A Comprehensive Guide to Online Nursing Programs

Nurses care for patients with healthcare needs and act as a mediator between patients, their families, and physicians. More than 3 million registered nurses (RNs) provide medical care across the U.S., making nursing the country’s largest healthcare profession. Nurses work in a variety of settings including hospitals, doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, and homecare settings.

Earning a nursing degree online prepares graduates to work as RNs, nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, nurse educators, nurse anesthetists, clinical nurses, or in a variety of other nursing positions. Nursing isn’t just an exciting field, it’s also one of the fastest-growing professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A nursing degree prepares graduates at all educational levels to work as professional nurses. The associate degree trains students in the fundamental principles of nursing, and after graduation, nurses take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become RNs. While an RN allows nurses to work in almost any healthcare field, certain specialties — including becoming a nurse practitioner or a nurse midwife — require an advanced degree or certification.

Nursing is a growing field, according to the BLS, which projects that the profession will add more than 435,000 jobs between 2016 and 2026. And nursing isn’t just in high demand — it is a fulfilling and challenging career path with multiple options for specialization. Nurses interested in working with children, for example, can focus on neonatal care or pediatrics, while other nurses may concentrate on mental health nursing, cancer care, or other medical specialties.

nursing isn’t just in high demand — it is a fulfilling and challenging career path with multiple options for specialization

An online nursing degree requires commitment. Nursing students need to be self-motivated and driven learners, as many online nursing programs design their curriculum for currently employed nurses. Balancing work with school benefits many nursing students, who complete their clinical requirements at their current place of employment.

Nurses don’t just provide medical care. They play a central role in patient communication, provide emotional support, and guide patients and their families through the healthcare system. While nursing requires a dedicated personality, prospective nurses can also customize their careers around their own strengths and interests to craft a fulfilling specialty within the broad field of nursing.

Online nursing programs have several advantages over traditional programs. Current nurses can earn an online nursing degree while working full time, accessing course material and completing classwork around their busy schedules. Whether earning an RN to BSN online or an RN to MSN online, RNs can advance their careers while working by completing an online nursing program.

Accessibility

Accessibility remains a top advantage of online programs. Online nursing programs give students the ability to access lectures and other course materials from anywhere, at any time, which is a major advantage for working nurses who may have limited time and resources.

Flexibility

An online nursing degree provides flexibility, allowing learners to create an education plan to earn their nursing degree online while balancing their other responsibilities. Many students benefit from the ability to jump into nursing studies on their own schedules, and online programs often offer multiple start dates throughout the year.

School Options

Nurses need the best program for their particular interests and strengths, but the top online nurse practitioner programs, for example, might not be local to the student. However, an online nursing degree allows prospective and current nurses to attend school across the state or even across the country.

Diversity

Nurses-in-training benefit from a diversity of experiences and backgrounds, and online nursing programs bring together students from around the country and the world, which not only helps the learning process, but also helps nurses build an expansive professional network.

Technology

Online nursing programs blend technology with practical experience, connecting students to their classmates and faculty members through a variety of delivery methods while allowing learners to conduct practicums locally. Professional nurses use technology to advance their careers while continuing to work.

Nurses who hold an associate degree provide critical healthcare services, and the degree prepares graduates to take their national exams and earn an RN license, which is required for professional nurses. Nurses who advance their education by earning degrees, such as a bachelor’s in nursing or a master’s in nursing, expand their career opportunities and salary potential. Advanced degrees also allow professional nurses to specialize in areas like neonatal or pediatric care while earning certification as nurse practitioners or nurse anesthetists. According to PayScale, nurses who earn a master’s degree make double the salary of nurses with an associate degree.

Each step up the educational ladder requires a commitment in terms of time and resources. While an associate degree takes two years by itself, a doctorate may require three to five years on top of a four-year undergraduate education. Prospective nurses must weigh their career goals against the cost and job outlook for advanced nursing degrees. Nurses can also pursue graduate certificates in specialized nursing fields, which may take less than a year to complete.

