2019 Accredited Online Nursing Programs by State
This comprehensive list of 5 online nursing schools, arranged by state, includes tuition information, NCLEX pass rates, and campus locations. We also provide lists of the best online BSN schools and best online MSN schools based on value to assist students with their search for quality online nursing degrees. Students who are wondering which programs they are eligible for based on their current level of education might find answers in our section about bridge programs.
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:
Alabama has 11 schools that offer online nursing degrees. The University of South Alabama offers an RN to BSN program as well as an RN to MSN program and has an NCLEX pass rate of 94.10%. Additionally, it offers 16 master’s degrees 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 in order to renew, reinstate, or become issued with the RN or LPN license. Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) must also earn continuing education in pharmacology.
Arizona is one of 26 compact states, meaning students with a license from Arizona may practice in any other member state. To be eligible for license renewal, students must have graduated from a nursing program and received a degree. They also must have worked at least 960 hours as a nurse in the past 5 years or completed an Arizona Board approved refresher course. Some Arizona-based schools offering an online nursing degree include Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University, and Northern Arizona University.
Students in Arkansas seeking 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 this state enables someone to work as a nurse in the 25 other compact nursing states. Arkansas requires license renewal every two years. The University of Arkansas offers the longest standing CCNE-accredited BSN program in the state.
California offers several accredited online nursing programs. California State University - Dominguez Hills offers both an online RN to BSN and an online MSN program and is one of the most affordable colleges for nursing. The State of California also offers two alternatives to obtaining a degree in order to become a registered nurse: the Licensed Vocational Nurse (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 have completed RN-level education and have clinical experience.
Colorado Mesa University offers an RN to BSN program with a high NCLEX pass rate of 98%. Aspen University offers an online RN to MSN Bridge program which allows students who have earned an associate degree in nursing to graduate directly with a master's degree without having to attain a bachelor’s degree. Licenses must be renewed every two years.
Connecticut has eight colleges that offer online nursing programs. University of Phoenix offers the lowest tuition cost in the state starting at $9,635 and offers online nursing programs at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Sacred Heart University has the highest NCLEX pass rate at 94% and offers seven master’s degrees as well as an RN to BSN to MSN program.
There are two institutions that offer online nursing degrees in Delaware: University of Delaware and University of Phoenix. The University of Delaware offers an online RN to BSN, an online RN to MSN and a traditional MSN. Delaware is also one of the 26 compact states, which means that nurses who received their license in Delaware may use it to work in any of the other 25 compact states. Students who wish to renew their nursing license in Delaware must have completed the required continuing education (CE) and have worked as a nurse for at least 1,000 hours in the past five years or 400 hours in the past two years.
There are many schools that offer online nursing degrees in Florida. Florida State College at Jacksonville offers an online BSN program at a low-cost tuition of $9,944 per year. University of Central Florida offers both undergraduate and graduate online degrees in nursing and is notable for its high NCLEX pass rate of 98%. 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. Florida is a compact state, so nurses licensed here are also eligible to work in the other 25 compact states.
Georgia is home to many schools offering online nursing programs. Kennesaw State University is a noteworthy option for an MSN, with annual tuition starting at $7,940 and an NCLEX pass rate of 94.65%. Georgia College & State University also has a high NCLEX pass rate, an impressive 96%, and offers an RN to BSN program, a traditional BSN program, three master's degrees, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Nursing licenses issued in Georgia must be renewed every two years. Georgia is a compact state, so nurses licensed in this state may practice in any of the other 25 compact states.
The University of Hawaii at Hilo is one of the few universities in the state of Hawaii to offer accredited online nursing programs. Programs offered at the school include a traditional BSN program, an RN to BSN degree, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. In order to be eligible to practice nursing in Hawaii, applicants must be able to provide documentation of at least 30 contact hours of which eight hours must be in pharmacology. Nurses working in Hawaii must renew their license every two years by June 30th.
Idaho has four colleges that offer accredited online nursing programs. Boise State University offers an online RN to BSN degree as well as online master’s degrees in nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. Another Idaho-based college, Northwest Nazarene University, has a high NCLEX pass rate of 96%. Idaho nurses must renew their licenses every two years, by August 31st. Idaho is a compact state, so nursing licences from Idaho can be used in all of the other 25 compact states.
