Registered Nurses (RNs) are key players in the healthcare industry. As an RN, you can work alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals to provide a variety of services such as preventative and primary care and patient education. RNs may also work in many settings including hospitals, doctor's offices, outpatient health centers and skilled nursing facilities.

While you do not have the authority to diagnose and treat acute illness and prescribe medications like nurse practitioners (NPs), you can provide more advanced nursing care than licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). LPNs and LVNs usually work under your supervision.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nursing employment is projected to grow 12 percent through 2028. In addition, there could be more registered nurse jobs available than any other profession by 2022. This is mainly because of a greater emphasis on preventive care, increasing rates of chronic conditions and demand for healthcare services from baby boomers.

Below, we'll dive deeper into online schools for RNs and discuss the following:

Frequently Asked Questions

The minimum education requirement to become an RN is an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Degree levels at the associate, bachelor's and master's level qualify you to apply for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. To learn more about the specifics of the education needed to become an RN, review our career section for RNs.

Despite this, many RNs with associate degrees enroll in online schools for registered nursing to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) through an RN-to-BSN program. When you do, you can often take on more responsibilities, obtain management positions and enjoy higher pay.

In an online RN-to-BSN program you can take many of the courses required to earn a bachelor's degree such as anatomy and microbiology online. However, you'll need to complete your clinical hours and take your NCLEX-RN exam in person. Online courses can prepare you for these in-person components of RN-to-BSN programs.
There are certain characteristics strong RN to BSN programs have in common. If you're interested in becoming RN you should select online schools that have been approved by the State Board of Nursing, have a high NCLEX-RN pass rate and offer career assistance after graduation. In addition, you should only consider accredited programs.
Two primary bodies accredit online schools for RN-to-BSN programs on a national level. These include The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Best Online Colleges for RN-to-BSN in 2019-20

You can qualify to become an RN by earning a nursing degree at associate, bachelor's, and master's level and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. To learn more about the required schooling and licensing steps to becoming an RN, visit the Career Outlook: Registered Nurses section below. However, our research finds that many RNs show interest in pursuing a BSN through an RN-to-BSN bridge program.

We have compiled this list of the best online colleges for RN-to-BSN. Each ranking includes a brief school profile, how it supports online nursing students and the types of accredited RN-to-BSN online programs that are available. Visit our methodologies page to learn more about how we use official data to evaluate schools.

1

East Tennessee State University

Tuition & Fees
$8,935
Distance Education Participation
56%
Location
Johnson City, TN
School Type
4-year

ETSU's Academic Focus: East Tennessee State University is a public university known for its nurse-managed health centers and rural focus. The college aims to provide students a high-quality educational experience focused on excellent teaching, research training and practical skills.

Featured Resource: At ETSU, students enrolled in a registered nursing program online can access the Simulation Lab (SIM Lab), which creates realistic patient experiences, giving them more opportunities to learn.

RN-to-BSN at East Tennessee State University

RN-to-BSN

  • Applications are accepted each semester
  • Students are not required to complete all general education courses prior to starting the RN-to-BSN program
  • Consists of a practicum which includes two parts: a change project and clinical
  • Students have one semester after completing the program to pass the NCLEX - RN
2

University of Central Florida

Tuition & Fees
$6,368
Distance Education Participation
57%
Location
Orlando, FL
School Type
4-year

UCF's Academic Focus: University of Central Florida is a research-based state university. Its 40-year standing nursing college contains nationally recognized faculty, innovative research, evidence-based practice and an outstanding community service record.

Featured UCF Resource: Students pursuing a registered nursing online program at UCF can enjoy simulation technology that can train them on patient techniques.

RN-to-BSN at University of Central Florida

RN-to-BSN

  • Up to 29 credits for prior learning may be awarded
  • Can be completed in as quickly as three semesters or as slowly as 10 semesters
  • The program also includes service - learning courses,which require clinical rotations in medically underserved communities and long - term care facilities,hospitals and other healthcare agencies
  • The program provides care in a variety of acute,community and rehabilitative settings
3

Grand Canyon University

Tuition & Fees
$17,050
Distance Education Participation
90%
Location
Phoenix, AZ
School Type
4-year

GCU's Academic Focus: Grand Canyon University is a private, for-profit Christian university that aims to provide an academically challenging, value-based curriculum from Christian traditions. The university offers nursing programs that focus on comprehensive discussions and hands-on simulations.

