The Best Online Nursing Schools and Programs 2021 icon

The Best Online Nursing Schools and Programs 2021

| NurseJournal Staff

The Best Online Nursing Schools and Programs 2021 mini logo

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.

The nursing field offers great opportunities for individuals seeking a stable career in a growing profession. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of registered nurses (RNs) should increase by 7% from 2019-2029. The BLS also projects that the advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) profession may grow by 45% in that same time period — much faster than the national average for all occupations.

Many students attend online nursing schools instead of traditional, on-campus programs. Distance learners enjoy greater flexibility, logging on and studying when convenient. Online students also save time and money on transportation, materials, and housing.

Many students attend online nursing schools instead of traditional, on-campus programs. Distance learners enjoy greater flexibility, logging on and studying when convenient. Online students also save time and money on transportation, materials, and housing.

The following list outlines the best online nursing programs for aspiring nurses.

Read about our ranking methodology here

Applying to an Online Nursing Program

Applicants to BSN programs should possess a high school diploma or an ADN, although some schools will consider GED-holders. Admission committees often prefer candidates with a minimum high school GPA of around 2.0. Undergraduate applicants should expect to submit their previous educational transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, recommendation letters, and a personal essay.

MSN programs typically look for applicants with RN licensure, and many prefer candidates who already possess a BSN. However, some RN-to-MSN programs accept students with associate degrees, as long as they begin the program with RN experience.

MSN programs also set a minimum GPA, which might range from 2.5-3.0. The higher the GPA, the more competitive the candidate. Applicants may also boost their chances of admission by earning a high score on the GRE or MAT. They are often asked to submit a personal essay and recommendation letters, and may participate in an admission interview.

Featured Online Programs

The Best Online Nursing Programs

University of Florida View School Profile $$ Gainesville, FL 88% 27% 100% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

UF ranks among the top public schools nationwide, and U.S. News & World Report places the university's online learning division 3rd in the country. UF's 60-credit online registered nurse (RN) to bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) bridge program does not include any in-person components. However, learners must complete 90 clinical hours. Core courses include professional nursing in the evolving healthcare system, legal and ethical issues in nursing, and professional nursing transformation.

Admission requirements include an associate degree in nursing (ADN) from a program accredited by the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, an unencumbered Florida RN license, and a minimum 2.8 GPA. UF awards students up to 30 credits for professional portfolios and prior learning.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Gainesville, Florida
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $129 per credit for in-state; $553 for out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: ADN; Florida RN license; minimum 2.8 GPA; a grade of C or higher for all prerequisite courses
  • Minimum Time Commitment: About five semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95.93%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of Central Florida View School Profile $$ Orlando, FL 73% 39% 57% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Established in 1963, UCF offers over 230 degrees through 13 colleges. Registered nurses (RNs) with a valid Florida license can access two of the best online nursing programs the university has to offer. Applicants with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) from an accredited school can enroll in UCF's RN to bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) bridge program and transfer up to 29 credits of prior coursework.

Students must complete an additional 30 credits and maintain a minimum 2.8 GPA. UCF also allows learners to complete up to nine credits toward a master of science in nursing (MSN). However, candidates with at least one semester in nursing from another accredited Florida nursing program may enroll in the associate in science degree in nursing (ASN) to bachelor's bridge program, which requires a minimum 2.0 GPA.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN; ASN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Orlando, Florida
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $179 per credit in-state; $716 per credit out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: 2.8-3.0 GPA; ADN or ASN from an accredited Florida program; valid RN license for the RN-to-BSN program
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 3-6 semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.64%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
Appalachian State University View School Profile $$ Boone, NC 72% 48% 20% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Appalachian is a public institution offering over 150 programs. Enrollment exceeds 20,000 and graduates benefit from a vast alumni network with over 134,000 members. Licensed registered nurses (RNs) considering the next step in their career can earn the university's bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree online in one year, with no campus visits.

The 30-credit program features nontraditional clinical courses in which students engage in class projects and research. Admission requirements include an associate degree in nursing (ADN) from an accredited school, official transcripts, and a valid RN license. Other requirements include a 2.5 GPA at minimum and a criminal background check.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Boone, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $163 per credit for in-state; $644 per credit for out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: ADN from an accredited school; valid RN license; minimum 2.5 GPA; criminal background check
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
Ohio State University View School Profile $$$ Columbus, OH 84% 38% 33% Higher Learning Commission

Founded in 1870, Ohio State places among the nation's top public schools. The university's online bachelor's degrees are also top ranked. Ohio State's registered nurse (RN) to bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program requires 30 credits. RNs can earn their degree in 12-15 months.

Students access coursework through the CarmenCanvas learning management system. Courses include cultural competence in healthcare, evolving concepts in leadership and management, and interprofessional concepts.

