Nurses are a critical component of our health care systems, giving care to patients at all stages of life. Nurses at all levels can pick from a number of degrees and programs based on their intended function, length of study, and work situation. While both on-campus and online programs can prepare nurses for licensure, many students find that earning a nursing degree online fits their busy lives and schedules better.
With so many different degrees and online nursing programs, understanding the elements to examine might assist you in making the best choice for your requirements and objectives.
- Nursing Degrees of Various Types
- Nursing Programs Available Online
- Choosing a Online Nursing Program
Nursing Degrees and Educational Pathways
- Diplomas in Nursing
- Associate Degree In Nursing(ADN)
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
- Post-Master’s Certificate
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Diplomas in Nursing
A nursing diploma is a certificate for nurses that prepares students for entry-level nursing positions. Diplomas, which typically require one to three years of education, can lead to a variety of certifications and nursing positions:
Nursing assistants that are certified (CNA). CNA diploma programs typically span between four and twelve weeks and are available in technical schools, community colleges, and online (with some in-person clinical requirements). Students develop the necessary skills to give hands-on basic care such as bathing, feeding, and washing patients, as well as assisting with medical activities such as vital sign monitoring or catheter management. After passing your state’s CNA exam, you can work as a nursing assistant, nurse aide, or home health aide in assisted living facilities, hospitals, or rehabilitation clinics.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). In some areas, LPNs are referred to as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). They require one to two years of study. Diploma programs for this role are available online and in person at junior colleges, hospitals, community colleges, and technical schools. LPN students acquire fundamental medical care skills such as vital sign monitoring, charting medical history, delivering medication, and washing or feeding patients. Bridge programs, which typically last two to four years, are available for career development to registered nurse (RN) positions.
Registered Nurse (RN). Typically, technical or vocational schools provide RN diploma programs. Programs typically span two to three years and teach students how to offer direct patient care, such as diagnosing diseases and establishing treatment regimens. A registered nursing diploma program prepares students to take the NCLEX-RN licensing examination and obtain state licensure as a registered nurse. However, certain employers may give preference to registered nurses with an associate or bachelor’s degree, so it’s critical to carefully check the minimal educational requirements for your chosen profession.
Nursing Associate’s Degree (ADN)
An Associate Degree in Nursing is an undergraduate nursing degree program that prepares students to sit for the Registered Nurse licensure examination. ADN programs normally last two years and require you to pass the NCLEX exam in order to acquire licensure.
Along with registered nurse positions, an ADN enables you to work as an outpatient/personal nurse, nursing care facility nurse, public health nurse, physician’s office nurse, or rehabilitation nurse. Another advantage of earning an ADN is that it may facilitate future admission to advanced degrees—either through testing out of prerequisites or through bridge programs leading to a bachelor’s or doctorate degree.
Nursing Bachelor of Science (BSN)
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is another option for becoming a registered nurse, however it needs four years of education rather than two. Due to the additional education required for a BSN, it frequently provides greater chances and responsibilities than a diploma or ADN. A BSN may qualify you for managerial and leadership positions directing nurses with less advanced degrees, but other possible roles include pediatric nurse, surgical nurse, ICU nurse, nurse manager, or nurse educator.
A BSN degree may also open doors to professions in fields other than nursing, such as nursing informatics or working for pharmaceutical or insurance businesses. Additionally, a BSN prepares students to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in the future, if they so desire, and provides opportunities for job growth and increased pay.
Nursing Master of Science (MSN)
A Master of Science in Nursing is a post-baccalaureate nursing degree that can be earned upon completion of a BSN or through an RN-to-MSN bridge program. MSN programs typically last between two and three years, depending on the school.
Typically, MSN applicants are registered nurses aiming to advance their careers as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse-midwife. Students can, however, acquire skills for non-clinical positions including as management, informatics, or nursing education. These occupations frequently pay more than those that require simply an ADN or BSN. An MSN degree also serves as a springboard for those interested in pursuing a post-certificate master’s or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
A post-certificate masters can assist nurses who already hold a master’s degree but wish to specialize in another area or expand their duties in their current employment. For instance, a family nurse practitioner interested in working in emergency settings could pursue a post-certificate master’s in emergency nursing. Post-programs master’s typically last two years and are provided in the areas of nurse practitioner specialization, midwifery, and health care leadership. Additionally, some programs allow for the addition of a DNP degree through additional courses and years of study.
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest level of practice-based nursing degree available. DNP programs typically need a greater commitment and can take between two and four years to complete. A DNP degree can be earned in a variety of ways, including through an ADN, BSN, or MSN degree.
