Are you considering an online nursing degree?

The famous founder of the Red Cross Clara Barton commented, “While soldiers can stand and fight, I can fight and feed them.”This memorable quip expresses the heart of a nurse. Nursing is more of a calling than a career, and the qualities that make a good nurse are determination, persistence, bravery, and dedication.

In today’s tech-world, nurses need specialized knowledge and skills. Nursing has always been a respected field, and though the demands of the job are intense, job satisfaction is high. When the patient is in pain, needs help or medicine, or requires assistance, the nurse who comes through the door is an angel. To relieve suffering, offer comfort and care, and provide a listening ear can literally bring life to the body and soul.

What is the job outlook for nurses and what is the salary?

The need for skilled nurses continues to grow, and jobs are plentiful from small-town rural clinics to urban hospitals. Not only can you work pretty much anywhere, but you can also obtain specialized training such as emergency room care, school nursing, obstetrics, intensive care, and more. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports a 12-percent job growth from 2018-28, much faster than average. Also, according to Payscale, the median income of a Registered Nurse with a BSN is $82,000.

What does it take for an RN to earn an online BSN?

First of all, you need to be aware that there are many great online RN to BSN degrees out there. We have compiled this list so you can search for what we consider to be the best. We’ve also included RN to MSN programs if the school offers one. The schools on our list are accredited, often with both regional and national accreditations. Faculty experts teach online programs and have outstanding reputations. There is no doubt that the popularity of online degrees is a result of them being accessible, flexible, and often more affordable than traditional brick-and-mortar programs. Admission to these effective online programs generally includes an unencumbered license, a minimum GPA from 2.0 to 3.0, and prerequisites. If you have an RN, you likely have undergraduate courses (through an associate’s degree) that will transfer into the RN to BSN. That’s precisely how colleges have built the RN to BSN programs. Generally, schools require 120 credits total to earn a bachelor’s degree and RN’s end up taking around 30 credits of advanced nursing coursework. Please note, these are generalizations, and prerequisites and transfer credit policies vary considerably from school to school.

What is your Methodology?

When building our ranking of the best online nursing degrees, we started by compiling a list of potential schools. To be considered, schools had to be based in the United States, be accredited, conduct the majority of their classes online, and be a non-profit school. This ranking is primarily based on affordability and a high Return on Investment (ROI). Scores were calculated based on the following three factors.

  • Cost per Credit Hour – 40 points
  • ROI – 30 points
  • Average Early Career Salary – 20 points
  • Reputation – 10 points

All of the information used to calculate a school’s score was taken from school websites, the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. News & World Report, and Payscale.com. Schools were given a score out of 100.

1
University of Alabama

Online RN to BSN, RN to MSN

One of the best online nursing programs in the nation is found at the University of Alabama. Fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the program is one of the most affordable on the list, at only $375 per credit hour. All courses are offered online, and students can complete their clinical requirements at a facility near their home. The program is designed for RNs who already have an associate degree or diploma in nursing and want to further their careers by earning a bachelors degree.

After finishing core classes to meet university requirements, students go on to complete 25 credit hours of nursing courses. There are three start times throughout the year, and students must have an RN license to apply for the program. For those who are looking to continue their studies at the graduate level, there is also an RN to MSN program available. Regardless of the path you choose to follow, you can rest assured that your investment is worth it, as the annual ROI at the University of Alabama is 6.8 percent.

About the University of Alabama

One of the oldest as well as one of the biggest public universities in Alabama, the University of Alabama, is richly steeped in history. The school was a center of activity during the Civil Rights Movements and is home to the only publicly supported law school in the state.

