How to Get a Nursing Degree Online

8 Min Read Published November 7, 2023
How to Get a Nursing Degree Online

Can You Really Get a Nursing Degree Online?

There’s a lot of debate around the idea of getting a nursing degree online. Some people believe that it’s not possible to get a quality education from an online program, while others claim that it’s a great way to learn. So, what’s the truth? Can you really get a nursing degree online? The answer is yes, you can absolutely get a nursing degree online! In fact, there are definite advantages to getting your degree online. 

The biggest advantage is you will have a lot more flexibility when it comes to your schedule. You can study at your own pace and on your own time, which is perfect for busy adults who may not be able to commit to a traditional nursing program.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about obtaining a nursing degree online. 

What Are Online Nursing Degrees?

Online nursing degrees are just what they sound like, nursing programs available to nurses either entirely or partially online. An online nursing program typically delivers lectures, readings, and other course materials online. Students in online programs communicate with their instructors and classmates via e-mail, chat rooms, and other web-based technologies. 

Many online nursing programs also require students to participate in clinical experiences at health care facilities near their homes.

Although these programs offer a great deal of flexibility, they also require a high degree of self-discipline and motivation. Students must be able to manage their time effectively and efficiently as well as stay on top of their coursework. 

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How to Choose an Online Nursing Degree Program

With the rapidly growing demand for qualified nursing professionals, it's no surprise that more and more students are turning to online nursing programs to help them meet their career goals. But with so many schools now offering online nursing degrees, how do you know which one is right for you? 

Here are a few things to look for when choosing an online program:

  • First, make sure the nursing school is accredited by a recognized body such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). This will ensure that your degree will be accepted by potential employers.
  • Second, check out the school's curriculum to make sure it covers all the essential topics you'll need to know for your nursing career.
  • Third, make sure the school offers a variety of clinical experiences so you can get the hands-on training you need.
  • Finally, choose a school that has a good reputation and is known for producing high-quality nurses.

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Best Online Nursing Schools

Here are a few of the best online nursing programs to get you started:

  1. Capella University (Sponsored): Offers online RN-to-BSN, MSN, and DNP programs*.
  2. University of Texas at Arlington: Offers an online RN to BSN program*, an RN-to-MSN program, and an RN-to-MSN (FNP) online program.
  3. Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies: Offers a variety of online nursing programs, including a BSN-to-DNP program for RNs who already have their BSN and an MSN program.
  4. Southern New Hampshire University: Has 7 different online nursing programs including an accelerated RN-to-BSN-to-MSN program along with 5 other specialty MSN programs and an RN-to-BSN program.
  5. Walden University: Offers several online master’s programs*, an RN-to-BSN program, and a DNP and PhD in nursing.

>> Click to see the top online nursing programs of 2023

Choosing the right online nursing program is an important decision that will help shape your future nursing career. Be sure to do your research and choose a school that meets your needs and expectations. With the right school, you can earn your degree and become the nurse you've always wanted to be.

Online Nursing Degrees vs. In-Person Programs

Pros Of Online Nursing Programs

  • Flexibility
    • Online programs offer greater flexibility in terms of scheduling and location. If you have a busy lifestyle or live in a remote area, an online program may be a better fit for you. This can be a major benefit for students who have to juggle work and family commitments along with their studies.
    • Additionally, online programs often offer more asynchronous coursework, which means that students can complete assignments on their own schedule.  
  • More Program Options
    •  In addition, these programs typically offer a wider range of courses than in-person programs. 

Pros of In-Person Programs

  • The In-Person Experience
    • In-person programs provide a more traditional learning experience and the opportunity to build relationships with classmates and professors. This can be beneficial for students who learn best by doing. In-person nursing programs also tend to have a more supportive and close-knit community feel. 
  • Additional Support
    • In-person programs usually require less self-discipline and motivation than online programs because you have more structure and the additional support of your teachers and classmates.

How to Choose Between Online vs In-Person Nursing Programs

Ultimately, the decision of whether to pursue an online or in-person nursing program depends on your individual needs and preferences.

Enrolling in an online nursing program is a big decision. Before making the decision to enroll in an online program, it's important to do your research and make sure that the program is a good fit for you. 

 If you're not sure which type of program is right for you, be sure to talk to a guidance counselor or a nursing program advisor.

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How Do Online Nursing Degrees Work?

