Complete Guide to Top Online Nursing Programs
This comprehensive list of 287 online nursing schools, arranged by state, includes tuition information, NCLEX pass rates, and campus locations. Forty-seven states, in addition to Washington D.C., offer online nursing programs. Over one hundred schools across the country offer their online programs for less than $25,000, with some as low as $6,000 for an annual tuition.
This list gives students the information they need to not only select a degree program, but also to learn state procedures such as licensure and renewal requirements. Prospective nursing students should ensure that any degree program they consider is accredited and recognized by their state's licensing board. Programmatic accreditation for nursing degrees is granted by the NLNAC and the CCNE, and choosing a degree with this distinction will ensure adequate preparation for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which is required to obtain nursing licensure.
Top Online Colleges Offering Nursing Degrees
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||School Type|
|#1 American Public University System||Annual Tuition $5,750||School Type For-Profit|
|#2 Western Governors University||Annual Tuition $6,500||School Type Non-Profit|
|#3 Southern New Hampshire University Online||Annual Tuition $9,600||School Type Non-Profit|
|#4 Brigham Young University-Idaho||Annual Tuition $3,750||School Type Non-Profit|
|#5 Fort Hays State University||Annual Tuition $5,782||School Type Non-Profit|
|#6 Broward College||Annual Tuition $4,196||School Type Non-Profit|
|#7 Thomas Edison State University||Annual Tuition $8,647||School Type Non-Profit|
|#8 Northwestern State University of Louisiana||Annual Tuition $6,508||School Type Non-Profit|
|#9 Fitchburg State University||Annual Tuition $8,790||School Type Non-Profit|
|#10 University of Central Missouri||Annual Tuition $8,759||School Type Non-Profit|
|#11 Ottawa University Online||Annual Tuition $6,300||School Type Non-Profit|
|#12 Columbia College||Annual Tuition $7,800||School Type Non-Profit|
|#13 University of South Dakota||Annual Tuition $9,387||School Type Non-Profit|
|#14 University of Southern Mississippi||Annual Tuition $6,980||School Type Non-Profit|
|#15 Southeast Missouri State University||Annual Tuition $10,304||School Type Non-Profit|
|#16 Clarkson College||Annual Tuition $14,918||School Type Non-Profit|
|#17 Clarion University||Annual Tuition $9,246||School Type Non-Profit|
|#18 Columbus State University||Annual Tuition $8,120||School Type Non-Profit|
|#19 University of Maryland University College||Annual Tuition $14,970||School Type Non-Profit|
|#20 Our Lady of the Lake University||Annual Tuition $12,240||School Type Non-Profit|
|#21 Wilmington University||Annual Tuition $10,140||School Type Non-Profit|
|#22 Wayland Baptist University||Annual Tuition $10,140||School Type Non-Profit|
|#23 University of South Alabama||Annual Tuition $12,152||School Type Non-Profit|
|#24 University of Louisiana-Monroe||Annual Tuition $11,250||School Type Non-Profit|
|#25 California University of Pennsylvania||Annual Tuition $12,780||School Type Non-Profit|
Comprehensive List of Online Nursing Programs by State
Students planning to work as nurses in Alabama must meet a continuing education requirement of 24 contact hours during the two years between each renewal period. Applications must be completed online. There are several schools in Alabama that offer online nursing degrees. The University of North Alabama offers an RN to BSN program, an RN to MSN program, and a traditional master's in nursing. The MSN has a "Teaching-Learning" track that equips registered nurses to educate nursing students, health care clients, and colleagues. There is also a "Leadership" track that prepares registered nurses for management roles in nursing or health care.
Arizona is one of twenty-four compact states, meaning students with a license from Arizona may practice in any other member location. Students seeking to renew their nursing license must have worked at least 960 hours as a nurse, or participate in an approved refresher course. Some Arizona-based schools offering an online nursing degree include Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University, and Northern Arizona. Arizona State University offers an online RN to BSN degree. ASU also has a generous credit transfer policy which decreases the overall cost of the program.