  • Location: Tuscaloosa, AL
  • Retention Rate: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 72%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 22 to 1

2
Stony Brook

Online Registered Nurse to Baccalaureate Degree Program (RNBP), RN to MSN

Stony Brook University provides some of the best online nursing programs in the nation. Their RNBP and RN to MSN are both offered online with some additional on-site requirements. The RNBP program focuses on knowledge and skills within the context of the world’s evolving healthcare environment. This program is designed for those who have completed 57 college credits with a C or higher, who have a GPA of 2.5 or above and are seeking to earn a BSN. You must have your RN within 11 weeks from the start of the program. The 43-credit curriculum includes Professional Role Development in Nursing, Clinical Epidemiology, Population Health Nursing, and a 28-credit Clinical Practice Portfolio.

The RN to MSN is built on the same solid foundations as the RNBP. The curriculum is advanced and leads to an MSN in a designated specialty. Admission requirements include the 57 credits from undergraduate work, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and one year minimum of RN experience. The ROI is favorable at 9.6 percent, and the early career salary is one of the best at $60,200.

About Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University is a public research university and a member of the AAU. Stony Brook is part of SUNY and a leader in research and innovation. For example, their Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC) is a collaborative venture of several institutions focusing on renewable energy and nanotechnology.

  • Location: Stony Brook, NY
  • Retention Rate:90%
  • Graduation Rate:74%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 18 to 1

3
Clayton State University

Online BSN Basic Licensure, BSN RN Completion, MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner

If you’re looking for the best online nursing programs, look no further than Clayton State University. Their online BSN RN Completion and MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner programs are perfect for the working professional. The foundation of CSU’s nursing programs is human caring, which is truly the heart of nursing. The MSN in FNP prepares you for national certification by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). The 47-credit curriculum is 100-percent online and can be completed in two years, taking nine credits a term. You are also required to complete 585 clinical hours. Most courses are delivered asynchronously, with some delivered synchronously. To be admitted to the MSN, you must be an RN with a BSN; admission requires you to submit a GRE as well.

The BSN Basic Licensure and RN to BSN completion is suited for the man or woman looking to become an RN or an RN looking to get their BSN. The degrees are online and recognized for their quality and affordability. Admission requirements require you to take the Kaplan Nursing Admission Test (KNAT), meet all prerequisite credits and have a minimum GPA of 2.8. Please note that at CLU, all clinical rotations/preceptorships must be completed in the state of Georgia. All in all, at $385 a credit and an 8-percent ROI, Clayton State is financially a smart choice.

About Clayton State University

Located approximately 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta, Clayton State Univerity is pleasantly situated on 192 acres of wooded grounds. The public university is a member of the University System of Georgia and home to 7,100 students.

  • Location: Morrow, GA
  • Retention Rate: 71%
  • Graduation Rate: 30%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 19 to 1

4
Mount Carmel College of Nursing

Online RN to BSN, RN to MSN

Mount Carmel College of Nursing is dedicated to training the next generation of nurses with several top online nursing degrees. The RN to BSN is accessible, quality, and affordable. The program is made for working nurses and can be completed full- or part-time. The program is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)and the Higher Learning Commission accredits the school. Additional verification of the quality shows up in their excellent faculty, long experience, and achieving Quality Matters (QM) course certification. QM is a peer-reviewed process that puts students first and improves achievement. All the courses in the RN to BSN are QM approved. The program is 44 credits after your transferred prerequisites. Some courses include:

  • Conceptual Foundations of Nursing
  • Caring Health Practices within the Community
  • Caring Practices within the Leadership Role
  • Ethical Issues
  • Religion & Spirituality
  • Applied Humanities

The RN to MSN program is from the same slice. The program is of outstanding quality and offers three specializations: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, or Nursing Leadership – Clinical Operations. The 48-credit hour program requires 500 clinical hours and can be completed in one-and-half years. The financial aspect of your decision looks solid—a $448 per credit tuition with a 9 percent ROI.

About Mount Carmel College of Nursing

Founded in 1886 by the Sister of the Holy Cross, Mount Carmel College of Nursing, or otherwise known as Mount Carmel West, is a primary care hospital located in downtown Columbus, Ohio. It is the oldest hospital in the Mount Carmel Health System.

  • Location: Columbus, OH
  • Retention Rate: 64%
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 9 to 1

5
5. University of Missouri - Kansas City

Online RN to BSN, RN to MSN

The University of Missouri – Kansas City’s top online nursing degrees help make your career goals a reality. The RN to BSN or RN to MSN are both online, fully accredited, and come with several tracks to choose from. Since the program is offered with various tracks, you have choices:

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
  • Nurse Educator (NE)
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP/AC PNP)

The MSN program involves 45-46 credits and requires some residency for clinical experience requirements. There is flexibility, and variety in the degree’s delivery as online coursework is both asynchronous and synchronous.

As for the RN to BSN, you’re looking at the same low price, high quality, and convenience. Set up for RNs looking to earn their BSN, 100-percent of coursework can be completed online. Admission requirements are simple—an unencumbered license and a minimum GPA of 2.5. Quality is essential, and at UMKC, their reputation for providing education with top-of-the-line technology, high faculty engagement, and excellent student outcomes and student satisfaction is apparent. UMKC makes financial sense as well, with a $50,800 early career salary and a 7.5-percent ROI.

About the University of Missouri – Kansas City

It all started with one building, a very generous man, and 80 students. Nowadays, the University of Missouri – Kansas City serves over 16,000 students from every state and countries from around the world. UMKC offers more than 125 academic areas, and the school produces results. Twelve students named have been named Fulbright Scholars since 2006.

  • Location: Kansas City, MO
  • Retention Rate: 73%
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 15 to 1

6
Fort Hays State University

Online RN to BSN, RN to MSN

Offering one of the best online nursing degrees is just part of doing business for Fort Hays State University. Their online RN to BSN and MSN programs provide a convenient and affordable way for RNs to earn their BSN or MSN. The $287 cost per credit is the third most inexpensive on our list. The RN to BSN program is 100-percent online and can be completed anywhere—from your home, a coffee shop, a library, or a park on a beautiful day—in only three months!

As for the MSN program, you can expect the same great online convenience. The clinical professional experience requirements are in-person, but FHSU works to negotiate something in your local area. The nursing programs at FHSU are CCNE-accredited, and you have two choices of tracks within the MSN: Nursing Administration (NA) or Nursing Education (NE). Both tracks are 36 credits. Coursework and clinical experience focus on leadership, clinical competence, knowledge, and skills in evidence-based nursing practice. The 7.6-percent ROI means FHSU is an investment over the long-term that pays.

About Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University’s story began in 1902 at an old army fort and 57 students paying $5 for tuition. It has since transformed into a large university offering academic options in just about every field. FHSU has one of the lowest tuition rates in the country and also operates a strong Virtual College.

  • Location: Hays, KS
  • Retention Rate: 73%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 17 to 1

7
University of Arkansas

Online LPN to BSN, RN to BSN, RN to MSN

The University of Arkansas offers top online nursing degrees that educate men and women with the knowledge and skills to succeed in our 21st-century economy. Three options for online nursing degrees at U of A are the Online LPN to BSN, RN to BSN, and RN to MSN. They are all 100-percent online with the LPN requiring clinical experience that is face-to-face in your local area. The Eleanor Mann School of Nursing is CCNE-accredited, so any choice at U of A is a quality choice. The curriculum is delivered via 8-week courses, and the RN to BSN program is asynchronous and all-year-round.

If you’re looking to earn your MSN, the U of A is a great place to do it. You can choose between a thesis (42 credits), or a non-thesis (39 credits) and can enroll full-time or part-time depending on what your life demands. Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA from your BSN and GRE scores. Be sure to check out the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for any of the nursing programs; the scholarship awards $2000 to 20 students. Also, check out the Arkansas Graduate Nursing Education Student Loan and Scholarship (AGNSLS) Program, which can convert your loans to grants.