Graduates of the DNP program are prepared to care for a variety of patients and improve their careers as clinical or health care leaders. DNP graduates have numerous job options in advanced practice specialties like as clinical trials, higher education, and health care policy.
Nursing Programs Available Online
- Online CNA Classes
- LVN/LPN Online Programs
- ADN Programs Available Online
- Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program
- Online Nurse Practitioner Programs
- MSN Programs Available Online
- APRN Programs Available Online
- Online Nurse Practitioner Programs
- DNP Programs Available Online
- Nursing Accelerated Online Programs
- Online Dual Nursing Programs
- Bridge Programs Available Online
- Online Programs for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)
Enrolling in an online program may be a convenient method to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to work as a certified nursing assistant. Admission to CNA schools requires only a high school certificate or GED, making them one of the simplest routes into the health care industry. Typically, programs last between four and six weeks, but can occasionally last longer. While coursework is conducted online, clinical training must be completed in person.
Students work directly with patients and get experience with the day-to-day responsibilities of nursing assistants while being supervised by a registered nurse. Students develop the necessary skills to offer hands-on, basic care to patients, such as bathing, feeding, and cleaning them, as well as documenting vital signs. A CNA credential qualifies you to work as a nursing assistant, orderly, or health aide. In May 2019, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual wage for nursing assistants was $29,660.
Online Programs for Licensed Vocational/Practical Nurses (LVN/LPN)
There are several online programs available for people interested in pursuing a career as a certified practical nurse. LPN programs normally require a high school diploma and last one year. The majority of junior colleges, community colleges, and technical schools offer online LPN programs that require on-campus clinical experience.
Prospective LPNs acquire fundamental medical care skills such as taking and recording vital signs, maintaining a patient’s medical history, giving medication, and washing or feeding patients. They work in hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, nursing homes, and private homes under the supervision of RNs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, LPNs and LVNs earned a median annual pay of $47,480 in 2019.
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs Available Online
Online ADN programs, which typically last two years, are a realistic degree choice for people interested in entering the area of health care as a registered nurse. These programs combine online education with on-site training at a hospital or other health care facility near you. Through an LPN-to-RN bridge program, current LPNs can graduate even faster than standard ADN candidates—however, certification as an LPN or CNA is not necessary for entry to an ADN school. According to the BLS, registered nurses earn a median yearly salary of $73,300. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree may earn more.
There has been a new movement in the medical profession to require all nurses to obtain a BSN, so bear that in mind while picking between an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree. Registered nurses can work in a variety of locations, including hospitals, home health care agencies, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, outpatient care centers, colleges or universities, and assisted living facilities.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Online Programs
Numerous online BSN programs are available to registered nurses having an ADN. However, four-year BSN programs are rarely offered online for high school graduates or those new to the nursing vocation. To enroll in an online course of study, you must have at least an LPN certification. Online LPN-to-BSN and RN-to-BSN programs may enable working nurses to continue their education while maintaining their existing positions. These programs are often shorter and can be completed in eight to 18 months, but frequently allow for self-paced learning.
As more nurse positions require a BSN rather than an ADN, studies indicate that acquiring a BSN is generally encouraged and preferred by a large number of medical institutions. Additionally, a BSN may pave the way for management or leadership jobs and is frequently required prior to pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree.
Online Programs for Registered Nurses (RNs)
Online RN programs can be a handy method to jumpstart a career as a registered nurse while balancing job and family obligations. LPNs can enroll in online LPN-to-RN bridging programs, while those without a nursing degree or those new to the nursing sector can enroll in RN programs with only a high school education.
RN programs are available in a range of specialties and typically span one to four years, depending on whether you pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree and whether you study full-time or part-time. Salary for registered nurses varies by geography, employment context, and a variety of other criteria. According to the BLS, the bottom 10% of registered nurses earned less than $52,080 in 2019, while the top 10% made more than $111,220.
Programs for a Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) Online
Registered nurses who already hold an ADN or BSN can apply their prior education toward a master’s degree. Numerous online nursing programs provide an RN-to-MSN or BSN-to-MSN pathway, which enables you to expand your profession while continuing to work. While most online MSN programs last two to three years, some online nursing schools offer accelerated paths that can be completed in as little as one year. Students develop skills for clinical or non-clinical positions, depending on their concentration, and are prepared for employment in patient education, management, informatics, nursing education, and as nurse practitioners. Salary averages vary by position; however a master’s degree may result in a salary that is above average.