Students looking for online nursing degrees based in Illinois have multiple options. Eastern Illinois University offers online nursing degrees at a low annual tuition of $13,422. In addition to an RN to BSN program, Loyola University Chicago also offers students an online Master’s of Science in Nursing in Infection Prevention. Nurses in Illinois must renew their licenses every two years by May 31st and have 20 hours of continuing education credits in order to renew.
There are many available online nursing programs in Indiana. Western Governors University has one of the lowest tuition rates in the state, starting at $6,070 annually. WGU offers an RN to BSN program as well as six online master’s in nursing degrees. Indiana University - Bloomington also offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice program and a Ph.D. in Nursing Science for those who are seeking a higher nursing degree. Indiana nurses must renew their licenses every two years by October 31st.
Several colleges in Iowa offer online nursing degrees, including University of Iowa which has a 100% NCLEX pass rate. Located in Iowa City, University of Iowa offers 100% online nursing degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Iowa is a compact state, which enables nurses who earned their license in any of the 25 other compact states to practice in the state of Iowa and vice-versa. Licenses are renewed every three years. Nurses must complete 36 contact hours of continuing education and a course on mandatory approved identification and reporting of child and elderly abuse in order to be eligible for renewal.
Kansas has several colleges that offer online nursing degrees. Rasmussen College Online offers accredited nursing programs at an affordable tuition of $9,360. University of Kansas offers four online master’s in nursing programs in addition to an online RN to BSN program. 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.
There are many options for students to complete their nursing education online in the state of Kentucky. Union College - KY has a 100% NCLEX pass rate and offers an online RN to BSN program. Northern Kentucky University, which also has a high NCLEX pass rate, has 10 master’s in nursing degrees and a Doctor of Nursing Practice program for students seeking higher nursing education. Nurses applying for licensure who have not attained an initial nursing degree from a Kentucky program must complete three hours of Domestic Violence continuing education and one and a half hours of Pediatric Head Abuse Trauma education. Kentucky is also one of the 26 compact states, so nursing licenses earned in Kentucky are acceptable for use in any of the 25 other compact states.
Students seeking nursing education in the state of Louisiana have multiple options. University of Louisiana - Monroe offers online nursing programs and has a 94.57% NCLEX pass rate. Our Lady of the Lake College offers one of the lowest tuition costs in the state at $11,444 annually. 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 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.
Maine is a compact state, so licenses earned here can be used to practice in any of the other 25 compact states. Maine has a few online nursing programs; for example, University of Maine at Fort Kent has an online RN to BSN program for an affordable tuition of $7,575. Each nursing student is assigned to a dedicated academic adviser. University of Maine, located in Orono, also offers seven master’s in nursing degrees in addition to an RN to BSN program. Nurses must renew their licenses every year.
Maryland has many accredited colleges that offer online nursing programs. University of Maryland University College offers one of the most affordable online nursing programs in the state at $12,336 annually. Johns Hopkins University, which houses one of the most reputable medical programs in the nation, also offers online nursing programs. Maryland nurses must perform at least 1000 hours of work during each five-year period in order to renew their licenses. If a nurse hasn't met the minimum number of work hours, they are required to take a refresher course to renew their license. Maryland is a compact state, which means that nursing licenses earned in Maryland can be used in all of the other 25 compact states.
Massachusetts has various colleges that offer online nursing programs, including four campuses in the University of Massachusetts system. University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth offers the lowest tuition for an online nursing program in the state. Northeastern University has the highest NCLEX pass rate of all the schools listed. Nurses who want to work in Massachusetts must complete 15 contact hours of continuing education every two years to renew their licenses.
Registered nurses looking to complete their advanced nursing degree and work as a nurse in the state of Michigan will find many options. Baker College Online has the lowest tuition rate for online nursing programs in the state at $8,640 per year and has campuses in nine Michigan cities. Michigan State University, located in East Lansing, offers an RN to BSN program, three master’s degrees, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Michigan nurses must complete 25 contact hours of continuing education every two years in order to renew their licenses.
