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Online Colleges for Nursing

Online nursing degrees have become extremely popular in the last several years among both men and women. This might be due to the fact that online education allows working nurses to pursue their degree despite long hours and ever-changing schedules. With the wide variety of specializations available to nurses—ranging from critical care to trauma care, oncology to pediatrics, anesthesia to infection control—nursing can be an exciting and fulfilling career. If the unpredictable hours of your schedule are obstructing your education, then an online degree might be just what the doctor ordered.

Best Online Colleges for Nursing

Registered nurses are the unsung heroes of the health care world. In many cases, registered nurses begin their career with an associate degree, which allows them to jump into patient care but might not offer many opportunities for advancement. That's where a good RN to BSN bridge program comes into play.

As most nurses know, there are hundreds of online colleges for nursing out there, and narrowing down the options can be tough. Fortunately, we've made it a bit easier with our list of the best online RN to BSN bridge programs. We reviewed over 250 online programs to come up with our comprehensive list of the best ones, using a solid methodology that took into account graduation rates, admission rates, tuition and more. Here are the results, presented as our top ten online bachelor's degree programs in nursing.

1

Mississippi University for Women

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$5,781
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
63.04%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
8
School Type
4-year

Chartered in 1884, Mississippi University for Women was the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, both men and women can take advantage of the programs offered by "The W." This includes the RN to BSN Advanced Placement Option through the Department of Baccalaureate Nursing. Students who enter the program must have a registered nursing license as well as 50 hours of completed general education studies. Most students can finish the program in three semesters.

The W boasts an excellent admissions rate of over 96 percent, as well as a respectable graduation rate and favorably priced tuition. In addition, the school definitely has a strong focus on nursing, as registered nursing degrees accounted for over 54 percent of all degrees awarded by the school in 2015. These facts were part of what pushed Mississippi University for Women to the top of our list.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Board of Trustees

Location:

1100 College Street
Columbus, MS 39701
2

Georgia Highlands College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$3,115
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
N/A
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
2
School Type
4-year

Students looking for great education at an affordable price are likely to find it at Georgia Highlands College. Georgia Highlands College ranked an impressive No.6 out of 261 schools for tuition, making it the most affordable college on this list, which is particularly fortunate when you consider they also have an open admissions policy. The school is quite serious about its nursing programs, as a full quarter of all degrees awarded by the school in 2015 went to nursing students.

If that weren't attractive enough, the flexibility of the school’s RN to BSN Online Completion Program offers students the opportunity to attend full-time or part-time. Students can complete the program in as few as three consecutive semesters when attending full-time and four semesters when completing their work on a part-time basis. This part-time option is a huge benefit of GHC’s online program for working nurses: they can continue to gain work experience and focus on earning their BSN at the same time.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Accreditation Commission on Education in Nursing

Location:

3175 Cedartown Hwy. S.E.
Rome, GA 30161-3897
3

Winston-Salem State University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$5,707
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
29.45%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
7
School Type
4-year

Founded in 1892, Winston-Salem State University has been recognized as one of the Top Public Schools in the U.S., as well as one of the Top Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report. The RN-BSN Outreach Option at WSSU recently began offering an online-only option in addition to the hybrid educational opportunity. Registered nurse students can expect to spend three semesters over the span of one year to complete their degree.

Admission to the RN-BSN program is highly competitive; however, the graduation rate ranks in the top half of all the schools we surveyed, showing that students who gain acceptance and work hard can look forward to obtaining their BSN. Tuition is favorable, ranking 17th out of all schools surveyed. With nursing degrees making up over 43 percent of all degrees awarded in 2015, WSSU obviously has a strong nursing department, which translates into an impressive showing on our prominence metric.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

Location:

601 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.
Winston-Salem, NC 27110-0001
4

Montana State University-Northern

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$5,329
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
48.54%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
6
School Type
4-year

With a student-faculty ratio of about 14 to one, students at Montana State University-Northern can rest assured they will receive top-notch attention from their teachers, even when taking the popular online RN-BSN Completion Program. The program builds on previous education with courses in community health, leadership and management and advanced clinical practice. (Please note this program does require clinical hours; however, those hours can be completed at the student's geographical location. No travel to the university is required.) In addition to the RN-BSN program, the school also offers an associate degree in nursing that is sufficient to prepare a student for registered nursing licensure.