Students seeking to work in nursing must be licensed by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing and meet state-mandated requirements to practice nursing. Arkansas is a compact state, meaning a nurse in this state has a license and is eligible to work in 23 other compact nursing states. Arkansas requires license renewal every two years. New nursing school graduates may obtain a temporary license, permitting practice until a permanent license is secured upon passing the state’s nursing examination. The University of Arkansas offers an online bachelor's in nursing degree which has the longest accredited BSN program in Arkansas. The project-based practicum required can be completed in the student's geographic area.
California offers two alternatives to obtaining a degree in order to become a registered nurse. California Licensed Vocational Nurses can take the LVN 30 Unit Option but most other states don't recognize the option. Military Corpsmen can also take the national exam for an RN license if they've completed RN level education and have clinical experience. To renew the license, candidates must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education every 2 years. There are several schools offering online nursing degree programs in California. One of the most affordable of these choices, California State University - Dominguez Hills, has both an online RN to BSN and an online MSN program available. Clinical hours can be completed on campus or at appropriate agencies in the student's communities. Both programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Applicants must have a professional resume.
Colorado is one of twenty-four compact states. Colorado nursing licenses will be recognized in these other states, and vice-versa. Licenses expire every two years. Aspen University is one of the most affordable choices of schools offering online nursing programs in Colorado, and it offers an online master's in nursing. Aspen offers an RN to MSN Bridge program which allows students who have earned an associate's degree in nursing but not a bachelor's to graduate directly with a master's degree.
Connecticut licenses must be renewed online each year. There are several schools that offer online nursing degree programs, including Yale University. Yale offers a master's in nursing in which 100 percent of students are already employed when they first enroll. University of Phoenix has one of the lowest tuitions in the state and offers online nursing programs at both the graduate and undergraduate level.
Students who wish to renew their nursing license in Delaware must have worked 1,000 hours as a nurse over the past five years or 400 hours over the past two years. Students must also complete continuing education requirements. Delaware is a compact state. There are a few institutions that offer nursing degrees in Delaware, including the University of Delaware and Wilmington University. The University of Delaware offers an online RN to BSN, an online RN to MSN and a traditional MSN. Wilmington University's online RN to BSN program allows students to take as little as one course (3 credits) per term or as many as 12 or more credits per semester.
Florida has strict continuing education requirements for nurses. Those wishing to renew their license must complete 24 hours of courses, which must be either approved by the Florida Board of Nursing or accredited by a state or national organization for nursing accreditation. There are lots of schools that offer online nursing degrees in Florida. One, St. Petersburg College, offers an online RN to BSN completion program that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Georgia requires nursing licenses to be renewed every two years. Georgia does not currently require continuing education for nurses, however, starting on January 31, 2016, nurses will be required to complete continuing education requirements. Although several schools in the state offer online nursing degrees, Georgia is also home to one of the most affordable programs in the nation - Georgia Military College offering an AA or AA in pre-nursing. The program prepares students for admission to RN programs and although it is geared toward military members, 80 percent of students are not in the military.
Hawaii nurses must renew their licenses every two years by June 30. The University of Hawaii at Manoa is one of a few schools on the islands that offers an online nursing degree program. There are several pathways provided. Non-nurses, RNs with a bachelor's degree in nursing, RNs with a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field, and RNs that have a master's degree all have the option to a master's of science, doctorate in nursing practice, and PhD in nursing.
Idaho nurses must renew their licenses every two years, by August 31. Idaho is a compact state, and will recognize nursing licenses from member states. Idaho State University offers a traditional bachelor's in nursing degree that admits 70 students a year, an accelerated bachelor's in nursing that admits 30 students a year, a master's degree, a doctor of nursing practice, and a PhD in nursing.
Illinois nurses must renew their licenses every two years by May 31 and have 20 hours of continuing education credits in order to renew. Tuition rates at the several schools offering online nursing degrees vary, with some of the least expensive schools being Rasmussen College and University of Phoenix.