Featured GCU Resource: Students can work with specialists in the Office of Field Experience to set up the clinical aspect of their degree program. These professionals can provide students with counseling, approve their selected site and communicate with the field experience instructors as needed.

RN-to-BSN at Grand Canyon University

RN-to-BSN

  • Designed to allow nurses to continue working while taking the classes
  • Program ends with a writing - intensive capstone course and planned clinical experiences
  • Includes an RN - to - MSN fast - track option
4

University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Tuition & Fees
$8,523
Distance Education Participation
35%
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
School Type
4-year

UCCS's Academic Focus: University of Colorado Colorado Springs is a public research university. Their Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El, College of Nursing and Health Sciences seeks to meet the challenges of the healthcare landscape through innovative programs that include education, practice, research and service. Its 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio gives students in an RN online program personal attention.

Featured UCCS Resource: UCCS's Helen and Arthur. E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences has partnerships with hundreds of hospitals and healthcare organizations. Through these partnerships, the school connects students to clinical and career opportunities.

RN-to-BSN at University of Colorado Colorado Springs

RN-to-BSN

  • Focuses on helping students master generalist nursing practice so they can provide nursing services in all types of environments with various populations
  • Classes for the program are 100 percent online
  • Programs are flexible allowing for schedule adjustments
  • Students can take up to two consecutive weeks off for break if needed and start again where they left off
5

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Tuition & Fees
$7,922
Distance Education Participation
81%
Location
Natchitoches, LA
School Type
4-year

NSU's Academic Focus: Northwestern State University of Louisiana, a public university with a nursing campus in Shreveport, is designed to assist individuals in achieving their professional goals. Their school of nursing serves the people of Louisiana, looking to improve the health of the state's citizens.

Featured NSU Resource: Students can receive online tutoring via NSU's The Academic Success Center. Tutoring sessions can be scheduled in advance and are conducted via WebEx video conferencing.

RN-to-BSN at Northwestern State University of Louisiana

RN-to-BSN

  • The program is offered 100 percent online
  • Students can complete theory and clinical degree program requirements in their own communities
  • Transferrable credits may be awarded on an individual basis
6

Drexel University

Tuition & Fees
$53,244
Distance Education Participation
12%
Location
Philadelphia, PA
School Type
4-year

DU's Academic Focus: Drexel University is a private research, technology-infused university with a clinical practice in an urban setting. It prepares clinicians to practice and lead in a rapidly changing healthcare system.

Featured DU Resource: DU allows students in an RN online program to utilize Shadow Health and Practice, an interactive software that can give them the chance to examine virtual patients and upload videos to demonstrate the skills they've learned.

RN-to-BSN at Drexel University

RN-to-BSN

  • The program maintains a maximum of 1: 25 faculty - to - student online class ratio
  • Nursing faculty are personally engaged with students online
  • Students can transfer up to 135 of the required 180 quarter credits to graduate
  • Students can gain access to clinical practice environments and simulated healthcare scenarios

Dual Accelerated RN - BSN - MSN

  • Intended for nurses who have a bachelor 's degree in a field other than nursing
  • Focuses on evidence - based practice,interdisciplinary leadership and risk assessment
  • Four concentrations including Clinical Nurse Leader;Nursing Education;Nursing Leadership in Health Systems Management;and Quality,Safety and Risk Management
7

Georgia Southern University

Tuition & Fees
$6,356
Distance Education Participation
36%
Location
Statesboro, GA
School Type
4-year

GSU's Academic Focus: Georgia Southern University is a public research university with a flagship campus in Statesboro. The university promotes talent and economic development, enhancing quality of life through cultural enrichment and community engagement.

Featured GSU Resource: The Office of Career and Professional Development can help students who are pursuing an RN online program find employment through the CareerShift job board, which allows them to create personal marketing campaigns and manage their job search in one place.