Students interested in attending MSU Northern will be happy to know the university has an open admissions policy, and tuition is quite reasonable.

Accreditation:

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

Location:

300 W 11th St.
Havre, MT 59501
5

Mercy College of Health Sciences

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$16,268
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
65.53%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
3
School Type
4-year

This private Catholic college has been teaching students since it was founded as a school of nursing in 1918. Today it carries on the tradition of excellent nursing education with numerous programs focused on the health field, including the RN-BSN Nursing Online Program. Full-time students can complete the rigorous accelerated courses in as little as one year. Though students are expected to have their RN license upon admission, limited general education courses are available for those who need a refresher.

With an open admissions policy and well over 55 percent of students graduating from the program, students are poised for success at Mercy College. The school scored 5th in our prominence ranking, thanks in part to the wide selection of related programs available, as well as the fact that over 65 percent of degrees awarded by the school in 2015 were in the nursing field.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Location:

928 Sixth Ave
Des Moines, IA 50309-1239
6

Mount Carmel College of Nursing

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$19,340
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
36.31%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
4
School Type
4-year

With a strong emphasis on nursing education, MCCN offers an excellent eight to one student-faculty ratio, boasts a 93 percent NCLEX pass rate and offers financial aid to 90 percent of all enrolled students. The Online RN-BSN Completion Program allows students to choose a full-time or part-time path that fits in with their busy schedule. Those who complete the RN-BSN program with an eye toward teaching in an academic or health care setting can go further with the online graduate program in Nursing Education.

Out of all the degrees awarded by the school in 2015, over 87 percent were in nursing, indicating a top-notch department and plenty of related programs. Thus, Mount Carmel College ranks 2nd on our prominence metric, out of 261 schools! With over 81 percent of applicants admitted and a graduation rate of over 71 percent, it's safe to say students at MCCN are serious about their education. Those looking for the best online colleges for nursing should definitely consider pursuing their educational goals here.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Location:

127 So. Davis Ave
Columbus, OH 43222-1504
7

College of Coastal Georgia

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$3,971
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
23.51%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
1
School Type
4-year

As part of the University System of Georgia, the College of Coastal Georgia ranked in the top ten of Top Public Schools of 2017 by U.S. News & World Report. And when ranking schools specifically for their online nursing programs, we also gave the College of Coastal Georgia high marks. The handful of online programs available at the school includes the RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which can be completed entirely through virtual means. Students can choose between three, four and five semesters to complete their studies, allowing for better flexibility for busy working nurses. The program accepts only those who are currently licensed to practice as registered nurses in Georgia.

Students who seek their RN to BSN through College of Coastal Georgia will find a favorable admissions rate, but even more favorable is the tuition rate: CCG ranked 11th in affordability out of over 250 online bachelor's degree programs in nursing across the country. These great advantages coupled with the strong flexibility of the program gave CCG a boost to our top ten.

Accreditation:

  • Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

Location:

One College Drive
Brunswick, GA 31520-3644
8

Cox College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$10,587
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
N/A
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
2
School Type
4-year

Serving students for over a century, Cox College is home to numerous programs that focus on health care, including the RN to BSN online program. Offered entirely online, the program consists of five 8-week blocks. Though students can complete the work at their own pace, the college requires completion of the program within five years of enrollment. Nurses who work for CoxHealth can receive a 20 percent discount on tuition.

Since the college focuses strongly on health care programs, it ranks very high on our prominence metrics. Almost 60 percent of applicants are accepted into the RN to BSN program. Perhaps thanks to allowing five years for program completion, Cox College boasts a graduation rate of over 98 percent, catapulting it to the top of our graduation rates and into the top ten online colleges for nursing.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Accrediting Commission for Education in Nursing

Location:

1423 N. Jefferson
Springfield, MO 65802
9

South Dakota State University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$8,172
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
32.62%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
28
School Type
4-year

As South Dakota's largest university, SDSU offers numerous programs to choose from, including the RN to BSN online option. Students can choose from three or five semesters in which to complete their degree, allowing a high level of flexibility for working nurses. With the option to transfer up to 90 community college credits, some students might find that their RN to BSN program is even shorter than they expected it would be.