Common Careers and Median Salaries for Nursing Graduates by Degree
Associate Degree in Nursing Licensed Practical Nurse $40,802
Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Registered Nurse $62,007
Graduate Certificate in Nursing Nurse Educator $72,410
Master’s Degree in Nursing Nurse Administrator $81,721
Doctoral Degree in Nursing Nurse Practitioner $91,697

Associate Degree in Nursing

Prospective nurses can become an RN or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) by earning an associate degree in nursing. Associate students learn fundamental nursing principles and complete hands-on practicums to build their nursing skills. Nursing is a fast-growing profession, and with an associate degree, graduates can earn their licenses and begin working as full-time nurses.

Associate-granting institutions typically require a high school diploma or the equivalent, but most do not require test scores such as the SAT or ACT. An associate degree requires approximately 60 credits, and prospective nurses typically earn the degree in two years. Online nursing programs, including online LPN nursing programs, allow students to complete practicum requirements locally, which can lead to job placement after graduation.

The associate degree prepares graduates to take the NCLEX to become an RN or an LPN, depending on their career goals. The requirements vary by state, so prospective nurses must check their local guidelines. With an RN, graduates can also earn an RN to BSN online or an RN to MSN online, both of which advance a nurse’s career prospects.

Example Courses:

Nursing Fundamentals

Nearly every online associate nursing degree includes an introductory course on the fundamentals of nursing, which introduces students to the skills required to succeed as a nurse. This can include patient-centered care, collaboration, and quality improvement.

Health Assessment

Health assessment classes train nurses in collecting, organizing, and interpreting data about an individual’s health status, including physical assessment, mental status, and patient communication.

Ethics in Nursing

Coursework on ethics in nursing introduces students to the theoretical framework for providing healthcare, including ethical, spiritual, and moral issues faced by professional nurses.

Medical-Surgical Nursing

Many professional nurses work in surgery or a related area, and medical-surgical nursing classes train nurses in clinical judgment, safety, and patient care for health conditions that may require surgery.

Maternal Newborn Nursing

Maternal newborn nursing prepares nurses to work in labor and delivery services, including caring for pregnant women and newborns, as well as providing postpartum care. The class may incorporate clinical practice experiences.


Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

A bachelor’s degree in nursing prepares graduates to work as licensed nurses, and students can specialize in several areas of healthcare, including pediatrics, gerontology, acute care, and primary care. Earning a bachelor of science in nursing online also allows graduates to earn a graduate nursing certificate or a graduate degree in nursing, which may be required for advanced nursing positions.

Most online nursing programs at the bachelor’s level require 120 credits, including general education requirements and nursing courses. Most students finish the degree in four years, or less if they have transfer credits or already hold an RN license. Bachelor’s programs typically require a high school diploma or the equivalent, and sometimes also require prospective students to submit ACT or SAT scores as part of their admission application.

Incoming nursing students with an RN can enter a specialized RN to BSN program, which they can finish in less than two years. Completing the requirements for an RN license before entering a BSN program can significantly speed up the process, and prospective students with an RN license can research the top RN to BSN programs to find the best school for their professional interests.

Example Courses:

Evidence-Based Practice

Classes on evidence-based practice emphasize the research process for developing nursing practices, including evaluating published research and applying it to clinical practice.

Health Systems

This course focuses on healthcare policy and the relationship between various elements of the health system, from care providers to policy makers and insurers. Students analyze the broader context for healthcare and influences on health policy.

Leadership in Nursing

Professional nurses often act as leaders, and coursework in leadership emphasizes behaviors and organizational structures that improve patient care and teamwork in nursing. Coursework may also cover effective communication with patients, families, and healthcare professionals.

Mental Health Nursing

Classes in mental health nursing emphasize providing care to patients with psychiatric and mental health disorders, including coping resources, health promotion, and different stages of treatment.

Women's Health Nursing

Classes in women’s health train nurses in caring for women, including childbearing, vulnerable clients, and the treatment of women’s health needs.


