Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

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Updated December 14, 2022

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Overwhelmed by the abundance of online nursing programs? This guide can help you navigate the possibilities and narrow down the options.
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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

A Black male student sitting in a park bench working on his laptop. Credit: Roberto Westbrook / Getty Images

The numerous choices of online nursing programs can make selecting one a daunting process. This guide can help narrow down the options and enable applicants to identify the best schools for their learning styles and career goals.

Online nursing programs span the spectrum of available credentials, including licensed practical and licensed vocational nursing (LPN/LPN) diplomas, associate degrees in nursing (ADNs), bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees, master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees, and doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degrees. Accelerated and bridge programs can speed the time to graduation, while dual degrees can lead to more career opportunities. Programs are even available for degrees requiring clinical components.

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of online nursing programs and how they work, or jump right to our roundup of the best online nursing programs.

Online LPN/LVN Diploma

LPNs, referred to as LVNs in California and Texas, perform entry-level nursing duties in nursing care facilities, hospitals, physicians' offices, and home healthcare services. Online LPN/LVN diploma programs offer one of the quickest routes into nursing.

They can also serve as a stepping stone to more advanced degrees and roles. Students learn skills like checking patients' vital signs, inserting intravenous lines, administering first aid, and managing patient data.

Typical coursework includes fundamentals of nursing, human anatomy, medications, and disease processes. LPN/LVN learners complete an average of 500-750 hours of in-person clinical and lab hours. Once they complete their training, graduates take the National Council Licensure Examination for LPNs/LVNS (NCLEX-PN) to qualify for their licenses.

Alternatively, certified nursing assistant programs offer a chance to experience basic entry-level nursing also within a short timeframe.

Find the Best LPN Programs Online

Online ADN Degree Program

Online ADN programs provide the fastest path to becoming a registered nurse (RN). ADN-holders obtain entry-level RN positions with more responsibility and higher pay than LPN/LVNs. While a BSN may be required for further career advancement in the nursing field, an ADN can provide RNs with a leg up in admission to accelerated RN or ADN-to-BSN bridge programs. Students can earn their ADNs in two years and graduates can take the NCLEX-RN exam for their licenses.

Core ADN coursework includes introduction to nursing, health assessment, microbiology, and immunology. Students may also complete introductory specialty classes in surgical, pediatric, or neonatal nursing. RNs collaborate on teams of medical professionals to provide patient care, and the ADN curriculum emphasizes safety, ethical and legal practice, and care management. Distance learners complete about 500 hours of onsite clinical rotations.

Learn more about Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs

Online BSN Degree Program

Four-year online BSN programs prepare graduates to take the NCLEX-RN exam and can lead to increased opportunities, responsibilities, and wages as compared to ADN programs. BSN-holders may also find themselves on better footing in terms of pursuing advanced nursing specializations and leadership positions.

Online BSN students train to become RNs who manage and implement patient treatment plans, supervise nursing teams, and educate patients and families regarding care. BSN courses cover anatomy, community nursing, informatics, leadership, pharmacology, and research and statistics. Clinical and lab hours take place onsite even for distance learners. Graduates emerge prepared for RN positions in hospitals and clinical specialties like geriatrics, obstetrics, and neonatal care. A BSN also prepares graduates for further graduate study.

Prospective students with ADNs or an RN license may qualify to attend accelerated or bridge BSN programs.

Find the Best Online BSN Programs

Online Accelerated BSN Program

Online accelerated BSN (ABSN) programs enable students who hold a non-nursing bachelor's or graduate degree to earn a nursing degree in two years or less. The online format allows students to keep their nursing job while they attend virtual courses. They also complete in-person clinicals hours needed to prepare for the NCLEX exam.

Core courses emphasize treating diverse populations across lifespans, building an evidence-based practice, and biomedical ethics.

To apply for the ABSN program, degree-seekers typically need a minimum of a 2.75 or 3.0 GPA. Additionally, incoming students may need a minimum grade in anatomy and physiology, organic chemistry, and microbiology.