Over 91 percent of applicants are accepted into the program, and the flexibility of the RN to BSN option might be one reason why the graduation rate sits at a comfortable 54 percent. The affordable costs of the program mean the school ranks very well in tuition. Students who want to take their career even further can opt to continue with the online master's degree in nursing.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Location:

Administration Lane
Brookings, SD 57007-1898
10

AmeriTech College-Draper

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$13,119
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
N/A
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
4
School Type
4-year

The AmeriTech College of Healthcare is available to those who want to work in the world of health, including nurses who want to earn their bachelor's degree. The RN to BSN Degree Completion Program can be completed in as little as three semesters and strives to prepare nurses to become leaders in their clinical fields or move into management and leadership areas. The 13 core courses must prepare nurses well, as the program has an impressive 100 percent placement rate, as reported by the school.

About 75 percent of all nurses who apply to the program are accepted, and the graduation rate is impressive at just over 81 percent. These points put AmeriTech College-Draper on our radar, and the impressive prominence metrics pushed it into the top ten. In the world of online RN to BSN bridge programs, this health care college rounds out the best of the best.

Accreditation:

  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Location:

12257 South Business Park Drive-Ste 100
Draper, UT 84020-6545

Degree Overview: Nursing

As the front line of patient care, nurses have a demanding job that requires rigorous, specialized training. Those who hope to follow in Florence Nightingale's footsteps are in the right place: in this section, you can get a sneak peek at some of the courses that nursing programs commonly include in their curriculum, as well as possible skills graduates will want to cultivate.

Online Nursing Courses

The curriculum offered in online education for nursing depends on the degree level. Although specific programs differ, the following provides a look at what kind of coursework students may find from the associate to the doctoral level.

  • A nursing associate degree program is intended to give students the foundation of the concepts they will need to obtain a state license and an entry-level job. On this level, the coursework may include topics such as pharmacology, nutrition and diet therapy, anatomy and physiology, developmental psychology and adult health.
  • Those who are just starting their nursing careers or registered nurses who want to advance their careers can pursue an online bachelor's degree program to be exposed to a more in-depth perspective on nursing. Students in such a program cover topics such as how to conduct a patient assessment, work with people in different age groups, dispense medications, and communicate effectively with patients and other medical professionals.
  • Workers who want to enter advanced nursing should consider a master's degree program. Students in these programs may choose a concentration to focus on, depending on their career goals: examples range from pediatrics, mental health, gerontology, primary care or public health nursing.
  • Doctoral nursing programs are generally completed by professionals who want to contribute to the future of the field by either teaching potential nurses or conducting medical research. Students in these programs typically explore qualitative and quantitative research methods, the history of nursing theory, health care informatics and health policy.

Career-Related Skills to Develop

Nurses need to be highly skilled to successfully deal with the rigors of their job. Below are some of the skills students may want to focus on developing while they complete an online program for nursing.

  • Physical stamina: Nurses not only spend a lot of time on their feet, but they also have to be able to move patients as they treat them. The clinical part of a nursing program is likely to give you a decent idea of the kind of physical expectations you will experience; if it is exhausting to you, it might be a good idea to improve your stamina before starting your career.
  • Listening: Sometimes a patient's understanding of their own body can lead to a much quicker and more accurate diagnosis. Nurses need to actively listen to patients in order to accurately assess what's wrong with them and make appropriate decisions about their care.
  • Verbal communication: Nurses are tasked with explaining complicated medical information to others, which requires strong verbal communication skills. From instructing patients on how to take their medication to discussing someone's condition with family members, nurses need to know how to speak to people in a way that can be understood.
  • Critical thinking: A patient's condition can rapidly change, so nurses must have the critical thinking skills needed to assess someone's visible symptoms and make decisions on how to provide the best treatment.