Graduate Certificate in Nursing

Earning a graduate certificate in nursing allows professional nurses to advance and specialize their training. Graduate certificate programs provide instruction in several concentrations, such as nursing education or nurse practitioners in acute care or primary care. A graduate certificate prepares nurses to become nurse educators, nurse practitioners, or other specialists within nursing.

Most graduate certificate programs — including online nurse practitioner programs —
require around 20 credits, meaning they can be completed in a handful of months, or approximately one year for nurses who are working full time. Some certificate programs require a practicum for clinical experience, while nurse educator programs often do not incorporate a practicum. Many certificates are structured as a post-master’s nursing specialization to allow professional nurses to move into an advanced specialty. Some are specifically aimed at nurses with a bachelor’s degree in their field who want to move into particular healthcare fields.

After earning the certificate, nurses can take a national certification exam in their area in order to demonstrate excellence in their field. For example, the National League of Nurses administers the nurse educator certification program. Nurses interested in earning a graduate certificate can research the top online graduate nursing certificate programs.

Example Courses:

Acute Care

Nurses can choose a graduate certificate in acute care, which emphasizes complex judgment and medical interventions. Coursework in acute care may require clinical experience in a variety of acute care settings.

Teaching for Nurse Educators

Classes in teaching strategies for nurse educators prepare future nursing instructors in the methods of providing nursing instruction, including evidence-based practices, the educational process, and assessment.

Assessment for Nurse Educators

Coursework on assessment for nurse educators emphasizes a variety of assessment methods in nursing instruction, from testing learning outcomes to clinical experience assessment.

Primary Care

For nurses interested in moving into primary care nurse practitioning, this class trains nurses in caring for children and adults in a primary care setting and may include a clinical component.

Practicum

Some nursing certificate programs require a set number of clinical experience hours as part of a practicum. Online nursing students may arrange to complete the practicum in their local area.


Master’s Degree in Nursing

Earning a master’s degree in nursing prepares graduates for advanced positions in nursing, including in high-paying specialties like nurse anesthesia and oncology nursing. A master’s degree also trains nurse practitioners, who offer primary care to a variety of different patients. Certain licenses and certifications require a graduate degree, particularly for the most challenging specialties.

Most students who earn a master of science in nursing online can complete the degree in two years, though accelerated programs may require less time. Online master of nursing programs typically expect a mix of academic and work experience, and some may require a bachelor’s degree and a current RN license. Current RNs can enroll in an RN to MSN program, which allows RNs without a bachelor’s degree to complete a master’s in nursing. In general, master’s in nursing programs require 30 credits.

While a master’s in nursing prepares graduates for professional careers in nursing, a master’s in nursing administration trains licensed nurses to supervise and oversee nursing programs through management and business preparation. Nurses interested in management can research the top online master’s in nursing administration programs, in addition to RN to MSN programs and master’s in nursing programs.

Example Courses:

Advanced Nursing Practice

Nursing students study current issues in nursing practice, including barriers to providing nursing care as well as the historical, legal, and ethical factors shaping the profession.

Pharmacology

Master’s in nursing students study pharmacology to understand the concepts and principles related to the therapeutic use of medications. Coursework may also include the impact of pharmacology on organ systems and disease processes.

Pathophysiology

In pathophysiology courses, nursing students study common conditions affecting children and adults, as well as the clinical management of illness, pathogens, and environmental factors.

Nurse Practitioner Practicum

Future nurse practitioners gain hands-on experience in the primary care setting during a practicum, with an emphasis on clinical decision making and healthcare practice.

Clinical Nurse Leader Practicum

Future clinical nurse leaders complete a practicum to develop advanced competencies, including in quality management, patient safety, healthcare technology, and financial management.


Doctoral Degree in Nursing

As the highest degree in nursing, the doctoral degree prepares nurses for the top positions in the field, including conducting nursing research and teaching nursing in an academic setting. A doctorate also allows professional nurses to move into leadership or policy positions. While a doctorate requires a substantial investment, it may be required for certain jobs.