About the University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas is a public, research, flagship campus. U of A is vast and diverse, with over 27,000 students. The school is classified as the “highest research activity” by Carnegie and is known for innovation. Their “student-first” philosophy continues to drive U of A’s success.

  • Location: Fayetteville, AR
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 18 to 1

8
University of Colorado - Denver

Online RN To BS In Nursing, I-LEAD Nursing Leadership And Health Care Systems Master’s, Veteran And Military Health Care Master’s

Top online nursing degrees abound at UC Denver. There are multiple hybrids and completely online nursing options—the 100-percent online options are the Online RN To BS In Nursing, I-LEAD Nursing Leadership And Health Care Systems Master’s, and Veteran And Military Health Care Masters. The RN to BS in Nursing is for registered nurses who seek to earn their nursing degree with the convenience of continuing to work. The 30-credit, four-semester program can be completed anywhere and anytime. Cohort-style learning maximizes student-to-student interaction and builds relationships that can benefit you for years to come.

“I-Lead” means Innovation in Leadership and Administration in Nursing and Health Care Systems. Graduates of the program are equipped with cultural competence, social media integration, informatics and evidence-based practice that apply in a variety of settings in the increasingly complex world of healthcare. The i-Lead program features a 30-credit core with an option to add 12 credits for specialization in Health Care Informatics. The financials of a UC Denver degree are solid: $655 tuition, 7.6-percent ROI, and a $53,500 early-career salary.

About the University of Colorado – Denver

The University of Colorado Denver is a two-campus public research university. The Anschutz Medical Campus consists of the Children’s Hospital and the University of Colorado Hospital. UC Denver boasts more than $400 million in sponsored research annually and offers over 140 degree programs.

  • Location: Denver, CO
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 16 to 1

9
Michigan State University

Online RN to BSN, RN to MSN

MSU’s top online nursing degrees prepare you with the skills you need to succeed. The RN to MSN (two tracks), as well as the RN to BSN, are online and fully-accredited through the CCNE. These degrees are designed for the working licensed nurse. The RN to BSN is a five-semester part-time program that takes your RN license and grants you thirty credits. You then take six to eight credits a semester until you complete the remaining requirements. The BSN is a stepping stone in your career. Students learn vital critical thinking skills and relevant knowledge for today’s ever-changing healthcare system, and can also transition into graduate nursing programs.

The RN to MSN at Michigan State is offered in two tracks: Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist. The NP track (with three specializations) is a hybrid degree, and the AGCNS program is entirely online. The AGCNS fully-online program prepares you for the AGCNS-BC certification exam offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the AACNS-AG certification provided by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). Admission for either of the MSN options requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and no GRE.

About Michigan State University

Michigan State University was founded in 1855 as the prototype of the nation’s land-grant universities. Over 50,000 students choose from over 200 majors at this sprawling public research institution. Business, Communication, and Engineering are among the most popular majors.

  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Retention Rate: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 80%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 17 to 1

10
University of Cincinnati

Online RN to BSN, RN to MSN

Providing top online nursing degrees is becoming old hat for the University of Cincinnati. There is an outstanding RN to BSN and a host of MSN options. Every online option focuses on the heart of good nursing: compassion, empathy, and critical thinking. Flexibility, the glory of online learning, is on display at U of C as all the nursing options can be taken full- or part-time at your pace. The RN to BSN can be completed in as little as nine months as a full-time student and three semesters part-time. Below is a list of online MSN options:

  • MSN Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • MSN Family Nurse Practitioner
  • MSN Nurse-Midwifery
  • MSN Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • MSN Nursing Administration
  • MSN Occupational Health

Something to count on at U of C is quality. The school has been a pioneer for many years in the field of nursing. All programs are CCNE-accredited, and many are nationally recognized.

About the University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati is a city in and of itself. The large public research university offers over 350 degree options to over 44,000 students. Their impressive pedigree is recognized nationally for many programs and quality. The Chronicle of Higher Education called UC a “research heavyweight,” and Reuters named UC among the world’s top 100 most innovative universities.

