Best Online ADN to BSN Programs

July 31, 2020 | Staff Writers

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses earned a median salary of $70,000 in 2017 — roughly $33,000 more than the median salary for all occupations in the U.S. for that year. On top of excellent pay, registered nurses can also look forward to solid job prospects. The BLS projects that employment for registered nurses will grow 15% by 2026, adding approximately 438,000 new positions during that period.

However, the competition for these jobs may be high, as many students have elected to enter the field of nursing in recent years. A bachelor’s degree in nursing can help you stand out from other candidates, and an ADN-to-BSN online program can help you graduate more quickly. This page provides an overview of what to expect in these programs, including admission requirements, courses of study, and possible career paths. It also offers advice about how to help pay for your education.

Advertisement is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

Featured Online Programs

Best Online ADN-to-BSN Programs

Rank School Location
1 University of Massachusetts-Amherst Amherst, MA
2 Jacksonville University Jacksonville, FL
3 University of Wyoming Laramie, WY
4 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
5 Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT
  1. University of Massachusetts-Amherst

    Amherst, MA

    Established in 1863, UMass Amherst offers an online ADN-to-BSN program for licensed registered nurses (RN) who seek a bachelor’s degree. Online learners need 60 credits to graduate. The school grants 30 credits to students with RN licensure, leaving 30 credits of coursework remaining. Courses in this program are synchronous and include nursing care of families, writing in nursing ethics, community health nursing, and vulnerable and underserved populations. Full-time students can finish their degrees in one year, while part-time students often need up to two years.

    Prospective students for this online ADN-to-BSN nursing program should hold a minimum 2.5 GPA and a current RN license. Applicants’ transcripts need to reflect successful completion of UMass Amherst’s seven nursing course prerequisites: nutrition, human anatomy, human physiology, medical microbiology, abnormal psychology, lifespan growth and development, and statistics. Students can complete all of their degree requirements online, with no on-campus obligations. All distance learners pay the same tuition rates at UMass Amherst, regardless of their location.

    • Campus: Amherst, Massachusetts – Online
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: NLNAC
    • Tuition: $15,300
    • Minimum time commitment: 30 credits over either one or two years
    • Degree requirements: GPA of 2.5 minimum, RN license, letters of recommendation, transcripts, application fee, English proficiency if applicable
    • Programs: RN to BSN
  2. Jacksonville University

    Jacksonville, FL

    Jacksonville University is a private institution that offers an online ADN-to-BSN nursing program for distance learners. Accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, online students develop management and leadership skills in addition to learning academic research methods. JU nursing students follow a career-focused curriculum that includes courses like professional nursing, holistic nursing, healthcare policy, and evidence-based nursing. Students need 120 credits for graduation. Incoming students with a registered nurse (RN) license automatically receive 30 credits toward their BSN.

    This ADN-to-BSN online degree requires applicants to hold a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA and an active RN license. Applications must include three letters of recommendation and official transcripts. The school may require some applicants to interview. Active-duty military and veterans (and their spouses and dependents) receive a 10% tuition discount for both the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.

    • Campus: Jacksonville, Florida – Online
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: $460 per credit hour
    • Minimum time commitment: 120 credits maximum (up to 66 credits can be wavered)
    • Degree requirements: State approved ADN degree, Grade C minimum, RN license
    • Programs: RN to BSN
  3. University of Wyoming

    Laramie, WY

    Located in Laramie, Wyoming, the University of Wyoming is a public land-grant institution with approximately 12,400 students. UW offers its distance learners an ADN-to-BSN nursing online program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. UW’s nursing program features a completion-style program for incoming students who possess a registered nursing license. The program features 8-week, self-paced asynchronous coursework students complete entirely online with no on-campus obligations.

    The school is a member of a collaborative, statewide nursing education project that improves local educational resources, optimizes student use of clinical facilities throughout Wyoming, and creates mutually beneficial professional relationships between colleges and nursing professionals. UW offers students the opportunity to meet with prospective employers at their nursing job fair. Distance learners can attend the fair using a virtual recruiting tool provided by the nursing program. Admission to the program is competitive; prospective students must possess at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA.

    • Campus: Laramie, Wyoming – Online
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: $106 per credit hour
    • Minimum time commitment: 120 credits hours maximum
    • Degree requirements: RN license, ADN, GPA of 2.5 minimum, prerequisite courses, transcripts
    • Programs: RN to BSN
  4. Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA

    As one of its 140 online programs, Drexel offers an online ADN-to-BSN nursing program. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this private research university allows nursing students to complete their BSN in as few as 12 months. Incoming students can transfer up to 180 quarter credits toward their degrees. Online learners complete practical, evidence-based courses including developmental psychology, anatomy and physiology, critical issues in nursing, transformational leadership, and issues in aging and longevity. Classes are accelerated and take place during 10-week quarters.

