Nursing Degrees

Online nursing programs generally fall into 2 categories.  First category is for registered nurses wanting to receive a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing).  We feature 17 online colleges that offer RN to BSN degree program.  Second category is for nurses wanting to obtain a Masters Degree in Nursing.  We profile 11 colleges that offer Online Masters Degree in Nursing.  Click on <Search> on the left side of this page to view all the programs.

Nursing Career Outlook

Did you know that the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites Registered Nurse as the largest healthcare occupation? In fact, the BLS expects the number of new nursing jobs to grow by 22% between 2008 and 2018.

In fact, more than 581,000 new jobs are expected in that timeframe. If you’re interested in being one of the thousands of new nurses who will be entering the workforce during the next decade, read on to learn more.

In May 2009, nurses earned a national median hourly wage of $30.65.

The industries with the highest expected number of jobs are:

  • General Hospitals
  • Physician’s Offices
  • Home Health Care
  • Nursing Care Facilities
  • Employment Services

Advancement and Growth Opportunities

Advancement opportunities are also plentiful for nurses. In general, nurses may advance along the following path:

  • Staff Nurse
  • Assistant Unit Manager/Head Nurse
  • Assistant Director/Director
  • Vice President
  • Chief of Nursing

However, with the variety of specializations and settings available, potential nurses need not adhere to a set career path. Due to education costs, many nurses choose to enter the field as a Certified Nursing Assistant while continuing their education as they build work experience.

After becoming a CNA, one may choose to continue their education toward becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse, a Registered Nurse, an Advanced Practice Nurse or a Nurse Educator. Skipping the first two levels and entering a registered nursing degree program right away is also an option and one that many students still take advantage of. (St. Louis Healthcare Workforce Partners)

An alternate path to career growth is advanced practice nursing. These nurses specialize in specific areas, for example, nurse anesthetists. Some advanced practice nurses provide primary care services and prescribe medications.

Online Nursing Degree Options

Online Certifications in Nursing

In a certificate program, the emphasis is placed on practical training and skill development, rather than on traditional academic study. Students learn how to administer shots, how to take blood pressure, temperature, and pulse, and how to interpret these basic results. Technical skills, such as understanding medical terminology and records, and understanding the importance of medical ethics and medical law, will also be emphasized.

They may study nutrition and nursing theory to some extent, but ultimately these students will not get as well-rounded a medical education as a person who is pursuing a full-blown degree. Courses in the general sciences will be missing, as will any requirements in the humanities. However, nursing students will learn enough to pass the national examination, enabling them to begin their careers.

Individuals with nursing certification are well-poised for careers as nursing certificates or nursing assistants, and will have little trouble finding jobs in these professions. A person who passes the National Council Licensure Examination for REgistered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) should be able to work as a registered nurse (this is not necessarily true in every state) but he or she will face stiff job application competition from other nursing professionals who have bachelor’s degrees, or at least associate degrees, in nursing. Those in rural areas will probably have an easier time of it, provided they are near enough to a hospital.

Of course, after a person earns a certification in nursing, he or she can go on to earn a degree if he or she chooses, but will be able to work in an actual medical setting while enrolled. This can save students time and money, and can significantly enhance their degree program and employment prospects upon graduation. Having experience as a nurse is more important than having an advanced degree when it comes to applying for jobs. (NSCBN)

Online Associate Degrees in Nursing

An Associate Degree in Nursing is often the first step on the path toward becoming a registered nurse. In the past, before the bachelor’s degree in nursing became so popular, an associate or less was all the majority of nurses had as their primary educational credential. In most states, an Associate Degree is still enough to work as a registered nurse, though the most competitive jobs do still request applicants with more extended education or a comparable amount of experience. Because it is a two-year degree that can be completed at a community college, the associate is a cheaper, shorter, and more viable option for many people, helping them launch their careers as quickly as possible.

People who study full-time at an accredited institution generally need two years to complete their degrees, which is the equivalent of either four academic semesters or six academic quarters. Students who heighten their course loads and take classes through the summer period may be able to graduate sooner.

The goal is for students to take a certain set of classes that helps them fulfill their practical roles as nursing professionals- meaning they learn how to perform everyday medical tasks such as drawing blood, giving shots, and measuring blood pressure- and enables them to get an education that they can use to build a bachelor’s degree upon. Therefore, the curriculum may include courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy as well.

Most nursing associate programs that are intended to help students seek licensure also include a practical component that gives them actual clinical exposure, which is commonly requested by employers. The best programs will also help students prepare for the NCLEX-RN.