Find the Best Online Accelerated BSN Programs

Online MSN Degree Programs

Online MSN degrees offer an entryway to specialized nursing careers. These careers typically provide greater autonomy and, on average, pay more than RN roles. For instance, nurse practitioners (NPs) can prescribe medications in every state. In about two years, graduates can become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) — a role that offers greater flexibility to work in specific populations.

APRNs work as certified nurse midwives, certified registered nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse practitioners. They gain certifications to work in critical care or acute care in departments that focus on family nursing, adult gerontology, pediatrics, neonatal nursing, psychiatric-mental health care, or women's health, among other fields.

It commonly takes a BSN degree from an accredited nursing program, an unencumbered RN license, and at least one year of nursing experience to get admitted into an MSN program.

Online Direct-Entry MSN Programs

Degree-holders without a nursing background can bypass a BSN and get admitted into an online direct-entry MSN program. This program's curriculum emphasizes health policy and advocacy, theory, and clinical practice to prepare graduates to become APRNs in as quick as 15-24 months. Part-time students may take up to four years to complete an online direct-entry MSN degree.

MSN students prepare for APRN roles by studying specialty areas of nursing, such as family healthcare, nursing education, or nursing leadership.

Traditional MSN degrees, unlike online direct-entry MSN programs, require applicants to hold an RN license and a BSN degree. An online direct-entry MSN program gives non-nursing degree holders an entryway to take the NCLEX exam and pursue a DNP degree.

Incoming students usually need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school with a minimum 3.0 GPA, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.

Online MPH Programs

Earning an online master of public health (MPH) degree offers a flexible, affordable advanced education. It prepares students for in-demand careers as health educators, public health nurses, and biostatisticians. MPH programs emphasize advanced research and analysis to give students a deeper understanding of the economic, cultural, and sociopolitical complexities that influence public health policy.

Colleges also offer dual MSN/MPH programs to train clinical nurses to take leadership positions in public health.

Online MPH programs often cost less than on-campus degrees and exclude campus fees. Full-time students complete an online MPH degree in two years or 12-18 months for accelerated programs.

Admission requirements commonly include one semester of social sciences, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and a bachelor's degree from an accredited college.

While specific course topics vary by school, many MPH programs offer courses in population dynamics and public health, environmental health, and methods in biostatistics. During their rigorous curriculum, MPH students prepare for certification opportunities, including the certified health education specialist credential or a certification in infection prevention and control.

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Find the Best Online Master's in Nursing Programs

Featured Online DNP Programs

Online MSN Specialization Programs

The nursing field encompasses a variety of career opportunities focused on different patient populations. While nursing roles at the associate and bachelor's levels tend to focus on more entry-level, broad opportunities, master's level careers allow graduates to explore advanced practice options.

Master's nursing students who are interested in caring for older patients may choose a specialty in adult-gerontology primary care, while nurses interested in administering anesthesia during surgeries can take a nursing anesthesia track.

With MSN degree specializations, graduates launch their careers as acute care nurse practitioners, nurse administrators, nurse educators, family nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives. To become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, a DNP is required.

Online Nurse Practitioner Program

Online NP programs may offer concentrations that focus on a specific patient population. Common concentrations include family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and women's health nurse practitioner.

The curriculum focuses on information technology and data management, advanced pharmacology, and health politics and policy. Degree-seekers who hold a bachelor's degree in nursing and an RN license typically satisfy their program requirements within two years.

Online Nurse Midwife Program

Designed for nurses who want to provide care for expectant pregnant individuals, online nurse midwife programs prepare students for advanced practice nursing care. It offers courses in postpartum care, advanced health assessment, and fetal evaluation.

In addition to the required courses, nurse midwife students must complete clinical hour requirements to prepare them with hands-on experience. Graduates can pursue American Midwifery Board Certification, Neonatal Resuscitation Program Certification, and Electronic Fetal Monitoring Certification.

Online Gerontology Program

Online gerontology programs let RNs continue working while they study to become certified as adult-gerontology nurse practitioners. Earning specialized skills to work with older adults prepares RNs to sit for gerontological nursing board certification exams. Certification might eventually earn higher paychecks.

By studying research methods in gerontology, health and aging, social services, and theories of aging, degree-seekers build skills to help the aging population. Programs often conclude with a capstone project that integrates theory and research. It also prepares graduates to take credentialing exams administered by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Online Family Nurse Practitioner Program (FNP)

Working nurses who hold a BSN degree can complete an online FNP program to become a certified family nurse practitioner. Certifications such as the ANCC family nurse practitioners board certification exam can help FNPs enhance their careers and make more money.

With courses that focus on adult care, care of the child and family, and women's healthcare, FNP nursing students can become APRN clinicians who provide family-centered nursing care to patients across the lifespan. The curriculum teaches students how to deliver general care to infants, adolescents, adults, and older people at hospitals, community clinics, and universities healthcare facilities.

Besides a BSN, admitted students usually need a minimum 3.0 GPA and at least a grade C in undergraduate statistics.

Online Diabetes Program

An online MSN with a concentration in diabetes nursing program equips nurse practitioners with the skills and experience to care for patients living with diabetes.

Most programs require applicants to hold a 3.0 GPA or higher, a BSN, and an unencumbered RN license. Similar to other graduate programs, schools might require candidates to provide a goals statement, resume, and letters of recommendation to apply.

Degree-seekers learn about advanced management of pediatric diabetes, clinical practice in diabetes care and management, and advanced clinical management of adult diabetes.

Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program

Online neonatal NP programs feature the nursing skills and knowledge necessary to work with newborn babies. Students learn about neonatal disease practice, pediatric care, and health informatics.

These NP programs prepare learners for certification in areas such as women's healthcare, neonatal care, or family nursing. Most programs require learners to complete around 40 credits of coursework along with clinical hours.

Online Nurse Educator Program

An online MSN in nursing education prepares degree-seekers to pursue roles at hospitals, postsecondary schools, and medical centers. Nurse educators teach and train nurses. They also help develop curriculums for nursing programs.

This degree typically requires between 36-39 credits. Some institutions offer accelerated online options, allowing learners to complete their degree between 16-18 months. Students learn about curriculum development, evaluation strategies and methods, and approaches to instruction.

Online Nursing Leadership Program

To become a nurse leader, students can pursue an online nursing leadership degree. Most full-time learners can complete their degree in two years. Students who enroll part time take closer to four years.

Nursing leadership master's programs prepare degree-seekers for careers as nurse managers, nurse executives, directors of health education programs, and directors of community health centers. The curriculum explores nursing leadership theory and practice, healthcare policy, evidence-based practice, population-based public health nursing interventions, and health disparities.

Online Health Informatics Program

Combining concepts of technology and healthcare, online MSN in health informatics programs focus on clinical nursing skills and emerging technology. Learners explore data management in healthcare, nursing informatics leadership, and nursing research methodologies during their coursework.

Students participate in internships, providing them with the chance to gain hands-on experience. Graduates can pursue informatics nursing certification or the certified professional in healthcare information and management systems credential.

Online Acute Care Program

Online MSN in acute care programs typically require between 35-50 credits of coursework, taking learners between 1-3 years to complete. Students learn about advanced practice care of adults across the lifespan, advanced health assessment and diagnostic reasoning, and advanced pharmacology.

Graduates can pursue certifications as clinical nurse specialists, adult-gerontology acute care NPs, and acute care NPs.

Online Dual Degree Programs

Nursing students can consider online dual degree programs to increase their earning potential and expand their career opportunities. Dual degrees require learners to complete more coursework than a typical program. They also include blended coursework that focuses on nursing and another field.

Courses often require degree-seekers to complete additional credit hours, exams, and assignments. They often take learners longer to complete. Popular dual degree options in the nursing field include an MSN/master of business administration (MBA), MSN/master of healthcare administration (MHA), MSN/master of public administration, and MSN/MPH.