There are many available online nursing programs in Indiana. Indiana nurses must renew their licenses every two years by Oct. 31. RNs who want to acquire a bachelor's degree could consider the University of Indianapolis’s online program. Western Governors University has one of the lowest tuitions in the state starting at $5,870 annually.
Iowa is a compact state. Licenses are renewed every 3 years. Nurses must have 36 contact hours of continuing education and a course on mandatory approved identification and reporting of child and elderly abuse. Graceland University offers an RN to BSN, RN to MSN, and a doctor of nursing practice degree online. Although clinical requirements can be completed anywhere in the United States, one focus session (between two and five days) takes place on campus.
Kansas nursing licenses must be renewed every two years on the last day of your birth month, and nurses must have 30 hours of continuing education to do so. Grantham is one of the most affordable programs and offers a path to a bachelor's and a master's degree to registered nurses.
Kentucky is a compact state. Nurses must prove competency to renew their nursing licenses, and may do so in several ways, including earning 14 contact hours or national certification. Morehead State University's RN to BSN degree program is accredited through the Kentucky Board of Nursing.
Full-time nurses (those who work at least 1600 hours a year) must have 5 hours of continuing education credits each year to renew. Part-time nurses (at least 160 hours of work a year) must have 10 hours of continuing education and nurses that have less than 160 hours of work must have 15 hours of continuing education courses each year. Several schools offer online nursing programs including Loyola University New Orleans. Students can acquire a BSN, a MSN, or a DNP online and RNs have a special Bridge option helping them earn a master's degree faster.
Maine is a compact state and contains a few online nursing programs through the University of Maine. Nurses must renew their license every year. University of Maine at Fort Kent has an online RN to BSN program. Each nursing student is assigned to a dedicated academic adviser. University of Maine - Online also offers an online nursing program.
Maryland nurses must perform at least 1000 hours of work during each five-year period in order to renew. If a nurse hasn't performed the minimum number work hours, they have to take a refresher course to renew their license. Maryland is a compact state. Several Maryland schools offer online nursing degrees, incluing the University of Maryland. RNs qualify for the online BSN program but there are also health-related online master's degrees offered.
Massachusetts nurses must complete 15 contact hours of continuing education every two years to renew their licenses. Fitchburg State University offers both an online RN to BSN degree and a master's degree in Forensic Nursing that can help students become a medical examiner.
Michigan nurses must complete 25 contact hours of continuing education every two years in order to renew their licenses. Registered nurses have a variety of choices for an online degree program, including Ferris State University which offers an RN to BSN and an RN to MSN program.
Minnesota nurses must renew their licenses every two years and complete 24 contact hours of continuing education during that time period. For students just starting out, Northwest Technical College offers an online associate's degree in nursing. Some other online nursing programs in Minnesota include Minnesota State University at Mankato and St. Catherine University.
Mississippi is a compact state. Licenses must be renewed every two years. University of Southern Mississippi offers an online RN to BSN program and an online MSN. The master's degree program has a variety of concentration available, including adult gerontology, family psychiatric nurse, and family nurse practitioner.
Missouri is a compact state with many online nursing programs. Licenses must be renewed by April 30 every two years in the state. Online nursing degree programs vary greatly in tuition. One of the most affordable choices, Southeast Missouri State University, offers an online RN to BSN that gives students field experience in their communities.
Nurses residing within the state of Montana must complete 24 contact hours between each two-year renewal period. Montana State University offers both an online Master of Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice program and provides an affordable option for students seeking a nursing degree at the graduate level.
Nebraska RNs must complete a combination of contact hours and working hours during each two-year period, in order to renew their license. Several Nebraska colleges and universities offer online nursing programs. Bellevue University provides students with the most affordable option, and offers an online RN to BSN for RNs who have been practicing for at least one year.
RNs licensed by the state of Nevada must finish 30 hours of continuing education requirements every two years in order to renew their license. Several Nevada schools offer online nursing programs, including the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and the University of Nevada Reno, which both offer online nursing degrees at the graduate level.
Although New Hampshire state nursing requirements do not include any continuing education, licenses must be renewed annually. Plymouth State University’s online RN to BSN program is accredited by the CCNE and affords students the flexibility of earning their degree through part- or full-time study. Southern New Hampshire University offers online nursing degrees at both the graduate and undergraduate level.
