Online Nursing Degree

The demand for nurses grows every year. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts the growth for registered nurses to be 15% between 2016-2026 (much faster than average). Nurses with higher degrees, such as a bachelor€™’s (BSN), master’s (MSN), or even doctorates (DNP), are receiving better job opportunities and higher salaries. Many licensed practical nurses and registered nurses are taking advantage of the flexibility of online nursing degree programs to earn higher degrees and increase their career opportunities.

There are several online nursing degree options, both graduate, and undergraduate, as well as degree bridge programs for students who want to get multiple degrees at once. Exploring different programs can help you decide which programs would be best for you and your career goals.

Online Nursing Degree Options

  • Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN): An ADN typically takes about two years to complete. Unlike a bachelor degree, an ADN focuses on technical skills instead of academics. Once you finish your ADN and pass the NCLEX-RN exam, you become an entry-level registered nurse. This means you can work in pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, infant nursing, or medical-surgical nursing. You can also become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Many programs allow you to do your clinical work at local healthcare facilities, so you can complete an online ADN from almost anywhere.
  • Bachelor Degree in Nursing (BSN): A BSN teaches more than just clinical skills but €”it places an emphasis on management, supervision, and community health. Some programs allow you to specialize your degree in areas like neonatal care or oncology. Many nursing careers require a BSN. Some online programs include an accelerated option for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject.
  • Master Degree in Nursing (MSN): An MSN will lead you to a variety of specialized career options, such as a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, a midwife, or a nurse educator. It i€™s also a step toward getting a doctorate degree or preparing for a leadership role.
  • Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP or Ph.D.): There are two kinds of doctorate degrees in nursing. The DNP focuses on the practice. I”t prepares you to be an expert as a practitioner and to apply new research findings to your work. A Ph.D. in nursing is a research degree—it qualifies you to conduct independent research and publish what you discover to improve the quality of care you give to your patients.

Online Nursing Bridge Programs

Some schools also offer online bridge programs, in which you earn two degrees at once. An online bridge program saves you time and money because you will not need to take courses that have material you have already learned.

Some programs are asynchronous, meaning you can log on and complete as much coursework as you want, whenever you want. Other programs are synchronous, meaning you log on at a predetermined time to meet remotely with your professor and classmates.

A bridge program is ideal for a student who is a registered nurse but has a bachelor’s degree in another field, or who has their LPN or associate degree and wants to earn their bachelor’€™s or master’s degree.

  • LPN to ADN: You do not need to be a licensed practical nurse (LPN) to get an ADN, but many programs will give you credit for your LPN to use toward your associate degree. In many programs, having an LPN will allow you to finish your ADN faster because you will not have to take courses with the information you learned when becoming an LPN. The program will probably require clinical hours, but many online programs allow you to complete your practical study at a local clinic or another healthcare facility.
  • LPN to BSN: Instead of earning your BSN in several courses by taking an LPN to RN program and then an RN to BSN program, you can start with your LPN and then earn your RN license and BSN degree in one program. An LPN to BSN program includes general education courses, such as English and humanities, instead of just nursing courses and clinical requirements. Most bachelor degree programs take about four years to complete, though some LPN to BSN programs can be shorter than this. The program length varies depending on how many transferrable college credits you earned previously.
  • RN to BSN: These programs are designed for students who have at least an ADN and have their registered nurse license. When you graduate with your BSN, you wi€™ll be eligible for positions, such as a clinical nurse manager, case management director, or a director of education. You will also be prepared to take the NCLEX-RN exam.
  • BSN to MSN: The BSN to MSN program is an accelerated nursing program, typically for students interested in nursing who already have a bachelor’s degree in another non-nursing field. This program helps you finish your BSN faster (about two years) so you can get started on your MSN degree sooner. Nurses with an MSN degree often seek specialized careers, such as a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist, among others.
  • RN to DNP: If you earned your RN license when you took the exam for your BSN and want to get your MSN and DNP as well, then you can enroll in a program that will allow you to get your graduate degrees at the same time. These programs teach you how to use research to improve clinical care and teach other nurses what you’€™ve learned.

Career Outlook for Nursing

The nursing sector has over 2.6 million jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects excellent job opportunities; however job opportunities may vary by employment and geographic setting. 60 percent of registered nurse jobs are in hospitals, 8 percent in doctor’s offices, 5 percent in home healthcare services and 3 percent in employment services.

nursing career growth

Salary Forecast for Careers in Nursing

nursing salaries 2011

How to Apply to an Online Nursing Program

Admission requirements for online programs will vary by among school and program. However, there are some criteria that most schools will require. These are some of the most common admission requirements for online nursing degrees:

  • Most schools require you to have a current RN license.
  • You will also need a minimum GPA from your previous studies (for example, many colleges look for a minimum 2.5 high school GPA for online BSN programs)
  • You will most likely be required to provide transcripts from other schools you’ve attended, whether they come from a high school or university. It will need to show that you’ve taken nursing-related courses, or you will also have to have a diploma in nursing.
  • Many schools, especially at the graduate level, require professional and/or academic references.
  • Some programs, particularly graduate programs, require you to pass specific exams, such as the NCLEX-RN.
  • A criminal background check, physical examination, and/or a drug screening is also necessary for admission into many programs.
  • In some cases, you may have to submit a personal essay answering a prompt about the program and your interest in it.

What are the benefits of an online nursing degree vs. an on-campus nursing degree?

Online programs are generally more flexible than on-campus programs. In many programs, all of your coursework is completed online. This means you can either log on whenever you want and complete the assignments at your own pace, or you log on at a specific time to remotely meet with your professor and class.

Either way, you can take classes from the comfort of your home. Many schools also allow you to complete your clinical and practical experience at healthcare facilities near you, so it is possible to earn your degree without ever setting foot on campus.

Online degrees can also be much less expensive than on-campus programs. Since you do not get charged fees for campus maintenance or resource usage (such as the library), you pay less per credit than an on-campus student does.

Education Requirements for Nursing

nursing education paths


Colleges For Nursing Degrees

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