Nurses have multiple options when it comes to choosing a doctoral program. For example, nurses can complete a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) or a Ph.D in nursing. While the Ph.D is a research-based degree, the DNP is a professional degree that prepares graduates for leadership roles in nursing. The Ph.D. may be required for certain teaching and research positions, while the DNP helps nurses advance their clinical careers. Both degrees typically require 3-5 years to complete.

While a doctoral degree in nursing may open certain doors, such as academic research and teaching or nursing leadership positions, prospective doctoral students must weigh the benefits of the degree against the commitment required. Nurses may have options outside of a doctoral degree in order to advance their careers, which they must consider before committing to a doctoral program.

Example Courses:

Advanced Practice Nursing

Doctoral advanced practice classes explore nursing roles within multiple frameworks, such as political, philosophical, and legal contexts. Coursework emphasizes trends in healthcare and taking leadership roles within the healthcare delivery system.

Biostatistics

Biostatistics courses prepare students to apply biostatistical methods in public health investigations, including data analysis, theoretical distributions, and correlation. This course is particularly helpful for nurses who want to go into public health studies.

Advanced Health Assessment

Nursing students train in advanced skills in collecting comprehensive health histories, conducting physical examinations, and taking mental health assessments.

Chronic Illness

Courses in chronic illness prepare nurses to work with patients, families, and groups affected by chronic conditions, including applying theories and research in caring for chronic illnesses.

Children's Health

Children’s health courses emphasize clinical decision making when delivering primary healthcare to children and adolescents, communicating with patients’ families, and providing preventative medicine.


Nursing Concentrations and Specialties

While all nurses must hold an RN license, RNs work in a variety of specialized fields, from neonatal care for newborns to gerontology nurses who provide healthcare services for seniors. Many of these concentrations require specialized coursework, and they can also require certification in the field.

Adult-Gerontology

Adult-gerontology nurses treat adults of all ages, including seniors, with a clinical focus. Within their broad group of patients, adult-gerontology nurses may specialize in palliative care, diabetes, or another medical condition.

Pediatrics

Pediatric nurses work with children from birth to age 18, providing medical care either through a pediatric general practice office or a hospital that offers specialized pediatric services. Because they often work with young children, pediatric nurses must be strong communicators who can help nervous patients and their parents.

Neonatal

Neonatal nurses work with newborn infants, particularly those who were born prematurely, have surgical problems, or exhibit other birth defects. Neonatal nurses often provide care for newborns from birth until they are discharged from the hospital.

Nurse Anesthesia

Nurses who specialize in anesthesia are among the highest paid in the profession. Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia and other pain management medications and monitor patients as they recover from anesthesia. The profession requires a master’s degree and a certification exam.

Clinical Nursing

Clinical nurse specialists typically have a master’s degree and a certification, and they work directly with patients to implement treatment plans. They may specialize in an area like critical care, pain management, or gerontology.

Oncology

Oncology nurses provide healthcare services to patients who have cancer. They work with patients from diagnosis through coordinating care during cancer treatment, and they can pursue board certification in oncology by passing an exam.


Median Salary for Nursing Specialties
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner $90,019
Pediatric Nurse $56,657
Neonatal Nurse $60,850
Nurse Anesthetist $139,829
Clinical Nurse Specialist $85,146
Oncology Nurse $65,712

Every state requires nurses to earn a license before practicing in their field, which grants them the title of RN. To become an RN, nursing students must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). There are two forms of the test: NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN. The NCLEX-RN is for prospective RNs, and covers evaluating patients and creating care plans. The NCLEX-PN is for prospective practical or vocational nurses, and the examination focuses on collecting patient information and providing support services. Each state sets its own laws and regulations for becoming an RN, so prospective nurses should check the rules in their state.