There are also online dual degrees available for registered nurses who wish to pursue a master’s degree in two specialty fields. Dual degrees are frequently used to describe nurse practitioner tracks that combine a FNP degree with another type of nurse practitioner specialty. Combining public health and business administration studies with a master’s degree in nursing is also possible.
Online Programs for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)
APRNs are registered nurses who have earned a master’s or post-degree. master’s Admission to almost all APRN programs requires a bachelor’s degree. Nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse-midwives are all feasible career paths for an APRN. There are an increasing number of online APRN programs available, but keep in mind that clinical hours on-site are typically necessary as well. The following section provides an overview of the various types of APRN programs available online.
Nurse Practitioner (NP). Online NP programs typically last between two and three years and equip students to give direct treatment to a wide variety of patients. Nurse practitioners can pursue advanced degrees in fields such as general medicine, gerontology, pediatrics, or acute care. Nurse practitioners made a median annual salary of $109,820 in 2019, according to the BLS.
Nurse specialist in clinical nursing (CNS). Two to three years are required to complete an online CNS program. You can earn a master’s degree or a PhD. Students develop skills necessary for working with a particular patient demographic, such as adults or children, or in a particular situation, such as critical or emergency care. Rather than providing direct care, clinical nurse specialists frequently educate or counsel nursing personnel on how to ensure high-quality patient outcomes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not publish average salaries for clinical nurse specialists. Therefore, if you’re interested in this position, carefully review job descriptions when you’re ready to apply or speak with current clinical nurse specialists in your region to get a sense of their compensation.
Registered nurse anesthetist with certification (CRNA). Online CRNA programs lead to a Master of Science or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. A bachelor’s degree is one of the minimum admission criteria, and programs last between two and five years. Graduates pursue careers as nurse anesthetists, providing comprehensive anesthesia treatment to patients undergoing surgery, childbirth, or conscious sedation. CRNAs, like nurse practitioners, make well above the national average. According to the BLS, the typical annual salary for nurse anesthetists is $174,790 in 2019.
Nurse-midwife certified (CNM). Students enrolled in online CNM programs are prepared to provide complete women’s care, with an emphasis on gynecologic and family planning services, from conception to newborn care. Certified nurse midwife programs typically last between two and three years, depending on whether you study full-time or part-time. Your work environment, employer, and years of experience may all have an effect on your income potential as a CNM. However, as with the other three APRN roles listed above, CNMs can make six-figure salaries. According to the BLS, these professionals earned a median pay of $105,030 in 2019.
Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs Available Online
Online nurse practitioner programs may enable you to further your education and career without relocating or interrupting your existing employment. Admission requires a bachelor’s degree and RN license, which can take between two and five years to finish, depending on your chosen specialty and whether you desire to pursue an MSN or a post-graduate degree. NP programs prepare nurses to provide comprehensive care to patients in a specialized area and may lead to attractive earnings. The varieties of NP programs offered are shown below, along with an overview of each.
Nurse practitioner specializing on acute care (ACNP). Students enrolled in ACNP programs are prepared to care for critically ill or injured patients in hospitals and urgent care clinics. Nursing programs typically last two to three years, and nurses can specialize in adult or pediatric care.
Nurse practitioner in family practice (FNP). Nurses trained in FNP programs are prepared to care for patients of all ages, from infants to elders. The majority of on-campus and online FNP programs take between two and four years to complete, depending on your enrollment status (full-time or part-time).
Nurse practitioner in pediatrics (PNP). PNPs are trained to provide primary care to infants, children, adolescents, and young people up to the age of 21. PNP programs provided online are typically blended and equip nurses to work in a range of pediatric settings, including outpatient pediatric clinics, preschools and elementary schools, and community organizations.
Nurse practitioner specializing in neonatology (NNP). An NNP cares for babies at risk in both acute and non-acute situations. NNPs can work in emergency rooms as well as labor and delivery rooms and newborn outpatient clinics. Prior to enrollment, NNP online schools often demand two years of practical experience in a neonatal intensive care unit.
Nurse practitioner specializing in psychiatric mental health (PMHNPs). PMHNPs assess and treat individuals of all ages who have mental health problems. PMHNP programs teach nurses for a number of settings, including mental health clinics, correctional facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and substance abuse treatment centers.
Nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health (WHNP). Nurses develop the skills necessary to offer comprehensive care to women throughout their lives, from youth to adulthood, in online WHNP programs. While WHNPs are trained with an emphasis on reproductive, obstetric, and gynecological health, they are also capable of meeting the primary care needs of women. Typically, programs endure two years.