Minnesota offers many options for registered nurses wanting to continue their education. Two schools in the Minnesota State University system offer online nursing degrees; Minnesota State University at Mankato has an online RN to BSN program and an online Doctor of Nursing Practice program and Minnesota State University-Moorhead offers an online BSN and an online Master of Science in Nursing. Minnesota nurses must renew their licenses every two years and complete 24 contact hours of continuing education within that time period.
With a tuition of $6,112, Delta State University offers the lowest tuition in the state for an online nursing program. It also has a 100% NCLEX pass rate. Another option is University of Southern Mississippi, which offers an RN to BSN program and two master’s degrees in nursing. Mississippi is a compact state, meaning that nurses licensed in any one of the other 25 compact states can work in Mississippi, and vice-versa. Nurses must renew their license every two years.
Missouri is a compact state, so nursing licenses earned here can be used to practice in the other 25 compact states. Missouri has many online nursing programs, which vary greatly in tuition. One of the most affordable choices, University of Central Missouri, offers an RN to BSN program and three master’s in nursing degrees for an annual tuition of $13,767. Central Methodist University offers four master’s degrees in addition to an RN to BSN program starting at an affordable rate of $5,280 per year. Nursing licenses must be renewed every two years by April 30th.
Montana has three schools that offer online nursing programs. 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. Montana State University - Northern offers a traditional online BSN program for those just getting started with their nursing education. Nurses who reside in the state of Montana must complete 24 contact hours within each two-year renewal period. Montana is a compact state; this designation enables nurses licensed in Montana to work in any of the other 25 compact states.
Nebraska has several affordable options for online nursing education. Bellevue University, located in Bellevue, Nebraska, provides students with the most affordable option, and offers an online RN to BSN for a yearly tuition of $7,050. Creighton University, University of Phoenix, Nebraska Methodist College, and Purdue University Global all have campuses in Omaha and offer online nursing degrees. Registered nurses must complete a combination of contact hours and working hours during each two-year period in order to renew their licenses. Nebraska is also a compact state, meaning that nurses who earned their licenses in Nebraska can also work as nurses in all of the other 25 compact states.
Three Nevada schools offer online nursing programs, including the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and the University of Nevada Reno. Both offer online nursing degrees at the graduate level and have NCLEX pass rates over 96%. RNs licensed by the state of Nevada must finish 30 hours of continuing education requirements every two years in order to renew their license.
Three New Hampshire-based schools offer online nursing degrees. Plymouth State University’s online RN to BSN program gives students the flexibility of earning their degree through part- or full-time study. The University of New Hampshire, located in Durham, offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice and a hybrid post-master's certificate for Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners. Although New Hampshire state nursing requirements do not include any continuing education, licenses must be renewed annually. New Hampshire is one of the 26 compact states, so nurses licensed here can legally work in the other 25 member states.
Many New Jersey schools offer online nursing degrees, providing students with an array of programs from which to choose. Thomas Edison State College is the most affordable option, costing $9,036 in annual tuition. It offers both an online RN to BSN program and master’s degrees in nursing. It also has a high NCLEX pass rate of 100%. Nurses practicing in the state of New Jersey must complete 30 hours of continuing education during each two-year license renewal period.
Five schools with campuses in New Mexico offer online nursing degrees. Eastern New Mexico University provides students with one of the most affordable options, and includes online nursing degree programs at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Eastern New Mexico University also has the highest NCLEX pass rate of the listed schools at 86.4%. The state of New Mexico requires nurses to complete 30 hours of continuing education in order to renew their license every two years.
Five schools, including four SUNY institutions, offer online nursing degrees in the State of New York. 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. Excelsior College, located in Albany, offers online nursing degrees at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels. 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.
Many schools in North Carolina offer online nursing degrees. NCLEX pass rates are high at many of these schools, including Fayetteville State University, Western Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and North Carolina Central University. This list of colleges includes both private and public options. 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 licenses. North Carolina is a compact state, so nurses who are licensed in North Carolina are also eligible to work in the other 25 compact states.