  • Location: Cincinnati, OH
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 68%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 16 to 1

11
Union College

Online RN to BSN, RN to MSN

Top online nursing degrees are affordable and convenient at Union College. The Edna Jenkins Mann School of Nursing offers a fully-online and accredited (CCNE) RN to BSN program. Admission requires an unencumbered license and a minimum GPA of 2.0. The basic structure of the program consists of prerequisites, usually met by an associate degree or previous undergraduate education, and then the 33-credit nursing core delivered in eight-week courses. There are six convenient start dates throughout the year, making this online nursing degree very accessible. A sampling of courses includes:

  • Nursing Theory
  • Health Care Informatics
  • Pathophysiology
  • Evidence-Based Practice and Research
  • Community Health Nursing

When considering the price, however, you can see why Union College is on our top 15. The price is the #1 most affordable at $225 per credit! Importantly, this makes the long-term investment favorable—the ROI is 5.7 percent, and the early career salary is $60,000.

About Union College

Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky, is a small, private Christian school affiliated with the United Methodists. The school was founded in 1879 and is known for being affordable. All of the 1100 students receive grants and scholarships. The top three majors are Business, Psychology, and Nursing.

  • Location: Barbourville, KY
  • Retention Rate: 64%
  • Graduation Rate: 27%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 14 to 1

12
Ohio University

Online RN to BSN

With excellence as a standard Ohio University delivers on several top online nursing degrees. The RN to BSN is very doable for anyone. It is flexible in terms of scheduling as well as academic choices within the degree. OU is also the second most affordable school on our list. The fully-online, CCNE-accredited degree consists of 31 credits of nursing—120 overall. Assuming you’ve met the prerequisites, you will delve into nursing courses such as:

  • Community Health Nursing
  • Evidence-Based Nursing Practice
  • Gerontologic Nursing Care
  • Diversity
  • Leadership in Nursing

If you are a current nurse working 12 hours shifts, please note, you can do this! With the flexibility OU offers, even if you’re not a “computer person,” you can complete the degree in about two years. The school offers excellent tech and student support. Since you can start eight times throughout the year, you can choose the best time for you and your life. With a minimum 2.0 GPA and no GRE required, admission is simple and straightforward. All in all, the incredible flexibility and cost add up to #12 on our list.

About Ohio University

Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, started in one building with three students back in 1808. OU is a public university that offers over 250 degrees through 11 colleges and 500 student groups. Athens was also ranked “Best College Small Town” by USA Today.

  • Location: Athens, OH
  • Retention Rate: 81%
  • Graduation Rate: 64%
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 17 to 1

13
University of Oklahoma

Online RN or LPN to BSN

The University of Oklahoma’s top online nursing degrees provides working nurses a way to advance their careers. The RN to BSN is a perfect example. If you’re a registered nurse and working part- or full-time, this degree is for you. The 30-credit curriculum is 100-percent online. As for the LPN to BSN, it is a hybrid program; it requires monthly Saturday face-to-face sessions. The LPN/RN to BSN program is taken in one of three ways: full-time, part-time, or a combination. The synchronous learning features nationally certified faculty as teachers and there for personal help. Courses in the 30-credit nursing core include:

  • Clinical Nursing III – Career Mobility
  • Community Focused Nursing
  • Human Experience of Disability
  • Nursing Research
  • Contemporary Professional Nursing

One distinction for OU’s nursing program is that it is one of the few BSN that requires clinical experiences. In this case, there are two. They are focused on applying advanced skills as an experiential complement to your coursework. Admission requires a minimum of 2.5 GPA, and you must transfer a total of 67 non-nursing credit hours, including prerequisite courses before enrollment in nursing classes.

About the University of Oklahoma

Pioneers were nick-named “sooners” for their can-do spirit. It is this spirit that energizes the University of Oklahoma today (as well as why it’s their mascot!). Currently, nearly 30,000 Sooners are taking over 170 majors. OU is known for Business, Engineering, and Communication.

