Online Nursing Degrees: Everything You Need to Know

While the field of nursing has been experiencing an increase in demand in recent years, this has been accelerated and accentuated because of COVID-19. This increase is so drastic that the Bureau of Labour Statistics has estimated that there will be a job growth of 12% by 2028. If you want to take advantage of this increase, you may be looking toward getting an online nursing degree. Below, we’re going to go over the ins and outs of getting your nursing degree online.

How do online nursing degrees work?

How do Online Nursing Degrees work
More and more nurses are trained through online classes
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Becoming a registered nurse online isn’t all that much different than completing a nursing degree in-person. Instead of going to physical classes, you’ll have to follow classes online. Depending on your individual program, you’ll either have to attend digital classes, or you’ll have to follow pre-recorded lectures to listen to on your own time.

There are a few different nursing degrees available for those who are interested:

  • Licensed Practical Nursing degree (LPN)
  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Master’s Degree in Nursing (MDN)
  • Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Out of the degrees mentioned above, a licensed practical nurse has the fewest responsibilities. That being said, this degree is usually a stepping stone for future academia. An online licensed practical nursing degree requires you to meet all of the same nursing requirements as in-person learning does. Because of this, you’ll have to complete an internship, where you shadow a registered nurse for a predetermined number of hours. This will provide you with the clinical experience needed to apply your theoretical knowledge to practicum.  Once all of this has been completed, an LPN will need to complete an exam to obtain a license.

Alternatively, you can decide to pursue an associate nursing degree or a bachelor of science in nursing. If you want to complete a BSN, you should be aware that most schools only provide a bridge between an LPN and BSN, so it may be beneficial to become a licensed practical nurse beforehand. A DPN will often require you to have a previous degree in nursing, which you can then use to accelerate your studies in your doctorate.

How much does an online nursing degree cost?

Cost of an Online Nursing Degrees
Nursing Degrees are more affordable than ever

The overall cost of your nursing degree will depend entirely on which school you’re planning to go to. In America, A public or online community college can cost you as little as $6,000. Meanwhile, a private college can cost you upwards of $30,000.

How long do online nursing degrees take?

For those who are seriously considering an online degree in nursing, you may be wondering how much time it’ll take. Below, we’re going to answer that!

Regular program length

Nurses training for their degree

A traditional online nursing degree will take the same amount of time as an in-person degree will. A licensed practical nursing degree will usually take a year to complete online.

If you’re completing your associate nursing degree, you can expect this to take about 4 years to complete. The same can be said about the majority of bachelor’s programs at a college level. You can take longer to complete the degree. However, most will take a minimum of 4 years to complete the degree.

For a master’s degree in nursing, you can expect to complete this in approximately 2 years. A bachelor of science in nursing has a few competencies that you should be aware of. For example, you’ll need to complete at least 120 hours of coursework for most of these programs.

Accelerated program length

Accelerated Online Nursing Degrees

If you want to complete your nursing degree faster than the aforementioned 4 years it takes to complete it. You can choose to enroll in programs that offer accelerated options. These will typically take 2-3 years to complete.

For those who already have a BSN, you can decide to pursue your doctorate of nursing practice (DNP). Having your BSN in advance will allow you to complete your DNP more quickly. The approximate timeframe for a DNP for those who have a BSN is 3-9 years. If you choose to pursue these studies, you’ll likely want to choose a specialty. RNs can also pursue DNP studies within the same timeframe but will be expected to complete about 1000 hours of clinical practice. For RNs who want to pursue a DNP, they will need to complete 30-40 credits and approximately 500 hours of clinical practice.

Which Online Nursing School is Best?

When you’re looking for the best online nursing school, you’ll want to find one that has a strong reputation and appropriate accreditation.

1. Rush University

For online classes, Rush University is one of the best ones out there. The school is located in Chicago and is especially convenient for online students because it archives all classes, lessons, and lectures. Students can expect to spend just over $1000 per credit they’re enrolled in. The school’s acceptance rate stands at 30%, and it has an average undergraduate GPA of 3.4.

For this school, you’ll need to submit an essay when you apply. Furthermore, you’ll need to supply three letters of recommendation from professionals in the field you’re applying to. You’ll need a degree related to nursing to pursue studies at this school, and you’ll need to have experience as a nurse, which is where an LPN degree would come into play.

While your class rank isn’t a factor for being accepted to Rush University, you will need to visit the school for an interview.

2. University of South Carolina

Alternatively, the University of South Carolina is an excellent option for those looking to apply to an online nursing school. This school primarily accepts students at the graduate level. In fact, nearly all of the University’s students are already employed when they’re accepted to the school.