Nursing Specializations

In order to work legally, registered nurses must obtain a license from their state. Although the standards for licensing may differ from one state to the next, generally prospective RNs are required to earn a degree from a school accredited by the board of nursing in their state. In addition, they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) -- a computerized, multiple choice test that has between 75 and 265 questions on topics such as client rights, disease prevention, crisis intervention and pharmacological pain management.

Similarly, vocational nurses and practical nurses are also required to earn a state license in order to work in the field. These professionals must successfully complete a state-approved degree program and pass the NCLEX-PN.

Nurses can also earn voluntary certifications to demonstrate their expertise in a specific subsection of the field. For example, certifications are available for ambulatory care, forensic, gerontological, informatics, pediatric and mental health nursing.

Nursing Career Outlook

Registered Nurses
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$72,180
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
1,088,400
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
16
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

People in registered nurse careers are on the front lines of the health care field. These professionals provide the advice and care that patients and their family members may need when dealing with a variety of illnesses, injuries or chronic conditions. They may also focus on preventative care with individuals or for a larger community.

Career opportunities for registered nurses may be available in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools, the military, physicians' offices, correctional facilities or nursing care facilities.

In order to meet the demands of the job, nurses go through rigorous education programs that may result in a diploma, associate or bachelor's degree. In addition, registered nurses must be granted a license in their state to get a job after graduation. Registered nurses may concentrate on specific patient care areas, such as rehabilitation, neonatology, addiction, critical care, nephrology and cardiovascular.

Clinical Directors
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$109,370
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
140,500
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
16.9
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

The primary goal for clinical directors is to ensure that medical facilities run properly and provide quality care to patients. From hiring staff to managing money to creating patient programs, these professionals are responsible for every aspect of running a health care facility.

Specific job duties of those in clinical director careers include coordinating and supervising patient care services; hiring and training employees; creating budgets for each department in the facility and ensuring they are adhered to; and maintaining patient records and other documents.

The required education for this position depends on the specific facility a clinical director works for. In some cases, a job candidate can get hired with a bachelor's degree, while other employers may require a master's.

Nurse Practitioners
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$104,610
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
74,700
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
35.2
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Master's degree

Registered nurses who want to advance in their career might consider becoming a nurse practitioner. In order to pursue a nurse practitioner career, RNs must first complete a master's degree program. They must also pass a national certification test and be licensed by their state.

These health care professionals may also decide to specialize in a subsection of the field -- such as acute care, oncology, gerontology, family or mental health nursing -- which requires specific training in that area.

Nurse practitioners may act as a patient's primary care provider, and in this role they are responsible for performing diagnostic tests and interpreting the results, providing treatment for chronic illnesses, prescribing medications and providing routine patient checkups.

Sources and Methodologies

Methodology

To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:

  1. Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor's) in that subject online
  2. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2014-15

Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on five criteria:

  1. In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  2. Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  3. Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  4. Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  5. Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015

Sources:

  1. Mississippi University for Women, RN-to-BSN Advanced Placement Option, http://www.muw.edu/nslp/bsn/rnbsn
  2. Georgia Highland College, RN to BSN Program, http://www2.highlands.edu/site/bsn
  3. Winston-Salem State University, RN-BSN Option, https://www.wssu.edu/academics/distance-learning/rn-bsn-option/default.aspx
  4. Montana State University Northern, Department of Nursing, http://www.msun.edu/academics/nursing/aboutprogs.aspx
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  7. College of Coastal Georgia, School of Nursing & Health Sciences, https://www2.ccga.edu/Academics/SchoolNursing/rntobsn.asp
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  40. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
  41. https://www.ncsbn.org/nclex.htm
  42. http://nursing.unc.edu/current-students/academic-counseling/nclex-rn-exam/frequently-asked-questions-about-nclex-rn/
  43. https://www.kaptest.com/nursing/nclex-prep/nclex-rn/about-the-nclex-rn
  44. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm
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Sources and Methodologies