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs Available Online
Nurses who want to earn a doctorate without having to put their lives on wait can do so through an online DNP program. DNP programs prepare nurses to have a significant impact on patient outcomes at the highest levels of administration and management, as well as academia and public policy. To be admitted to a DNP program, most schools demand that you have a valid RN license and a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP programs are very popular and can last between two and six years, depending on whether you enroll full-time or part-time online.
A DNP can lead to positions as a chief nursing officer, nurse administrator, manager of informatics, director of health policy, or director of clinical research. DNP graduates often receive a high salary in the nursing sector; however earnings vary by employment.
Online Nursing Accelerated Programs
Accelerated online nursing programs enable students to complete the on-campus equivalent of a degree program in a shorter length of time than it would take on-campus. Accelerated programs are an alternative for individuals who already hold an undergraduate degree but wish to pursue a career in nursing. Accelerated programs are frequently more challenging than standard programs because to the rapid pace and fewer pauses. The following table summarizes the various types of online accelerated nursing programs available.
Accelerated ADN: Typically, ADN programs last two years. While expedited ADN programs are more difficult to locate, some are available in as little as a year. Admissions are often restricted to LPNs with a high school diploma or non-nursing candidates with a bachelor’s degree. ADN graduates are qualified to apply for RN licensure and can pursue careers as registered nurses or in other entry-level nursing positions.
Accelerated BSN: An accelerated BSN program enables you to earn your RN license faster than with a standard program. It is a realistic alternative for those who hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing and wish to begin a nursing career. While typical BSN programs take four years to finish, some expedited programs take as little as 11 to 18 months to complete. Admission to an accelerated BSN program typically requires a previous bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. BSN-prepared registered nurses may be given additional responsibilities than ADN-prepared nurses and are capable of managing other nursing staff.
Accelerated MSN: Non-nurses and individuals with prior nursing education (plus a bachelor’s degree) are both eligible to pursue an accelerated MSN. Accelerated MSN programs provide nurses with a road to becoming APRNs or advancing into management positions. While most accelerated master’s programs last roughly three years, some schools offer a road to completion in as little as 19 to 21 months.
MSN-prepared nurses can work as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, directors of nursing, or nurse-midwives, as well as in non-clinical jobs such as management, informatics, or as nurse educators. Salary ranges for APRNs vary by role.
Online Dual Nursing Programs
Dual degree nursing programs enable students interested in becoming nurses to complete two degrees concurrently. Dual degrees can save students time and money by avoiding duplicate courses that overlap between degrees and consolidating coursework for two subjects into one term of study. The following is a summary of several popular online dual nursing programs.
MSN/MPH. A MSN/MPH program is designed for individuals who wish to continue their education in clinical nursing while also expanding their knowledge of public health. Applicants should generally have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a minimum GPA of 3.0. Typically lasting roughly two years, these programs train nurses to work as nurse practitioners or certified nurse midwives or in the public health sector at government agencies, academic institutions, or nonprofit organizations.
MSN/MBA. Another dual degree option for nurses is an MSN/MBA, which allows them to complete both an MSN and an MBA concurrently online or in-person. These programs typically last between two and three years. A dual MSN/MBA curriculum prepares nurses for executive-level positions in health care by teaching business management skills and leadership competencies within the nursing industry.
FNP dual degree programs are an excellent option for nurses who wish to expand their knowledge in the field of family nursing while also developing competencies and skills in another nursing specialty.
FNP/ACNP. Graduates of a dual FNP/ACNP program are prepared for accreditation as Family Nurse Practitioners and Acute Care Nurse Practitioners. Students entering a dual role program in acute care are typically required to have at least one year of emergency or intensive care nursing experience.
FNP/ENP. The family nurse practitioner and emergency nurse practitioner route is another dual degree option for aspiring nurse practitioners. Graduates are prepared to deliver patient care in a variety of settings, including urgent, emergent, and trauma care, as well as primary care. Programs take between two and five years to complete, and graduates are entitled to test for both the ENP and FNP certification exams.
Bridge Programs Available Online
Online bridge programs enable students to continue their education and advance into higher-level nursing professions without having to stop their jobs and enroll in full-time school. Bridge programs are frequently utilized as a steppingstone to obtaining advanced degrees in less time than a typical program requires. There are several well-known bridge programs. Discover a few of them below:
LPN-to-RN. A bridge program from LPN to RN enables current LPNs/LVNs to achieve a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Graduates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX exam and earn certification as an RN. The admissions standards for each program differ. Certain colleges and universities need a minimum GPA of 2.75.