  • Location: Norman, OK
  • Retention Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 18 to 1

14
Sam Houston State University

Online RN to BSN

Sam Houston’s School of Nursing offers several top online nursing degrees. The 100-percent online RN to BSN will work well for working nurses seeking to earn a bachelor’s and not break the bank. The $332 cost per credit is one of the best on our list. SHSU’s School of Nursing also gives annual scholarships of $1000 and up. Though the degree is affordable, the quality is not lessened. The degree is Texas Board of Nursing approved and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The 121-credit curriculum includes 59 Nursing Prerequisites and Texas Core and 62 Nursing Credit hours. Courses include:

  • Older Adult Health Management
  • Pathophysiology for Nursing
  • Community Nursing
  • Leadership and Management
  • Nursing Care of Infants, Children & Adolescents

To be admitted to the program, you need to have a minimum 2.5 GPA and an unencumbered RN license. You can be conditionally admitted if you are on the way to completing your licensure. The degree offers some flexibility in that you can enroll full- or part-time.

About Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University is one of the oldest public university in Texas. SHSU offers over 130 total programs and 20 bachelor’s and graduate degrees entirely online. The top three areas of study are Business, Law, and Health.

  • Location: Huntsville, TX
  • Retention Rate: 76%
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 21 to 1

15
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Online RN to BSN, RN to MSN

There are several top online nursing programs at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The College of Nursing and Health Innovation offers two outstanding options: an RN to BSN and MSN. The RN to BSN is very convenient, is 100-percent online, and can be completed in 12 months. Since the program is fully accredited by the CCNE, you know an objective organization has certified the program and it is up to national standards. The program is divided into corequisite cores and nursing courses. The 30-credit nursing core includes clinical experience that can be accomplished locally, ideally with a current employer or hospital. Admission requires 28 associate degree credits and an active RN license.

The MSN program is offered in two tracks: Family Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Educator. The degree is 40-45 credits and delivered online through an affiliation with the Intercollegiate Consortium for a Master of Science in Nursing (ICMSN). Both tracks include a Focused Scholarly Project or Thesis to graduate. Like the RN to BSN, the MSN is structured, designed, and delivered with the working nurse in mind. No GRE is required for admission to this program. Also, consider the financial picture includes a 7.3-percent ROI and an early career salary of $49,000.

About the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Every academic program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is accredited. Nineteen thousand students choose from 80 majors, and more than 30 graduate programs. Popular majors include Business, Education, Engineering, and Nursing.

  • Location: Lafayette, LA
  • Retention Rate: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 48%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 19 to 1

Why should I earn my BSN if I already have my ADN?


The answer depends on each individual and your life circumstances and goals. An RN who holds an ADN (associates in nursing) is fully competent with the technical skills to provide for patients. An ADN is frequently considered a “technical nurse” and a BSN a “professional nurse.” There are two main reasons to consider an RN to BSN. First is that you’ll advance in knowledge and skill. This will make you a better nurse but also open doors to different jobs within the field. Not only that, you’ll have more earning potential.

The average salary of an ADN, according to Payscale, is $68,000, whereas an average BSN is $82,000. Not only is the pay better; however, the BSN can be a gateway to more advanced nursing roles. These roles involve leadership and case management and often skills and knowledge that are not found in ADN degree programs. Some examples of specializations are a genetics nurse, neonatology nurse, nephrology nurse, or a public health nurse. Also, if you want to advance to an MSN and jobs such as nurse practitioner, midwife, or clinical nurse leader, you need to hold a BSN first.

What is an online RN to BSN?


An RN to BSN degree is specifically designed for a licensed nurse to earn a bachelor’s degree. In recent years the Institute of Medicine, The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and other national organizations recommended that more of the nursing force in America earn their BSN. The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP) found that only 56 percent of nurses hold degrees at the baccalaureate level and above. These reputable institutions note that BSN and above education focuses on critical thinking, case management, leadership, and the advanced skills needed in technology.

