Students who are interested in helping others and who enjoy engaging with science and medicine should consider earning a bachelor's degree in nursing. Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 12% increase in demand for registered nurses (RNs) through 2028.
This page outlines typical requirements of nursing programs, including common coursework and admission standards. It also lists the top 10 online nursing programs, all of which hold accreditation. Readers can also find financial aid resources, potential career paths, and answers to frequently asked questions.
What are the best online nursing programs? Here are our top five:
|1||University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh||Oshkosh, WI|
|2||North Dakota State University||Fargo, ND|
|3||The University of Texas at Arlington||Arlington, TX|
|4||Vermont Technical College||Randolph Center, VT|
|5||Davenport University||Grand Rapids, MI|
While professionals can acquire an RN license at the associate level, students who earn a bachelor's in nursing gain access to better pay, exclusive job opportunities, and programs that develop students' knowledge and skills in depth.
Most nursing graduates work in hospitals, about 60% in fact. However, RNs also work for ambulatory services and within elderly care facilities, schools, and correctional centers. Individuals who enjoy traveling may even consider becoming a traveling nurse.
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2020 Best Accredited Online RN to BSN Programs
University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh
|Oshkosh, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Prioritizing innovative teaching methods, community engagement, and entrepreneurship, UW Oshkosh enrolls 10,000 students and offers nearly 200 majors, minors, and emphases, including an online accelerated BSN program which takes just 12 months to complete.
UW Oshkosh's BSN students complete nearly two dozen nursing theory credits, three on-campus residencies, and clinical rotations. Courses include adult health with pharmacologic implications, caring and human behavior, and community health theory. UW Oshkosh also requires 728 clinical hours split between six rotations.
Distance learners at UW Oshkosh complete clinical rotations at approved facilities near their home community. Transfer students living in approved states may also apply. Admission requires a minimum 2.5 GPA and a valid nursing assistant certification. This BSN program is intended for those who already hold a bachelor's degree in a different field.
Program Name: Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Accelerated BSN Option
GPA: 2.5 minimum
North Dakota State University
|Fargo, ND||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
Founded in 1890, NDSU strives to accommodate both nontraditional distance learners and students seeking degrees on campus. As a result, interested students can enroll in an online RN-to-BSN program or an online LPN-to-BSN program. The school also offers an on-campus pre-licensure track for students without nursing credentials.
Both the RN-to-BSN and the LPN-to-BSN programs require an on-campus immersion once per semester. The programs take care not to repeat courses that students have previously taken during their associate or diploma program.
Students must complete clinical experiences in North Dakota. The BSN program at NDSU offers small class sizes with an 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Admission requires certain prior nursing credentials; see admissions page for more information.
Program Name: RN to BSN; LPN to BSN
Format: Hybrid (on campus/online)
GPA: 2.75 minimum
The University of Texas at Arlington
|Arlington, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
UTA offers accelerated online programs in public health, education, business, urban and public affairs, and nursing. In fact, because of its bachelor of science in nursing online, UTA can claim its spot as "the #1 public college of nursing in the nation" (based on the number of enrollments and graduates).
This accelerated program requires 54 upper-division nursing credits, each lasting 5-14 weeks. Students typically earn their degree in 15 months with full-time attendance. Courses include health promotion and illness prevention across the lifespan, clinical nursing foundations, and nursing of the childbearing family. Qualified applicants for this UTA program must hold a 2.75 GPA at minimum.
UTA retains programmatic accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Program Name: Bachelor of Science in Nursing Online
Format: 100% online (with the exception of faculty-supervised clinical experiences)
GPA: 2.75 minimum
Vermont Technical College
|Randolph Center, VT||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 51%||
Based in Randolph, Vermont Tech provides career-focused professional and technical postsecondary coursework to prepare students for the workforce. Students can earn their degrees, including a BSN in nursing (degree completion program), both on campus and online.
Vermont Tech's BSN program requires 120 credits. Courses include palliative and end-of-life care, transition of care in healthcare reform, and health promotion across the lifespan. Students gain the ability to effectively communicate with all stakeholders, integrate ethical and legal standards, and design individualized care plans.
While students complete coursework online, this program does require 675 hours of theory and 225 hours of field experience at an approved facility close to the student's home. Admission requires a 2.5 GPA at minimum. Applicants must have an associate degree in nursing from a nationally accredited program.
Program Name: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Degree Completion)
Format: 100% online
GPA: 2.5 minimum
|Grand Rapids, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, DU serves 7,000 students and offers 60 bachelor's and master's programs, including a BSN completion program that does not require in-person attendance.
DU's BSN requires 121-134 credits. Courses include community health nursing, nurse manager and leader, and pathophysiology. Qualified applicants should hold an unencumbered RN license and a 2.5 GPA at minimum.
This DU program accepts up to 60 transfer credits from accredited institutions. Students who complete the NCLEX exam can also receive 30 advanced credits. Notably, professionals currently working at the Michigan Hospital Association can access a 20% tuition discount.