Admission to the program requires 16-19 prerequisite credits and an associate degree in nursing (ADN) from a school accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Out-of-state online applicants enjoy similar tuition rates as in-state students.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Columbus, Ohio
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Higher Learning Commission and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $16,422 total cost for in-state; $17,022 total cost for out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: ADN accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing; minimum 2.0 GPA; active RN license; resume; personal statement
  • Minimum Time Commitment: About three semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: N/A
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
Florida International University View School Profile $ Miami, FL 58% 34% 65% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

FIU is a public research university that prioritizes student-centered learning and global citizenship. Enrollment exceeds 54,000 and the student body represents over 140 countries. The Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences offers an online nursing program that requires only three semesters of full-time attendance for the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.

Courses include adult nursing, maternal and child nursing, health assessment and promotion, and care of communities. The 30-credit program includes a clinical practicum. Admission requires a registered nurse (RN) license, 2.75 GPA at minimum, and an associate degree in nursing (ADN) from an accredited school.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Miami, Florida
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $229 per credit in-state; $346 per credit out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: Valid RN license; 2.75 GPA; ADN; at least 60 lower division college credits
  • Minimum Time Commitment: N/A
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92.74%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of Virginia View School Profile $$$ Charlottesville, VA 94% 26% 10% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

One of the nation's top five public universities, UVA is home to 12 schools, including the School of Nursing. The university offers a 30-credit registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing (RN-to-BSN) program for associate degree in nursing (ADN) holders. Students can earn their degree in two years. While distance learners access most coursework online, the curriculum includes monthly in-person classes.

Courses include introduction to statistics in healthcare research, transition to baccalaureate nursing practice, and pathophysiology. Admission to the program requires a 2.0 GPA at minimum, a valid RN license, official transcripts, and one recommendation letter. In addition to the main Charlottesville campus, satellite locations include Richmond and Fairfax. Transfer students and candidates with non-nursing bachelor's degrees may apply.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $542 per credit in-state; $1,673 per credit out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: Unencumbered RN license; ADN; official transcripts; minimum 2.0 GPA; one recommendation letter
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
The University of Alabama View School Profile $$$$ Tuscaloosa, AL 72% 39% 39% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

This public institution prioritizes academic excellence and strives to cultivate socially conscious leaders. UA's Capstone College of Nursing offers one of the best online nursing programs for registered nurses (RNs) considering a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree as the next step in their careers.

This online degree comprises 52-58 lower division credits and 25 upper division credits. UA awards students 41 credits for prior coursework. Classes include life span human development, medical ethics, and nursing informatics for RNs. Applicants must hold an associate degree in nursing (ADN) from an accredited school, an RN license, and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $375 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: ADN; official transcripts; valid RN license; minimum 2.5 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98.06%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
Texas A&M University View School Profile $$$ College Station, TX 82% 32% 8% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Boasting a student body of 69,000, Texas A&M values academic excellence, leadership, and civic engagement. Registered nurses (RNs) ready to take the next step in their career with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) can earn their degree online through the university's College of Nursing.

The RN-to-BSN degree consists of 30 credits. Students can choose from three course schedule options and graduate in 1-2 years. Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA, an associate degree in nursing (ADN), an active RN license, and a personal statement. Other requirements include community service and a criminal background check.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: College Station, Texas
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $12,000 per academic year in-state; $38,962 per academic year out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: ADN; RN license; 3.0 GPA; personal statement; background check
  • Minimum Time Commitment: About three semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 99.28%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
Stony Brook University View School Profile $$ Stony Brook, NY 74% 38% 17% Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Stony Brook offers more than 100 master's programs, including in-person and online options. Registered nurses (RNs) exploring online nursing schools can earn their master of science in nursing leadership at Stony Brook while they remain employed. This 36-credit program uses a blended model that features on-site immersions. Courses include applications in clinical nursing and business skills for nurse leaders.

Students must complete multiple clinical experiences and submit a clinical practice portfolio at the end of the program. Prospective distance learners must provide transcripts and boast one year of experience, a 3.0 GPA at minimum, a bachelor's in nursing, and an RN license. Students must also hold malpractice insurance.

  • Program(s): Master of science in nursing leadership
  • Campus: Stony Brook, New York
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Middle States Commission on Higher Education and Colleges and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $471 per credit in-state; $963 per credit out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing; minimum 3.0 GPA; RN license; one year of experience; malpractice insurance; official transcripts
  • Minimum Time Commitment: N/A
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: N/A
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
The University of West Florida View School Profile $ Pensacola, FL 44% 64% 63% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

UWF prioritizes student-centered learning, inclusion, and innovation. Students at the Pensacola-based institution can access over 70 degrees on campus and online. For instance, registered nurses (RNs) can pursue the school's online RN to bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Students can complete the online nursing program in 12 months without attending any classes on campus.

Candidates need 124 credits to graduate, including 21 prerequisite credits, 32 major credits, and 16 elective credits. UFW awards credit for eligible prior coursework. Distance learners enjoy access to multiple support services including online tutoring, a writing lab, and digital databases.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Pensacola, Florida
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $282 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Valid RN license in the state students plan to practice; minimum 2.75 GPA; level 2 criminal background check; associate degree in nursing from an accredited school
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.45%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of Wisconsin-Madison View School Profile $$ Madison, WI 87% 32% 17% Higher Learning Commission

UW values cultural awareness, academic excellence, and global citizenship. Enrollment exceeds 45,500 and students benefit from an active alumni network with nearly 460,000 members. Candidates considering a nursing degree online can enroll in UW's registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing (RN-to-BSN) program and earn their degree in 18-36 months.