    Prospective students should possess an associate degree or diploma in nursing with a 2.0 GPA or higher. Additionally, incoming learners need a current registered nurse license. Applicants’ official transcripts should reflect 60 semester hours of college-level prerequisites — such as microbiology, sociology, and English — with a “C” grade or higher. Drexel alums and military members receive discounted tuition rates.

    • Campus: Online
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: $612 per credit hour or $510 for those who work for a partnering institution
    • Minimum time commitment: 47 credits
    • Degree requirements: RN license, ADN, High School/GED, transcripts
    • Programs: RN to BSN
  5. Western Governors University

    Salt Lake City, UT

    WGU is a private school established in 1997 with approximately 91,500 students. Online students in its ADN-to-BSN online program engage with an evidence-based curriculum focused on patient safety, healthcare policies, leadership skills, and the integration of modern technology with daily nursing practices. Graduates move on to work in doctor’s offices, school health programs, community health clinics, or to pursue further education. Students complete coursework entirely online. The program offers both self-paced and cohort-based learning, with eight live webcam sessions with fellow students and faculty. Additionally, the program requires some in-person fieldwork experiences that distance learners complete at an approved location convenient for them.

    Students should hold an associate degree or diploma in nursing and a current registered nursing license. WGU expects applicants to possess prior work experience in the nursing field and be actively working at the time of application. The school boasts a comparatively low overall student cost to complete the ADN-to-BSN online program.

    • Campus: Online or Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Type: Private, Non-Profit
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: Inquire
    • Minimum time commitment: 70 credits – 18 months
    • Degree requirements: Interview, RN license
    • Programs: ADN to BSN

ADN-to-BSN Online Programs: An Overview

The structure of ADN-to-BSN programs varies depending on several factors, including the school, the concentration options, and the requirements met by students while they earned their associate degree. The sections below discuss some common requirements and features of these programs.

Admission Requirements for an Online ADN-to-BSN Program

To begin an ADN-to-BSN program, students must first hold an associate degree in nursing; applicants usually need to have earned a minimum 2.0 GPA during their associate program to qualify. Schools set this minimum to ensure that enrollees can succeed academically in a bachelor’s program. Most programs also require that applicants have a current registered nurse (RN) license.

Given that applicants already hold an associate degree, most programs do not ask students to submit their SAT or ACT scores. Similarly, most programs do not require a certain number of years of work experience, although a state’s board of nursing may require experience to become an RN.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online ADN-to-BSN Program?

Earning an associate degree typically means that a student has already earned about half of the credits required for a bachelor’s degree, i.e., roughly 60 out of 120 credits. As such, most full-time students can complete an ADN-to-BSN program in just two years. Part-time students, as well as those who cannot transfer all of the credits from their associate program, may take 3-4 years to graduate.

Some online programs allow for self-paced learning, meaning that students can advance through coursework at their convenience. Others feature accelerated tracks, allowing participants to earn their bachelor’s in nursing in as few as 18 months.

While self-paced learning often appeals to working professionals or students who want to graduate quickly, these formats do not meet everyone’s needs. For example, students who learn at their own pace may receive less real-time support from their instructors and classmates. Learners who opt for these types of programs should possess good self-discipline and strong time-management skills.

Concentrations Offered for an Online ADN-to-BSN Degree

Students pursuing this concentration prepare to work with older patients. Classes cover topics like the psychology of aging, chronic diseases emerging later in life, and death and dying. Given the growing need for nurses trained in gerontology, students specializing in this area can look forward to above-average job prospects upon graduation.    

Careers this concentration prepares for: Geriatrics nurse, homecare nurse

Public Health
Selecting a concentration in public health allows students to explore topics like epidemiology, bioterrorism, and community health disparities. Participants may also study statistics and research design to inform their future work. Students specializing in this area typically assume roles working for nonprofit organizations or government agencies.    

Careers this concentration prepares for: Public health nurse, community health coordinator

Obstetrics represents the branch of medicine concerned with childbirth and taking care of women giving birth. Students prepare to work at hospitals and health centers, assisting in prenatal care and delivery. Graduates can also continue their education at the master’s level to become fully licensed nurse midwives.    

