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Nurses are an important part of the healthcare industry, and with the recent outbreak of COVID-19, the global need for nurses is more crucial now than ever before. 

Nursing careers vary in responsibilities that may include caring for and monitoring patients, administering medication, and assisting doctors. The nursing profession has an excellent outlook on job growth, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting a 12 percent employment increase between 2018 and 2028. In addition, BLS reported registered nurses (RNs) as earning a median salary of $73,300 per year, or $35.24 per hour in 2019.

But how can you become a nurse, or advance your nursing degree with social distancing guidelines preventing in-person college classes? While it may seem counterintuitive, many colleges and universities offer online nursing degrees for every level, from associate to doctoral. 

It’s important to note that associate and bachelor degree programs will eventually require you to physically attend lab and clinical hours as part of their programs. While these degrees are presented as online programs, they’re actually a hybrid of online courses and physical lab work. If you’re considering this option, try completing online courses now and save the lab hours for when social distancing restrictions ease.

Earning an online degree is generally a cost-effective, and time-saving solution to higher education. Online learning allows you to study and complete assignments from anywhere with an internet connection. To help you get started in your online nursing degree hunt, we compiled a list of online programs for every level of education.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Rasmussen College

Degree offered: ADN/RN

Timeframe for completion: Can be completed in as little as 18 months

Why Rasmussen?: Rasmussen College offers four start dates per year, so students have options when it comes to beginning their education. 

North Central Missouri College

Degree offered: Online PN (Practical Nurse) to ADN

Timeframe for completion: Can be completed in nine months (August – May)

Why NCMC?: The online PN to ADN program is highly selective, admitting only 35 students per year. 

Northwest Technical College

Degree offered: Associate of Science in Nursing (AS)

Timeframe for completion: Two years

Why NTC?: NTC’s nursing program contains rigorous courses. Therefore, NTC may require students to take an Accuplacer college readiness exam to determine course placement. Your score on an Accuplacer test may save you time and money by ensuring you’re in the correct courses.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Colorado Technical University

Degree offered: RN-to-BSN

Timeframe for completion: With classes just 5 1/2 weeks long, students can earn a BSN in as little as nine months.

Why CTU?: CTU allows students to receive transfer credit for work experience, saving students time and money. 

Purdue University Global

Degree offered: RN-to-BSN

Timeframe for completion: Students can complete the nursing program courses in as few as 32 weeks.

Why Purdue?: Purdue University Global’s ExcelTrack offers an affordable way to get your BSN. Students may enroll every 10 weeks, giving you the option to begin at various times throughout the year. Students are billed per term, so the more classes you take per term the more money you save.

Western Governors University

Degree offered: RN-to-BSN

Timeframe for completion: According to WGU.edu, 66 percent of graduates finish within 18 months. 

Why WGU?: WGU utilizes a competency-based approach to education, meaning success is measured by learning and not class time. This allows you to finish a course when you’re ready, on your own timeline.

Accelerated Bachelor/Masters Degree (RN-BSN to MSN)

Chamberlain University

Degree offered: RN-BSN to MSN

Timeframe for completion: Can be completed in eight semesters of year-round, full-time enrollment.

Why CU?: According to Chamberlain.edu, “In the RN-BSN to MSN Online Option, eligible RN students completing their BSN degree at Chamberlain may apply for admission to the MSN degree program prior to completing their BSN degree. Students are able to complete their BSN degree while enrolled in the MSN program, by taking selected MSN courses in place of two required BSN nursing courses.”

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Capella University

Degrees offered: MSN and RN-to-MSN

Timeframe for completion: With Capella’s FlexPath, students can earn an MSN in as little as 12 months.

Why Capella?: Capella’s FlexPath option allows students to move through courses at their own speed, allowing them to move as quickly through the program as they like. 

University of Arizona 

Degrees offered: RN-to-MSN in Clinical Systems Leadership

Timeframe for completion: Between 15 and 24 months

Why UA?: UA offers two tracks, ADN-to-MSN and BSN-to-MSN. The application process is the same, but the ADN track includes three additional courses of content usually covered in a BSN program.

University of Cincinnati

Degrees offered: MSN Family Practitioner, MSN Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, MSN Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, MSN Nurse-Midwifery

Timeframe for completion: Between two and three years

Why UC?: University of Cincinnati nursing programs were ranked #7 in the “Best Online Nursing Programs” by U.S. News and World Report.

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Degrees offered: Master of Science – Clinical Nurse Leader (MS-CNL), Master of Science in Nursing Education (MS-NE), Master of Science in Nursing Studies (MS-NS)

Timeframe for completion: Can be completed in two years

Why UMA?: The Master of Science program at UMA prepares students to become leaders in the nursing field in diverse settings.

Dual Master’s Degree 

Benedictine University

Degree offered: Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Business Administration (MSN/MBA)

Timeframe for completion: Three years

Why BU?: The MSN/MBA degree program at Benedictine can be completed in 23 courses, as opposed to the 28 courses required if you pursued each degree separately. 

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Witchita State University

Degree offered: MSN-to-DNP

Timeframe for completion: Between two and three years

Why WSU?: WSU offers an affordable doctorate degree, with the 2020 online tuition set at $406.94 per credit hour, plus fees.

Regis University

Degree offered: DNP 

Timeframe for completion: Between two and three years

Why Regis?: The majority of classes are in an 8-week format, with a few taking a full semester, a structure that allows you to progress quickly. Degree plans include a 6-semester (24 month) and 9-semester (36 month) options.

Grand Canyon University

Degree offered: DNP in Educational Leadership

Timeframe for completion: Between two and three years

Why GCU?: Grand Canyon University offers flexible learning paths, including in-person and evening classes in addition to a fully online program. 

Questions to ask before enrolling in a program

Before you submit an application for admission, make sure to thoroughly research the curriculum and requirements of the program. Each nursing program is unique, so make sure the courses cover the content you’re interested in learning. Be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will I learn in this program?
  • Are there any prerequisites required?
  • How many clinical hours are required?
  • What are the financial aid options available?
  • How long will it take to complete the program?
  • What are the graduation requirements?

If you get stuck when answering any of those questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the program contact or college admissions office. Academic advisors are available to help guide you through the application and enrollment processes.

Need help preparing for nursing program entrance exams? We can help Petersons.com offers test prep subscriptions to help you prepare for a variety of exams, including the NCLEX-RN, NCLEX-PN, TEAS, PAX, and PSB.