RN-to-BSN at Georgia Southern University

RN-to-BSN

  • Individual circumstances may be considered if a faster or slower pace for program completion is desired
  • Learn how to synthesize core knowledge from the liberal arts,sciences and nursing for professional practice
  • 24 / 7 access to individualized guidance
  • Students must attend a mandatory orientation
8

Rasmussen College-Minnesota

Tuition & Fees
$10,935
Distance Education Participation
90%
Location
St. Cloud, MN
School Type
4-year

RC's Academic Focus: Rasmussen College is a private, for-profit college that focuses on providing "affordable degrees for the real world."They've designed their nursing programs to make it possible to keep working while earning a BSN credential.

Featured RC Resource: Through RC's Flex Choice, students in a registered nursing online program may be able to earn credit for prior learning, online self-directed assessments or competency-based education. Flex Choice can give them the opportunity to earn their degrees faster.

RN-to-BSN at Rasmussen College - Minnesota

RN-to-BSN

  • Offers an Integrative Nursing elective to allow students to earn a Holistic Nursing Certification
  • Students can also learn the Essentials of Baccalaureate Education in Nursing and Quality and Safety Education for Nurses(QSEN) competencies
9

Gardner-Webb University

Tuition & Fees
$32,000
Distance Education Participation
49%
Location
Boiling Springs, NC
School Type
4-year

Gardner-Webb's Academic Focus: Gardner-Webb University is a private, Baptist-related university that places a strong emphasis on liberal arts and prepares students to make "significant contributions to God and humanity."

Featured Gardner - Webb Resource: Nursing students can access the John R. Dover Memorial Library, which offers tutorials, databases, journals and more. Students can also schedule a private research consultation and learn how to improve their research skills via Zoom video conferencing.

RN-to-BSN at Gardner - Webb University

RN-to-BSN

  • Emphasis on holistic healthcare and Christian values
  • Curriculum is based on social awareness,therapeutic relationships and clinical experience
  • Students who have completed an associate degree in nursing from a community college in North Carolina can complete their BSN in as little as one year
10

Maryville University of Saint Louis

Tuition & Fees
$28,470
Distance Education Participation
56%
Location
Saint Louis, MO
School Type
4-year

MU's Academic Focus: Founded in 1872, Maryville University is a private university that seeks to offer innovative education focused on student learning outcomes and success. The college offers online and in-person nursing degree programs through the Catherine McAuley School of Nursing.

Featured MU Resource: Students can gain hands-on experiences in the registered nursing field at Walker Hall, a facility that stimulates situations that often arise in intensive care units.

Registered Nursing at Maryville University of Saint Louis

RN to BSN

  • Can be completed in three semesters
  • ACT / SAT scores not needed to apply
  • Students can choose from electives such as Genetics in Nursing and Nursing at End - of -Life
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Online RN-to-BSN Program Overview

Online RN-to-BSN programs are designed for registered nurses who want to earn a bachelor of science in nursing. These programs can help you make more informed healthcare decisions through a study of research and theory. These types of programs can also nurture the development of your leadership skills.

While clinical requirements vary greatly from one RN-to-BSN online program to another, they are required for all programs. Upon graduating from an accredited RN-to-BSN program, most students find that they are more well-rounded nurses and have the skills and knowledge they need to advance their careers.

Requirements to Enroll

Each RN-to-BSN program has its own set of unique enrollment requirements. However, all programs require that you hold a current RN license. In addition, you may need an associate degree or diploma in nursing and a minimum GPA. A faculty interview, admission essay, letters of recommendation and a resume may be necessary, as well.

Time to Complete

It typically takes about 24 months for students to graduate from a registered nursing online school with a BSN. However, many schools offer accelerated programs that can be completed in anywhere between 9 to 18 months. It's important to note that these timeframes are based on full-time enrollment — part-time students take longer to earn their degrees.

Common Courses

    • Nursing Research
    • Public Health
    • Nursing Informatics
    • Genetics in Nursing
    • Family Assessment
    • Nursing Leadership
    • Evidence-Based Nursing Practice

What You Can Learn in a RN-to-BSN Program

  • Anatomy and Biology: During anatomy and biology studies, you can learn about various body systems such as the reproductive system, lymphatic system and cardiovascular system. With a solid understanding of anatomy and biology, you'll be able to properly examine, monitor and report patient conditions.
  • Pharmacology: Pharmacology refers to the study of how drugs work on the body, their side effects and the way the body uses them. At the end of a pharmacology course, you can understand how to properly describe, administer and counsel patients on their medication regimens.
  • Healthcare Informatics: Also known as health information systems, healthcare informatics use information technology to organize and analyze health records. Through a healthcare informatics course, you can learn how to use technologies to coordinate patient care, improve discharge planning and care transitions, reduce costs, become more efficient and most importantly, achieve better patient outcomes.

