Registered nurses (or RNs for short) provide medical care to sick and injured people at hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities. While other nursing personnel usually specialize in different aspects of medical care, RNs are trained to handle a wide range of tasks related to patient diagnostics, testing, treatment and counseling. RNs make up one of the largest job sectors in the U.S.; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roughly 2.75 million RNs are currently employed nationwide and the sector is expected to grow by nearly 500,000 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
A bachelor's degree is not required to launch a successful RN career; the BLS notes that many RNs enter the workforce with an associate degree or a nursing diploma. However, a bachelor's can help nursing candidates boost their career standing and compete in the crowded job market. Colleges and universities across the country offer Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs geared toward students who are licensed RNs; these pathways are known as 'RN to BSN' degrees. The RN to BSN curriculum covers different foundational areas of patient care and treatment; students must also complete at least one clinical internship or residency, which allows them to receive supervised, hands-on training from experienced professionals at real-world healthcare facilities. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their RN to BSN online. The curricula of online RSN to BSN programs are often condensed into mini-sessions lasting four to eight weeks; this accelerated schedule enables students to complete their program in as little as one to two years of full-time enrollment. The flexible format of most online nursing degree programs is also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other responsibilities that may interfere with campus-based college attendance.
What are the best RN-to-BSN programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||University of Central Florida||Orlando, FL|
|2||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL|
|3||Florida International University||Miami, FL|
|4||University of South Florida||Tampa, FL|
|5||University of West Florida||Pensacola, FL|
|6||University of North Florida||Jacksonville, FL|
|7||Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences||Memphis, TN|
|8||Arizona State University||Scottsdale, AZ|
|9||Florida Atlantic University||Boca Raton, FL|
|10||Appalachian State University||Boone, NC|
Please note that RN to BSN programs are different from standard BSN degrees. The RN to BSN is designed to be an educational alternative for RNs who wish to earn a four-year degree, while BSNs target students with no nursing experience. For more information on BSN options, please visit our Guide to Online 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.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE RN TO BSN PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
Most RN to BSN programs are reserved for students who are licensed to work as registered nurses. The curriculum has experienced students in mind; coursework will focus on topics like advanced anatomy and physiology, microbiology, healthcare administration and patient recordkeeping. Students will also get the chance to apply the skills and knowledge they gain during the onsite clinical components of their program.
WILL AN ONLINE RN TO BSN WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online RN to BSN degree programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional, classroom-based learning. Students are able to access course readings and lectures, participate in virtual discussions with other students and faculty, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their desktop computer. Current technology also allows them to study away from home using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities. For added convenience, online RN to BSN students can usually coordinate clinical trainings at healthcare facilities located reasonably close to their current residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY RN TO BSN?
An RN to BSN degree is designed for registered nurses who plan to remain in their current field. Some bachelor's programs allow students to specialize in niche areas of nursing, such as critical care, pediatrics or physical rehabilitation. These concentrations may allow degree-holding graduates to advance to more specialized roles at hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities. The RN to BSN pathway also prepares students who plan to continue their education by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN); this degree is required for certain positions in the field, such as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who work as anesthetists, midwives or nurse practitioners.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE RN TO 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 RN to 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 RN to 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.
2020 Best Accredited Online RN-to-BSN Programs
University of Central Florida
|Orlando, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
UCF's RN-to-BSN program offers full-time and part-time tracks. This program's entirely online curriculum features courses in health assessment, nursing research, and nursing leadership. Additional requirements include a practicum that degree-seekers can complete at a local job site.
Graduates prepare to work in roles like ER nurses, staff nurses, and nurse consultants. Students can search for lucrative job opportunities and develop resume writing, interviewing, and networking skills on UCF's career services website.
Admission requirements include an active nursing license and a minimum 2.8 undergraduate GPA. Florida residents receive a significant tuition discount. Incoming students can qualify for institutional scholarships specifically awarded to nursing students.
University of Florida
|Gainesville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
UF's online RN-to-BSN program features a five-semester curriculum that includes courses like genetics in healthcare, professional nursing transformation, and clinical reasoning. Students can also complete both of their required practica with their current employer.
Online students can access virtual workshops, resume critiques, and special events through the school's Career Connections Center. These services help more than 90% of program alumni find a full-time or part-time nursing position within a few months of graduating.