Most people who choose to earn an associate degree in nursing can immediately enter the nursing field in the lower-paid positions or where there is particularly high demand for skilled nurses, provided they are properly certified and preferably have some experience. There are also nursing assistant careers available to those who have this educational background. However, some states are stating a preference for professionals who have bachelor’s degrees, as are employers, and there are now so many people graduating from nursing bachelor’s programs that it is becoming more and more difficult for people who have only community college credentials to build the kind of career they want.

Of course, a person with an associate degree can choose to transfer to a four-year college and complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing, usually in only two years. This saves them money and often time compared to students who immediately enter a bachelor’s degree program. (NCLEX)

Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Nursing

Over time, the majority of working nurses in the U.S. will likely have bachelor’s degrees, making it difficult for people who have less education to compete for top jobs. Most major colleges and universities now have schools of nursing to accommodate the educational needs of those in this large profession, so aspiring students can probably find a program near them. Though bachelor’s degrees are more expensive and take more time than associate degrees or certificate programs, they are often seen as worth the investment for the extended educational benefits, improved career prospects, and the overall experience of attending a four-year university.

Students who hope to earn bachelor’s degrees in nursing must make a four-year commitment, or sometimes more. Often, a student starts out by taking classes that are considered “general education requirements,” like composition and English, history, sociology and other social sciences, arts, and foreign languages. General science classes are often used as prerequisites for students at a university who plan to apply to the nursing program. These classes vary, but students can expect to take some form of chemistry, biology, physiology, psychology, and anatomy. Nursing classes will explore topics like nutrition, public health, nursing theories, and medical ethics.

Most students who are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs also participate in internships or volunteer experiences to help them gain practical experience and develop skills that are essential to the everyday lives of nursing professionals. Even in programs where this is not required, students should strongly consider it, as many employers are hesitant to hire people who have no hospital or clinical experience whatsoever.

Immediately after graduating and passing the national nursing examination, students can begin their job searches. Nurses work in clinics, hospitals, long term care facilities such as mental institutions, chronic disease wards, and nursing homes for the elderly or disabled. Many nurses specialize eventually in one form of medicine, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or obstetrics. Nurses also work in schools.

Regardless of location or specialty, most licensed nurses will find that their skills are in high demand, as nursing is one of the largest and fastest-growing careers in the United States, and there is often high nurse turnover. Competitive nurses can command relatively high salaries, and can also continue their educations through a masters degree program that helps them break into a new facet of nursing, possibly improving their employability and their earning power. A bachelor’s degree in nursing can also help people who are interested in working abroad. (National Student Nurse’s Association)

Online Master’s Degrees in Nursing

A master’s degree in nursing usually requires a full-time two year commitment, though some are longer or shorter. Students will complete an array of nursing-based classes, such as nursing theory and public health. People at the master’s degree level are expected to have general scientific knowledge, and are also expected to be Registered Nurses already, so students will not take redundant skill-based classes.

Generally, a master’s in nursing is used to prepare current registered nurses for one of four specialized nursing careers: Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwife, and Clinical Nurse Specialist. A Nurse Anesthetist is responsible for administering anesthesia and monitoring a patient before, during, and after he or she receives these powerful drugs to ensure that the patient is safe. Anesthetists may work under the guidance of an anesthesiologist, or in some cases and in some states he or she may work alone.

A nurse practitioner may have several specialized and advanced duties. Every state regulates these unique professionals in a different way, but most states allow nurse practitioners to assist doctors in surgeries, to prescribe medication, order medical tests and interpret the results, and diagnose various diseases. They can also set injuries and even perform some minor surgeries, so they need extensive training, likely beyond a just a master’s degree.

A nurse midwife helps deliver newborn babies, and they support mothers during pregnancy, during childbirth, and after a baby is born. They generally promote a more natural form of childbirth and provide more comprehensive care than the typical obstetrician. A clinical nurse specialist also has a greater array of duties than the typical nurse in the clinical setting and can provide more services to patients.

A nursing master’s degree can also be used by people who are interested in becoming educators. They may train new nurses at universities and community colleges, as well as within individual hospitals. Other nursing educators work with the public, helping provide information about nutrition, general health, and public health. (American Academy of Nurse Practitioners)

Online Doctoral Degrees in Nursing

A doctoral degree in nursing is an advanced degree that very few nursing professionals will ever seek. It is really only for those who hope to work as professors of nursing or who are very interested in the research component of nursing. Students may spend five or more years completing the requirements to earn their doctoral degrees in nursing, but they will be absolute masters in their fields, as there are so few people who earn these degrees. Graduates will be able to teach at universities, or they can become nursing directors and major innovators in the nursing field in the United States and all over the world.