The program comprises 24-30 credits and includes courses like chronic care management, information and health technology, and community health nursing. Students also complete one 60-hour clinical experience. Online courses follow a seven-week format. Candidates access coursework through the Canvas online learning management system and enjoy online tutoring, career services, and technical support.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Madison, Wisconsin
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Higher Learning Commission and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $495 per credit for in-state; $1,657 per credit for out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: Associate degree in nursing or at least 24 transferable credits; minimum 2.5 GPA; official transcripts; one letter of recommendation
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 99%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
Western Carolina University View School Profile $$$ Cullowhee, NC 62% 59% 35% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

WCU strives to accommodate diverse learning needs by offering affordable tuition rates and accessible distance education. Students can access over 155 options, including an online registered nurse (RN) to bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. The WCU School of Nursing's RN-to-BSN degree lets RNs progress to the next level in their careers.

The program does not include any in-person components, and students can earn their degree in four semesters. The 30-credit curriculum includes 24 core credits and six elective credits. WCU offers a variety of services for online students, including tutoring, academic counseling, and technical support.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Cullowhee, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $3,500 total program cost in-state; $9,500 total program cost out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: Valid RN license; minimum 2.5 GPA; associate degree in nursing from an accredited school
  • Minimum Time Commitment: About four semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 99%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
California State University-Chico View School Profile $$ Chico, CA 66% 45% 30% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Chico State has offered postsecondary coursework for over 130 years and ranks among the West's top public universities. The institution also boasts the lowest average student debt nationwide. Chico State's master of science in nursing (MSN) program lets candidates earn their nursing degree online while remaining employed.

The 30-credit MSN curriculum includes a 16-unit nursing leadership concentration and a 14-unit nurse educator specialization. Core courses include financial management and instructional processes in nursing education. Candidates must complete two of three culminating courses, which include a nursing professional paper, a master's project, and a master's thesis. This program also includes a practicum course.

  • Program(s): MSN
  • Campus: Chico, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $31,430 per academic year
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's in nursing from an accredited school; California registered nurse license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: About five semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.33%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
San Jose State University View School Profile $$ San Jose, CA 65% 30% 30% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Committed to fostering diversity and inclusion, SJSU enrolls over 36,000 students and offers a vast alumni network with over 270,000 members. Nursing professionals considering a doctoral degree can earn their degree online at the university in 23 months. The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) curriculum prepares graduates for careers as health policy leaders and clinical scholars.

Courses include application of theories in advanced nursing practice, principles of epidemiology, and translating evidence into reflective practice. This program requires multiple practicum experiences. Admission requires a master's in nursing, a 3.0 GPA at minimum, and an interview with program coordinators.

  • Program(s): DNP
  • Campus: San Jose, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission and seeking accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $7,635 per semester
  • Admission Requirements: Master's in nursing from an accredited program; minimum 3.0 GPA; interview; U.S. citizenship or permanent residency; unencumbered RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 23 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: N/A
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of North Florida View School Profile $$ Jacksonville, FL 59% 34% 52% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

UNF strives to accommodate working professionals through distance education as it emphasizes critical thinking, academic excellence, and social responsibility. The Brooks School of Nursing offers a registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing (RN-to-BSN) bridge program that does not include any on-campus components.

Candidates pursuing the 60-credit degree can receive up to 30 credits for prior coursework. Courses include community partnerships, perspectives in chronicity, and leadership management concepts in nursing. Online classes follow an eight-week format and students complete two courses each semester. UNF provides multiple resources including graduate advising, library services, online tutoring, and success coaching.

  • Program(s): RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Jacksonville, Florida
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $105 per credit for in-state; 562 for out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: Associate of applied science or associate of science in nursing from an accredited program; minimum 2.8 GPA; active RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: About one year
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.4%
  • School site: Tuition | Financial aid

Frequently Asked Questions


How long does it take to become a nurse?

That depends on what type of nurse you want to become. Licensed practical or vocational nurses can complete training programs in about one year. RNs can enroll in two-year ADN or four-year BSN programs. Even those timelines vary, as some schools offer accelerated programs or allow students to complete their studies part time. Finally, advanced practice nurses must earn a two-year master's degree in addition to an undergraduate degree. In all, it can take anywhere from 1-6 years to become a nurse.

What is accreditation and why is it important?

Accreditation agencies evaluate higher education institutions and academic programs through the accreditation process. Accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) ensures that a program offers a quality education. Additionally, nursing licensure candidates must hold accredited degrees.

What can I do with an MSN?

Many people pursue an MSN to become an APRN. These advanced practice nursing professionals can work as nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioners (NPs). NPs can further specialize in areas like mental health, geriatric care, or neonatal care. These nurses earn more than RNs, and hold additional responsibilities like diagnosing patients and prescribing medication.

What does a DNP prepare graduates for?

Prospective APRNs can enroll in a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program, although many pursue this terminal degree for other reasons. Some go on to become university professors, researchers, or leaders within the nursing profession.

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