UF's nursing program does not accept out-of-state applicants. Admission requirements include undergraduate transcripts that reflect specific prerequisites. Students can peruse the UF Scholarship Search Engine to view hundreds of institutional and private scholarships. This RN-to-BSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Florida International University
|Miami, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
FIU's RN-to-BSN program features a 60-credit curriculum that most learners can complete in two years. Required courses include adult physiological nursing, childrearing/childbearing, and nursing and global healthcare systems. The program's senior clinical practicum may require degree-seekers to find a placement outside of their job site.
FIU's career advisors connect degree-seekers with resume guidance, career events, and mock interviews. Students can access these services by creating a profile on Handshake.
FIU accepts applications for the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Only Florida nurses may apply. Applicants must have a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA. This program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
University of South Florida
|Tampa, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
Nurses from all over the country enroll in USF's online RN-to-BSN program. Required courses cover topics like the educational role of nurses in healthcare, population health, and the essentials of healthcare leadership and management. When not completing coursework, students earn experiential learning hours while at work.
More than 80% of USF's nursing alumni find a new job or earn a promotion within one year of graduating. USF's career modules, one-on-one appointments, and informational videos give students the tools needed to complete a successful job hunt.
USF accepts registered nurses who have a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Additional requirements include seven required immunizations. Incoming students can apply for all institutional and departmental scholarships by submitting one application and their FAFSA results.
University of West Florida
|Pensacola, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 43%||
UWF's online RN-to-BSN program allows students to graduate in only one year. The major curriculum contains classes like gerontological nursing, academic writing in nursing, and health assessment and promotion. After completing major requirements, students select multiple nursing electives.
UWF nursing alumni have gone on to work as public health nurses, staff nurses, and clinical nurse managers. Students can research jobs on the university's career services website. Additional resources include experiential learning opportunities and job hunting strategies.
Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts and a copy of their nursing license. Additional requirements include two criminal background checks. UWF does not charge out-of-state tuition to online students.
University of North Florida
|Jacksonville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
UNF's online RN-to-BSN program includes a three-semester curriculum with coursework in health assessment, leadership management concepts, and directed clinical study. Courses last eight weeks, and students take two courses each term.
More than 85% of UNF's nursing graduates find a job within three months of earning a degree. UNF supports students by providing them with InterviewStream — interactive software that helps users develop their interview skills.
The university grants 30 transfer credits to incoming students who passed the NCLEX-RN exam. UNF's College of Health offers multiple scholarships exclusively to nursing students. The program does not require applicants to submit recommendation letters.
Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences
|Memphis, TN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences' RN-to-BSN program helps registered nurses increase their career options and salary potential. The 30-credit curriculum includes required courses in pharmacology, health assessment, and nursing research in evidence. Most full-time students earn their degree in 12 months.
The college reports a job placement rate above 90% among alumni. Learners can prepare for a new career or promotion by taking advantage of the college's career advisors, practice interviews, and resume building tips.
Prospective students can apply for one of three annual start dates and must have a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. All degree-seekers pay the same per-credit tuition rate. Unique financial aid application requirements include demonstrating Christian behavior.
Arizona State University
|Scottsdale, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
ASU's online RN-to-BSN program includes required coursework in health promotion across the lifespan, innovation in nursing, and the art of nursing. Most degree-seekers graduate in 12-14 months. ASU's nursing alumni have gone to start careers as certified nurse assistants and critical care nurses.
Almost 90% of ASU's undergraduate alumni receive at least one job offer within 90 days of graduating. Degree-seekers can research and apply to jobs through ASU's career services website. Additional resources include graduate school test preparation and an alumni mentor network.
Admission requirements include speaking with an enrollment counselor and submitting undergraduate transcripts. Out-of-state online learners pay the in-state tuition rate. The vast majority of ASU's undergraduates qualify for some form of financial aid.
Florida Atlantic University
|Boca Raton, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Florida nurses interested in an affordable bachelor's degree should consider FAU's RN-to-BSN program. The 32-credit curriculum features courses in general pathophysiology, creating healing environments, and evidence-based practice in nursing. Graduates often find work as emergency room nurses.
Students and alumni can access numerous resources on FAU's career center website, including 50-minute counseling appointments, on-demand career advice, and career-path exploration guides. Degree-seekers who need a resume boost can also apply for a virtual internship.
FAU uses a minimum 2.5 GPA cutoff for transfer credit. Although out-of-state nurses can apply to this RN-to-BSN program, they pay a much higher tuition rate than Florida residents. In-state and out-of-state learners may qualify for one of 25 FAU scholarships exclusive to nursing students.
