 2017 ranking from U.S. News & World Report.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2017)
Physician Assistant 0.6%
Nurse Practitioner 0.7%
Nurse Anesthetist 0.7%
Nurse Midwife 0.7%
Registered Nurse 1.5%

Source: ‘Best Healthcare Jobs’ by U.S. News & World Report

While the unemployment rate for RNs is more than twice as high as the rates for the other four occupations, this figure is much lower than the national unemployment rate for all professions, which currently sits at 4.7%.

Earning a Living

A BSN leads to higher salaries than an associate degree or nursing diploma, according to the latest data from PayScale. The table below looks at the differences in career earnings for bachelor’s-, associate- and nursing diploma-holders.

Degree Median Annual Salary (1 year or less) Median Annual Salary (1-4 Years) Median Annual Salary (5-9 Years) Median Annual Salary (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary (20+ Years)
Nursing Diploma $38,400 $43,000 $57,391 $64,709 $69,703
Associate Degree in Nursing $59,279 $60,638 $65,756 $68,777 $71,953
BSN $58,690 $69,301 $73,758 $79,273 $82,360

Source: PayScale

Of the three entries listed above, nursing diploma recipients reported the highest rate of career salary growth: an increase of 81.5% between after 20 years in the workforce. BSN-holders reported 40.3% career salary growth, while those with an associate degree reported 21.4% career salary growth.

However, it’s important to note that specific job titles will also impact earning potential for BSN recipients. The next table explores the 20-year salary growth of RNs and four other occupations related to nursing; all five careers are attainable with a BSN degree.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Registered Nurse $54,865 $62,114 $66,065 $69,533
Nurse Case Manager $64,854 $69,067 $71,933 $73,561
Registered Nurse Supervisor $65,836 $68,483 $71,231 $73,800
Clinical Nurse Manager $74,147 $77,980 $82,983 $85,607
Nursing Director $74,611 $80,078 $85,089 $86,728

Source: PayScale

Although RNs reported the lowest salaries at all five career benchmarks, they also enjoyed the highest career earnings growth: a 26.7% rise after 20 years. Nursing directors placed second among the occupations listed with 16.2% career earnings growth, followed by clinical nurse managers with 15.5% growth.

Career and Further Education Opportunities

Students who complete a BSN program and graduate with a degree will be qualified to compete for hundreds of nursing jobs, including some managerial roles that require some college education. The RN and APRN professions are outlined below.

Jobs for registered nurses can fall under many different categories. The most common subdivisions include the following:

  • Addiction nurses support patients who are receiving treatment or rehabilitative services for alcoholism, drug abuse and other types of addiction or substance dependency.
  • Cardiovascular nurses care for patients who are hospitalized with different heart diseases, conditions and/or injuries. They also support those who are undergoing or recovering from heart surgery and other operative procedures.
  • Critical care nurses provide constant care and support for patients who are severely injured, seriously ill or otherwise require constant supervision and evaluation.
  • Genetics nurses support patients with hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, some forms of dementia and other conditions that are genetically inherited.
  • Neonatal nurses care for newborn babies, as well as mothers who have recently given birth and their partners.
  • Nephrology nurses care for and support patients with diseases, conditions and injuries related to their kidneys and urinary system.
  • Rehabilitation nurses specialize in services for patients with permanent disabilities that impact their daily lives.

In order to become licensed as an RN in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, candidates must receive a passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Additional licensing requirements will vary by state; most include a certain number of post-degree training hours. Licensed RNs must also commit to continuing education courses every year.

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are licensed RNs who have received additional training in an advanced nursing field. Most APRNs have earned an MSN, as well. The three most common job titles for APRNs are listed below.

  • Nurse anesthetists (also known as CRNAs) provide anesthesia to patients who are undergoing surgeries, operations and other procedures that require them to be put under. They also assist with pre- and post-operative care, since many patients struggle with the short-term effects of anesthesia.
  • Nurse midwives (also known as CNMs) care for women who are pregnant or in the process of delivering a child. They often perform gynecological exams leading up to (prenatal) and after childbirth (post-natal), as well.
  • Nurse practitioners (also known as NPs) specialize for patients with round-the-clock care needs stemming from critical, severe or acute injuries, illnesses and other conditions. NPs may also meet with patients and their families to discuss the various impacts of medical diagnosis and treatment.
Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)
Registered Nurses $67,490 16% (+493,000 jobs)
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners $104,730 31% (+53,400 jobs)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to nursing is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for registered nurses. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • American Nurses Association: The ANA was founded in 1896 to improve the working standards and conditions for professional nurses, and the organization has continued this work to the present day. Members receive access to a vast online resource library, discounted certification and recertification rates, access to five ANA publications and an invitation to the organization’s annual conference.
  • American Academy of Nursing: The AAN follows a mission of “advancing health policy and practice through the generation, synthesis, and dissemination of nursing knowledge.” The organization today represents more than 2,400 members.
  • Emergency Nurses Association: Established in 1968, the ENA was created to represent nurses who serve patients in emergency rooms, critical care units and other highly demanding settings. The organization today advocates for patient safety, as well as optimal emergency nursing practices.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Best Online BSN Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Northeastern University Boston, MA
2 Florida National University Hialeah, FL
3 Crown College Saint Bonifacius, MN
4 Augsburg College Minneapolis, MN
5 Arizona State University Tempe, AZ
6 Marian University Indianapolis, IN
7 University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
8 Methodist College Plainview, TX