Program Name: Nursing Completion Program, BSN
Format: 100% online
GPA: 2.5 minimum
Online Bachelor's in Nursing Program Overview
BSN programs do not require prerequisites or experience outside of a high school diploma or GED. Therefore, the program begins with general education requirements and builds up to fundamental nursing knowledge and skills. Core subjects include physiology and anatomy, microbiology, statistics, psychology, nutrition, nursing theory, and nursing research. Students also learn about healthcare systems and special needs nursing.
In addition to coursework, this degree requires hands-on clinical experiences at patient care facilities. Universities often allow students to choose advanced clinical settings based on their career interests.
These programs develop ethical, accountable, and socially responsible practitioners. BSN programs emphasize evidence-based nursing practices, critical thinking, application of nurse theory, and effective communication.
A bachelor's degree in nursing allows graduates to enter the workforce after passing their license exam. Practitioners may go on to earn an advanced nursing degree, which provides more employment opportunities and higher salary potential.
Common BSN Nursing Degree Courses
Pathophysiology explores underlying diseases that can develop across the lifespan, as well as therapeutic interventions for injury disease risk factors. This course includes clinical and theoretical principles regarding diseases that result from genetic, stress-based, and environmental causes. Coursework also requires students to identify psychosocial and cognitive characteristics of conditions and diseases.
- Methods for Evidence-Based Practice
This course instructs students to use research evidence, clinical expertise, and patient preferences to provide individualized patient care. Graduates will know how to investigate the most up-to-date healthcare research to determine courses of care and treatment for their patients.
Microbiology explores basic properties of archaea, bacteria, viruses, and eukaryotic microorganisms. Students learn to compare and distinguish microbes, examine major pathways of catabolism, and analyze major pathways of biosynthesis. Students are also able to identify common features of microbial pathogens and defense mechanisms against infection.
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
Human anatomy and physiology introduces students to the regulation and functions of major systems in the body. This course also examines how body parts collaborate to accomplish tasks. Topics include organ function, electrolytes, the digestive system, the lymphatic system, and the cardiovascular system.
- Nursing Care of Mental Health Patients
This course addresses evidence-based practices and theories regarding the care of psychiatric patients. Students examine concepts of mental health issues and the ethical, cultural, and legal influences therein. By the end of the course, students should understand how to discuss clinical modalities, use psychiatric terminology, and identify barriers for psychiatric patients.
Online Bachelor's in Nursing Admission Requirements
BSN programs generally require a minimum GPA for admission, since universities want to ensure students can succeed in their program. Some universities may accept a lower GPA if students achieve a higher score on standardized exams.
BSN programs usually require students to submit SAT or ACT scores. Schools may accept lower scores for students with a high GPA. If schools accept both standardized exams, students should submit their best score.
An online bachelor's in nursing begins with general education requirements, which students must complete before taking upper-level nursing courses. Students may also need to complete work or volunteer hours in approved medical settings.
Letters of Recommendation
Colleges and universities include letters of recommendation in the admission process in order to examine students' character. Students applying right out of high school can ask teachers or counselors for letters. Nontraditional students with work or college experience may want to consider asking employers or professors who can speak to their character.
Online bachelor's in nursing students complete multiple field experiences during the latter portion of their program. Because of this, schools must ensure their students are able to safely participate in such experiences. Universities often require students to obtain immunization and drug screening prior to admission. Admission also typically requires a criminal background check.
Online Bachelor's in Nursing Career Paths
Professionals can earn an RN license at the associate degree level. However, a BSN allows graduates to apply for higher-level roles, such as nurse manager, quality assurance coordinator, and case management nurse. Alternative career paths include nurse health coach, legal nurse consultant, and public health nurse.
Professionals who remain in the field may go on to earn an advanced nursing degree that leads to leadership roles and an increase in wages. Advanced degrees require an additional license.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What can you do with an online nursing (BSN) degree?
An online nursing (BSN) degree allows practitioners to work directly with patients in multiple settings. RNs should identify a target population they are interested in working with to determine the settings or facilities to which they should apply. A BSN also creates administrative and consulting opportunities. Practitioners considering the next step in their career also qualify for MSN programs.
- How long does it take to get an online nursing degree?
On average, students can complete a bachelor's in nursing in four years if they attend full time. Students who already hold an ADN may qualify for accelerated programs that focus on more in-depth nursing curricula. These programs typically require about two years of study with full-time attendance.
- How much can you make with an online nursing degree?
According to BLS data, registered nurses earn about $71,730 on average. However, students should research state- and county-specific data, as earning potential varies by location. Students may also want to explore top-paying industries. For instance, the average median salary for professionals in the pharmaceutical industry is $95,400.
- Can you get an online nursing degree without an associate in nursing?
Universities offer programs that do not require prior experience, but students may need to complete general coursework before being admitted to the actual nursing program. Accelerated programs require an unencumbered RN license that students can earn in an ADN program.
- What does an online nursing degree program consist of?
A BSN includes classroom-based coursework, clinical experiences, and laboratory work. Other tasks may include conducting research independently or in groups. At the end of the program, students must prepare to pass the National Council of State Boards of Nursing NCLEX-RN exam.
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