Online MSN/MHA Dual Degree Program

Pursuing an MSN/MHA dual degree prepares learners for careers as healthcare administrators and managers. Online learners benefit from a flexible pathway. They complete the same clinical hour and internship requirements as on-campus students.

Learners who enroll in MSN/MHA programs follow a faster path to leadership roles in nursing. While students in either MSN or MHA programs complete courses focused on leadership, students in dual degree programs can apply credits from the same required course to satisfy the requirements for each degree.

Online MSN/MBA Dual Degree Program

Online MSN/MBA dual degree programs provide nurses with the opportunity to earn their nursing and business administration degrees at the same time. Students focus on advanced nursing and business topics, preparing them for careers as healthcare executives.

MSN/MBA online programs enable students to graduate with both degrees in under 60 credits. Earning each degree separately typically requires more than 70 credits. Courses focus on topics like health informatics, advanced health assessment, health economics, and healthcare management.

Online MSN/MPH Dual Degree Program

Earning an MSN/MPH dual degree prepares learners for careers in both the nursing and public health fields. Students interested in supplementing their clinical education can focus on foundational public health knowledge and advanced patient care techniques.

Full-time students usually complete their degree in 2-3 years. Credit requirements vary depending on the program, lingering between 60-90 credits. Most programs require a clinical practicum. Some allow MSN/MPH students to pursue specializations in epidemiology, health services leadership and management, global health, among others.

Find the Best Online Dual Degree Nursing Programs

Online DNP Degree Programs

Online DNP programs culminate in the highest level of clinical and nonclinical education for nursing by awarding the terminal doctoral degree. Like the MSN, DNP-holders can be APRNs or other nursing specialties. Master's level APRNs might go on to earn a doctorate, and CRNAs are expected to hold a doctorate by 2025.

The average DNP program spans 3-6 years and teaches advanced nursing practice, evidence-based practice, informatics, interprofessional collaboration, and organizational leadership. Hands-on experiences may include clinical rotations, internships, lab simulations, and residencies.

Most programs require applicants to hold master's degrees and national board certification in their specialties, but some may accept RNs or BSN-holders. An alternative terminal degree is the doctor of philosophy in nursing which focuses more on academia.

Learn more about Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree Programs

Online Nursing Bridge Programs

Nursing students with transfer credits from a variety of educational backgrounds may qualify for admission to online nursing bridge programs. Bridge programs leverage applicants' previous experiences and knowledge to reduce completion time. Most bridge programs award a BSN or an MSN, but some offer professionals like paramedics a fast-track to an RN license. Nurses and nurse aides benefit from bridge programs' goals to advance their careers and enhance their earning potential.

Online bridge programs offer flexibility and can save students money and time. Distance learners can avoid commutes, continue working while they study, and even complete their clinical hours at their workplaces. Course delivery may consist of pre-recorded, asynchronous lectures or synchronous (live) online classes scheduled around working hours.

Online Paramedic-to-RN Bridge Programs

Paramedics interested in becoming a nurse can enroll in online paramedic-to-RN bridge programs. Each bridge program is different with unique admission requirements, curriculum components, accreditation, course topics, and program length.

While admission criteria varies depending on the institution, eligible applicants must be licensed paramedics. Some programs require applicants to hold a license, while others require a specific amount of professional experience. Full-time students typically complete their bridge program within 1.5-2 years.

The curriculum explores pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, and lifespan and human development.

Online LPN-to-BSN Bridge Program

LPN-to-BSN bridge programs and LPN-to-RN programs prepare licensed practical nurses to practice as registered nurses after graduation. Completing these programs equips graduates with the necessary knowledge and skills to advance their career opportunities and increase their earning potential.

During their challenging curriculum, LPN-to-BSN students target different patient populations and develop diagnostic skills and competencies.

Graduates can complete their NCLEX-RN exam to begin practicing professionally across a variety of healthcare settings, including long-term care facilities, government agencies, and health clinics.