Nurses practicing in the state of New Jersey must complete 30 hours of continuing education during each two-year license renewal period. Many New Jersey schools offer online nursing degrees, providing students with a wide array of programs. Thomas Edison State College, the most affordable choice, offers both an online RN to BSN program and options for students to earn an MSN.
New Mexico requires nurses to complete 30 hours of continuing education in order to renew their license every two years. Several New Mexico schools offer online nursing programs. Eastern New Mexico provides students with one of the most affordable options, and includes online nursing degree programs at both the graduate and undergraduate level.
Registered nurses practicing in the state of New York must complete contact hours in areas such as infection control and child abuse during each renewal period. Multiple schools in the state offer online nursing degrees, including three of the SUNY schools--which are some of the most affordable options. SUNY Delhi Online offers both an RN to BSN and an MSN program. SUNY College of Technology at Canton also offers an online RN to BSN degree.
Nurses in the state of North Carolina must complete 30 hours of continuing education or 15 contact hours in addition to 640 active practice hours every two years in order to renew their license. Many schools in North Carolina offer online nursing degrees. Western Carolina University is at the lower end of tuition cost and provides online nursing degrees at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Students may choose from their online RN to BSN program, or their master’s programs in nurse education and nurse leadership.
Nurses practicing in North Dakota must complete 12 continuing education hours in order to renew their license each year. Students that earned initial licensure through the exam do not need contact hours for their first renewal. Several North Dakota schools have online nursing programs. The University of Mary is one of the most affordable options available in the state. The university offers several online nursing degrees, including an RN to BSN and ADN to MSN Nurse Administrator program, among many others.
The state of Ohio requires nurses to complete 24 continuing education hours in order to renew their license every two years. Multiple Ohio schools offer online nursing degrees, with a large range in tuition costs. Columbus State Community College provides students with the most affordable option, and offers an online associate degree that is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
Oklahoma nurses must renew their license every two years. No continuing education is requried to do so. A few schools offer online nursing degrees in Oklahoma, including ITT Technical Institute and the University of Phoenix, wich both provide students with affordable options.
Registered nurses practicing in the state of Oregon do not need to complete continuing education requirements in order to renew their license. Nurses must have practiced for at least 960 hours during the past five years, or have completed a re-entry program within the past two years or a degree program within the past five. Licenses expire every two years. A few schools offer online nursing degrees in Oregon, including ITT Technical Institute and the University of Phoenix.
Nurses in the state of Pennsylvania must complete 30 continuing education hours during each two-year renewal period. Many schools in the state offer online nursing degree programs. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania provides students with one of the most affordable options and offers online degrees at the master’s and doctorate level.
Thirty hours of continuing education hours are required for nurses in South Carolina to renew their license, which expires every two years. Several South Carolina schools offer online nursing degrees. The Medical University of South Carolina offers an online RN to BSN program which can be completed in as little as one year.
South Dakota nurses must renew their license annually, though no continuing education hours are required to do so. Both the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University offer online nursing programs with affordable tuitions.
Nurses in the state of Tennessee do not have to complete any continuing education hours in order to renew their license. However, licenses must be renewed each year. Multiple schools in Tennessee offer online nursing degree programs. Western Governors University, the most affordable option, offers both master’s and bachelor’s degrees.
Texas nurses must complete 20 continuing education hours during each two-year renewal period. Many schools in Texas offer online nursing programs, with campuses based in several cities across the state. One of the more affordable choices, the University of Texas - Arlington offers degrees at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level programs are all available in an online format.
Utah nurses become eligible to renew their license after completing a combination of patient care and contact hours. Licenses expire after two years. Students seeking an online nursing degree in Utah may choose from several schools, including Western Governors University and Ameritech College online.
Nurses practicing in the state of Virginia must renew their license every year. No continuing education hours are required. Annual tuition ranges widely at the many Virginia-based schools offering online nursing degrees. George Mason University, located in Fairfax, offers both an RN to BSN and an MSN program.
