2018 Accredited Online Nursing Programs by State
This comprehensive list of 366 online nursing schools, arranged by state, includes tuition information, NCLEX pass rates, and campus locations. We also provide the top online RN to BSN schools and top online MSN schools based on value, to assist students with their search for quality online nursing degrees.
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.
Comprehensive List of Online Nursing Programs by State:
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. After becoming licensed in the 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.
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.
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 nursing license from in this state is recognized in the 23 other compact nursing states. Arkansas requires license renewal every two years. The University of Arkansas offers an online bachelor's in nursing degree which is the longest accredited BSN program in the state.
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. California also offers two alternatives to obtaining a degree in order to become a registered nurse: the LVN 30 Unit Option which is not recognized by most other states and the Military Corpsmen to RN option through which military personnel can earn an RN license if they've completed RN level education and have clinical experience.
Colorado is one of twenty-four compact states. Colorado nursing licenses will be recognized in the other 23 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 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. University of Phoenix has one of the lowest tuitions in the state and offers online nursing programs at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Sacred Heart University stands out among other Connecticut nursing schools for its high NCLEX pass rate.
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. Delaware is also one of 24 compact states. 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.
There are many 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. 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.
Several schools in Georgia offer online nursing degrees and 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. Georgia requires nursing licenses to be renewed every two years.
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.Hawaii nurses must renew their licenses every two years by June 30.
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. 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.
Students looking for online nursing degrees based in Illinois have multiple options. Tuitions at the following schools vary, with some of the least expensive schools being Rasmussen College and University of Phoenix. Nurses in Illinois must renew their licenses every two years by May 31 and have 20 hours of continuing education credits in order to renew.
There are many available online nursing programs in Indiana. 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. Indiana nurses must renew their licenses every two years by Oct. 31.
Iowa is a compact state. Licenses are renewed every three 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. Northern Kentucky University, Eastern Kentucky University, and Western Kentucky University all offer nursing programs approved by the Kentucky Board of Nursing.
Full-time nurses (those who work at least 1600 hours a year) must have five hours of continuing education credits each year to renew. Part-time nurses (at least 160 hours of work a year) must have ten 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 has a few online nursing schools. University of Maine at Fort Kent has an online RN to BSN program. Each nursing student is assigned to a dedicated academic adviser. Saint Joseph's College of Maine also offers an online nursing program. Nurses must renew their license every year.
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 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
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. Youngstown State University provides students with the most affordable option, and offers an online RN to BSN completion program.
Oklahoma nurses must renew their license every two years. No continuing education is required to do so. A few schools offer online nursing degrees in Oklahoma, including Oral Roberts University, which has an online RN to BSN program, and the University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus, which has a PhD in Nursing program.
Only a few schools offer online nursing degrees in Oregon. 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.
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 Independence University.
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. Wheeling Jesuit University provides students with multiple online nursing degree options. It’s online RN to BSN 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.
2018 Top Online Colleges Offering Nursing Degrees
High academic strength scores combined with affordable annual tuitions make these schools the top options for online students seeking BSN and RN to BSN programs. University of Missouri at Saint Louis holds the top spot with an annual tuition of only $5,532 and a strong academic strength score of 69%. Eleventh-ranked Mercer University has the highest academic strength score, an impressive 74%, and a yearly tuition of $11,200.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Academic Strength|
|#1 University of Missouri at Saint Louis||Annual Tuition $5,532||Academic Strength 69%|
|#2 University of North Florida||Annual Tuition $8,550||Academic Strength 71%|
|#3 SUNY College at Plattsburgh||Annual Tuition $8,000||Academic Strength 68%|
|#4 Cleveland State University||Annual Tuition $6,561||Academic Strength 63%|
|#5 University of the Cumberlands||Annual Tuition $6,368||Academic Strength 62%|
|#6 Mississippi College||Annual Tuition $8,949||Academic Strength 70%|
|#7 University of Iowa||Annual Tuition $9,912||Academic Strength 73%|
|#8 University of North Georgia||Annual Tuition $7,350||Academic Strength 63%|
|#9 Auburn University at Montgomery||Annual Tuition $6,916||Academic Strength 62%|
|#10 SUNY College of Technology at Alfred||Annual Tuition $8,000||Academic Strength 64%|
|#11 Mercer University||Annual Tuition $11,200||Academic Strength 74%|
|#12 Regent University Online||Annual Tuition $8,850||Academic Strength 65%|
|#13 Union College - KY||Annual Tuition $7,500||Academic Strength 61%|
|#14 Nicholls State University||Annual Tuition $8,250||Academic Strength 63%|
|#15 Southeast Missouri State University||Annual Tuition $9,120||Academic Strength 65%|
|#16 University of Central Missouri||Annual Tuition $8,173||Academic Strength 62%|
|#17 The University of West Florida||Annual Tuition $9,257||Academic Strength 63%|
|#18 Colorado Mesa University||Annual Tuition $8,665||Academic Strength 61%|
|#19 Northwest Nazarene University||Annual Tuition $9,765||Academic Strength 64%|
|#20 Minot State University||Annual Tuition $8,406||Academic Strength 59%|
|#21 South Dakota State University||Annual Tuition $10,050||Academic Strength 64%|
|#22 University of South Dakota||Annual Tuition $10,050||Academic Strength 64%|
|#23 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin||Annual Tuition $9,209||Academic Strength 61%|
|#24 University of Indianapolis||Annual Tuition $9,900||Academic Strength 63%|
|#25 Palm Beach Atlantic University||Annual Tuition $10,940||Academic Strength 66%|
Which Nursing Degree Level Is Best for Me?
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 prerequisites, 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. See our top online RN to BSN programs.
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.
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.
Online associate degrees in nursing are good choices for individuals hoping to work as RNs. After completing an online associate program, graduates must take an exam and fulfill any other state licensure requirements. With additional certification, RNs may also be able to work as legal nurse consultants.
Applicants to an online associate degree program in nursing can expect two to three years of full-time study to complete their degrees. 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.
Classes in online associate nursing programs will most likely include some general education requirements in areas such as english, social science, math, and natural sciences. Nursing-specific coursework will focus on the fundamentals of nursing practice and may include subjects such as reproductive health, foundations in nursing practice, clinical assessments, pharmacology, acute care nursing, medical surgical nursing, maternal/newborn nursing, and psychiatric nursing.
After earning an associate degree, students may be interested in pursuing further education in nursing. Online options exist specifically for RNs looking to earn a BSN. Prospective RN to BSN students should peruse our top online colleges offering RN to BSN programs.
Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs are a good option for individuals who have already completed an associate degree program in nursing or who are already registered nurses.
Applicants to an online BSN program must have completed high school or have a GED and, in most cases, also have an RN license. 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.
Online master's degrees in nursing build upon the knowledge and skills students learn in BSN programs. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs help students to prepare for more advanced clinical care and leadership roles.
Online MSN programs generally take 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. Generally, applicants need a bachelor’s degree in nursing to apply. However, there are some RN to MSN degree programs which are open to applicants with only an associate degree in the field.
The curriculum of the MSN depends on the program specialization; there are a variety of MSN program specializations available online including nursing education, nursing leadership, nursing administration, and nurse informatics. 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). A PhD in nursing is focused on research while a DNP focuses on the clinical aspect of nursing.
Doctoral degrees in nursing typically take three to five years to complete, depending on the applicant’s experience. Applicants to doctoral 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.
Classes in an online doctoral program will vary based on specialization as well as based on whether it is a PhD program or a DNP program. PhD students will likely take courses on qualitative and quantitative analysis and research design, as well as more specialized classes for their concentration. Online nursing PhD students will also need to complete a dissertation at the end of their degree programs. Online DNP programs will include coursework in evidence-based practice, population health, healthcare policy, and nursing best practices. Some schools will require a final project.
There are a variety of certificate programs available in the field of nursing. Certificates can be earned by nurses at different stages in their career who want to learn an additional skill set or specialize in a certain area. For instance, a nurse may earn a certificate in gerontology in order to be able to work with the elderly, or in nurse administration in order to work in supervisory roles.
Online nursing certificate programs are available at colleges and universities. The length of time it takes to complete a certificate will vary depending on the type of certificate being earned. For instance, a post-master's certificate in a subject such as family nurse practitioner will take close to a year and a half to complete, while a nurse educator certificate may take less than a year. Admission requirements will depend on the level of certificate sought.
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 United States and are recognized by the US Department of Education. The two bodies provide specialized accreditation for postsecondary nursing educational programs that award certificates, diplomas, undergraduate, or graduate degrees.
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.
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.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Registered Nurses. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Accessed October 14, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm.
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- 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.
- Graduate Gerontology Certificate Program. University of Phoenix. Accessed October 27, 2016. http://www.phoenix.edu/programs/continuing-education/certificate-programs/nursing-and-health-care/ghc.html.
- Post Graduate Certificate - Family Nurse Practitioner. South University. Accessed October 27, 2016. https://www.southuniversity.edu/online/areas-of-study/nursing/family-nurse-practitioner-post-graduate-certificate-c.
- Post Graduate Certificate - Nurse Educator. South University. Accessed October 27, 2016. https://www.southuniversity.edu/online/areas-of-study/nursing/nurse-educator-post-graduate-certificate-c.