Online RN-to-BSN Bridge Program

One of the most popular bridge programs for nursing students, the RN-to-BSN option allows RN applicants who have their ADN to earn their bachelor's degree in nursing at an accelerated pace. Enrollees can build on the education from their associate program and job experience.

Because learners build upon previous knowledge, these programs are sometimes referred to as nursing completion programs.

Upon earning their BSN, graduates can explore careers as clinical specialists, nurse administrators, and nurse educators. Some of the most common employers for BSN degree-holders include hospitals, schools, and long-term care facilities.

RN-to-BSN programs typically require learners to satisfy 30 credits of coursework. Full-time students can complete their requirements in as little as 12 months.

Online RN-to-MSN Bridge Program

RN-to-MSN bridge programs, much like ADN-to-MSN degrees, fast track nurses in 30-36 months to an advanced degree by combining curriculum geared for bachelor's and master's students. The pathway to earn a BSN and an MSN separately typically takes 72-84 months —and often costs the nursing student more.

Incoming students, unlike most MSN programs, only need an associate degree, an RN license, and about 1-3 years of clinical nursing experience to get admitted.

After completing undergraduate courses in health assessments, research, pharmacology, and ethics, students gain a specialty in clinical nurse leadership, adult-gerontology, or family health nursing.

Graduates can sit for NP certification exams in their nursing focus.

Online RN-to-DNP Bridge Program

RNs who plan on pursuing academic, leadership, and research positions can enroll in an online RN-to-DNP bridge program to build on their knowledge in theory and research. Enrollees take courses in evidence-based practice, informatics for leadership in health and healthcare, and nursing policy.

In addition to their advanced coursework, learners must complete clinical practice hours, a culminating final project, and comprehensive exams.

These programs can take students between 3-6 years to complete, depending on their educational background and program requirements.

Online BSN-to-DNP Program

Students who hold a BSN and plan to pursue a DNP can consider enrolling in an online BSN-to-DNP program to quicken program completion. Doctoral programs typically require between 65-90 credits of coursework, taking learners between 3-6 years to finish.

BSN-to-DNP students can often choose an emphasis area including women's health, psychiatric mental health, and neonatal nurse practitioner. In addition to their required coursework, doctoral students may need to complete a research project, dissertation, or thesis.

Curriculum requirements are often built around state licensing criteria.

Overall Best Online Nursing Programs of 2022

We use our data-driven methodology to rank the best online nursing programs. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

#1 Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

University of Florida-Online

  • Gainesville, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online

UF Online offers a 60-credit RN-to-BSN program. Learners can enroll part time. The curriculum develops leadership and clinical reasoning skills. Students explore legal and ethical issues in nursing.

RNs complete a virtual clinical experience. The program requires a five-semester time commitment. Florida residents pay the most affordable tuition.

  • Program: RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Gainesville, FL
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $129 per credit for Florida residents; $553 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Associate degree in nursing from a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission; a minimum 2.8 GPA; an unencumbered RN license in Florida or a compact state
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 5 semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95.9% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $59,576 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$3,358
Out-of-state
$15,000
Retention Rate
67%
Admission Rate
62%
Students Enrolled
4,407
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

University of Central Florida

  • Orlando, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

UCF's RN-to-BSN program runs fully online and prepares nurses for career advancement. RNs can complete the 30-credit curriculum in three semesters. The program offers full- and part-time enrollment options. Nurses receive up to 29 credits for prior learning. Students can choose a summer, fall, or spring start date at this online nursing school.

  • Program: RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Orlando, FL
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $105 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Associate degree and prerequisite nursing courses; a minimum cumulative 2.8 GPA; an RN license in Florida or a compact state
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Three semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.6% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $57,507 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,478
Out-of-state
$19,810
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
45%
Students Enrolled
71,881
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#3 Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

Johns Hopkins University

  • Baltimore, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Johns Hopkins is one of the nation's top research colleges. The school's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program offers tracks for BSN- and MSN-educated nurses. Enrollees can choose specializations such as nurse executive and family primary care NP.

Learners study advanced nursing theory and evidence-based practice. Enrollees develop strong leadership skills and move through the online program as part of a cohort.