Several North Dakota schools have online nursing programs. The University of Mary is one of the most affordable options available in the state and offers several online nursing degrees, including an RN to BSN and ADN to MSN Nurse Administrator program, among many others. Nurses practicing in North Dakota must complete 12 continuing education hours each year in order to renew their licenses. Students that earned initial licensure through the state's licensure exam do not need contact hours for their first renewal. North Dakota is a compact state, which means that nurses licensed in this state are also allowed to practice in any of the other 25 compact states.
Several Ohio schools offer online nursing degrees. Youngstown State University provides students with the lowest cost at $8,557 in annual tuition, and offers an online RN to BSN completion program. Cleveland State University offers an RN to BSN as well as five master’s in nursing degrees and an affordable tuition of $12,938. Ohio requires practicing nurses to complete 24 continuing education hours in order to renew their license every two years.
A few schools offer online nursing degrees in Oklahoma. Southwestern Oklahoma University offers an online RN to BSN program as well as a BSN to MSN program for an affordable tuition of $12,540. The University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus offers a Ph.D. in Nursing degree for those seeking an even higher level of nursing education. Oklahoma nurses must renew their license every two years. No continuing education is required to do so. Oklahoma is also a compact state, so nurses licensed here are able to practice nursing in any of the other 25 compact states.
Two schools offer online nursing degrees in Oregon: National American University Online and University of Phoenix. 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.
Many schools in Pennsylvania offer online nursing degree programs, including public research universities and private colleges. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania provides students with one of the most affordable options and offers online degrees at the master’s and doctorate level. Nurses in the state must complete 30 continuing education hours during each two-year renewal period.
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. Thirty hours of continuing education hours are required for nurses in South Carolina to renew their licenses, which expire every two years. South Carolina is one of the 26 compact states, so nursing licenses earned in South Carolina can also be used to practice in any of the other 25 compact states.
Four accredited colleges in South Dakota offer online nursing programs. South Dakota State University offers an RN to BSN program and master’s in nursing degrees at an affordable cost. South Dakota nurses must renew their license annually, though no continuing education hours are required to do so. South Dakota is a compact state, enabling nurses who earn their license here to practice in any of the other 25 compact states.
Several schools in Tennessee offer online nursing degree programs. Western Governors University, the most affordable option, offers both master’s and bachelor’s degrees for $6,070 in annual tuition. Nurses who work in Tennessee do not have to complete any continuing education hours in order to renew their licenses. However, licenses must be renewed each year. Tennessee is a compact state, which means that nurses licensed in Tennesse may work as nurses in any of the other 25 compact states.
Many schools in Texas offer online nursing programs. The University of Texas - Arlington offers online degrees at both the graduate and undergraduate level for an affordable tuition rate. West Texas A & M University, another public school in the state, offers an online RN to BSN and an online RN to MSN with an NCLEX pass rate of 94.52%. Texas nurses must complete 20 continuing education hours during each two-year renewal period. Texas is a compact state, which allows nurses licensed in Texas to work in all of the 25 other compact states.
Students seeking an online nursing degree in Utah may choose from several schools, including Western Governors University and Independence University. University of Utah, located in Salt Lake City, offers a fully online RN to BSN program with an optional specialization in Geriatric Nursing Leadership. Utah nurses become eligible to renew their licenses after completing a combination of patient care and contact hours. Licenses expire after two years. Because Utah is a compact state, nurses licensed here may practice in any of the other 25 compact states.
Several Virginia-based schools offer online nursing degrees. George Mason University, located in Fairfax, has both an RN to BSN and an MSN program. Liberty University, one of the more affordable schools, offers both a traditional online BSN program and online BSN to MSN programs. Nurses practicing in the state of Virginia must renew their license every year. No continuing education hours are required. Virginia is also a compact state, so nurses licensed in Virginia are able to practice in any of the other 25 compact states.
Several schools in Washington offer online nursing degrees, including Western Governors University and Gonzaga University. Gonzaga University offers online master's in nursing programs, including an RN to MSN program, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Washington-based nurses must complete 45 hours of continuing education during each renewal period of three years.
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. Nurses in Washington D.C. must complete 24 contact hours during each two-year renewal period.