RN-to-BSN. RN-to-BSN programs typically take one to two years to complete and enable registered nurses to achieve a bachelor’s degree in a fraction of the time it takes to earn a standard bachelor’s degree. Depending on the program, prior coursework may be waived—only current registration as a registered nurse is required. Graduates can seek employment in a variety of fields, including critical care nursing, public health nursing, and rehabilitation nursing.
RN-to-MSN. An RN-to-MSN program enables you to specialize in nursing and earn both your bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a single program. These bridge programs, which typically last one to three years, are designed to prepare nurses for a variety of advanced nursing roles, such as nurse practitioner or certified nurse midwife.
BSN-to-DNP. Individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing may participate in an online BSN-to-DNP program. Along with a BSN, these competitive programs often require nursing license and a minimum GPA of 3.0. Programs normally take three years and students graduate with both a master’s and a doctoral degree. Graduates are prepared for a variety of leadership positions, including chief nursing officer, nurse administrator, informatics manager, director of health policy, and clinical research director.
Choosing an Online Nursing Program
With so many options available, selecting the best online nursing program for you can be time consuming and intimidating. However, dedicating time and conducting thorough research is critical in order to find a program that fits your interests, goals, and timeline. The information in the following areas can assist you in navigating the process and making the best educational choices possible.
Factors to Compare When Choosing an Online Nursing School
Whether it’s accreditation, admission requirements, or the number of clinical hours necessary, there are a variety of factors that may influence whether or not specific schools and programs are a good fit for you. Consider what is realistic for your current lifestyle and which programs are most aligned with your career aspirations when selecting a program that meets your needs.
Accreditation refers to the process by which nursing education programs are evaluated in order to maintain a consistent level of quality across institutions. Accreditation is critical in a profession where lives are at stake to ensuring that all nurses are equipped to offer the best possible patient care. Many employers require graduates of accredited schools, so look for schools accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
Requirements for Education
Admission criteria vary significantly by school, degree, and program rigor. A high school diploma is required for admission to the majority of entry-level nursing programs. Generally, a 2.5 GPA or higher is preferred, but the requirements become more stringent as you progress through the degrees. In general, volunteer or professional experience in a medical context, as well as completion of prerequisite nursing courses, may be required or may help you stand out as a more competitive candidate.
Requirement for Clinical Hours
Although online courses are available, the hands-on aspect of the nursing profession necessitates that students gain clinical experience as well. Specific requirements differ by school, but you should anticipate spending a certain number of hours in a hospital setting to meet clinical requirements.
Specialties in Nursing
The nursing sector is large and offers a diverse selection of nursing specialties at all levels, from registered nurse to doctorate. Consider your interests—for example, whether you prefer to work with a particular patient population or in a particular type of health care setting. Make certain to conduct research on schools that offer specialties relevant to your job aspirations.
Nursing Programs: On-Campus vs. Online
On-campus programs require students to attend core nursing classes in person for the duration of the program, whereas online nursing programs allow students to study those same courses online (often through recorded lectures or even live streaming).
Certain abilities, however, cannot be learned via a screen—both online and on-campus programs require you to complete in-person clinical hours to learn how to safely offer patient care and other job-related skills.
With an online nursing school, you have the flexibility to complete coursework at your own pace and from a place that is convenient for you.
Online Learning: Asynchronous vs. Synchronous
Asynchronous learning is a term that relates to online education that does not involve real-time interaction. Rather than that, communication occurs via pre-recorded lectures, email, and discussion boards. Asynchronous learning allows for greater flexibility, as learning can occur even if not all participants are online at the same time, and makes it easier to combine academics, work, and family obligations.
On the other hand, synchronous e-learning makes use of resources such as livestreaming, video conferencing, and online chats to enable students to interact with content in real time. Some people like this method of education since it allows them to communicate directly with lecturers and peers. In essence, it replicates the interactions that occur in a face-to-face class. Many online programs combine components of asynchronous and synchronous learning to deliver knowledge, but when selecting an online program, keep your particular preferences in mind.
Part-time vs. full-time
Students enrolled in full-time education are typically required to attend a particular number of classes or hours per week, whereas part-time students can enroll in fewer. Part-time education allows you to balance your home and work lives but takes longer. While attending classes full time allows you to earn your degree faster, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to do so while working. Therefore, when deciding between the two, keep your work constraints in mind.