Guide to Online BSN Programs

By Craig Miller


 Nursing is an in-demand field that provides many rewarding opportunities. If you are interested in nursing, you can choose between several levels, including entry-level positions such as CNA and RN. 

You can also choose to further your education with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in nursing.  Either option provides nurses with more opportunities and responsibilities. This guide discusses the journey to obtain a BSN as well as some of the top online BSN programs. 

What is a BSN Program?

BSN stands for Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It is a four-year undergraduate degree program for those looking to be nurses. You do not need a BSN to work as an RN or a CNA. However, as a BSN provides training for comprehensive patient care and additional clinical practice, more employers now require registered nurses to have a Bachelor’s degree. 

What’s the Difference Between RN and BSN Programs?

RNs, or registered nurses, are licensed nurses. They have completed a two-year ADN, or Associate Degree in Nursing, and have taken the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX RN). This makes them eligible for entry-level nursing positions. Typically, a registered nurse can provide the following:

  • Monitoring and recording patients’ vital signs and progress 
  • Creating care plans
  • Assisting with procedures
  • Collecting blood and lab work
  • Administering medications, treatments, and IVs 
  • Caring for wounds
  • Educating patients

A BSN is a Bachelor’s program that prepares nurses for more medical and patient tasks. BSN educated nurses can complete all tasks that an RN does as well as:

  • Operating complex medical equipment
  • Evaluating patients
  • Performing diagnostic tests
  • Teaching and supervising nursing staff
  • Assisting medical team members with more comprehensive procedures and more

A BSN degree program takes about four years to complete, whereas you can become a licensed RN in about two years. 

What is an Online RN to BSN Program?

Many nursing students complete an ADN program so that they can quickly start their nursing careers. While working, they often decide that they want greater career opportunities and higher pay, leading them to return to school for a Bachelor’s degree. 

An RN to BSN completion program is designed for this purpose. It allows nurses with an active RN license and an ADN to easily further their education. RN to BSN programs are considered a bridge program. It counts the credits you received in your associate’s degree towards your Bachelor’s credit requirements. 

You can complete most RN to BSN programs in as little as 12 months. However, students can spread it out over multiple years to accommodate for work and life commitments. 

Is A BSN Online Degree Program Worth It? 

A BSN offers several benefits over an ADN. One significant benefit is the pay. As of July 2021, the average salary of those with a BSN is about $87,000 per year. Those with an ADN average about $71,000 per year

Another difference is in the job opportunities. Due to the advanced teaching involved in a BSN, students are prepared for more responsibilities and roles than those with an ADN. This means that you have more career opportunities after receiving your BSN.

Lastly, depending on your goals, a BSN can help you obtain a more fulfilling career. This is due to your opportunities to work with the patient group of your choice and your ability to work more in-depth with those patients. Completing your BSN degree program can also ease the path to enter graduate school for an MSN program.

Are Online BSN Degrees Accepted?

Yes, online BSN degrees are accepted. As you are required to do your clinical training in person, an online BSN degree qualifies you to work anywhere. Additionally, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the way that school has been held, online degrees are becoming more widely accepted. 

The most important step in having your online BSN degree accepted is ensuring your BSN program is accredited. Search for a regionally accredited school and accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Admissions Requirements for Online BSN Programs

Different BSN programs have different requirements for nursing students, so there is not a set list to go by. However, the following are some of the most common requirements.

  • GPA: Most programs require a GPA from 2.5 to 3.0. Some accept as low as 2.0 and others that require up to a 3.5. 
  • Prerequisite courses: Many programs require at least one year of two high school science courses, such as biology, anatomy, chemistry, or physiology. You also typically need two years of math, and some require a credit in statistics. Again, these requirements often differ between programs.
  • Testing: The program you choose will likely require that you take one of the following: the SAT or TEAS, which is the Test of Essential Academic Skills. 

While those are the most common requirements, you may also need to provide transcripts, essays, recommendation letters, and more. 

What Courses Do Nursing Students Take in an Online BSN Program?

