Best Online Nursing Programs

By Craig Miller


Online college coursework is becoming more and more popular. Many nursing programs are available in an online format, from associate degrees to advanced practice nursing degrees. Online programs allow for greater flexibility; you can have more control over your school and work balance. And in the end, you can get the same degree as those available through in-person programs. An online nursing program could be the perfect fit for you.
  • Online programs offer more flexibility and are becoming popular among nursing students.
  • The course requirements you take will be the same, but an online forum allows you to have more control over your schedule. You will need to complete clinical in person, even for an online degree.
  • Only you can decide on the perfect online program for you, but many options are available.

Need more flexibility? An online program could be the perfect fit for you.

Getting your education online is becoming more and more popular, and nursing is no exception. Maybe you are working a job and need to continue to earn income from it. While any nursing program is demanding, choosing an online program can allow you to spend more time working than a traditional in-person program. And suppose you are working toward your bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or an advanced practice degree. In that case, you may be able to take online courses part-time and continue to work full-time. It all depends on what you want and what type of degree you are trying to pursue.

What is the same between online nursing programs and in-person nursing programs?

Every school and program is a little different. There are differences in how teachers convey the material and how your specific schedule will look. However, regardless of what program you choose, the following components will be the same between an online and in-person program: The degree: The degree you get from an online program is equal to a degree achieved through in-person classes. However, you need to make sure that any online program is appropriately accredited. The material: The required coursework will be the same between an online and in-person program. The courses have the same requirements, so you will need to write the same papers and take the same tests. The demand: Nursing will be a demanding program, no matter what format you choose. You need to be prepared to put in the time and effort to succeed. While online programs allow you to pursue some elements at a slower pace, you need to be willing to put in the work to pass your classes and move forward.

What’s different between online nursing programs and in-person nursing programs?

While the types of degrees and coursework will often be the same between online and in-person programs, there are critical differences between the program types: Pace: Working online allows you to take more control of a program’s pace. For example, you can enroll in a program full-time or part-time. However, it will depend on the type of degree you are working towards. Class format: Your coursework is online, allowing you to complete it in a timeframe and setting that works for you. Traditional in-class programs require you to be in lectures for a set amount of time at a specific place. For online learning, you can break up the material based on your schedule needs and learn from the comfort of your couch. Independence: While you will still have the same deadlines and required coursework, you will have greater autonomy in an online format. You can control the schedule. However, you need to work through setting a plan for yourself and staying disciplined, which can be hard to do.

What about clinical time?

While you will be able to complete your lecture material online, you will need to complete your clinical time in person. The clinical component can be harder to complete in an online program at the associate degree level. While there are online associate degree programs, many online nursing programs focus on nurses earning their BSN degree or higher. For example, online programs may say that students can only complete the clinical requirements in certain states. Some programs, like the ones for an associate degree, will assign you to specific clinical locations. Other programs like your bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree let you pick your clinical sites and hours as long as the sites meet particular criteria. So, in one sense, no nursing program is ever completely online because of the clinical component. Ask about clinical requirements as you explore different online program options.

What types of nursing programs are available online?

There are a wide variety of nursing programs available in online formats. Several degrees are available based on your previous education and your education goals. A few different degrees include the following: Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): Once you get an associate degree in nursing, you are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). After passing this test, you are eligible to become a registered nurse (RN). Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): More employers are looking for nurses with a bachelor’s degree. One of the highly popular online programs is the RN to BSN program, designed around the needs of working nurses. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): You can get an advanced practice nursing degree such as nurse practitioner or nurse-midwife with an MSN degree. An MSN degree allows you even greater autonomy in your nursing career. It will enable you to step into even more leadership positions. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): Some advanced practice degrees, such as nurse anesthetist, require you to get your DNP. A DNP allows you to specialize even further, be in more teaching positions, and pursue research in your area of specialty. Online programs also offer accelerated options for many of their programs. These degrees usually allow you to bypass certain classes based on your previous education. Because of your background, it takes you a shorter amount of time to complete the program.

Balancing your at-home life

One of the major perks of online programs is the flexibility of your schedule. In addition to balancing any jobs, pursuing a degree online allows you to take the time you need to focus on your family and other at-home responsibilities. You can tailor your course load and when you work based on when you have time. It’s essential to communicate with the special people in your life. Tell them about your plans, such as how much time you will need to commit to the program or how your ability to do certain activities may change. Together, you and the people you love can plan to make your online experience go as smoothly as possible.

Ten online nursing programs to check out

Only you can discover the online nursing program that is best for you. It does depend on what type of program you are looking for. For example, some schools offer online accelerated programs while others do not. The school you choose to go through for a Master’s degree might differ from your school of choice for an associate degree. But here are a few schools to check out:

Purdue Global University:

Purdue Global University offers a wide variety of nursing degrees to fit your needs. Their online structure allows you to fit in your education in a way that works for you. Some of their programs include the following: Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): Purdue Global requires that your clinical component be completed in Iowa, Maine, or Nebraska facilities. RN to BSN Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Doctor of nursing practice (DNP) Costs: Tuition costs vary based on the type of degree you are getting. It generally costs around $15,000.00 to get an associate degree from Purdue Global and about $24,000.00 to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Duke University

Duke University has received very high rankings on its various programs. While their BSN program is in-person, they have online options for advanced practice degrees. Here are a few of the programs they offer: Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): The US News & World Report Rankings ranked their program number three for the 2022 Best Graduate Nursing School. You can choose to specialize in various areas, including health informatics, nursing education, and nurse practitioner. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): Some coursework is on-campus, and some is online. The US News & World Report Ranking ranked this school’s DNP program as number four for Best Doctor of Nursing Practice Program. Costs: Tuition costs will vary based on the degree you are working toward. However, the average price per semester in the MSN program is $12,896.00.