Our nation’s colleges and universities design their RN to BSN to build on an RNs previous training at the associates level and their current experience. The way colleges award credit for RNs is by accepting their prior coursework and anything that applies to their program’s prerequisites. This can vary considerably from school to school. On average, however, you can count on the fact that most RNs have 60 credits from their ADN. This leaves 60 or less to complete their 120-credit BSN. The advanced nursing curriculum is anywhere from 30-60 credits. Many of the programs on our list require transfer and prerequisites totaling 90 credits, leaving only a 30-credit advanced online nursing core.

What are the job outlook and salary expectations for RN’s with a bachelor’s or masters?


Nursing as a profession continues to be in high demand and is highly rewarding. Nurses face new and exciting challenges every day, and nurses are respected as honest, ethical professionals by nearly everyone. When looking over the job growth and salary, it’s clear that now is a great time to jump into the field of nursing. The BLS reports that from 2018-28, the field will grow at 12 percent, well above the average. With a retiring boomer population (many baby-boomer nurses will be too) and life expectancy at 80 years old, healthcare needs will continue to expand. Where healthcare grows, the demand for nurses does too.

If you are currently an RN and do not have a BSN, it is worth considering. First, you will increase your skills and knowledge to become a better nurse. This increased knowledge and skills will open new possibilities for leadership, different nursing roles, and management. Second, you will increase your earning potential. The BLS reports the median salary for all nurses at $71,730. To be more specific, Payscale reports an ADN average salary of $68,000 and an average BSN at $82,000. If you’re looking for advanced nursing roles and require an MSN, you can count on an average salary of $93,000.

What does a typical online RN to BSN curriculum look like?


An online RN to BSN is designed for the working professional. On our top 15, every school has structured the curriculum, delivery, and guidance with you in mind. Our colleges and universities are very good at making these programs accessible. Admission usually only requires an unencumbered license and a minimum GPA of 2.0 to 3.0 depending on the school. Many have multiple start times throughout the year, making it doable for most individuals. Flexibility is also a factor in online learning. Since you already have your RN and hold an ADN, you have done clinical work. This means your credits and experience transfer into the 120-credit RN to BSN programs. Typically 60 credits transfer from your ADN, and then you’re required to meet prerequisite requirements.

If you have any other undergraduate credits, you may be able to transfer even more. Once these requirements are met, the advanced nursing classes are around 30 credits and can be completed entirely online. Often the coursework is completed on your time and pace (asynchronous). Courses include Nursing Theory, Caring Practices within the Leadership Role Ethical Issues, Health Care Informatics, Pathophysiology, Evidence-Based Practice and Research, and more. You can complete an RN to BSN in as little as one year. They typically take around two years to complete.

Does it matter that an online nursing program is accredited?


Accreditation matters. What it means is that the program has been evaluated by a reputable organization and meets national standards. Though some degrees and programs are not accredited, accredited programs have a better reputation, and employers take note. In fact, some employers may require it. Knowing your program is accredited also increases your confidence that the program is excellent and is worth the investment. In the case of nursing programs, the standard accrediting agency is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The CCNE is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and is guided by the highest principles of integrity and excellence.

The autonomous and nongovernmental peer review process is objective in assessing each program. Regional accreditation is also very important. Without it, you may not be eligible for federal financial aid. You also may run into credit transferring problems. Some schools require an “accredited” degree to meet admission requirements. This especially applies to graduate programs. All of the schools on our Top 15 are accredited by a regional body such as The Higher Learning Commission or The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), to name just two. Most of the programs are CCNE-accredited as well.

About the Author
Ambria Farid

In addition to her consulting work helping numerous NGOs in Asia, Ambria is currently working on her Master's degree in Economics and Institutions from the Universiat Marburg in Germany. Her passion is higher education, and has been actively writing on the topic for over 4 years.