Career Outlook: Registered Nurses

As an RN you can pursue a variety of career paths. You can become a pediatric nurse and work with children, an oncology nurse and serve cancer patients or a geriatric nurse and care for the elderly. You may choose to combine one or more areas of practice.

RNs are not limited to employment in a hospital as you can also secure jobs in doctor's offices, nursing homes, schools and even patients' homes.

What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

While job duties and responsibilities of an RN depend on where you work and who you serve, an RN typically does the following:

How to Become a Registered Nurse

There are a few ways you can become a registered nurse. You can earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN), bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) or diploma from an RN online program. Once you graduate with your nursing diploma or degree, you must take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam, which is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

The NCLEX-RN exam includes at least 75 questions and determines whether you are ready for an entry-level nursing position. You can expect the exam to focus on topics such as basic patient care, disease detection and prevention and pharmacological therapies.

Once you pass the NCLEX-RN, you'll need to apply for an RN licensure in the state you in which you want to work. Each state has its own unique fees and requirements; so, obtaining an RN licensure in California is different than receiving one in Ohio. Depending on the state in which you live, you may want to pursue a multistate license through the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). This agreement permits a nurse to practice in their home state as well as other compact states.

Education doesn't end once you earn a nursing degree and obtain licensure because most states require continuing education hours every few years.

Registered Nursing Certifications and Exams

NCLEX-RN

Every state requires that you pass the NCLEX-RN exam before applying for RN licensure and working as an RN.

  • Requirements: Earn a diploma, associate, bachelor's or master's degree in nursing from an accredited program
  • Exam format: Computer-based test that must be taken at a Pearson Professional Center. It consists of anywhere from 75 to 265 questions, which are mostly multiple choice, fill in the blank or putting steps in a correct sequence.
  • How long does the certification last? Once you pass the NCLEX-RN, you won't have to take it again.

Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN)

The CPN, known as the gold standard for pediatric nurses, is a good option for RNs who want to care for children.

  • Requirements:

    1) Obtain an RN licensure and complete a minimum of 1800 hours of pediatric clinical experience within the past 24 months as an RN

    2) Or, have at least 5 years as an RN in pediatric nursing and 3,000 hours in pediatric nursing within the last 5 years with a minimum of 1000 hours within the past 24 months

  • Exam format: A three-hour long computer exam with 175 multiple-choice questions based on the exam content outline, which is a vital study reference.
  • How long does the certification last? CPNs need to participate with the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board Recertification Program every year.

Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN)

To prove their competency in oncology nursing, students can earn the OCN certification, which focuses on oncology nursing practice, treatment modalities and palliative care.

  • Requirements: Receive an RN licensure and show proof of two years of work experience within the last four years. In addition, 2,000 hours of specialty practice and 10 contact hours of continuing nursing education in oncology are required.
  • Exam format: Three-hour, 165 question multiple-choice exam on a computer
  • How long does the certification last? The OCN certification lasts four years.

Professional Organizations

While pursuing a nursing program to become an RN, you may want to join a professional nursing organization. Through these organizations, you can connect with other students and experienced RNs and stay up-to-date on the ever-evolving nursing industry.

ANA has been around since 1896 and strives to advance the nursing professional. Students in online schools for RNs can enjoy access to webinars, a career center, online professional tools and networking opportunities.
The mission of NASN is to optimize student health and learning by advancing school nursing. Students who join NASN can network with school nurses, take advantage of an online employment center and lock in continuing education discounts.
ANPD defines and promotes professional development practices in nursing to advance quality health care. The organization hosts educational events for students in a registered nursing program and nurses throughout the country. They offer scholarships as well.
ARN is designed for RNs who are interested in rehabilitation nursing. Its member benefits include live webinars, discounts to the annual ARN conference and articles from the Rehabilitation Nursing Journal (RNJ).

Related Rankings

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