University of Phoenix

The University of Phoenix offers online programs for RNs working their BSN, MSN, or DNP. Their BSN and MSN programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. They have several flexible programs that build on your previous education to save you as much money as possible. For example, they have an option for RNs with a bachelor’s degree in another field. This bridge program allows these students to earn their MSN degrees faster than the traditional program. Costs: Tuition rates vary by program. The cost per tuition credit for their RN to BSN program is $350.00 per credit. The cost per tuition credit for their DNP program is $810.00 per credit.

Rivier University

Located in New Hampshire, Rivier University offers traditional and online nursing programs, opening up many opportunities to students. However, their associate degree is only available in person. For online options, they have an RN to BSN program and a bachelor’s degree in public health. For graduate-level work, they offer several programs, including: Family nurse practitioner (FNP) post-master’s certificate Master of public health MSN Family nurse practitioner MSN leadership in health systems management MSN nursing education MSN Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner Costs: Tuition cost is $35,445.00 per year for undergraduate programs. For professional studies programs, the price is $376.00 per credit hour for degrees and $1,061.00 per credit hour for nursing clinical courses. At the graduate level, the cost per credit hour maxes at $1,061.00.

University of Central Florida

This school appeals to online and in-person students, with multiple online program options available to nurses. The University of Central Florida has an RN to BSN online program. They also have courses available at the graduate level, including various MSN programs. For example, you can specialize in Nursing and Health Care Simulation, Nurse Educator, and Nursing Leadership and Management. The school made several ranking lists from the US News & World Report, including Best Online Programs for Grad Nursing and Best Online Programs for Bachelor’s degrees. Costs: For their BSN program, the price is $179.19 per credit hour for in-state students and $715.80 per credit hour for students out of state. For MSN programs, the cost is $327.32 per credit hour for in-state students and $1,151.72 per credit hour for out-of-state students.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University is an online school that has helped over 16,000 nursing students graduate. Their online RN to BSN program is particularly popular. Many students can transfer previous credits to earn their degree faster. They have MSN degree program options, both for students who have their RN and those who have their BSN. Their BSN and MSN programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. They show this accreditation on their website. Costs: For the RN to BSN program, the cost is $3,795.00 per six-month term, and students have to pay a $350.00 health professional student fee. The price is $4,385.00 per six-month term for the BSN to MSN programs. BSN to MSN students also have to pay the $350.00 health professional student fee.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University focuses most of its online options on graduate-level programs, including MSN and DNP programs in its possibilities. They offer several nurse practitioner programs with opportunities to specialize in geriatrics, family practice, and women’s health. Their DNP programs prepare nurses even further, emphasizing preparing leaders who can improve quality care. They also have post-graduate certificate courses available. Costs: Cost is \$2,278.00 per credit hour for their graduate nursing online programs, with a few additional fees.

University of Florida

At the University of Florida, you have several online options available, including their popular RN to BSN program. They were recognized in 2021 by the US News & World Report as having one of the best online programs for getting your bachelor’s degree. Their DNP program offers online coursework but requires some campus visits. However, their DNP program is ranked the number one DNP program in Florida. Costs:Cost is $212.71 per credit hour for students who are Florida residents and $955.28 per credit hour for non-state residents. For graduate-level courses, the price is $530.69 per credit hour for in-state students and $1,350.71 per credit hour for non-state residents.

Ohio State University

The Ohio State University College of Nursing wants to empower nurses of the future and prepare them for leadership positions. They have several nursing program options, including their RN to BSN program and their online master’s program. Their online master’s program was ranked number one in 2022 by the US News & World report. In 2018, their online bachelor program was ranked number 1 in the country by US News & World Report Rankings. Their nursing graduate programs ranked number two in the country back in 2018. Costs: Columbus online undergraduate coursework costs $5,717.00 for students taking between 12 and 18 credit hours. For Columbus graduate programs, the cost varies based on degree type. You can check out more tuition cost information here

CUNY School of Professional Studies

Located in New York, the CUNY School of Professional Studies offers online nursing classes at undergraduate and graduate levels. Their programs include the following: RN to BS in Nursing RN to BS-MS in Nursing: They have the option to specialize in nursing education, nursing informatics, and nursing organizational leadership. MS in Nursing: You can choose to specialize in their master’s degree programs in nursing education, nursing informatics, and nursing organizational leadership Costs: Tuition costs differ based on whether you are doing undergraduate or graduate-level coursework. Online undergraduate courses cost $305.00 per tuition credit. If you are a part-time student taking graduate-level coursework, the cost is $470.00 per credit. For full-time graduate students, the price is $5,545.00 per semester.

Find the right online program for you.

Nursing is an exciting field, with many different paths to choose from. As you explore online options, realize that the choice of school is up to you, and there are numerous solid options available. Get started with your online nursing education today. Do your research, and then pick the best school for you, based on your goals and the degree you want. You are going to do great.    

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