  • Program: DNP
  • Campus: Baltimore, MD
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,863 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN or MSN accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education; a minimum 3.0 GPA; RN licensure in Maryland or a compact state
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 3-4 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.5% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $95,359 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$54,160
Out-of-state
$54,160
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
11%
Students Enrolled
28,890
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
88% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#4 Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

Vanderbilt University

  • Nashville, TN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Vanderbilt offers an MSN with an emergency nurse practitioner specialty for experienced nurses. The hybrid program trains nurses who can thrive in fast-paced clinical environments. The curriculum builds on Vanderbilt's family nurse practitioner program.

Students attend classes on the Nashville campus 2-4 times a term. They complete 1,190 clinical hours, including rotations in emergency departments.

  • Program: MSN
  • Campus: Nashville, TN
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,793 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Accredited BSN; RN licensure; a minimum 3.0 GPA; and at least one year of experience as an RN in the emergency department
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Average Tuition
In-state
$52,781
Out-of-state
$52,781
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
12%
Students Enrolled
13,537
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
83% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

Georgetown University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Georgetown University offers an online MSN with an adult gerontology acute-care NP specialty. Students complete 40 credits in 23 months. The program uses live online classes. Enrollees complete clinicals at Georgetown-approved sites.

Students receive preparation for national certifications. One of the nation's top online nursing programs, Georgetown reports a 98% American Nurses Credentialing Center certification rate and a 100% American Association of Critical Care Nurses certification rate.

  • Program: MSN
  • Campus: Washington, D.C.
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $2,278 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: A BSN accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education; a minimum 3.0 GPA; current RN licensure; at least one year of full-time intensive care unit experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 23 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $100,876 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$57,384
Out-of-state
$57,384
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
17%
Students Enrolled
19,371
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#6 Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

USC's online MSN program trains students to work as family nurse practitioners (FNPs). Enrollees complete 49 credits using live online classes. RNs attend two intensives on campus in Los Angeles. They complete clinicals locally.

Enrollees can complete the MSN in 21-33 months. One of the nation's top online nursing programs prepares enrollees for FNP national certification.

  • Program: MSN
  • Campus: Los Angeles, CA
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,995 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Accredited BSN or MSN; minimum 3.0 GPA; RN licensure in the U.S.; at least one year of clinical experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 21 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Average Tuition
In-state
$59,260
Out-of-state
$59,260
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
46,287
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
89% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#7 Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

Duke University

  • Durham, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Duke's online MSN program develops transformational nurse leaders. The program requires 42-49 credits and offers several specializations. Options include health informatics and family nurse practitioner. Students complete core MSN courses online and visit campus for five-day intensives.

  • Program: MSN
  • Campus: Durham, NC
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,910 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Accredited BSN or ADN or a bachelor's in any major; prerequisite coursework; a minimum 3.0 GPA; RN licensure
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Two years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $97,071 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$55,880
Out-of-state
$55,880
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
16,172
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
42% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#8 Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

Florida International University

  • Miami, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

FIU's BSN program only enrolls licensed RNs. Nurses can finish this 33-credit program online in just one year. The program explores concepts such as health assessment and promotion. Learners also study evidence-based nursing.

Enrollees examine nursing in global healthcare systems. RNs complete a local clinical practicum. Students can start in any semester at this online nursing school.

  • Program: BSN
  • Campus: Miami, FL
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $229 per credit for Florida residents; $346 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Accredited ASN or diploma in nursing; at least 60 transferable credits; a minimum 2.75 GPA; RN licensure in Florida
  • Minimum Time Commitment: One year
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92.7% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $63,071 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,721
Out-of-state
$16,529
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
58,836
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
86% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

The University of West Florida

  • Pensacola, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

UWF offers an MSN with a family nurse practitioner (FNP) track. Nurses can complete the 45-credit program in 27-30 months. The full-time curriculum prepares RNs for national FNP certification.