Traditional BSN programs include a mix of general education credits, nursing courses, and clinical training. General education courses often include some or all of the following:

  • Nutrition
  • Sociology
  • English composition
  • Technology
  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Sociology

Nursing and health sciences coursework typically includes some or all of those listed below. Keep in mind that the names of the classes might change between online programs.

  • Ethics in nursing and healthcare
  • Psychosocial nursing
  • Public health 
  • Family nursing
  • Basic statistics for evidence-based practice
  • Medical care 
  • Surgical care 
  • Health assessment 
  • Nursing informatics
  • Nursing management 
  • Nursing leadership
  • Pharmacology and therapeutics
  • Transition into professional nursing practice 
  • Community health promotion and disease prevention.

Required nursing coursework will depend on the BSN concentration you choose. RN to BSN programs are partially determined by your prerequisites, licensing, and other factors.

Students are required to complete up to 800 clinical hours of training depending on the nursing board’s requirements for that state. This training takes place in several healthcare locations with a variety of patients. 

BSN Concentrations to Choose From 

You can choose from several concentrations for your nursing degree. Your options vary between nursing schools. Some of the most common include the following:

  • Pediatrics
  • Neonatal care
  • Case management 
  • Nurse education 
  • Nursing research
  • Public health nursing 
  • Nursing forensics
  • Holistic nursing 
  • Military nursing 
  • Oncology
  • Community health nursing

Again, these are just a few. No matter what group of patients you hope to work with, there is a BSN concentration that can help you prepare for it.

Can You Complete Your Full BSN Degree Online?

Not entirely. You can complete the traditional learning online. However, you will have to complete your clinical training at a medical care site in local healthcare systems. Most programs have you complete your clinical hours in various settings, such as pediatric clinics, health departments, elder care facilities, and more.

What Are the Benefits of Online Nursing Degrees Over On-Campus Degrees?

The main benefit is convenience. Most adults have several obligations, including work and family. Taking time away from those obligations to sit inside a classroom is often a challenge and sometimes one that people can’t overcome. 

Online courses allow students the flexibility of working around their schedule. You can do coursework on your lunch break, during nap time, or while cooking dinner. As long as you meet any assignment deadlines, you can create your own education schedule to suit your life.

One concern is often that students will miss out on important lessons by not being in a classroom. That is not the case, as a nursing degree requires in-person clinical training. You receive your textbook learning online but still get hands-on learning during clinical hours.

Can You Get Financial Aid for an Online BSN Program?

Financial aid is available for an online nursing bachelor’s degree. You can apply for federal financial aid through grants and student loans by filling out the FAFSA. Most schools also have individual grants and scholarships that might help. Below are some additional options.

Employer Assistance

If you are currently a working nurse with an active RN license, you might be eligible for tuition assistance through your employer. Not all employers offer it, but many do, and it’s always worth asking. 

To qualify for employer assistance, you’ll likely be required to meet certain conditions. This would include agreements such as working for that employer for a set amount of time after completing nursing college. They might also only provide assistance to employees that have already worked for a specified amount of time. Speak with a member of your management staff for details.

Private Nursing Scholarships

You can also apply for private scholarships. These are usually in small amounts, but you can apply for several at a time. Any amount you receive reduces the tuition you are responsible for, which is very helpful if federal grants will not cover the full tuition. Some scholarships to consider include the following:

The Barbara Rhomberg Excellence in Nursing Scholarship

This scholarship is available for “non-traditional” students, referring to those that have had at least a three-year gap between completing high school and entering college. It is a $1,000 scholarship for a student’s fall semester. 

Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Scholarship

The Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Scholarship is a $5,000 scholarship available four times per year. To qualify for this scholarship, students must have a minimum of a 3.2 GPA. They must also be enrolled in or about to enter a nursing program with an AACN institution or through NursingCAS.

AAC’s Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship Program

The Behavioral Health Scholarship provides up to $5,000 to undergraduate and graduate students in behavioral health and addiction-related courses. These include programs such as: 

  • Psychology
  • Counseling 
  • Social work
  • Nursing 
  • Marriage and family therapy
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health training

There are other grants and private scholarships available to suit your needs. You can research opportunities on your own as well as ask your admissions advisor for information.  

Best Online BSN Programs

There are many online nursing programs available to suit your needs. The following are what we consider some of the best traditional online BSN and RN to BSN programs. 

Chamberlain University College of Nursing

Chamberlain University offers an RN to BSN program that you can complete in as little as three semesters. The CCNE accredits this program, so you can rest assured your online nursing degree will be honored.

Chamberlain counts an active RN license towards the credits required for the program. Upon transcript evaluation, you might receive even more credits before you take your first class. This not only saves you time but tuition and fees, as well, making it an affordable online RN to BSN program. 

The program is taught by nurse educators that have either an MSN – a Master’s degree in nursing – or a doctoral degree. This gives you the advantage of a practical and textbook education.

University of Texas

The University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing and Health Innovation provides another great option for an online RN to BSN program. It is an accelerated program that students can complete in as little as nine months. However, you can attend part-time if necessary.

There are a total of 92 credits required to complete the University of Texas online RN to BSN. Up to 29 of those can be transferred from an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma program. 

Ohio University School of Nursing

The Ohio University School of Nursing offers a very flexible online RN to BSN to ensure you can complete your degree around your career and obligations. Most courses are five weeks, but some are spread out over 14 weeks. You can work with your nursing school admissions advisor to create a schedule that suits your needs.

There is a total of 120 credits required, but the school accepts credits from your previous education. You must have an active registered nurse license, an Associate degree or nursing diploma, and a GPA of at least 2.0 to be accepted. 

Southeast Missouri State University

If you are a permanent resident of Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, or Illinois, Southeast Missouri State University has an online RN to BSN program available. It is delivered 100% online and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Southeast Missouri State’s program requires that you complete only six nursing courses in addition to any general education courses you have not yet completed in prior education. How long it takes to complete the online program depends directly on your education needs.

Maryville University

Maryville University offers both an online Bachelor’s in nursing and an online RN to BSN program, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). You can complete the online RN to BSN in as little as three semesters with transferred credits.

Coursework is completely online and provided by skilled and knowledgeable staff. The nursing school requires no ACT or SAT scores to apply for these nursing programs. 

University of Central Florida College of Nursing

The University of Central Florida’s school of nursing offers degrees of all levels. You can choose a traditional online BSN or an online RN to BSN program to meet your needs. 

The school is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and students have a 97% rate of passing the NCLEX RN on the first try. Nursing students can typically complete the traditional online BSN program in five semesters. The online RN to BSN can be completed in as little as three semesters. 

Arizona State University

Arizona State University’s school of nursing provides an online RN to BSN for licensed registered nurses. It’s comprised completely of online classes and requires only 39 credits to complete. 

To enter this program, prospective students must have already passed your NCLEX RN exam. If you have not yet done so, Arizona State University does have a concurrent enrollment program. Through this program, online students complete an Associate degree in nursing and a Bachelor’s degree simultaneously.

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati College of Nursing has an RN to BSN online nursing program. It is considered one of the fastest as it includes only nine nursing courses that are seven weeks each in addition to a 14-week capstone course. Students can complete it in as little as two semesters.

To apply, you must have an unencumbered RN license. You must also have a GPA of 2.5 of previous college coursework and a completed associate degree or nursing diploma.

University of Phoenix

The University of Phoenix offers both a traditional online Bachelor in nursing as well as RN to BSN programs. Both focus on preparing students with nursing leadership, contemporary nursing care, and critical thinking skills.

The RN to BSN is a fully accredited nursing program. You can transfer up to 87 credits from your Associate’s degree program to complete your program faster. The University of Phoenix also offers a Tuition Guarantee, ensuring that your rate is locked in until you complete your online courses.

University of Oklahoma College of Nursing

The Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing provides both traditional BSN and RN to BSN online programs. The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. 

The traditional BSN is comprised of 60 nursing credits in addition to 67 credits from prerequisite courses. The RN to BSN program requires 30 credit hours, which can be completed full-time or part-time.

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