Careers this concentration prepares for: Obstetrics nurse, labor and delivery nurse

Example Courses for Online ADN-to-BSN Students

The exact classes taken while completing an ADN-to-BSN nursing online program depend on the institution and the classes a student completed during their associate-level studies. Although learners can often customize their academic experience by selecting a formal concentration and/or completing electives, many ADN-to-BSN programs feature similar core curricula, including some of the classes detailed below.

  • Issues and Trends in Nursing: This course introduces students to the profession of nursing. It also examines the evolution of healthcare delivery in the U.S., while emphasizing new technologies and approaches designed to promote quality, safety, and better health outcomes for patients. Students who completed foundational nursing coursework during their associate studies may test out of this class.
  • Health Assessment: One of the most important functions of a nurse involves assessing a patient’s health status in order to help physicians and other healthcare professionals determine the best course of treatment. This class hones a student’s basic health assessment skills, including measuring a patient’s pulse, checking a patient’s blood pressure, and auscultation.
  • Information Management and Patient Care Technology: Some nurses choose to specialize in designing and managing health information systems after they graduate; however, all nurses benefit from knowing how to effectively navigate these systems. This course introduces various technologies, emphasizing patient safety and the importance of protecting patient information when using these tools.
  • Foundations of Nursing Research: Students in this course review the foundational elements of the research process, including designing a research question and presenting conclusions drawn from data. While helpful to all nurses, this course may especially benefit students who plan to continue their education at the graduate level.
  • Advocacy Through Healthcare Policy: Nurse activism plays an integral role in shaping healthcare policy. This course introduces students to the political systems that affect the delivery of care in the U.S. and equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to serve as advocates for vulnerable and underserved populations.

Internship Component

ADN-to-BSN online programs do not usually require any type of field experience. Most students seeking admission into these programs already hold an RN license, which almost always requires clinical experience and the demonstration of skills during a certification exam. As a result, ADN-to-BSN programs tend to focus more on theory than the application of nursing skills.

Still, many programs encourage students to complete internships for course credit. An internship at a local hospital or healthcare organization can help students further develop their practical nursing competencies and strengthen their professional network.

Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For

  • Certified Pediatric Nurse: This certification helps nurses signal their expertise in working with children. To receive this credential, individuals must hold an RN license and an associate degree (or higher) in nursing. Nurses must also meet work experience requirements. For example, RNs can qualify to sit for the exam if they completed at least 1,800 hours of pediatric practice over the previous two years. The exam itself cost $295.
  • Oncology Certified Nurse: Nurses with this credential hold specialized experience working with cancer patients. Qualifying for the exam requires an RN license and at least 1,000 hours of adult oncology practice within the last 30 months. The exam consists of 165 multiple-choice questions and takes about three hours to finish. It costs $416.
  • Gerontological Nursing Certification: Nurses expert in working with the elderly can pursue this certification. To apply, individuals must hold a current RN license and at least 2,000 hours of gerontological practice over the last three years. The exam covers topics such as health assessment, person-centered care, and health promotion. It costs $395.

Accreditation for Online ADN-to-BSN Programs

When reviewing online ADN-to-BSN nursing programs, students should only consider degree tracks that hold the appropriate accreditation. The accreditation process ensures that schools meet minimum academic standards and prepare students for careers after graduation. Students attending unaccredited schools do not usually qualify for federal financial aid, and employers and other educational institutions may not recognize a degree or coursework from an unaccredited institution.

Colleges and universities can earn institutional accreditation from regional or national accrediting bodies. However, nursing students should only consider ADN-to-BSN programs that also hold programmatic accreditation. Two main bodies accredit the majority of nursing schools: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Each of these commissions maintains a searchable directory of all accredited programs that offer bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

Job and Salary Outlook


Job Opportunities for BSN Graduates

Numerous career paths exist within the field of nursing. For example, ADN-to-BSN graduates can continue to work as a registered nurse, taking on added responsibilities or negotiating a higher salary after earning a bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, some graduates go on to serve as health educators, teaching members of their community about the risks associated with smoking or the benefits of healthy eating. After earning a BSN, graduates may also qualify for roles leading a team of nurses or acting as a nursing administrator.

Registered Nurse

Median Annual Salary: $70,000

Registered nurses provide medical care to patients in hospitals, health clinics, and homecare settings. They often specialize in a particular area, like gerontology or emergency services.

Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse

Median Annual Salary: $45,030

Licensed practical and vocational nurses generally provide more basic types of care, such as feeding and bathing patients or monitoring their vital signs. With more experience or a postsecondary degree, these nurses can assume supervisory roles and oversee other LPNs or LVNs.