RNs apply lessons learned during 600 practicum hours. Faculty encourage enrollees to attend a summer immersion on campus. Students can transfer up to nine credits into one of the nation's best online nursing programs.

  • Program: MSN
  • Campus: Pensacola, FL
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $500 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: A BSN from a program accredited by the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education; a minimum 3.0 GPA; an unencumbered RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 27 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.5% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $58,454 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$3,735
Out-of-state
$16,004
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
13,061
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#10 Best Online Nursing Programs and Degrees

Ohio State University-Main Campus

  • Columbus, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Ohio State offers an RN-to-BSN program that RNs can complete in 12-15 months. The online program builds on learners' education and professional experience.

Enrollees complete coursework in areas such as healthcare informatics and evidence-based practice. Students can transfer up to 90 credits to this online nursing school. RNs pay in-state tuition regardless of residency.

  • Program: RN-to-BSN
  • Campus: Columbus, OH
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $13,269 for three semesters
  • Admission Requirements: An accredited nursing diploma or ADN; minimum 2.0 GPA; RN licensure in an authorized state
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 12-15 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $60,399 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$10,615
Out-of-state
$32,599
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
68%
Students Enrolled
61,369
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Online Nursing Programs FAQs

Can you become an RN with an online degree?

Earning a nursing degree online provides individuals with the same degree as on-campus graduates, as long as the online program holds proper accreditation. To become an RN, candidates must earn either a nursing diploma, an ADN, or a BSN.

Are online nursing programs credible?

When looking for the right online nursing program, degree-seekers should pay close attention to accreditation. Credible nursing programs should feature both regional accreditation and specialized accreditation. Most online programs follow the same rigorous curriculum as their on-campus counterparts.

Also, due to COVID-19, online degrees and hybrid formats have become extremely common.

What is the shortest online nursing program?

The shortest online nursing programs typically average about one year. They include LPN/LVN diploma and bridge programs, full-time ADN programs, accelerated BSN programs for students with non-nursing degrees, and, in some cases, bridge programs for students with enough transfer credits or work experience.

Which nursing programs are offered fully online?

Most nursing degree programs require in-person attendance for clinical rotations and other experiential learning. But some may be offered fully online, including some diploma programs, RN-to-BSN bridge programs, and tracks leading to degrees in nursing administration or nurse education.

Additionally, bridge programs may allow nurses to complete their clinical hours at their current places of employment.

Are online degrees easy?

While online degrees afford students with more flexibility, they are not necessarily easier than on-campus programs. Online nursing students should be disciplined and self-sufficient. Earning a degree online also requires degree-seekers to possess excellent time management skills.

Will my online degree get me a job?

A degree earned from an online program is the same diploma students earn when they graduate from an on-campus program. Both options follow the same course topics and requirements, preparing enrollees to pursue a variety of job opportunities after graduation.

Are online nursing schools legitimate?

Online nursing schools that hold accreditation from organizations like the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education meet the same standards for high educational quality as traditional, on-campus programs.

Accrediting bodies conduct rigorous assessment of the curriculums to ensure they prepare students for credentialing exams, licensure, and nursing practice.

What is the best online school for nursing?

The University of Texas at Austin ranks as the top online nursing school, boasting an 83% graduation rate and offering MSN degrees in five specialization areas. Students can complete their programs in as soon as 18 months and concentrate on adult-gerontology, family practice, pediatric primary care, psychiatric mental health, and nursing leadership.

Are there any free nursing programs online?

Universities may offer a few free virtual courses to attract students to their degree programs, but completing the degree program is not free. Prospective nurses can access free online nursing courses in such diverse topics as nursing theory and advanced practice, diet therapy, understanding dementia, and learning how to take vital signs.

Logging onto free courses can help with the decision of whether to apply to nursing school.

Why get an online degree?

Online degrees versus in-person degrees have a lot of advantages. They provide learners with the flexibility and convenience they need to satisfy their program requirements while balancing other commitments, including career and family. Online programs also allow students to access advanced technologies and resources.


Page last reviewed November 2, 2022. Note: The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.


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