Several West Virginia schools offer online nursing degrees. Wheeling Jesuit University provides students with multiple online nursing degree options accredited by the CCNE including an RN to BSN program. Fairmont State University is one of the more affordable options in West Virginia for a bachelor of science in nursing. West Virginia nurses must renew their license each year; the state requires 12 continuing education hours in order to do so. West Virginia is a compact state; this means that nurses licensed in this state are eligible to work in all of the other 25 compact states.
Multiple Wisconsin schools offer online nursing programs, including five of the University of Wisconsin campuses. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh offers a unique BS to BSN degree program, which allows students who currently have a bachelor of science degree to earn their BSN in a year. Registered nurses practicing in Wisconsin must renew their licenses annually. No continuing education hours are required.
2019 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Nursing Degrees
The 25 schools on the following list are the best online nursing programs based on their low tuition and high NCLEX pass rates. All schools listed have an NCLEX pass rate above 97% and an average tuition below $14,000. Ranked #1, Western Governors University offers the lowest tuition rate at $6,380 each year and one of the highest NCLEX pass rate at 100% for its online B.S. Nursing program.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||NCLEX Pass Rate|
Which Nursing Degree Level Is Best for Me?
There are six primary types of online nursing programs: RN to BSN, RN to MSN, BSN to MSN, second degree BSN, second degree MSN, and DNP. 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 and 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|
Online nursing bridge programs are a unique category of online nursing degrees. These online programs 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 small 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 at least 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.
Prospective students will find strong online master's in nursing programs at our 2018 best online master's in nursing schools.
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 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. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) plays a vital role in the accreditation of nursing education in the United States and is recognized by the US Department of Education. The accrediting body provides 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.
CNA and LPN Education
Certified nurse assistants (CNAs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are all entry level nursing careers. These positions differ slightly in terms of educational and licensure requirements, job responsibilities, salaries, and opportunities for growth.
A CNA supports an LVN/LPN or RN in providing basic patient care. They work most commonly in senior living communities, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and other similar facilities. To become a CNA, a candidate must have a high school diploma or GED and complete a CNA certification course. These courses are offered through community colleges, vocational schools, and even nursing homes. They can range from 4-16 weeks in length and involve both classes and clinical work, with exact requirements varying by state. Upon completion of a state-issued competency test, the graduate becomes registered to work as a CNA within that state. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNAs earn a median salary of $27,510.
LVNs and LPNs work under the supervision of doctors or RNs primarily in the same types of facilities as CNAs. However, LVNs and LPNs perform tasks of a slightly higher degree of responsibility than those of a CNA. The titles LVN and LPN denote the same job, the only difference being that LVN is the title used in California and Texas, whereas LPN is used in all other states. To become an LVN/LPN, one must hold a high school diploma or GED and attend an LVN/LPN program at a board-approved school. These programs may take the form of a diploma, certificate, or associate degree and typically require 1-2 years of full-time study to complete, though one year is most common. To receive licensure, a graduate must pass the NCLEX-PN licensing exam, a computerized test offered all over the country. Once licensed, an LVN/LPN can re-license when moving between states. However, requirements for LVNs/LPNs may vary slightly state to state; for example, IV certification is required in some states but not others. The median salary for LVNs/LPNs is $45,030 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Both CNA and LVN/LPN programs are great entry points for a career in nursing, though an individual should consider the differences when deciding which to pursue. A CNA assists with many of a patient’s day-to-day needs, such as checking vitals, serving meals, and helping with restroom use. An LVN/LPN takes on additional responsibilities, such as administering medication, collecting samples, and helping care for wounds. Because becoming a CNA requires less time than an LVN/LPN program, it may be the right choice for those interested in trying out a career in nursing before committing to the field long-term. Most CNA programs are non-credited, so a CNA who wishes to become an LVN/LPN may have to repeat coursework when he or she pursues further education. Individuals who are certain that a nursing career is right for them may prefer to dive right into an LVN/LPN program, as it comes with a higher salary, more responsibilities, and a faster path to advancement.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- BLS.gov. Accessed October 26, 2018. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm.
- BLS.gov. Accessed October 26, 2018. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm.