Online Nursing Programs

Enrollment in online courses continues to outpace traditional enrollment, and nursing is no exception. Online nursing programs have seen an explosion in growth over recent years due to widening acceptance of distance learning methods and the growing demand for BSN-educated nurses. Completing an online nursing program and receiving an online nursing degree provides working adults with the opportunity to further their credentialing, increase their salary and grow in their career, while continuing to balance work and family responsibilities.

We’ve partnered with nursing expert and YouTube star, Nurse Nacole to tell us what her online nursing program experience has been like and what she would tell prospective online nursing students. We’ve highlighted some of our favorite quotes from her video throughout the page, but be sure to check out the whole video and transcript here.

If you’ve been thinking about enrolling in a nursing program, but are unsure about the commitment, start your journey with an online nursing program!

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Nursing Programs

What is an online nursing program?

An online nursing program is a form of distance education allowing students to attend their nursing courses from any location that has high-speed internet access. Advances in technology and widespread acceptance of the benefits of an online education has seen the number of distance learners jump to more than 25%. With schools recognizing the needs for more accessible nursing options, more and more online nursing degrees have been awarded.

What can I actually expect from an online nursing program?

Our nursing video partner, Nurse Nacole, is currently enrolled in an online nursing program (getting her DNP!) and gives us some great tips on how to choose an online nursing program, how to be successful in one, and more.

So, don’t let us tell you what it might be like, let her tell you what it IS like!

Click the video below or here to watch Nurse Nacole’s video, “The Lowdown on Online Nursing Programs“. For those of you who don’t like watching videos, be sure to click through to access the transcript.

YouTube Video Nurse Nacole

Are online nursing programs easier than campus programs?

Online classes follow the same curriculum — and are taught by the same faculty members — as programs on campus. You’ll still have to pay attention to lectures, take quizzes and tests, write essays, and complete assignments. Your classes aren’t any easier; you just have a more flexible schedule in an online format.

If anything, online classes are more difficult. Without ever seeing a classmate or professor in-person, you have to be very proactive in prioritizing academics.

What are the benefits of an online nursing program?

For many students, the primary attraction of online nursing programs is the flexibility they offer. With distance education, online nursing students can plan their classes or coursework around family and professional responsibilities, allowing to them to further their education while maintaining an income.

Whether you’re a full-time parent or you are a full-time professional, I recommend everyone looking into online nursing programs, because they provide a level of flexibility that traditional universities do not.

Every online nursing program will vary somewhat, but in general, enrolling in an online nursing program means you rarely or never have to visit the campus and you can work at your own pace, as long as you meet weekly deadlines. This, however, may be quite different at the higher nursing-degree levels when there are more on-location clinical requirements. Check with your online nursing program before enrolling.

Affordability is another major factor in online nursing programs, since students do not have to pay fees for campus-based facilities.

On average, how much will an online nursing program cost?

It really depends where you go. Like with any degree, you can find a program for a few thousand dollars per year, and you can find schools charging upwards of $10,000 per semester. In general, online nursing programs are a little more affordable than campus-based programs, especially since you won’t have to pay any equipment or technology-related costs.

Students can also pursue scholarships. There are an array of institutional awards at all of your target schools, along with organizational scholarships awarded based on need or merit. We’d also be remiss to not mention that we have our own scholarships as well.

Who should get a nursing degree online?

While there is no clear-cut answer for who should pursue an online nursing program, you should consider an online nursing degree if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You need scheduling flexibility to attend classes on your time
  • There is no campus-based program within a reasonable distance of your home or work
  • You already have a degree and want to further your education while working
  • You work better independently

…if you’re a person looking into online nursing programs, you must understand that it is self-driven, self-directed, and you have to be organized

What are the three most important things to do before enrolling in an online nursing program?
  1. Check accreditation: An online nursing degree — or any degree for that matter — from an unaccredited program won’t be accepted by most employers and the transfer credits will not be accepted by accredited schools.
  2. Check clinical requirements: Many online nursing programs require a clinical component be completed in-person at a hospital or approved lab facility. You need to make sure that you can meet these requirements from your location.
  3. Check state residence requirements: If you’re applying to an online nursing program that is based outside of your state of residence, you need to double check that they are authorized to offer distance education in your state. Most nursing program pages should list this information upfront.
What online nursing degrees can I enroll in?

You can pursue most nursing degrees online, though by far the most popular are the online RN to BSN programs and online RN to MSN programs. These bridge programs offer a convenient path for working nurses to further their education and advance their careers, without leaving their job. Our site covers each type of online nursing degree in detail. See the links below for more information:

Conventional:

Bridge/Completion:

  • RN to BSN — coming soon
  • RN to MSN — coming soon
How do I apply to an online nursing program?
  1. Determine which degree you want
  2. Research quality online programs
    • Decide what type of school you’d like
    • Evaluate the curriculums at your prospective schools
    • Make a list of 3-5 target schools that you want to apply to
  3. Evaluate your target schools
    • Research each school’s program thoroughly on their website
    • Reach out to admission officers or department chairs with any questions you have
    • Make sure you research whether the program is offered entirely online or in a hybrid format
    • Submit application materials
Are there completely online nursing programs?

The majority of online nursing programs contain some sort of clinical component that must be completed in person. Each online nursing program varies, but in general clinicals can usually be completed at one of the following locations:

  • On-campus
  • At an approved lab or hospital
  • At a satellite campus
  • At your hospital of employment

Completely online nursing programs do exist, usually replacing their clinical requirements with an interactive online segment. As online nursing programs evolve, this option is becoming more common. Below we have listed some of the most popular nursing programs that offer 100% online nursing degrees. Be sure to check that you qualify for the program, as they are all different levels of degree.

If we missed your 100% online nursing degree program, please let us know!

Online Only Nursing Programs

To complete my online nursing program, will I need to go to campus?

In many cases, the answer is no. Some schools will want students to commute to campus for an orientation, or for lab work, but most online programs do not.

However, you will need to commute to a nursing facility for your clinical or practicum. A clinical is where nurses develop hands-on experience by shadowing nurses at work and conducting basic tasks under professional supervision. Your program will allow you to do this at an acceptable facility in or near your hometown.

How quickly can I complete my online nursing program?

Depending on how much time you have to study, finish assignments, and complete your clinical, you could graduate in anywhere from one to five years. Again though, it depends on the type of degree, your previous college experience, and whether or not you want to take classes in an accelerated format.

Associate degree programs generally take two years, whereas bachelor’s programs often take four years, or three in an accelerated format. While the online format gives you some flexibility with regards to when you watch lectures and complete assignments, you can’t necessarily take your classes at a significantly faster pace. For more information about a program’s schedule, be sure to contact your school’s program director, or a department chair.

I'm not sure if nursing is for me. Is there an online nursing program that can get me into nursing faster and with less commitment?

It sounds like an LPN program might be right for you. An LPN (licensed practical nurse) program differs from an RN in a couple of key ways. First, LPNs usually only take a year or so to complete, as opposed to four years for an RN. Graduates also have slightly different job duties: RNs administer medicine, provide instruction on how to manage illnesses, and perform diagnostic tests, while LPNs monitor a patient’s comfort and perform basic medical tasks, like checking blood pressure and measuring heart rate. Finally, LPN programs are usually more affordable, with many costing between $5,000 and $15,000.

The LPN will qualify you for introductory nursing positions, which allows you to get a feel for whether you like the routine and schedule that comes with being a nurse. LPN students can expect to take a variety of classes, including:

  • Intro to Patient Care
  • Nursing Fundamentals
  • Family Nursing Theory

There are plenty of LPN (also called LVN) programs online. These prepare you for the NCLEX-PN exam just as well as traditional on-campus programs.

I want to start nursing immediately; are there online accelerated nursing programs?

An accelerated nursing program is a degree that allows you to take classes at a faster pace than what most students take. Whether this involves taking more classes at once, or spending less time per course than typical, there are plenty of online accelerated nursing programs to choose from.

To succeed in an accelerated program, you’ll need to be able to give your full attention to coursework. Nursing classes are difficult in any circumstances, and in an accelerated program, you’ll be working with twice the amount of material. Accelerated programs only work well for self-motivated students with strong study habits, enough time to dedicate to their studies, and a strong enough interest in the field that you’ll be able to watch lectures and study for hours at a time at regular intervals.

I already have a bachelor's degree, but I want to go into nursing; are there online nursing programs for this?

There sure are. What you need is a secondary bachelor’s in nursing program — also known as a second degree. These programs allow you to skip the general education requirements and jump right into the meat of the nursing curriculum right away.

What equipment do I need to be able to take an online nursing class?

All online nursing programs will vary somewhat, depending on the school. But in general, to participate in an online nursing program, you will need the following:

  • A broadband internet connection
  • A laptop or desktop computer — PC vs Mac is an important distinction. Check with your program!
  • Word processing software

Make sure that you know what is expected of you so you can be, again, successful.

Other equipment that we’ve seen recommended or required for participating in an online nursing program includes:

  • A smartphone or tablet with a data plan
  • An external hard drive
  • A webcam and microphone
Will my online nursing courses provide me with on-the-job training?

Absolutely! Many students worry that their online nursing degree will not prepare them with on-the-job experience. However, this isn’t the case. The clinical component of an online nursing program is designed to ensure that all graduate are adequately prepared for their first day in the hospital.

…that’s why I really love online program, because I’m able to do my clinicals locally, meet local professionals in the area, and then network for future job opportunities.

In addition, many online nursing students opt to volunteer at a hospital where they want to work. This prepares them with hands-on experience and also puts them in a better position to get hired after graduating from their online nursing program.

If you already know which specialization you want to pursue, focus on researching schools that can accommodate your interests. Nursing programs aren’t all the same: they have different specializations, and you want to find one that caters to your professional ambitions. As you’re doing your research, be sure to reach out to program administrators to find out more about what your target schools offer.

Can I become a registered nurse through an online nursing program?

Yes — whether you want to enroll in an ADN or BSN, you’ll be able to do so online. All of these programs will allow you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, which you’ll have to pass to become a licensed nurse. There is no disadvantage to studying online when it comes to passing the NCLEX-RN.

Online programs offer an excellent education, on par with what you’ll find in a traditional classroom. Whether you’re pursuing an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or any other degree, you’ll find a detailed and robust curriculum online. As you advance into higher degrees, however, you will have to complete more residencies or campus-based clinicals, and these have to be done in-person. Before applying to a program, make sure that you are in a location where you can complete all in-person work near your home.

You also need to confirm that your target schools are properly accredited, and that the school can grant you a degree in the state where you live. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to reach out to the admissions department at your target schools.

Will my online nursing program/degree be recognized by future employers?

Yes, as long as your online nursing program is accredited, your online nursing degree will be recognized by all future employers.

What jobs can I apply for once I graduate from my online nursing program?

It depends on what your degree is — you’ll be qualified for a different set of jobs if you have a master’s than if you hold an LPN. As long as your online nursing program was accredited, your degree will be recognized by all future employers.

To get a better idea of the careers available for nursing graduates, we recommend that you check out our careers section.

What is a Diploma Mill?

Diploma mills are unaccredited institutions that offer degrees to students requiring little to no coursework. These programs are scams designed to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals looking for nursing degrees online, who are unaware of the importance of accreditation.

These scam institutions tend to have little to no academic standards and are primarily in the business of taking money from their students in exchange for a degree that will not be recognized by employers or other accredited programs. There are several characteristics of a diploma mill:

  • Advertising degrees that can be earned in an unrealistic amount of time, such as a bachelor’s degree in a matter of months.
  • A name that mimics another popular institution.
  • Professors with little-to-no involvement.
  • Offers credits for life experience that seem too good to be true.
  • Tuition is charged by degree instead of per credit.
  • A PO Box for an address.
  • A long list of accrediting agencies that is displayed too prominently.
How do I avoid a Diploma Mill?

ALWAYS CHECK ACCREDITATION BEFORE ENROLLING.

In an effort to trick students into applying and enrolling, many unaccredited schools will masquerade as legitimate institutions. As a general rule, you should always double check the accreditation of any nursing school through the AACN website or the ACEN website. This is especially important, as many schools will claim false accreditation through illegitimate agencies that look similar to actual accrediting bodies.

If you come across a school you suspect may be a diploma mill, check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if someone has filed a complaint against them. Unfortunately, diploma mills, while unscrupulous, aren’t entirely illegal.

If you do find yourself having fallen prey to one, your best options will be to get out quickly and file a report with your state’s attorney general and the BBB. These complaints will later form a record should action be taken against the school.

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