The University’s tuition is higher than Rush’s and is currently sitting at just under $1500 per credit. This school’s acceptance rate is over 70%, and the average undergraduate GPA is 3.5. Like Rush, you’ll need to submit an application essay and three letters of recommendation from professionals in the field. You’ll want to have experience in nursing before you apply. However, your class rank is not considered. Both your essay and interview will be important factors regarding your acceptance.

How to Apply for Online Nursing Degrees

We’ve already told you a little bit about pursuing a nursing degree and how to do go about completing one. In this section, we’re going to tackle this topic more in-depth.

To be a registered nurse in a medical institution, you’ll need to complete a licensing exam. This exam will cover the following topics: psychological and physiological integrity, promotion of one’s health, control of infections, and essential nursing skills.

If you want to apply for a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN),  you’ll first need to become a licensed practical nurse. You’ll also need to be an LPN if you want to apply for DNP, ADN, BSN, and MDN. Few universities and colleges provide online nursing programs for those who aren’t already LPNs, which is why you may want to finish this schooling first. Upon completing your licensing exam and your licensed practical nursing degree, it’ll be much easier to advance in your studies.

When it comes to applying for individual programs, you’ll want to look at the school’s application process. For Fall semesters, you’ll need to apply in Winter, and for Winter semesters, you’ll need to apply in Fall. Depending on the program, you may need to provide a letter of intent, a CV, and letters of reference.

Online Nursing Degrees FAQ

No guide is complete without a Q&A. We’re going to go over some of the top questions we’re asked regarding online nursing degrees.

Will you ever have to attend school in-person?

This will depend on the program you choose. Some programs will require you to do your exams in-person. Others will require you to complete your clinical hours or 1-2 days in-person. Before you choose your school, you may want to consider contacting their academic advising office. This will help you to determine how often you’ll be expected to attend school. If you’re planning to do online classes far away from the school hosting the classes, you may also want to find out whether internship options are available in your city or town.

Can I study at my own place?

While some colleges may offer classes that you can follow at your own place, most will provide courses with the same structure as in-person classes. Because of this, some classes will be designated for Winter, and others will be designated for Fall semesters, so you can’t follow at your own place.

How is online learning different from in-person learning?

A common misconception about online classes is that they’re not as difficult or as demanding as in-person classes. While some professors will provide you with more time to complete assignments in online classes than in-person classes, you’ll find online programs just as demanding.

The main difference between the two kinds of learning is that you’ll have less direction and face time with your professors when completing an online nursing degree. As such, you’ll have to keep track of your assignments and keep meticulous notes. You can make up for the reduced direction by frequently emailing professors and connecting with other online students. However, it would be best if you were prepared to stay organized.

How should I choose my program?

The first thing you should do when choosing an online nursing program is to find schools that comply with your state’s nursing board criteria. If your state’s Board doesn’t approve your school of Nursing, you won’t be able to complete the licensing exam.

When choosing an online school, in particular, you may want to find out how much of your learning is done online. If your school wants you to be in-person once or twice a week, you’ll want to look at your personal life and determine whether this lines up with your responsibilities.

What are the prerequisites for entering a nursing program?

This depends entirely on the school you’re choosing. However, the majority of nursing programs will require you to have a high school GPA of 2.5. Other prerequisites may include English, Biology, Chemistry, etc., at a high school level.

What is the difference between a registered nurse and a licensed practical nurse?

The duties of an LPN and RN are similar, but there are distinct differences that separate the two. Most often, an RN will supervise an LPN in a healthcare setting. Licensed practical nurses may be required to feed and bathe patients, monitor health conditions including vitals, keep records of a patient’s health, and help to maintain a patient’s mental health.

A registered nurse, on the other hand, will be required to complete any of the following tasks:

  • Assessments regarding patients’ health
  • Courses in mental health targeted toward the RN’s specialty.
  • Research
  • Complete courses and formations in the technology used by nurses.
  • Once promotions are available, RNs may be placed in leadership positions.

The main difference between an RN and an LPN is the schooling required. An RN will need either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

Final Thoughts – Choosing an Online Nursing School

Finding the right school and program for your needs is difficult, to say the least. You may not have time to spend every day in school and internships between personal and professional obligations. That’s where online nursing schools come into play. More than anything, you’ll want to look for a nursing degree that has proper accreditation, and a known University offers that.

From there, you’ll need to look into your specific program and follow the steps necessary to apply for the program. Both RNs and LPNs will need to complete licensing exams once their education is complete. A great component about online nursing school is that once you have your basics, it’s much easier to move up in your schooling.

If you have any questions that we haven’t answered in this guide, you can reach out to us today!

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