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.
- CAN I GET MY BSN ONLINE?
Yes. There are many online BSN programs. However, most of these programs include on-site clinicals, which can be completed in a students community. Read more here.
- HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET YOUR BSN ONLINE?
Most online BSN programs will take one to two years to complete with full-time study. Read more here.
- HOW DO I GET INTO AN ACCELERATED BSN PROGRAM?
Most accelerated BSN programs are only open to students who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. Read more here.
- WHAT IS A BSN PROGRAM?
Nurses with a BSN have more career opportunities than RNs. They can become nurse educators or public health nurses. A BSN also prepares learners for advanced studies. Read more here.
- WHAT IS AN RN-TO-BSN PROGRAM?
An RN-to-BSN bridge program is designed for RNs who are seeking greater career opportunities. It builds upon the knowledge learned through an RN program. Read more here.
Choosing a Program
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.
Accredited Online BSN Programs
|Rank||School Name||Ranking Score||Relative Cost||Graduation Rate||Location||Description|
|1||Western Governors University||RANKING SCORE 75.75||COST||GRADUATION RATE 26%||LOCATION Salt Lake City, UT||
WGU is an exclusively online, nonprofit school that’s dedicated to innovative, flexible, and accelerated distance learning. The university boasts a 98% employer satisfaction rate and charges a flat rate tuition that is typically half the cost of other online schools. Compared to most online programs, WGU’s bachelor’s degrees take significantly less time to complete. WGU was also the first university in the country to offer a competency-based learning model, rather than assessing by credit hours or seat time.
The school’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) coursework is delivered completely online. Applicants must hold a diploma or associate degree, including a registered nurse license. The program begins with a professional leadership and communication for healthcare course. The course requires eight, two-hour, scheduled meetings through a webcam with a faculty member and other students; the course can be completed in two or four weeks. The program requires 90 minutes of on-site clinical experience, which can be fulfilled through community assessments, simulations, and field experience. The rest of the BSN online curriculum covers key subjects such as care of the older adult and leadership and professional image. The BSN online program is accredited by CCNE, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Due to WGU’s competency-based method and flexible pace, students average an 18 month completion time. With the application of prior learning, the degree can be earned quicker; most students who are licensed RNs can transfer 50 to 90 credit equivalents. The flat rate tuition is charged per 6-month term, regardless of the number of classes completed, so students can take more courses to finish quicker and with less cost. A total of 120 “competency units” (the equivalent to a credit hour) are required to graduate with this accredited online nursing degree.
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|2||The University of Texas at Arlington||RANKING SCORE 65.00||COST||GRADUATION RATE 48%||LOCATION Arlington, TX||
UTA is a public research university located in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area, with the largest student population in North Texas. Recognized for its doctoral research activity by the Carnegie Foundation, the university offers over 180 programs, including the online nursing program.
UTA’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing is one of the most efficient online BSN programs available in the area, taking only 15 months to complete, and it's suitable for working professionals. The program holds graduation and licensure rates exceeding 90%. Students are supported by a multi-tiered approach through professors, clinical instructors, MSN-qualified academic coaches, the student success program, the hospital partner, and technical support services.
The 14-course, 51-credit-hour curriculum follows a blended learning model and involves faculty-supervised clinical experiences in a Texas hospital. The required clinicals can be completed in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, or McAllen-Edinburg. Courses must be taken in a predetermined sequence, but are not on a traditional semester-based schedule, as courses vary from five to 14 weeks long. Upper-division courses include nursing of older adults, nursing of the childbearing family, and capstone: transition to professional nursing. The eight-week capstone course utilizes a concentrated practicum to blend the knowledge gained throughout the program with the practice of the professional nurse.
Before applying to the CCNE-accredited online BSN program, students must have completed 70 credit hours of prerequisites, including history of the United States, technical writing, and college algebra. To graduate, students must earn 121 credits. The minimum GPA for the program is 2.75, which does not guarantee admission, and applicants must meet minimum scores on the HESI A2 test. The top applicants are ranked and admitted based on available space in the program. The total cost of the program is $17,850, which can be paid per-term.
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|3||University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh||RANKING SCORE 63.25||COST||GRADUATION RATE 53%||LOCATION Oshkosh, WI||
The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, part of one of the largest public education systems in the United States, is dedicated to offering state-wide resources, support services, and small classes to students. The school is recognized for its nursing success: The College of Nursing has maintained a first-time NCLEX pass rate of above 96% for 18 years.
There are two undergraduate program options in the College of Nursing; traditional and the Accelerated Online Bachelor to BSN Program. The accelerated program is completed in 12 months. Applicants must complete all College of Nursing requirements and be CNA certified prior to applying to the program. Students can expect to spend 8-12 hours on their coursework each day. The program is asynchronous, but not self-paced. The program has a successful attrition rate of less than 1% and exceeds the national average in performance.
Students must live in a state in which the accelerated program is approved. Theory courses are completed online at the pace of one credit per week. Students complete the required clinical courses near their homes. There are campus residencies are required at three stages of the curriculum: orientation weekend, a two-week lab experience and clinical rotation, and the capstone experience, which takes place in the last week of the program. Tuition for the program is $41,500 regardless of residency and includes a laptop, and a NCLEX-RN review course.
The accelerated online nursing program has three different cohort start dates, February, May, and October, with 30 students accepted into each cohort. Applications are accepted during enrollment windows every four months. Prospective students must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Nursing prerequisites must have a minimum GPA of 2.5, but 3.25 is preferred. Students will not be considered for the accelerated nursing program until they are accepted by the university. Students interested in this program must live in approved states and near a city where the university has contracts with a healthcare system. The program is CCNE accredited.
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|4||North Dakota State University||RANKING SCORE 60.75||COST||GRADUATION RATE 55%||LOCATION Fargo, ND||
NDSU, a student focused, land grant, research university, offers online and blended learning degrees and general education courses. The mission of the School of Nursing is to advance nursing knowledge and develop dynamic leaders who improve the health of all people, including underserved, rural, and diverse populations. The school’s LPN to BSN program offers a blended-format curriculum to licensed practical nurses who wish to complete their BSN in order to become registered nurses. The School of Nursing also offers an RN to BSN program in a blended-format for registered nurses who wish to complete their BSN.
The LPN to BSN online program takes about two years to complete, including summers. The total cost of tuition varies based on the student’s number of transfer credits. Most of the program is delivered online, but students are required to visit campus on three occasions: to take validation exams prior to admission, for orientation, and to complete clinicals toward the end of the program. State Board of Nursing requirements vary by state so students are required to check with their Board of Nursing regarding the requirements for distance programs.
The RN to BSN online program takes two years to complete, including summers. The total cost of tuition varies based on the student’s number of transfer credits. Most of the program is delivered online except a two day immersion course each semester in which students participate in team work and interactive course activities.
Students must earn 120 credits to graduate, which include at least 60 credits from a four-year institution and 36 credits from NDSU. Courses in the LPN to BSN curriculum include leadership, interprofessional health care education, integrated family nursing, and complex issues in adult health, one of the three clinicals in the program. Students accepted in the RN to BSN program are granted 15 unpaid NDSU credits for demonstrating RN competencies by passing the NCLEX. Courses in the RN to BSN program include the essence of nursing, chronicity throughout the lifespan, quality and safety in health care, population focused nursing care, and leadership.
The CCNE-accredited online LPN to BSN and RN to BSN programs accept 32 students per year, and currently there are more applicants than can be accommodated. After students are accepted into NDSU, LPN to BSN program applications are due October 15, with the program beginning in January. RN to BSN program applications are due June 1, with the program beginning in August. Applicants must hold an associate degree. Generally, a 2.75 cumulative GPA and 3.0 nursing GPA are required.
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|5||Marian University||RANKING SCORE 55.50||COST||GRADUATION RATE 56%||LOCATION Indianapolis, IN||
Marian, a Catholic university based in Indianapolis, operates on four pillars of Franciscan faith: dignity, peace and justice, reconciliation, and stewardship. This focus on mind, body, and spirit provides a thriving, supportive environment for healthcare students of all faiths, backgrounds, and locations.
The Leighton School of Nursing offers an accelerated BSN online program that can be completed in a 16-month, four-semester, blended format. The four, 16-week semesters have a set curriculum, varying from 14 to 18 credits each semester. Students participate in three core components: self-paced interactive online nursing theory coursework, on-site nursing simulation labs to prepare for clinicals, and 765 hours of clinical rotations at St. Vincent hospital in Indiana.
The online theory courses feature interactive learning activities that replicate real-world scenarios, such as determining the correct dosage of medicine and assessing the needs of a senior citizen in a home healthcare situation. The on-site simulation labs imitate the hospital setting with real medical equipment and medical manikins, and in advanced clinical skills students use computerized medical manikins for specialized situations. The initial real-world clinical rotation starts halfway through the first semester.
There are three program start dates per year: January, May, and August. Enrollment is flexible and open to students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees. Non-nurses must complete the required prerequisite courses in the humanities and science areas such as anatomy, microbiology, and statistics; each can be studied online in five to eight weeks. Applicants should have a minimum overall GPA of 2.8, or a GPA of 3.0 for the last 60 credit hours completed. The CCNE-accredited online nursing degree boasts a high NCLEX pass rate that is equal to or above the national average. Due to the number of hours on campus and at the hospital, students who do not already live in Indianapolis should plan to relocate.
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|6||Concordia University-Wisconsin||RANKING SCORE 52.00||COST||GRADUATION RATE 56%||LOCATION Mequon, WI||
CUW, one of the country’s leading Lutheran universities, offers 71 undergraduate degrees. The school’s health programs are among the most popular areas of study and attract 25% of the student population. Two of these programs are available to undergraduate distance learners at the Online School of Nursing: the RN-BSN-MSN program and the BSN completion program.
The RN-BSN-MSN program is designed for students who are working as an RN and hold an associate degree or are a licensed RN in any state. The degree offers a seamless path to advanced MSN study. This online nursing program includes options at the MSN level for the 29-credit nurse practitioner track or the 27-credit nurse educator track. Nurse practitioner track students can choose either the adult/gerontology or family specializations. Program credits include 121 for the BSN and an additional 27-29 for the MSN. Up to 85 credits may be transferred from an associate degree or diploma, but students must complete eight liberal arts credits through CUW in order to meet residency requirements.
The BSN completion program is between 36 and 121 credits, depending on how many the student transfers, and takes 18 months to complete. Students can choose where to complete their clinical study. Students must complete a minimum of 17 liberal arts credits through CUW to meet residency requirements. The 19-credit nursing core includes courses such as population health, trends in professional nursing, and leadership: the future of nursing. The cost for the program is $471 per credit.
Both BSN programs online have fall and spring start dates, with application deadlines of May 1 for fall and October 1 for spring. Neither online BSN option is currently accepting new students from Alabama, California, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, or South Dakota; the RN-BSN-MSN also excludes Tennessee residents.
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|7||Adventist University of Health Sciences||RANKING SCORE 51.75||COST||GRADUATION RATE 33%||LOCATION Orlando, FL||
Distance learners can complete ADU's BSN online degree in as few as four trimesters. To complete the program, students must earn 29 credits in general education courses like applied statistics, principles of chemistry, and the literature of healthcare. In addition, degree candidates must complete 35 credits of nursing courses covering topics such as community health nursing, applied pathopharmacology, and conceptual foundations in professional nursing. These nursing courses also include a four-credit capstone seminar wherein students explore the ways that changes in the economic, cultural, political, and science landscapes can affect healthcare.
Unlike other online BSN programs, ADU's degree requires no clinical components. Distance learners can access the entirety of the program online with no in-person attendance or clinical rotations. Catering to busy working professionals, the program welcomes qualified students who enroll full- or part-time and offers all course content in an asynchronous format. Certain courses may require group projects at the instructor's discretion, but distance learners can complete this work entirely online.
Applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or above. They should also have a current, unencumbered RN license or eligibility to sit for the NCLEX-RN. Other admission requirements include official transcripts and two letters of recommendation. Graduates of ADU's program have found professional success working as nurse managers, clinical educators, and charge nurses. The university is associated with a network of more than 350 healthcare facilities that span more across 10 states and 45 hospital campuses, allowing for networking opportunities at each stage of the program.
All distance learners at ADU pay the same tuition rates, regardless of their state of residency. ADU offers various forms of financial aid including scholarships, grants, and loans. Veterans and active-duty members of the military can also receive tuition discounts. Additionally, the university permits students to transfer in a limited number of credits earned from regionally accredited institutions toward their online nursing degree program.
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|8||Utica College||RANKING SCORE 48.75||COST||GRADUATION RATE 45%||LOCATION Utica, NY||
Established in 1946, Utica features an accelerated, accredited online BSN program available only to full-time students. As they progress through the curriculum, degree candidates complete required credits through a blend of online learning and hands-on practica. Using an interactive eLearning system, distance learners can complete all online coursework asynchronously and can participate in scheduled chats with instructors.
As prerequisites to the accelerated program, online students must complete coursework in general studies through classes covering topics like ethics, sociology, and nutrition. Learners must earn at least a C in each of these general prerequisites. They must also complete courses in natural sciences, with class topics such as anatomy and physiology and microbiology. For the natural science prerequisites, students must earn a grade of B or better. Distance learners can complete these prerequisite courses entirely online as part of Utica's PREP Program to earn provisional admission to the accelerated BSN program.
In Utica's accelerated program, students cover a range of subjects within the nursing field including clinical research and leadership. In addition to standard coursework, degree candidates must complete nursing simulations and clinical skills labs that allow them to develop their experiential knowledge in the field. To graduate, nursing students must also participate in clinical rotations where they can learn about patient care in advanced medical settings.
Alternatively, Utica also offers a RN to BSN program that students can complete entirely online with no in-person components or residencies required. Covering nursing topics like health assessment, health policy management, and clinical pharmacology, the online curriculum also features courses in the liberal arts. Admission requirements for Utica's RN to BSN online program include an associate degree in nursing from a regionally accredited program and an active, unencumbered RN license. However, prospective students can receive conditional admission if they will qualify for such licensure within six months of beginning the program.
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|9||Indiana State University||RANKING SCORE 43.00||COST||GRADUATION RATE 37%||LOCATION Terre Haute, IN||
Indiana State, an independent public institution with a focus on public service, offers over 30 bachelor’s and master’s degrees entirely online or with minimal on-campus instruction. There are four undergraduate nursing programs available, including an online LPN/LVN to BSN degree program. The program boasts a job placement rate of 100%, and is aimed towards a practicing LPN or LVN who has completed a practical nursing program. All applicable credits can be transferred into the program; up to 90 credit hours may be transferred, with the student completing 30 credits at ISU.
The 120-credit curriculum does not require any on-campus visits. Clinicalsand support or prerequisite courses may be taken in the student’s local community. Some courses (general university requirements) may also be satisfied through credit by examination and course equivalency exams. The program requires 39 credits of nursing courses, including mental health nursing, medical-surgical nursing, leadership, nursing research, community health nursing, and reflective nursing practice.
Applicants to the BSN online must complete a university application, official transcript evaluation request, hold an unrestricted LPN/LVN license, have completed a practical nursing program, and have a minimum GPA of 2.75 in the nine nursing prerequisite courses. Upon completion of the above, students are then asked to complete a specific nursing application process that includes an entrance examination. Prospective students can apply for fall orspringwith deadlines of May 1 for fall, October 1 for springThe application process is competitive: 50 students are accepted each fall and spring
Graduates will hold licensure in their home state, but the program is only approved in 29 states. See state map for current approved states.
The program is approved by the Indiana State Board of Nursing and is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc.
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What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor’s in Nursing Program?
Online nursing degree programs prepare students to work as nurses in hospitals, long-term care facilities, private homes, and more. It’s becoming more common for licensed nurses to require advanced degrees to move up in their careers. All nursing programs include courses that require clinical hours so that students get hands-on experience. Students searching for online nursing schools should keep in mind that requirements vary depending on the school and program chosen.
CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN NURSING
|Concentration||Description||Careers This Concentration Prepares For|
|Nursing Management||This concentration is designed for nurses who are interested in supervisory roles. Students learn management skills and about the tools that can be used to complete administrative and supervisory tasks. Topics covered include human resource management, data management, and leadership.||Nursing manager, department manager, manager of health information|
|Nursing Informatics||This concentration teaches students about health informatics, including how to safely understand, use, and promote the use of informatics tools in healthcare environments. Topics covered include electronic health records, database management, and patient safety technology. Students learn how to promote public health and evaluate systems.||Nursing-related positions in hospitals, insurance companies, home health agencies, hospitals, consulting firms|
|Nursing Forensics||Students interested in working with abuse and assault victims should consider a nursing forensics concentration. Nurses who choose this focus do work that goes beyond direct medical care and can include knowledge of the legal system, evaluation, and documentation. This work often contributes to determining legal outcomes of traumatic events.||Legal nurse consultant, nurse coroner, forensic clinical nurse specialist, medical examiner nurse investigator, assault/abuse nurse examiner|
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN NURSING
Courses offered in online nursing degree programs vary from school to school. Some programs focus more on the technical skills needed to become a practicing nurse, while others give a broad overview of the nursing field. All nursing students are required to complete clinical hours for hands-on experience. Below you’ll find a sample curriculum for a BSN online.
- Health assessment: In this course students learn how to assess the health of patients. Topics covered include gathering a health history through a patient interview and assessment techniques, including palpation, inspection, and percussion. Students will learn the difference between normal and abnormal conditions.
- Evidence-based nursing and research: This course provides an introduction to evidence-based nursing practices and helps students understand research and how to use it to provide the best nursing care. Students learn critical thinking skills and how to improve patient care through evidence-based practices. These skills are necessary for effective practicing clinical nurses and nurses who go into research positions.
- Leadership in nursing: This course is essential for any nursing student who is interested in pursuing supervisory positions in the healthcare field. Leadership skills that help improve patient outcomes are covered, including quality improvement, safety, communication, ethical decision-making, and organizational culture.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN NURSING?
How long it takes to complete online nursing programs is determined by many factors. One factor affecting program length is the number of courses available each term and whether the student attends part-time or full-time.
Some programs give students the choice to go at their own pace, while others adopt a cohort learning approach. In cohort programs, a group of students go through the program together, taking the same courses each term. The cohort approach fosters a community of learners who support each other. Students who go at their own pace have more flexibility with how many courses they take and when. On average, it takes three years to complete an online nursing degree. Students who already hold an RN license may be able to complete their bachelor’s quicker, often in just two years. Students who already hold a bachelor’s in another subject may be able to enroll in an accelerated nursing program, completing studies within 11 to 15 months.
What is an Online Accelerated Nursing Program?
An online accelerated nursing program lets students who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another subject to quickly earn their bachelor’s in nursing. Accelerated programs allow students to complete their degree in less time than would be required by a regular nursing program. Students usually finish in 11 to 15 months. Accelerated BSN programs generally cost less to complete since students have fewer courses to take. Before selecting an accelerated BSN online program, students should consider if they will be able to make the time commitment: most accelerated programs require students to attend full-time and discourage or prohibit working while completing the degree.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor’s in Nursing Degrees
When looking for a school to attend to pursue a bachelor’s in nursing online, it’s important to make sure the school and program are accredited. Accreditation is a voluntary process in which schools and their academic programs are evaluated to make sure they meet minimum educational standards.
There are two types of accreditation: regional and national. Regional accreditation agencies concentrate on specific geographic regions of the country. National accreditation agencies can accredit schools in any part of the country. By choosing accredited, online nursing schools, students can be assured they will get a quality education. It’s important for nursing students to make sure the online program they choose has an industry-specific accreditation. Nursing programs in the United States are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
Two organizations play important roles in accreditation: the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The Department of Education (DOE) is a U.S. government agency that establishes policy and coordinates federal assistance, including student loans and grants. The DOE publishes a list of nationally recognized accreditors. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation is an organization of degree-granting American colleges and universities. Its purpose is to coordinate the accreditation process for higher education in the United States by ensuring the quality of accrediting agencies. For a list of all accredited schools, visit the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Employment Outlook for BSN
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)|
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)|
|Associate Degree in Nursing||$59,279||$60,638||$65,756||$68,777||$71,953|
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)|
|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|
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
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.
Financing Your Online BSN Program
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 2017
Rank School Location 1 North Dakota State University Fargo, ND 2 Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT 3 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI 4 The University of Texas at Arlington Arlington, TX 5 Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, WI 6 Marian University Indianapolis, IN 7 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN 8 Adventist University of Health Sciences Orlando, FL 9 Wayland Baptist University Plainview, TX 10 Utica College Utica, NY
- 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