Nursing licenses and certifications allow professional nurses to demonstrate their specializations and advanced knowledge. While all nurses must hold a nursing license, they have several options when it comes to advanced certifications and licenses. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers board certification for RNs in several specialties, and nurse anesthetists can earn certification through the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).

  • Registered nurse – board certified (RN-BC): Board certified RNs must receive certification from ANCC, which requires candidates to pass a competency-based examination that tests clinical knowledge and nursing skills. To maintain a current credential, nurses must meet the renewal requirements.
  • Basic life support (BLS): The American Heart Association offers the BLS certification to individuals who take a life support course and pass the skills testing. The certificate does not require a nursing degree, and can be renewed on a regular basis.
  • Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS): As a more advanced course on cardiac life support, the American Heart Association’s ACLS certificate verifies that an individual has passed a course on the recognition of and intervention in cardiac arrest, post-cardiac arrest care, and other heart disease care. The organization also offers an ACLS certification for experienced providers.
  • Pediatric advanced life support (PALS): The American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer the PALS certification to individuals who complete the PALS class, which covers effective resuscitation techniques for seriously ill or injured children. The certification is valid for two years, and requires applicants to pass an examination and skills tests.
  • Neonatal resuscitation program (NRP): The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the NRP, which certifies individuals to care for newborns at birth, including team-based care. The certificate requires online testing, case-based simulations, and simulations. NRP also provides an app with guidelines for newborn resuscitation.
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA): To earn the CRNA designation, applicants must have a valid RN license and a bachelor’s degree in nursing. CRNAs must earn a graduate degree through an accredited nurse anesthesia program, some of which require a year of acute care experience. After graduation, nurse anesthetists must pass a certification exam administered by the AANA.
  • Certification for nurse educators (CNE): The National League for Nursing offers the CNE for RNs with a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing with a focus in nursing education. Applicants who did not specialize in nursing education must have a minimum of two years of work experience in an academic nursing program. Nurse educators must pass an exam to earn the certification.

While all professional nurses are RNs, a degree in nursing allows graduates to enter several specialities within nursing (e.g., midwifery or anesthesia services), and advanced professionals may become nursing directors or chief nursing officers. For example, online nurse practitioner programs allow graduates to work as nurse practitioners. These specializations may require earning a specific degree as well as a specialty license, and salaries vary depending on demand and career requirements. The BLS projects that many fields in nursing will grow faster than average in the next decade.

Registered Nurse

In 2016, there were nearly 3 million RNs in the country, and the BLS projects the job will grow much faster than average. RNs provide patient care and educate patients about health conditions, and advanced degrees can increase salary potential.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners can provide primary and specialty healthcare, and the position requires a graduate-level degree in nursing and a state license. The BLS projects this field will grow 31% by 2026.

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists administer pain management tools and monitor patients’ vital signs, including patient recovery from anesthesia. They must have specialized graduate education as well as a license in anesthesia services.

Nurse Midwives

Nurse midwives specialize in maternal care during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the postpartum period. The position requires a graduate degree in nursing and a state license.

Nursing Instructors

Nursing instructors teach patient care at the college level to nursing students, including clinical units. They may also conduct nursing research. Instructors must hold a graduate degree.