Appalachian State University
|Boone, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 72%||
Appalachian's online RN-to-BSN program includes a 30-credit major curriculum. Degree-seekers can take additional courses online to reach the minimum 120 credits the university requires for graduation. Required courses include nursing informatics, nursing care of communities, and professional nursing synthesis.
Appalachian's career center offers learners and alumni useful job hunting tools, including networking and interviewing guides, graduate school application tips, and resume templates. Students can also create a career exploration profile that involves taking interest inventories.
Admission requirements include a nursing license from North Carolina or a state that has licensure reciprocity. Prospective students must also have a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. North Carolina-based nursing students pay the lowest tuition rate.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online RN to BSN?
|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
|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.|
Employment Outlook for RN to BSN
The need for RNs has risen significantly in recent years. Millions of previously uninsured Americans now receive medical insurance coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and an aging baby boomer population has also fueled the demand for qualified nursing personnel. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that 2.75 million RNs are currently employed in the U.S., and projects that the number of RN jobs will rise 16% between 2014 and 2024; this growth will result in roughly 439,300 new jobs.
The table below looks at the unemployment rates of RNs and four other healthcare-related occupations. All five entries were featured in the 'Best Healthcare Jobs' of 2017 ranking published by U.S. News & World Report.
|Occupation||Unemployment Rate (2017)|
Earning a Living
Students who earn an RN to BSN will enjoy higher earning potential than their counterparts who complete their education with an associate degree or a nursing diploma. Using data from PayScale, the table below examines salary expectations for bachelor's-, associate- and diploma-holding nurses at four career benchmarks.
|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|
According to the data listed above, BSN-holders experience 40.3% salary growth after more than 20 years in the workforce. By comparison, those with a nursing diploma report 81.5% growth while associate in nursing recipients report 21.4% growth.
However, specific job title and professional experience will also impact earning potential for BSN students. The next table looks at the 20-year salary growth projections for RNs and four other popular nursing career pathways.
|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|
Of all five occupations listed on the table, RNs reported the lowest salaries at all four benchmarks. However, RNs also experience the highest rate of salary growth: a 26.7% increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Nursing directors ranked second with 16.2% earnings growth after 20 years on the job, followed by clinical nurse managers with 15.5% growth.
Career and Further Education Opportunities
Students who graduate from an RN to BSN program will be qualified for hundreds of nursing positions, although it's important to note that re-licensure is required whenever the license-holder moves to a different state. Let's look at the two most common career tracks for people who complete an RN to BSN online program.
Registered nurses (RNs) can be subdivided into several different categories, including:
- Addiction Nurses: These RNs care for patients undergoing treatment for alcoholism, drug dependency and other forms of addiction and substance abuse.
- Cardiovascular Nurses: These RNs specialize in patients with heart diseases and conditions, including those who are undergoing or in recovery for surgical procedures.
- Critical Care Nurses: These RNs provide round-the-clock care for patients who are severely injured or seriously ill.
- Genetics Nurses: These RNs specialize in patients with genetically-inherited conditions, such as hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
- Neonatal Nurses: These RNs monitor and evaluate newborn babies, and also care for mothers who have recently given birth.
- Nephrology Nurses: These RNs specialize in patients with kidney diseases, conditions and injuries.
- Rehabilitation Nurses: These RNs offer care and assistance for patients with permanent disabilities that require constant monitoring and evaluation.
RNs must receive full licensure in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A universal requirement for RN licensure is a passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Other licensing requirements vary by state, but often include a set number of post-college training hours, as well as continuing education coursework on an annual basis after licensure is awarded.
Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are licensed RNs who are trained in specialized areas of nursing. Most APRNs have received an MSN in addition to a bachelor's degree. The three most common APRN titles are:
- Nurse Anesthetists: These APRNs (also known as CRNAs) deliver anesthesia to patients who are about to undergo a surgical procedure or operation. They also provide pre- and post-operative care and support to these patients.
- Nurse Midwives: These APRNs (also known as CNMs) support women who are pregnant or in childbirth. They may also perform gynecological exams and provide post-natal (post-birth) care.
- Nurse Practitioners: These APRNs (also known as NPs) care for patients with critical or acute conditions that require constant monitoring, evaluation and support. They often provide counseling to patients and their families, as well.
|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 RN to 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.