Health Educator

Median Annual Salary: $45,360

Health educators promote wellness through educational programs. They may assess the needs of a particular community to customize curricula or teach more general topics like sexual health for teenagers.

Source: BLS, Nov. 2018

How Much Do BSN Graduates Make?

The table below includes median salaries for five jobs commonly held by BSN graduates. It also shows how these salaries change over the course of a career. Healthcare professionals with more work experience generally command higher salaries than recent graduates, although positions that require less education — such as LPNs or LVNs — may not experience significant salary increases over time.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Registered Nurse $63,245 $55,000 $63,000 $71,000
Licensed Practical Nurse $41,246 $38,000 $41,000 $43,000
Licensed Vocational Nurse $44,264 $42,000 $46,000 $48,000
Health Educator $44,133 $39,000 $46,000 $54,000

Source: Payscale

Professional Organizations

Current students and graduates of BSN programs can join professional organizations to gain access to regional events and national conferences, improving their professional networks and learning about best practices from other nurses. These organizations may also offer continuing education opportunities — a critical component of licensing renewal in most states. In addition, many of these organizations maintain online career centers featuring job listings and advice from more established nursing professionals.

American Nurses Association: ANA serves as one of the most important professional organizations for nurses in the country. It established a code of ethics for the profession, offers scholarships to aspiring nurses, and shares the latest research with its members through magazines and scholarly journals.

American Academy of Nursing

: This academy advances the nursing profession through education and advocacy. It convenes expert panels in areas like aging and bioethics to help shape public policy and disseminate knowledge to healthcare practitioners.

National Black Nurses Association

: Founded in 1971, NBNA represents more than 200,000 African-American nurses. In addition to an annual conference, online training programs, and a research center, NBNA awards scholarships to help minority nurses continue their education.

Financing Your Online ADN-to-BSN Program

Typical ADN-to-BSN online programs cost $10,000-$40,000. To find financial aid opportunities, students should start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines whether a student qualifies for federal grants, work-study positions, and low-interest student loans. The NURSE Corps Student Loan Repayment Program can also help reduce a learner’s financial burden if they commit to working in a “critical shortage facility” for at least two years after graduating. In addition to government funding, many private organizations also offer scholarships to aspiring nurses, including the eight awards listed below.

Scholarships for ADN-to-BSN Students RN-to-BSN ScholarshipWho Can Apply:

This scholarship program supports students enrolled in RN-to-BSN programs. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.5 GPA and submit an essay explaining how they think a better educated nursing workforce could change the delivery of healthcare across the nation.

Amount: $500

Jane Delano Student Nurse ScholarshipWho Can Apply:

Named after the principal organizer of the Red Cross Nursing Service, this scholarship supports nursing students who have volunteered or worked for the American Red Cross. Applicants must also attend an accredited nursing school and demonstrate financial need.

Amount: Varies

Daughters of the American Revolution Nursing ScholarshipsWho Can Apply:

The Daughters of the American Revolution offer several scholarships to aspiring nurses. Applicants must have been accepted to or enrolled in an accredited nursing program. Depending on the specific scholarship, the selection committee considers financial need and/or academic achievement.

Amount: Varies

Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association, Inc. ScholarshipsWho Can Apply:

This foundation offers two scholarship programs: one targeting students in particular areas of nursing and the other supporting learners who commit to work in “critical shortage” locations after graduation. The foundation selects recipients based on academic merit, community service, and financial need.

Amount: $1,000-$10,000

National Black Nurses Association, Inc. ScholarshipsWho Can Apply:

Scholarships from NBNA aim to attract more African-Americans into the profession. To qualify, applicants must hold membership with the association, enroll in an accredited nursing program, and submit transcripts, an essay, and letters of recommendation.

Amount: $1,000-$6,000

Hurst Review Services Nursing ScholarshipsWho Can Apply:

Hurst Review Services — in partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing — provides scholarship opportunities for aspiring nurses. Applicants must attend a school that holds accreditation from AACN. Judges award funding based on academic excellence and community involvement.

Amount: $2,500

Tylenol Future Care ScholarshipWho Can Apply:

This scholarship program serves students pursuing a career related to health, including nursing. To qualify, applicants must be seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree with the goal of actively treating patients after graduation.

Amount: $5,000 or $10,000

Barbara Rhomberg Excellence in Nursing ScholarshipWho Can Apply:

This program supports students who postponed the pursuit of a postsecondary degree to care for their family, enter the workforce, or serve in the military. Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited program and working towards an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Amount: $1,000

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