Best Jobs for Nursing Majors by Salary Potential
  Entry Level Mid-Career Experienced Late Career
Nursing Director $78,000 $86,000 $95,000 $95,000
Chief Nursing Officer $113,000 $116,000 $129,000 $140,000
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner $97,000 $106,000 $109,000 $115,000
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner $94,000 $103,000 $108,000 $108,000
Adult Nurse Practitioner $92,000 $98,000 $104,000 $108,000
The Best States for Nursing Careers
Click Here to View The Full List of States
State Employment Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Alabama 47,440 $27.36 $56,900
Alaska 5,570 $41.56 $86,450
Arizona 52,610 $35.31 $73,430
Arkansas 23,380 $27.71 $57,630
California 274,650 $48.92 $101,750
Colorado 47,590 $33.92 $70,550
Connecticut 32,930 $37.63 $78,270
Delaware 11,320 $34.05 $70,820
Florida 174,710 $31.07 $64,630
Georgia 73,330 $31.13 $64,750
Hawaii 11,300 $42.75 $88,910
Idaho 12,330 $30.04 $62,470
Illinois 121,670 $34.08 $70,890
Indiana 63,870 $28.87 $60,050
Iowa 32,370 $27.06 $56,290
Kansas 27,130 $28.01 $58,260
Kentucky 45,500 $28.76 $59,810
Louisiana 44,780 $30.47 $63,370
Maine 14,190 $30.67 $63,800
Maryland 53,330 $35.92 $74,710
Massachusetts 85,140 $42.82 $89,060
Michigan 92,670 $33.22 $69,100
Minnesota 61,830 $35.55 $73,940
Mississippi 28,590 $27.41 $57,010
Missouri 67,920 $29.25 $60,830
Montana 9,800 $30.91 $64,300
Nebraska 21,240 $29.02 $60,370
Nevada 20,250 $40.28 $83,790
New Hampshire 13,260 $33.02 $68,680
New Jersey 79,400 $38.74 $80,580
New Mexico 16,200 $33.02 $68,670
New York 180,730 $38.86 $80,830
North Carolina 99,050 $29.49 $61,330
North Dakota 8,710 $29.25 $60,840
Ohio 128,030 $30.75 $63,960
Oklahoma 27,660 $29.15 $60,630
Oregon 35,220 $41.83 $87,000
Pennsylvania 139,480 $33.06 $68,770
Rhode Island 12,150 $36.15 $75,200
South Carolina 41,800 $30.51 $63,470
South Dakota 12,130 $26.89 $55,920
Tennessee 60,080 $28.08 $58,410
Texas 207,810 $33.84 $70,390
Utah 21,470 $29.98 $62,360
Vermont 5,850 $32.59 $67,780
Virginia 63,820 $32.05 $66,670
Washington 55,350 $38.52 $80,120
West Virginia 20,880 $28.55 $59,380
Wisconsin 55,410 $32.66 $67,930
Wyoming 4,970 $30.28 $62,980

Mary Carney Director of Nursing, Western Governors University – Indiana

Mary’s nearly four decades of nursing experience includes adult, neonatal, and pediatric critical care. She focused on transitioning infants and children who are dependent on life-support machines from the hospital to their home, school, and community environment. Her original research on shiftwork and the culture of fatigue in health care has been published and presented to national audiences. She holds current clinical certifications in pediatric critical care and general pediatric nursing. She is also a certified nurse educator, and is director of nursing for Western Governors University – Indiana. She earned her DNP in educational leadership from Touro University-Nevada in 2016.

Why did you choose to go into nursing?

I worked in a nursing home during my college years and really connected to the residents, the work, and the satisfaction it gave me.

What skills are essential to nursing?

Number one is definitely the ability to adapt to change. Nurses have to be smart and hard-working, but that resilience and think-on-your-feet mentality is crucial.

What are some things you do during a typical day on the job?

During my days (nights actually) as a bedside nurse, I provided direct care to critically ill children. Frequent assessments to watch for subtle changes that could spiral into bad situations filled the majority of my time, but I also gave meds, educated patients and families, and provided a listening ear to parents who feel helpless in the face of their child’s illness. Now, I am the director of a nursing program, and I sleep at night. I work directly with students, instructors, and clinical facilities to provide a top-notch education for Indiana’s future nurses.

What's the hardest part of being a nurse?

Watching bad things happen to good people and the high-stakes nature of the work. There is no room for error, especially in pediatrics.

What do you like most about nursing?

The variety of things a nurse can do; interacting with people across the spectrum of human existence.

How do you maintain work-life balance?

I’m not sure I do. Sometimes my job becomes all-consuming, and it is difficult to remove myself from that. I sometimes lose sleep over situations related to work. Because nursing becomes to much a part of one’s DNA, it is hard to separate work from the rest of life.

Is it important to choose a nursing specialty? What tips do you have for students who aren't sure which focus they would like best?

I think it is not terribly important at the beginning of one’s career. I have done inpatient psych, med-surg, adult, newborn, and peds critical care. I’ve been a private duty nurse, the supervisor of a large hospital, and now an academic administrator. Each of those jobs has given me skills I have applied to the next job. Sometimes I think that having that ‘dream job’ as a goal throughout nursing school is a detriment—it keeps you from being open to opportunity.

What makes nursing an exciting career opportunity right now?

Nurses are beginning to command respect and a seat at the table when health care decisions are made. Being the most trusted profession has certain perks. Nurses are leading in a way that was not even dreamed of at the beginning of my career.

What type of clinical experience should every nurse gain in college?

Any type they can get! Never pass up an opportunity to learn a new skill, hold a hand, or interact with a patient or a family member. Do anything and everything you can.

What does continuing education look like for you?

A continuous process. I started out as a nursing assistant and have progressed through every level of nursing . LPN>ADN>BSN>MSN>DNP. My last three degrees were earned online and after my 55th birthday. Old dog being taught new tricks. I think it behooves every nurse to continually be learning new things. Maybe not in pursuit of another degree, but things relevant to practice and professional development.

How important is networking and what are some easy ways to stay connected to other marketers in your community?

It is critical! I stay up to date and in touch by belonging to several professional organizations, volunteering for health related activities, via social media and acting as an ambassador for my university.

How do you stay up to date with the latest advancements and technology in the nursing world?

I follow a lot of professional organization on social media—Twitter in particular provides me with a vast amount of information. My professional organizations have journals, and I attend two to three conferences per year.

What are some practical tips to prepare for an interview?

Know something about the employer’s culture and mission. Be able to relate that to your own practice. Ask about the patient population, and think of ways your current experience might be applied to the new group. Be on time. Leave your phone in the car. Ask intelligent questions that will let YOU know if the job would be a good fit.

Scholarships help nursing students pay for their degrees, whether they are earning an associate degree in order to become an RN or pursuing a doctoral-level nursing degree, including online nursing programs. Some nursing scholarships are open to nurses who plan to work in particular fields, such as perinatal care or oncology, while others award scholarships to nurses who come from underrepresented groups.

Nursing Scholarships

Nursing Scholarships for Associate Degree Students

National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) Scholarship

Who Can Apply: NBNA awards several scholarships to NBNA members who are currently enrolled in a nursing program.
Amount: $1,000 to $6,000

Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation (HENAAC) Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The HENAAC Scholarship awards funds to students earning a degree in a STEM field, including nursing. Applicants must be of Hispanic origin or have significant leadership or service within the Hispanic community.
Amount: up to $10,000

American Indian Nurse Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: The National Society for the Colonial Dames of America awards the American Indian Nurse Scholarship to students earning a degree in nursing. Applicants must be at least one quarter Native American.
Amount: $1,500 per semester

Madeline Pickett (Halbert) Cogswell Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Madeline Pickett (Halbert) Cogswell Nursing Scholarship, offered by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), provides awards to nursing students in accredited programs. Applicants should be DAR members, descendents of members, or eligible for membership.
Amount: $2,500


Nursing Scholarships for Bachelor’s Degree Students

Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The DAR offer the Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship to students who have been accepted or are currently enrolled in an accredited nursing program. Applicants must demonstrate financial need.
Amount: $2,500

Army Nurse Corps Association Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The scholarship program run by the Army Nurse Corps provides funds to students in accredited nursing programs whose parent, spouse, or child is a U.S. Army veteran or current servicemember.
Amount: $3,000

Gallagher Health Careers Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. offers health career scholarships for bachelor’s-level students pursuing a degree a healthcare field, including nursing.
Amount: $7,500

A Place for Mom’s Senior Wisdom Video Scholarship

Who Can Apply: A Place for Mom offers the Senior Wisdom Video Scholarship to students interested in the field of aging and gerontology.
Amount: $1,000


Nursing Scholarships for Master’s Degree Students

Nurses Educational Funds (NEF) Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The NEF organization coordinates multiple scholarships for graduate-level nursing students.
Amount: Varies

Graduate Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Practice

Who Can Apply: The American Cancer Society provides scholarships for master’s degree nursing students in the area of cancer nursing. The award may be for two years.
Amount: $10,000 per year

Kentucky Nursing Incentive Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: Residents of Kentucky can apply for the Nursing Incentive Scholarship, which awards funds to students attending graduate nursing programs. The programs can be located outside of Kentucky.
Amount: $3,000

National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The NHSC offers scholarships to students enrolled in a nurse practitioner graduate program with a clinical practice focus. Recipients must agree to work for two years at an NHSC-approved site.
Amount: Covers tuition and provides a living stipend


Nursing Scholarships for Doctoral Degree Students

Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing

Who Can Apply: The American Cancer Society offers scholarships for doctoral nursing students pursuing careers in cancer nursing. The award can be for up to two years, with a possible two-year renewal.
Amount: $15,000 per year

Hal and Jo Cohen Graduate Nursing Faculty Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Doctoral students enrolled in an accredited Maryland state nursing program can apply for the Graduate Nursing Faculty Scholarship if they plan to become nursing faculty.
Amount: Covers tuition

March of Dimes Dr. Margaret C. Freda Graduate Nursing Scholarship Award

Who Can Apply: The March of Dimes offers a graduate nursing scholarship for RNs enrolled in a graduate program in maternal-child nursing.
Amount: $5,000

Oncology Nursing Society Doctoral Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The Oncology Nursing Society offers scholarships to doctoral-level nursing students who are committed to oncology nursing.
Amount: $5,000 – $7,500


General Guides

  • Nursing Resources: We have compiled a collection of the best academic journals, websites, and open courses available to those in nursing.
  • Scholarships for Nursing Majors: Explore our curated list of scholarships available specifically for nursing majors, as well as minority students pursuing nursing.

Nursing Courseware and Massive Open Online Courses

Working nurses who want to keep their skills current or are required to complete continuing education for a license or certification can enroll in open courseware or Massive Open Online Courses. These online courses provide university-level educational opportunities to nurses and other health professionals, and many of them are free.

  • Interprofessional Healthcare Informatics: A graduate-level course, interprofessional healthcare informatics explores informatics in a variety of medical practice settings, including emerging technologies and telehealth.
  • Leading Healthcare Quality and Safety: With a focus on ensuring patient safety and the quality of healthcare, this course introduces participants to the foundations of patient safety and quality improvement. The course includes personal stories and cross-industry comparisons.
  • Introduction to Cardiac Care: An e-seminar offered through Columbia University, this course focuses on heart disease and cardiac care, illustrating how the healthy heart functions and how to treat individuals with heart disease.
  • Introduction to Health Policy: Health policy and management are central concerns for nurses, and this course covers the economics of health policy, healthcare politics and laws, and the quality and effectiveness of healthcare services.
  • Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases: Many nurses work with infectious diseases, and this course covers case studies of disease syndromes, as well as outbreak investigations, disease surveillance, and case-control studies.

Professional Nursing Organizations

Working nurses benefit from joining professional nursing organizations, such as the American Nursing Association (ANA) or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). These professional organizations provide scholarships and certifications to their members, as well as access to professional development resources and continuing education courses that may be required to maintain an RN license.

Professional organizations also offer access to job resources, such as the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing job board and career counseling resources. They can also provide networking opportunities through conferences and workshops.

  • ANA: Dating back to 1896, ANA represents the interests of America’s RNs. ANA membership provides both personal and professional benefits, including access to nursing resources.
  • AACN: AACN offers certification, conferences, and events, as well as access to continuing education resources for its members. AACN members also receive discounts for certification and are eligible for awards.
  • Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing: Founded in 1922, this organization celebrates nursing excellence and provides career counseling and mentorship to its members, along with access to the Sigma job board.