Here are some of the frequently asked questions about online nursing programs:

  • Curriculum: Online programs typically follow the same curriculum as traditional programs, but there may be some differences in the delivery format. For example, online courses may use video lectures, discussion boards, and simulations to provide instruction, while on-campus courses rely primarily on in-person lectures and labs.
  • Format: Classes for online nursing degrees are typically conducted in an asynchronous format, which means that students can log in and complete coursework on their own schedule. However, some courses may be offered in a synchronous format, which requires students to be online at the same time in order to participate in live lectures or discussions. 
  • Most online nursing degree programs require students to complete clinical hours in order to graduate. Clinical hours provide hands-on experience in a real-world setting and help students to apply the theories and principles they have learned in the classroom. 
    • Online clinicals work in much the same way as traditional clinicals, except that they are completed remotely.
    • Students typically work with a preceptor, who is a licensed nurse, to complete their clinical hours. 
    • The preceptor provides guidance and feedback on the student's progress and reviews their work at the end of each shift.
  • Location of Online Clinicals: Online clinicals can be completed in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, home health agencies, and long-term care facilities.
  • Finding Clinical Placements: When looking at online nursing programs, consider if the program will help you find clinical placements. Some programs have specific requirements as to the type of healthcare facilities you are able to complete your practicum hours. In fact, a handful of programs will actually find your clinical placements. 
  • However, this is rarely the case. Most programs will require you to do the legwork to find a preceptor and healthcare facility. Keep this in mind! Sometimes, it can be difficult to find an approved site. 
  • That will depend on your school and your state. Most schools that offer online nursing programs don’t require students to come to campus for any part of their nursing education. And the few that do only require students to come to campus one or two times during the entire curriculum and students are notified well in advance so they can plan for this in their schedule.
  • Because most students are not required to come to campus - it is possible to complete an online program in another state from where the campus is. However, some states do not allow students to complete online programs like this, depending on where the campus is located. If this is the case, it will be clearly stated on the program’s website. 
  • Self-Paced: Online nursing programs are usually self-paced, meaning that students can complete coursework at their own pace within the parameters of the semester. 
  • Milestones & Deadlines: However, some programs may require students to complete certain courses or milestones by predetermined deadlines. 
    • For example, a student might be required to finish all didactic coursework within the first few months of the program in order to progress to clinical rotations. 
    • Or, a student might be given a specific amount of time to complete a capstone project.
  • The online nursing degree you have your sights set on may be within reach sooner than you think. Many schools offer credit for work experience, which can help you complete your degree in a shorter time frame. 
  • In order to receive credit for work experience, you will need to complete a prior learning assessment (PLA) and provide documentation of your work experience. Once your experience has been verified, the credits will be applied to your degree program. 
  • So if you're looking to earn your nursing degree quickly, be sure to check and see if your school offers credit for work experience. It could be the key to completing your degree in a shorter time frame.
  • Yes, you can get a nursing job after earning your nursing degree online. 
  • The most important thing is to make sure that you get your online degree from a nursing school that’s accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and approved by your state board of nursing. 
  • Accredited programs must meet certain standards and this includes requiring a specific number of hours of hands-on time with real patients in various approved clinical settings. If the program is not accredited then you will not be able to sit for the NCLEX and become a registered nurse in your state. 
  • Most employers will agree that the important thing is that the nurse obtained their degree from an accredited school of nursing, is competent, and has the necessary skills to do the job and that they are applying for. 
  • The truth is, there are pros and cons to both online and brick-and-mortar nursing programs, and most employers are aware of these differences. 
  • In the end, it is up to the individual employer to decide whether or not they want to hire nurses who got their degree online. 

Is an Online Nursing Degree Right for You?

Getting a nursing degree online is a great option if you want the flexibility to study at your own pace and complete a degree when it works for you. There are many accredited programs available, and financial aid is often available to help offset the cost of tuition. 

With a little research, you can find an online nursing program that meets your needs and provides the education you want to become a nurse or advance your nursing career.

*Indicates an affiliate link. At no additional cost to you, may earn a commission if you click through and use this service.

Leona Werezak
Leona Werezak Contributor

Leona Werezak BSN, MN, RN is the Director of Business Development at NCLEX Education. She began her nursing career in a small rural hospital in northern Canada where she worked as a new staff nurse doing everything from helping deliver babies to medevacing critically ill patients. Learning much from her patients and colleagues at the bedside for 15 years, she also taught in baccalaureate nursing programs for almost 20 years as a nursing adjunct faculty member (yes! Some of those years she did both!). As a freelance writer online, she writes content for nursing schools and colleges, healthcare and medical businesses, as well as various nursing sites.

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