Washington-based nurses must complete 45 hours of continuing education during each renewal period of three years. Several schools in Washington offer online nursing degrees, including Western Governors University and Gonzaga University. Students seeking an online graduate degree from a brick-and-mortar campus may want to consider Gonzaga, which offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice.
Nurses in Washington D.C. must complete 24 contact hours during each two-year renewal period. A few schools in Washington D.C. offer online nursing programs. Catholic University of America offers several online nursing degrees at the graduate level, including an MSN, Doctor of Nursing Practice, and PhD in Nursing.
West Virginia nurses must renew their license each year; the state requires 12 continuing education hours in order to do so. Several West Virginia schools offer online nursing degrees. American Public University system provides students with the most affordable option. It’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is accredited by the CCNE.
Registered nurses practicing in Wisconsin must renew their licenses annually. No continuing education hours are required. Multiple Wisconsin schools offer online nursing programs, with annual tuition costs ranging widely. The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh offers a unique BS to BSN degree program, which allows students who currently on a Bachelor of Science degree to earn their BSN in a year.
Online Nursing Degree Overview & Career Information
Online nursing degrees are available at the certificate, undergraduate, and graduate level and combine information-based classes with on-site clinical experiences. Many online nursing programs may also be completed in an accelerated format. If you're not sure which degree is best for your career aspirations, please use the table below to see typical pre-requisites, the average time to complete each degree, and to find links to more information.
Bridge Programs for Students Who Already Have Nursing Credentials
|Degree Type||Typical Prerequisites||Avg. Years to Complete|
|RN to BSN||Typical Prerequisites RN License||Avg. Years to Complete 1-2||Learn More View All Online Bachelor's Nursing Degrees|
|RN to MSN||Typical Prerequisites RN License||Avg. Years to Complete 2-3||Learn More View All Online Master's Nursing Degrees|
Accelerated Programs for Students Who Already Have a 4-Year Degree
|Degree Type||Typical Prerequisites||Avg. Years to Complete|
|Second Degree BSN||Typical Prerequisites Non-nursing Bachelor's Degree||Avg. Years to Complete 1-3||Learn More View All Online Bachelor's Nursing Degrees|
|Second Degree MSN||Typical Prerequisites Non-nursing Master's Degree||Avg. Years to Complete 2-3||Learn More View All Online Master's Nursing Degrees|
|BSN to PhD/DNP||Typical Prerequisites BSN||Avg. Years to Complete 3||Learn More View All Online Doctorate Nursing Degrees|
Traditional Online Nursing Programs
|Degree Type||Typical Prerequisites||Avg. Years to Complete|
|Direct Entry Bachelor||Typical Prerequisites High School Diploma or GED||Avg. Years to Complete 4||Learn More View All Schools Offering BSN Degrees Online|
|ASN||Typical Prerequisites High School Diploma or GED||Avg. Years to Complete 2||Learn More View All Schools Offering ASN Degrees Online|
|MSN||Typical Prerequisites BSN||Avg. Years to Complete 2||Learn More View All Schools Offering MSN Degrees Online|
|Nurse Practitioner||Typical Prerequisites MSN||Avg. Years to Complete 2||Learn More View All Schools Offering Online Nurse Practitioner Degrees|
|DNP||Typical Prerequisites MSN||Avg. Years to Complete 2||Learn More View All Schools Offering DNP Degrees Online|
A unique category of online nursing degrees are the online nursing bridge programs. These can help nurses with lower credentials gain a higher degree in an accelerated time frame. They usually require one year of previous, professional work; however, some programs allow students to submit an essay on nursing topics in lieu of this experience. Bridge programs also generally require that nurses transfer in 60 credits of general education and nursing courses. Applicants are required to have completed foundational courses in physical sciences, math, social sciences, and humanities.
RN to BSN
An RN to BSN program is a specially designed bachelor’s program for currently licensed nurses. These programs help associate-level nurses learn advanced clinical skills and practice clinical care in a greater variety of healthcare settings. Many RN to BSN bridge programs are designed for professional nurses who are interested in working part-time as they earn a bachelor’s degree. These degree programs require between 100 and 120 credits, and students can typically transfer in the full 60 credits from their associate degree or diploma. An RN bridge program usually takes one to two years to complete, depending on the student's prerequisites and clinical experiences.
RN to MSN
RN to MSN bridge programs are special degrees that can help registered nurses (RN) with an associate degree earn a graduate degree at an accelerated pace. After meeting the prerequisite requirements and enrolling, students take a short number of credits of bachelor’s degree bridge work; this is generally between 15 and 25 credit hours. Students are often required to maintain a GPA of 2.5 or 3.0 during this bachelor’s work in order to advance to the master’s portion of the program.
The master’s portion of the degree generally takes two to three years to complete. Students begin by taking general advanced courses, such as health assessment, professional practice, and community health. Many programs require students to focus in a particular specialty area after completing these general classes. Many specializations are available, such as acute care, gerontology, emergency care, women’s health, or midwifery.Back to Top
For students who wish to enroll in a nursing degree program but have scheduling needs that aren't well suited to a traditional degree program, there are some flexible options, including accelerated and second degree programs.
Second degree programs in nursing are accelerated, specially designed degree programs for students who already have a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing area and want to enter the nursing profession. Because second degree programs are so accelerated, they are intensive and generally have high admissions standards. The previous academic records of applicants are taken into account; some require a particular GPA. Most second degree programs in nursing advise incoming students not to hold a job while completing the program, as the coursework and clinical practicums are very demanding.
Second Degree BSN
A second bachelor’s degree program in nursing typically takes one to three years to complete, depending on the student’s prerequisite coursework and the pacing of the degree (full-time or part-time). These programs still include the same number of nursing theory classes and clinical experiences as a traditional BSN, but because these courses are squeezed into a shorter time frame, students can expect intense course loads and a lot of academic work.
Second Degree MSN
Second degree MSN programs ensure that students don’t waste their time retaking courses they have already completed. Graduates of MSN programs are prepared for a variety of advanced roles, such as head nurse, or administrative roles, such as director or vice president of a healthcare organization. Clinical nurses can become advanced practice nurses (APRN), who practice nursing more independently and, in many cases, provide primary care.
BSN to PhD and BSN to DNP
BSN to PhD and BSN to DNP nursing programs provide a fast track for nurses who already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to earn a doctorate degree by skipping the master's degree. Note that by enrolling in one of these programs, you may earn a master's degree; you simply don't need to go through a separate a master's program as is traditionally required to enter a graduate level program.
While each program is different, the majority of BSN to PhD nursing programs require students to take core courses and electives, as well as complete a dissertation. Some programs also require students to complete an administrative, clinical, or nursing education specialty or declare a major and minor. Completion of all of these requirements typically requires four years of full-time study. The career opportunities for PhD-level nurses are quite broad; options include working as a high-level administrator, educator, researcher, clinician, or specialist. Employers include private and public organizations such as hospitals, research companies, universities, and health clinics.
The BSN to DNP is more focused on advanced clinical care skills and methods for increasing the levels of care. Students take courses in topics like nursing outcomes management, health finance, and systems leadership. Students may complete a capstone project or nursing rotation in an advanced practice area. DNP graduates generally use the degree to apply for leadership positions in clinical care, such as healthcare administrator or policymaker, in settings that require the highest level of training.Back to Top
Online associate degrees are available in nursing assistance, licensed practical nursing, and registered nursing, and typically take two to three years of full-time study to complete. These programs are offered at community colleges. Students must have a high school diploma or an equivalency to enroll; the latter option requires passing one of a variety of examinations such as the General Education Development test.
Graduates from accredited associate degree programs can work as RNs once they pass an examination and fulfill any other state licensure requirements. These candidates may earn higher salaries and benefits than those with a certificate. RNs can also work as legal nurse consultants if they pursue additional certification. Registered nurses can increase their career prospects by earning a bachelor’s degree in this field, which requires two more years of full-time study. Some universities offer specific programs for RNs to earn bachelor’s degrees. Candidates can earn professional certification to improve networking and earning potential.
Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs are offered for candidates who already hold RN credentials from an associate degree or diploma program. Applicants must have completed high school or have a GED. The college or university will require official transcripts from high school and any postsecondary programs the applicant has attended. Additional admission requirements may also exist for applicants from particular US states. A 120-credit program can be completed in two to four years, depending on the number of prior credits and experience a student can transfer to the bachelor's degree program.
Students enrolled in a BSN program are required to complete a certain number of general education credits. These courses may include biology, chemistry, fine arts, philosophy, psychology, sociology, or literature courses. Core courses required to satisfy the requirements for a nursing major include nursing informatics, trauma/critical care nursing, data management for nurse managers, evidence-based nursing, holistic nursing, or nursing leadership and health care policy.
The master’s degree in nursing provides bachelor’s-level nurses with advanced clinical care and leadership skills. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program generally takes two years to complete when students enroll on a full-time basis. These programs include 40 to 70 credits, depending on the applicant’s experience and the degree focus. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree in nursing to apply.
The curriculum of the MSN depends on the program specialization. Clinical programs focus on advanced skills for assessing patients, managing cases, and promoting health in patients. Within these clinical programs, students choose a particular focus, such as nurse practitioner, midwife, clinical nurse specialist, or psychiatric nursing. Clinical care MSN degrees always require clinical rounds in a healthcare facility, where nurses practice advanced hands-on care.
The doctoral degree in nursing trains nurses in the highest levels of nursing clinical practice or scholarship. These programs come in two distinct types: the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in nursing and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). These programs typically take three to five years to complete, depending on the applicant’s experience. Applicants to doctorate programs in nursing need an accredited bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing, along with a nursing license. Some programs require a year or more of professional nursing experience.
Accredited schools and programs are those that have undergone a thorough peer-review process and been found to meet the minimum standards associated with educational quality. Both the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) play a vital role in the accreditation of nursing education in the
Accreditation is a vital aspect in nursing education, as it helps to promote accountability of nursing educational programs to various stakeholders, including the public, other academic institutions, students, employers, and the nursing profession as a whole. Most employers prefer to hire candidates who have completed accredited degree programs, as they are more likely to be trained with the relevant skills to perform well on the job. Schools that have received regional or national accreditation also qualify for funding support from federal and state agencies.
By selecting an accredited nursing program, you can expect to experience a quality educational experience as you prepare to provide direct patient care service. For students who are considering applying for other academic degrees, accreditation is also necessary for any credits you would like to transfer to another academic institution. Completion of an accredited nursing program will also help you meet eligibility requirements to take the national nursing license exam or to apply for specialized board certifications for nurses. To identify accredited nursing programs, visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the US Department of Education.Back to Top
All nurses in the United States must pass a certification exam in order to obtain licensure. In order to be eligible to take the exam, students must have graduated from a CCNE-accredited nursing program. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The two types of examinations are the NCLEX-RN, which is for registered nurses, and NCLEX-PN, which is for practical nurses. These exams test the knowledge and skills required for practicing nursing in the United States.
The tests are designed to ensure that nursing professionals have the appropriate healthcare and professional knowledge before they begin working with patients and handling sensitive healthcare information. Students can find a detailed breakdown of what the NCLEX concentrates on, and to what extent, at the NCSBN. The tests focus on different skill sets and knowledge, ensuring that nurses are prepared to best serve their patients. They are divided into four basic "client needs" categories: safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity. (NCSBN)
In addition to passing the appropriate NCLEX exam, state requirements set forth by each state’s board of nursing or regulatory body must also be met by each candidate in order to obtain licensure. Some states require licensed nurses to complete continuing education hours during each license renewal period to demonstrate their knowledge and update their skills. Check with your state's nursing board to learn more about their specific licensing requirements.Back to Top
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Registered Nurses. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Accessed October 14, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment Statistics. Accessed October 14, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Accessed October 14, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Accessed October 14, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm.